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Resistance and Residential Schools

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools that many Indigenous children were forced to attend. They were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Indigenous parents and children did not simply accept the residential-school system. Indigenous peoples fought against – and engaged with – the state, schools and other key players in the system. For the duration of the residential-school era, parents acted in the best interests of their children and communities. The children responded in ways that would allow them to survive.

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Inuit Experiences at Residential School

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools created to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Schools in the North were run by missionaries for nearly a century before the federal government began to open new, so-called modern institutions in the 1950s. This was less than a decade after a Special Joint Committee (see Indigenous Suffrage) found that the system was ineffectual. The committee’s recommendations led to the eventual closure of residential schools across the country.

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Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The practice of slavery was introduced by colonists in New France in the early 1600s. The practice was continued after the British took control of New France in 1760 (see British North America.) For about two hundred years, thousands of Indigenous and Black African people were bought, sold, traded and inherited like property in early Canada. Slavery was abolished (made illegal) throughout British North America in 1834.

(This article is a plain-language summary of slavery in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry on Black Enslavement in Canada.)

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The Underground Railroad (Plain-Language Summary)

The Underground Railroad was a secret organization. It was made up of people who helped African Americans escape from slavery in the southern United States. The people in this organization set up a system of routes that escaped slaves could travel to find freedom in the northern United States and Canada. In the 1800s (the 19th century) between 30,000 and 40,000 escaped slaves travelled to British North America (Canada) through the Underground Railroad.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Underground Railroad in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry on The Underground Railroad.)

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Egerton Ryerson

Adolphus Egerton Ryerson, Methodist minister, educator (born 24 March 1803 in Charlotteville Township, Norfolk County, Upper Canada; died 18 February 1882 in Toronto, Ontario). Egerton Ryerson was a leading figure in education and politics in 19th century Ontario. He helped found and edit the Christian Guardian (1829) and served as president of the Methodist Church of Canada (1874–78). As superintendent of education in Canada West, Ryerson established a system of free, mandatory schooling at the primary and secondary level — the forerunner of Ontario’s current school system. He also founded the Provincial Normal School (1847), which eventually became the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Ryerson also served as principal of Victoria College, which he helped found in 1836 as the Upper Canada Academy. He was also, however, involved in the development of residential schools in Canada. This has led to increasing calls to rename Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) and other institutions named in his honour.

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Laure Waridel

Laure Waridel, CM, CQ, social activist, author, environmentalist, lecturer and columnist (born 10 January 1973 in Chesalles-sur-Oron, Switzerland). Regarded as one of the 25 most influential political personalities in Québec, Laure Waridel holds an honorary doctorate from the Université du Québec à Rimouski, the Insigne du mérite from the Université de Montréal, and the rank of Knight of the Order of La Pléiade. She is a co-founder of Équiterre, a Québec organization that encourages individuals and governments to make choices that are fair, ecological and consistent with the principles of solidarity. The author of a number of books and essays on environmental issues, Waridel has contributed to many magazines, such as Voir and Reader’s Digest, in addition to hosting the radio show Acheter, c’est voter on Radio-Canada. She is currently strategic advisor for CIRODD, an interdisciplinary centre for research on operationalization of sustainable development. This centre is based at Polytechnique Montréal, and its membership includes over 80 researchers.

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Métis Experiences at Residential School

Although the first residential schools in Canada were established with the intention of assimilating First Nations children into Euro-Canadian culture, Métis and Inuit children were also institutionalized in such facilities. Métis children experienced similar day-to-day conditions to those of other students in residential schools, but they were often considered “outsiders” by their peers and administrators. This perception affected their experiences within these institutions in particular ways.


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Lillian Elias

Lillian Elias (whose Inuvialuktun name is Panigavluk) is a teacher, language activist and a residential school Survivor (born 1943 in the Mackenzie Delta, NT). Influenced by her time at residential school, where administrators attempted to forcefully strip her of her language and culture, Elias has spent much of her life promoting and preserving her first language, Inuvialuktun (see Inuvialuit).

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Walter Currie

Walter Currie, teacher, administrator (b at Chatham, Ontario 1 Oct 1922). He was among the earliest activists in Indigenous educational reform during the period after the Second World War.

