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Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists (people who wanted to abolish slavery). They helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada. The Underground Railroad was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America. It brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (now Canada).

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

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Treaty of Paris 1783

The Treaty of Paris, signed on 3 September 1783, concluded the American Revolution and established a boundary between the newly-independent American colonies and remaining British territories in North America.

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Slavery Abolition Act, 1833

An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Service of such Slaves (also known as the Slavery Abolition Act) received Royal Assent on 28 August 1833 and took effect 1 August 1834. The Act abolished enslavement in most British colonies, freeing over 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada.

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Remembrance Day in Canada

Remembrance Day is a yearly memorial day that is observed in many Commonwealth countries, including Canada, to remember those who died in military service, and honour those who served in wartime. It is observed across Canada each year on 11 November — the anniversary of the Armistice agreement of 1918 that ended the First World War. On Remembrance Day, public ceremonies and church services often include the playing of “Last Post,” a reading of the fourth stanza of the poem “For the Fallen,” and two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. Wreaths are laid at local war memorials and assemblies are held in schools. Millions of Canadians wear red poppy pins in the weeks leading up to and on 11 November in remembrance. In 2020 and 2021, Remembrance Day services and events were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many events were either held online, cancelled or limited to a small number of participants due to fear of contagion.

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Treaty Day

Treaty Day commemorates the day that certain treaties were signed by the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples between the 18th and 20th centuries. Treaty Day is also a celebration of the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. It promotes public awareness about Indigenous culture, history and heritage for all Canadians.

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Capitulation of Montreal 1760

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the capitulation of Quebec City in 1759 made the strategic situation of New France desperate. Despite a victory at the Battle of Sainte-Foy, the French forces found themselves isolated in Montreal by the British. The French commander, François-Gaston de Lévis, wanted to continue the fight. However, to avoid a pointless loss of life, the Governor of New France, Pierre-Rigaud de Vaudreuil, decided to surrender the city. With the capitulation of Montreal to the British forces on 8 September 1760, Great Britain completed its conquest of New France.

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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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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 96 episodes.

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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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Québec Since Confederation

When the Canadian Confederation was established in 1867, provisions were made for the creation of a provincial government in Québec, the only region with a majority French-speaking population. This distinctive identity has exerted a profound influence on all facets of Québec’s history and continues to fuel debate about the province’s future.

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Peasant Farm Policy

From 1889 to 1897, the Canadian government’s Peasant Farm Policy set limits on Indigenous agriculture on the Prairies. The policy included rules about the types of tools First Nations farmers could use on reserve lands. It also restricted how much they grew and what they could sell. The Peasant Farm Policy was built on the belief that Indigenous farmers had to gradually evolve into modern farmers. It also reduced these farmers’ ability to compete with settlers on the open market. The policy ultimately impeded the growth and development of First Nations farms. As a result, First Nations never realized their agricultural potential.

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Middle Power

In international relations, the term middle power refers to a state that wields less influence on the world stage than a superpower. As the term suggests, middle powers fall in the middle of the scale measuring a country’s international influence. Where superpowers have great influence over other countries, middle powers have moderate influence over international events. Canada was considered to be a middle power during the postwar period — from 1945 until about 1960. Though Canada was not as powerful or prominent as the United Kingdom or the United States during this time, it was an international player that influenced events through moral leadership, peacekeeping and conflict mediation.

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Canadian Foreign Relations

Throughout its history, Canada has taken a series of steps to develop from a British colony into an independent nation. Both the First and Second World War were turning points; Canada’s military sacrifices gave it the strength and confidence to demand its own voice on the world stage. In the postwar era, Canada maintained its role in both Western and global alliances. (See NATO; NORAD; GATT.) However, economics have shaped Canadian diplomacy to a remarkable extent. Because of the United States’ singular importance to Canadian security and trade, relations with the US have dominated Canada’s foreign policy since Confederation.

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Group of Seven

The Group of Seven, also known as the Algonquin School, was a school of landscape painters. It was founded in 1920 as an organization of self-proclaimed modern artists and disbanded in 1933. The group presented the dense, northern boreal forest of the Canadian Shield as a transcendent, spiritual force. Their depictions of Canada’s rugged wind-swept forest panoramas were eventually equated with a romanticized notion of Canadian strength and independence. Their works were noted for their bright colours, tactile paint handling, and simple yet dynamic forms. In addition to Tom ThomsonDavid Milne and Emily Carr, the Group of Seven were the most important Canadian artists of the early 20th century. Their influence is seen in artists as diverse as abstract painter Jack Bush, the Painters Eleven, and Scottish painter Peter Doig.

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Halibut Treaty

The Halibut Treaty of 1923 (formally the Convention for the Preservation of Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean) was an agreement between Canada and the United States on fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean. It was the first environmental treaty aimed at conserving an ocean fish stock. It was also the first treaty independently negotiated and signed by the Canadian government; one of several landmark events that transitioned Canada into an autonomous sovereign state. It also indicated a shift in Canada’s economic focus from Britain to the US during the 1920s, when the US passed Britain as Canada’s largest trading partner. The treaty created the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which continues in its role today.

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Bennett's New Deal

In the mid-1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett’s political demise seemed inevitable. He sought to reverse the tide running against his Conservative Party. In January 1935, he began a series of live radio speeches outlining a “New Deal” for Canada. He promised a more progressive taxation system; a maximum work week; a minimum wage; closer regulation of working conditions; unemployment insurance; health and accident insurance; a revised old-age pension; and agricultural support programs. But Bennett’s 11th-hour proposals were seen as too-little, too-late. He lost the 1935 election to William Lyon Mackenzie King and the Liberals.