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First World War (WWI)

The First World War of 1914–1918 was the bloodiest conflict in Canadian history, taking the lives of nearly 61,000 Canadians. It erased romantic notions of war, introducing slaughter on a massive scale, and instilled a fear of foreign military involvement that would last until the Second World War. The great achievements of Canadian soldiers on battlefields such as Ypres, Vimy and Passchendaele, however, ignited a sense of national pride and a confidence that Canada could stand on its own, apart from the British Empire, on the world stage. The war also deepened the divide between French and English Canada and marked the beginning of widespread state intervention in society and the economy.

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

Article

Second World War (WWII)

The Second World War was a defining event in Canadian history, transforming a quiet country on the fringes of global affairs into a critical player in the 20th century's most important struggle. Canada carried out a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic and the air war over Germany and contributed forces to the campaigns of western Europe beyond what might be expected of a small nation of then only 11 million people. Between 1939 and 1945 more than one million Canadian men and women served full-time in the armed services. More than 43,000 were killed. Despite the bloodshed, the war against Germany and the Axis powers reinvigorated Canada's industrial base, elevated the role of women in the economy, paved the way for Canada's membership in NATO, and left Canadians with a legacy of proud service and sacrifice embodied in names such as Dieppe, Hong Kong, Ortona and Juno Beach.

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

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New France

The history of France as a colonial power in North America began during the 16th century, during the era of European exploration and fishing expeditions. At its peak, the French colony of New France stretched over a vast area from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Louisiana. The French presence was characterized by extensive trade, as well as by recurrent conflicts with the Indigenous peoples, who were established over a wide area that France sought to appropriate. Some objectives motivating the French colonization were related to evangelization and settlement. Following the British Conquest, New France was ceded to Great Britain in 1763 and became a British colony. (See Treaty of Paris 1763.)

(This article is the full version of the text regarding New France. For a plain-language summary, please see New France (Plain Language Summary).)

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Seven Years' War

The Seven Years' War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. In the United States, the conflict is known as the French and Indian War. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Indigenous allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Quebec City in 1759 and Montreal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.

This is the full-length entry about the Seven Years’ War. For a plain-language summary, please see Seven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary).

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Treaties 1 and 2

Treaties 1 and 2 were the first of 11 Numbered Treaties negotiated between 1871 and 1921. Treaty 1 was signed 3 August 1871 between Canada and the Anishinabek and Swampy Cree of southern Manitoba. Treaty 2 was signed 21 August 1871 between Canada and the Anishinaabe of southern Manitoba (see Eastern Woodlands Indigenous Peoples). From the perspective of Canadian officials, treaty making was a means to facilitate settlement of the West and the assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian society (see Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada). Indigenous peoples sought to protect their traditional lands and livelihoods while securing assistance in transitioning to a new way of life. Treaties 1 and 2 encapsulate these divergent aims, leaving a legacy of unresolved issues due to the different understandings of their Indigenous and Euro-Canadian participants.

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Charlottetown Accord

The Charlottetown Accord of 1992 was a failed attempt by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and all 10 provincial premiers to amend the Canadian Constitution. The goal was to obtain Quebec’s consent to the Constitution Act, 1982. The Accord would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society; decentralized many federal powers to the provinces; addressed the issue of Indigenous self-government; and reformed the Senate and the House of Commons. The Accord had the approval of the federal government and all 10 provincial governments. But it was rejected by Canadian voters in a referendum on 26 October 1992.

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Colored Hockey League

The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes (CHL) was an all-Black men’s hockey league. It was organized by Black Baptists and Black intellectuals and was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1895. It was defunct during and after the First World War, reformed in 1921 and then fell apart during the Depression in the 1930s. Play was known to be fast, physical and innovative. The league was designed to attract young Black men to Sunday worship with the promise of a hockey game between rival churches after the services. Later, with the influence of the Black Nationalism Movement — and with rising interest in the sport of hockey — the league came to be seen as a potential driving force for the equality of Black Canadians. Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in honour of the league in January 2020.

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Indian Act (Plain-Language Summary)

The Indian Act was first created in 1876. A new version was created in 1951. Since then, the Act has been revised several times. The main goal of the Act was to force First Nations peoples to lose their culture and become like Euro-Canadians. The Indian Act does not affect either the Métis or Inuit.