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Stanley Vollant

Stanley Vollant, CQ, Innu surgeon, professor and lecturer (born 2 April 1965 in Quebec City, Quebec). Vollant is the first Indigenous surgeon trained in Quebec. In 1996, he received a National Aboriginal Role Model Award from the Governor General of Canada. Vollant began Innu Meshkenu in 2010, a 6,000 km walk to promote the teachings of First Nations and to encourage Indigenous young people to pursue their dreams. In 2016, he founded the non-profit organization Puamun Meshkenu to inspire and support Indigenous peoples in their mental and physical health.

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Joseph Francis Dion

Joseph Francis Dion, Métis leader, political organizer, and teacher (born 2 July 1888 near Onion Lake, SK; died 21 December 1960 in Bonnyville, AB). Dion was central to the shaping of modern Indigenous political organizations on the Prairies. He became a farmer (1903) and teacher on the Kehewin reserve (1916-40). In the 1930s he worked with Jim Brady and  Malcolm Norris  to found what is now the Métis Nation of Alberta (1932; president, 1932-58) and the Indian Association of Alberta (1939). Serving in the executives of First Nations, Métis and Roman Catholic Church organizations, he travelled, lectured, recorded living traditions (published as  My Tribe the Crees, 1979) and managed a Métis dance troupe. A relatively conservative reformer, Dion promoted the idea of Indigenous self-help through local agricultural development and the preservation of traditional culture.

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Gérard Bouchard

Gérard Bouchard, Québécois historian and sociologist, internationally renowned public intellectual (born 26 December 1943 in Jonquière, Quebec). His work covers a variety of topics, namely nationalism, collective identity and imaginary, the Québécois society and diversity management. In 2007-2008, Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor co-chaired the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences in Quebec.

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David Gardner

David Gardner, actor, director, educator (born 4 May 1928 in Toronto, ON; died 8 February 2020 in Toronto). David Gardner was a theatre professional who brought a passion for Canadian drama to performance, education and political forums. He had a long and distinguished career as an actor, director, teacher and historian, and was a major player in the development of Canadian theatre. He played some 800 roles on stage, radio, film and television and directed for both stage and television. He taught at the University of Toronto and at York University. His work has been published widely in Canadian encyclopedias and journals.

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Anna-Marie Globenski

Anna-Marie Globenski. Pianist, teacher, born St-Barthélémé, Que, 2 Jul 1929, died 8 Sep 2008; B MUS (Montreal) 1949, M MUS piano (Montreal) 1951, M MUS (Indiana), 1967, D MUS (Indiana) 1982.

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Alfred Schmitz Shadd

Alfred Schmitz Shadd, educator, physician, farmer, politician, pharmacist, editor, civic leader (born 1870 in Raleigh Township, Kent County, ON; died 1915 in Winnipeg, MB).

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Canada's "Founding Mothers" of French Immersion

Olga Melikoff, Murielle Parkes and Valerie Neale were leaders of the parent group behind the creation, in 1965, of Canada's first bilingual education program, at Margaret Pendlebury Elementary School in the Montreal suburb of Saint-Lambert, Quebec. Their education activism laid the groundwork for the French immersion system in Canada. As a result of their efforts, Melikoff, Parkes and Neale are often referred to as Canada’s “founding mothers" of French immersion.

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Robert Bruce Salter

Robert Bruce Salter, CC, OOnt, FRSC, orthopedic surgeon, university professor (born 15 December 1924 in Stratford, ON; died 10 May 2010 in Toronto, ON). One of the most respected and best-known orthopedic surgeons in the world, Salter lectured in 35 countries and was recognized for innovative methods of orthopedic treatment, including the Salter operation for children and young adults with abnormal hip joints.

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Campbell Trowsdale

(George) Campbell Trowsdale. Educator, violinist, b Stratford, Ont, 17 Oct 1933; ARCT 1953, B MUS (Toronto) 1954, B ED (Toronto) 1957, M ED (Toronto) 1959, ED D (Toronto) 1962. His teachers included Cora B.

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Camille Couture

Camille Couture. Violinist, teacher, violin maker, (b Loretteville, near Quebec City, 23 Feb 1876, d Montreal 27 Jun 1961). He first studied violin for seven years with Jean Duquette in Montreal.