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Article

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.

Article

Gradual Civilization Act

An Act to Encourage the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes in the Province was passed by the fifth Parliament of the Province of Canada (formally Upper Canada and Lower Canada) in 1857. The Gradual Civilization Act, as it came to be known, was part of a state effort to use government policy to assimilate Indigenous peoples to the economic and social customs of European settler society.

Article

Bedard Case

R v. Bedard (1971) challenged section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act, which concerns the rights of Status Indian women in Canada. The appellant in the case, Yvonne Bedard, took the federal government to court after losing her rights as a Status Indian because of her marriage to a Non-Status man. In 1973, before the Supreme Court of Canada, the Bedard case merged with AG v. Lavell, another case concerning gender discrimination (see Status of Women) in the Indian Act. Although Bedard ultimately lost her reinstatement claims, her case inspired future legal battles regarding women’s rights and the Indian Act, including Lovelace v. Canada (1981) (see Sandra Lovelace Nicholas) and the Descheneaux case (2015).

Article

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.

Article

Guarantee Act

Guarantee Act, 1849, conceived by Francis HINCKS and carried in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, established the principle of government assistance to railways. Under the terms of the Act, any railway more than 75 mi (120 km) long was eligible for a government guarantee on the interest of half its bonds as soon as half the line had been completed.

Article

Indian Act

The Indian Act is the principal statute through which the federal government administers Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land and communal monies. It was first introduced in 1876 as a consolidation of previous colonial ordinances that aimed to eradicate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. The Act has been amended several times, most significantly in 1951 and 1985, with changes mainly focusing on the removal of particularly discriminatory sections. The Indian Act pertains only to First Nations peoples, not to the Métis or Inuit. It is an evolving, paradoxical document that has enabled trauma, human rights violations and social and cultural disruption for generations of First Nations peoples. The Act also outlines governmental obligations to First Nations peoples, and determines “status” — a legal recognition of a person’s First Nations heritage, which affords certain rights such as the right to live on reserve land.

This is the full-length entry about the Indian Act. For a plain language summary, please see Indian Act (Plain Language Summary).

Article

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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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.

Article

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.