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Macleans

Gay Rights Bill Passes

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on May 13, 1996. Partner content is not updated.

One year ago this week, Chris Phibbs and Chris Higgins, lesbian partners for seven years, hosted a celebration at their Toronto home. "There were flowers, telegrams, balloons," recalls Phibbs. "It was as much fun as a family has ever had.

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Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted by the United States Congress on 18 September 1850. It extended the reach of the institution of slavery into the free Northern states, stating that refugees from enslavement living there could be returned to enslavement in the South once captured. The Act led thousands of freedom-seekers to take refuge in Canada. It was repealed 28 June 1864.

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The White Paper, 1969

The 1969 White Paper (formally known as the “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969”) was a Canadian government policy paper that attempted to abolish previous legal documents relating to Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the Indian Act and  treaties. It also aimed to assimilate all “Indian” peoples under the Canadian state. The 1969 White Paper was proposed by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development  Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to widespread criticism. The policy proposed to eliminate Indian Status, incorporate First Nations under provincial government responsibilities, and impose land decisions, notions of private property and economic agendas on Indigenous communities. The backlash to the 1969 White Paper was monumental, leading not only to its withdrawal in 1970, but to a wave of activism, academic work and court decisions over the next five decades. (See also Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canadaand Indigenous Peoples in Canadian Law.)

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Capital Punishment in Canada

In pre-Confederation Canada, hundreds of criminal offences were punishable by death. By 1865, only murder, treason and rape were still considered capital offences. In 1962, Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were the last of 710 prisoners to be executed in Canada since 1859. After 1976, the death penalty was permitted only for members of the Armed Forces found guilty of cowardice, desertion, unlawful surrender, or spying for the enemy. The federal government completely abolished state executions in 1998.

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Dominion Lands Act

The Dominion Lands Act was a federal law that received royal assent on 14 April 1872. It allowed for lands in Western Canada to be granted to individuals, colonization companies, the Hudson’s Bay Company, railway construction, municipalities and religious groups. The Act set aside land for First Nations reserves. Métis lands were organized by the government outside the Dominion Lands Act, using the scrip system. The Act also set aside lands for what would become National Parks (1883). The Dominion Lands Act devised specific homestead policies to encourage settlement in the West. It covered eligibility and settlers’ responsibilities, and outlined a standard measure for surveying and subdividing land. Some 1.25 million homesteads were made available over an expanse of about 80 million hectares — the largest survey grid in the world. The Act was repealed in 1930, when lands and resources were transferred from the federal government to the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. From 1870 to 1930, roughly 625,000 land patents were issued to homesteaders. As a result, hundreds of thousands of settlers poured into the region.

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White Paper

A government white paper is a Cabinet-approved document that explains a political issue and proposed legislation to address it. The purpose of a white paper is to introduce a new government policy to test the public’s reaction to it. The name derives from the custom of binding the document in white paper, rather than using a cover page. White papers are different from green papers, which seek public reaction not to new policy but to more general proposals. The most controversial white paper in Canada was issued in 1969; it sought to redefine the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples. (See The 1969 White Paper.)

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Green Paper

A green paper is a statement by the government, not of policy already determined, but of proposals put before the nation for discussion. Like a white paper, a green paper is an official document sponsored by the Crown. (Traditionally, green papers were printed on green paper to distinguish them from white papers.) A green paper is produced early in the policy-making process, when ministers are still formulating their proposals. Many white papers in Canada have been, in effect, green papers. And at least one green paper — the 1975 Green Paper on Immigration and Population — was released for public debate after the government had already drafted legislation.

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Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Cannabis, also known as marijuana (among countless other names), is a psychoactive intoxicant that was banned in Canada from 1923 until medical cannabis became legal in 2001. The consumption and sale of recreational cannabis was legalized and regulated on 17 October 2018, after Parliament passed Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. Legalization was supported by a majority of Canadians, despite concerns about the drug’s addictiveness and health effects, especially among young people.