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

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Heritage Minutes

The Heritage Minutes collection is a bilingual series of history-focused public service announcements. Each 60-second short film depicts a significant person, event or story in Canadian history. They are produced by Historica Canada, the not-for-profit organization that also publishes this encyclopedia. First released in 1991, the Heritage Minutes have been shown on television, in cinemas and online. They have become a recognizable part of Canadian culture. The collection currently includes 99 episodes.

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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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1972 Canada-Soviet Hockey Series (Summit Series)

For many Canadians, particularly baby boomers and Generation X, the eight-game hockey series between Team Canada and the national team of the Soviet Union in September 1972 provided the greatest moment in Canada’s sporting history. Most expected that Canada would handily defeat the Soviet Union, but this confidence quickly disappeared when Canada lost the first game. The series was tied heading into the final game in Moscow, which ended in dramatic fashion, with Paul Henderson scoring in the final seconds to give Canada the victory. The series became as much a Cold War political battle of democracy versus communism and freedom versus oppression as it was about hockey. The series had a lasting impact on hockey in Canada and abroad.

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Letters Patent, 1947

The Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, usually shortened to Letters Patent, 1947, was an edict issued by King George VI that expanded the role of the governor general, allowing him or her to exercise prerogatives of the sovereign. While Letters Patent delegated Crown prerogatives to the governor general, the sovereign remains Head of State.

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Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era conflict between communist Northern Vietnamese forces and United States-backed Southern Vietnamese forces. Canada officially played the role of neutral peacemaker, but secretly backed the American effort in Vietnam.

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Treaty 8

Treaty 8 was signed on 21 June 1899 by the Crown and First Nations of the Lesser Slave Lake area. The treaty covers roughly 841,487.137 km2 of what was formerly the North-West Territories and British Columbia, and now includes northern Alberta, northwest Saskatchewan, and portions of the modern Northwest Territories and BC, making it the largest treaty by area in the history of Canada. The terms and implementation of Treaty 8 differ importantly from those of previous Numbered Treaties, with long-lasting consequences for the governance and peoples of that area.

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Haldimand Proclamation

On 25 October 1784, Sir Frederick Haldimand, the governor of the province Quebec, signed a decree that granted a tract of land to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), also known as the Six Nations, in compensation for their alliance with British forces during the American Revolution (1775–83). This tract of land, known as the Haldimand Grant or Haldimand Tract, extended for 10 km on both sides of the Grand River (southwestern Ontario), from its source to Lake Erie. Throughout the late 1700s and 1800s, the Crown and Haudenosaunee disputed rights to the land title. Negotiations about title to the Haldimand Tract still continue between the Canadian government and the Six Nations Confederacy.

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Inuit High Arctic Relocations in Canada

In 1953 and 1955, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, acting as representatives of the Department of Resources and Development, moved approximately 92 Inuit from Inukjuak, formerly called Port Harrison, in Northern Quebec, and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), in what is now Nunavut, to settle two locations on the High Arctic islands. It has been argued that the Government of Canada ordered the relocations to establish Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and proposed to Inuit the move, promising improved living conditions. The Inuit were assured plentiful wildlife, but soon discovered that they had been misled, and endured hardships. The effects have lingered for generations. The Inuit High Arctic relocations are often referred to as a “dark chapter” in Canadian history, and an example of how the federal government forced changes that fundamentally affected (and continue to affect) Inuit lives.

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Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket

The Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket is a wool blanket with a series of stripes and points (markers on cloth) first made for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1779. The most iconic design is that which is white with green, red, yellow and indigo stripes; these colours are now used as an emblem for the HBC. While the HBC was not the first to create the point blanket, the company did popularize it among Indigenous and settler communities in Canada. Today, the design from the blanket is used on a variety of clothing, accessories and household items sold by the HBC.

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Christmas in Canada

Christmas is celebrated in various ways in contemporary Canada. In particular, it draws form the French, British and American traditions. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it had become the biggest annual celebration and had begun to take on the form that we recognize today.

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Origins of Ice Hockey

The origins of ice hockey have long been debated. In 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) officially declared that the first game of organized ice hockey was played in Montreal in 1875. Many also consider ice hockey’s first rules to have been published by the Montreal Gazette in 1877. However, research reveals that organized ice hockey/bandy games were first played on skates in England and that the earliest rules were also published in England. Canada made important contributions to the game from the 1870s on. By the early 20th century, “Canadian rules” had reshaped the sport.