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Editorial

Quebec Bridge Disaster

High above the St. Lawrence River, on a hot August day in 1907, a worker named Beauvais was driving rivets into the great southern span of the Quebec Bridge. Near the end of a long day, he noticed that a rivet that he had driven no more than an hour before had snapped clean in two. Just as he called out to his foreman to report the disquieting news, the scream of twisting metal pierced the air. The giant cantilever dropped out from under them, crashing into the river with such force that people in the city of Quebec, 10 km away, believed that an earthquake had struck.

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Seven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary)

The Seven Years’ War (1756–63) was the first global war. In North America, Britain and France fought each other with the help of Indigenous allies. At the end of the war, France gave Canada (Quebec) and Ile Royale (Cape Breton) to Britain, among other territories. This is the reason that Canada has a British monarch but three founding peoples — French, British and Indigenous.

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

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9/11 and Canada

The terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 had an immediate and profound impact on Canada. Twenty-four Canadians died in what became known as the "9/11" attacks. When the US closed its airspace, hundreds of planes carrying thousands of passengers were diverted to Canadian airports. In the weeks following, Canada passed controversial anti-terrorism laws and sent its first troops to Afghanistan as part of the “War on Terror.”

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Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign was the de facto Canadian national flag from 1868 until 1965. It was based on the ensign flown by British merchant ships since 1707. The three successive formal designs of the Canadian Red Ensign bore the Canadian coats of arms of 1868, 1921 and 1957. In 1891, it was described by the Governor General, Lord Stanley, as “the Flag which has come to be considered as the recognized Flag of the Dominion both afloat and ashore.” Though it was never formally adopted as Canada’s national flag, the Canadian Red Ensign represented Canada as a nation until it was replaced by the maple leaf design in 1965.

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L’Anse aux Meadows

L’Anse aux Meadows is the site of an 11th-century Norse outpost at the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. Arguably the location of Straumfjord of the Vinland sagas, it is believed to be the first European settlement in North America. L’Anse aux Meadows was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1968 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Today, it is the site of a popular interpretive centre and ongoing archeological research.

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Hôtel-Dieu

Hôtel-Dieu is the name given to hospitals established by nursing orders of nuns. The Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal was founded by Jeanne Mance and funded by Madame de Bullion, the widow of one of Louis XIII's superintendents of finance.

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Wartime Elections Act

The Wartime Elections Act of 1917 gave the vote to female relatives of Canadian soldiers serving overseas in the First World War. It also took the vote away from many Canadians who had immigrated from “enemy” countries. The Act was passed by Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative government in an attempt to gain votes in the 1917 election. It ended up costing the Conservatives support among certain groups for years to come. The Act has a contentious legacy. It granted many women the right to vote, but it also legitimized in law many anti-immigrant sentiments.

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Rights Revolution in Canada

The time between the end of the Second World War and the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 is often referred to as the Rights Revolution in Canada. During this period, awareness of and support for human rights increased. At the grassroots level, women, queer communities, Indigenous peoples, and disability activists pushed for greater inclusion and made significant rights gains. At the same time, both federal and provincial governments passed laws that prohibited discrimination and protected human rights for more people across Canada.

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Murdoch Mysteries

Murdoch Mysteries is a TV series about William Murdoch, a fictional Victorian-era detective who is ahead of his time and uses forensic science and technology to solve Toronto’s most complex crimes. Often referred to as a Victorian-era CSI, the long-running police procedural features a mix of humour, intrigue, science fiction, history and period production values. Based on Maureen Jennings’s successful series of mystery novels, the show attracted a cult following after premiering on City TV in 2008. It garnered a much larger audience after being picked up by the CBC in 2013. It was Canada’s highest-rated scripted television series in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and won the Golden Screen Award in 2017, 2018 and 2020. It is seen by millions of viewers in more than 100 countries.

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Human Rights

Human rights are rights that we all have by virtue of our shared humanity. Depending on the nature of the right, both individuals and groups can assert human rights. Human rights as we understand them today are a relatively modern concept. All human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. None has automatic precedence over any other. The realization of human rights is a constant struggle on the part of people who suffer injustices and who seek redress. Human rights are an important part of the social fabric of Canadian society. Canadians have also played a role in the evolution of human rights on the international stage.

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Great Depression in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The Great Depression took place in Canada and around the world in the 1930s. The term “Depression” is used to describe an economic decline that lasts for a long time. During the worst period of the Depression about 30 percent of Canadians were unemployed. This made life very difficult because Canada had few social programs at the time. This changed because of the Depression. In the 1930s the government created social programs to help those in need. It also became more involved in the economy.

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

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Constitutional Act, 1791

The Constitutional Act, 1791 was an act of the British Parliament. Also known as the Canada Act, it divided the Province of Quebec into  Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The Act was a first step on the long path to Confederation, but its rigid colonial structures also set the stage for rebellion in the Canadas. (See Rebellions of 1837–38.) The Act was also notable for giving women who owned property in Lower Canada the right to vote — a high level of inclusion by the standards of the time.

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Treaty of Ghent

Treaty of Ghent, signed in Ghent, Belgium, on Christmas Eve 1814 by Great Britain and the US to end the War of 1812. Negotiations for peace had begun the previous year, with both parties agreeing to meet in Europe to work out the details.

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Canada and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Canada has a long, complicated history with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Canadian soldiers have been attacked with chemical weapons and have used them offensively. (See Canada and Gas Warfare.) Canada has researched chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; but also, ways to defend against them. Some chemical weapons were tested in Canada and against Canadians with long-term consequences. Canada played a crucial role in the development of nuclear weapons. (See Canada and the Manhattan Project.) The country employed nuclear weapons primarily as defensive weapons during the Cold War. Canada signed international documents limiting the use of these weapons. Canada no longer has weapons of mass destruction. However, Canada is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and NORAD — alliances that employ nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

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Oregon Treaty

The Oregon Treaty was an agreement between Britain and the United States. It came into force on 15 June 1846. It formalized the border between the United States and British North America west of the Rocky Mountains. It extended the border along the 49th parallel to the Pacific Ocean and down “the middle” of the channel that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. The treaty resolved an important dispute between the two nations. But the lack of precision regarding the waterways between the mainland and Vancouver Island led to a dispute over the San Juan Islands, which resulted in an 1859 diplomatic conflict known as the Pig War.