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Article

Documenting the Second World War

When Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, tens of thousands of Canadians enlisted to serve in the armynavyair force and supporting services. The military scrambled to buy equipment, train recruits and prepare for war. Little thought was given, at first, to documenting the war effort. By 1940, however, the military was recruiting historians, most notably Charles Stacey, to collect records and write accounts of Canadian operations. In the following years, artists, photographers and filmmakers also served with the various branches of the armed forces. Today, their diligent work provides a rich visual and written catalogue of Canada’s history in the Second World War.

Article

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.

Article

Constitutional History of Canada

The Constitution of Canada is the country’s governing legal framework. It defines the powers of the executive branches of government and of the legislatures at both the federaland provincial levels. Canada’s Constitution is not one legal document. It is a complex mix of statutes, orders, British and Canadian court decisions, and generally accepted practices known as constitutional conventions. The Constitution has been in constant evolution from colonial times to the present day. The story of the Constitution is the story of Canada itself. It reflects the shifting legal, social and politicalpressures facing Canadians, as well as their choices as a society.

Article

Enslavement of Indigenous People in Canada

To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the colony of New France were Indigenous. After 1750, the number of Indigenous slaves brought into French Canada began to decline. When slavery was abolished in British colonies in 1834, Black slaves far outnumbered Indigenous slaves. (See also Black Enslavement in Canada.) The enslavement of Indigenous peoples is part of a dark legacy of colonization that has had implications on generations of Indigenous peoples in Canada and throughout North America.

Article

Constitution Act, 1982

The Constitution Act, 1982 is a landmark document in Canadian history. It achieved full independence for Canada by allowing the country to change its Constitution without approval from Britain. It also enshrined the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada’s Constitution, the highest law of the land. The Act was passed after a fierce, 18-month political and legal struggle that dominated headlines and the agendas of every government in the country. (See Patriation of the Constitution.)

Article

Peace, Order and Good Government

“Peace, order and good government” is a phrase that is used in section 91 of the British North America Act of 1867 (now called the Constitution Act, 1867). It offers a vague and broad definition of the Canadian Parliament’s lawmaking authority over provincial matters. Since Confederation, it has caused tensions between federal and provincial governments over the distribution of powers. The phrase has also taken on a value of its own with Canadians beyond its constitutional purpose. It has come to be seen as the Canadian counterpart to the American “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and the French “liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Article

Constitution Act, 1867

The Constitution Act, 1867 was originally known as the British North America Act (BNA Act). It was the law passed by the British Parliament on 29 March 1867 to create the Dominion of Canada. It came into effect on 1 July 1867. The Act is the foundational document of Canada’s Constitution. It outlines the structure of government in Canada and the distribution of powers between the central Parliament and the provincial legislatures. It was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867 with the patriation of the Constitution in 1982.

Article

Manitoba and Confederation

Canada’s fifth province, Manitoba entered Confederation with the passing of the Manitoba Acton 12 May 1870. The AssiniboineDakotaCree and Dene peoples had occupied the land for up to 15,000 years. Since 1670, it was part of Rupert’s Landand was controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Canadian government purchased Rupert’s Land at the behest of William McDougall, Manitoba’s Father of Confederation. No residents of the area were consulted about the transfer; in response, Louis Rieland the Métis led the Red River Rebellion. It resulted in an agreement to join Confederation. Ottawa agreed to help fund the new provincial government, give roughly 1.4 million acres of land to the Métis, and grant the province four seats in Parliament. However, Canada mismanaged its promise to guarantee the Métis their land rights. The resulting North-West Rebellion in 1885 led to the execution of Riel. The creation of Manitoba — which, unlike the first four provinces, did not control its natural resources — revealed Ottawa’s desire to control western development.

Article

Family Compact

The term Family Compact is an epithet, or insulting nickname; it is used to describe the network of men who dominated the legislative, bureaucratic, business, religious and judicial centres of power in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) from the early- to mid-1800s. Members of the Family Compact held largely conservative and loyalist views. They were against democratic reform and responsible government. By the mid-19th century, immigration, the union of Upper and Lower Canada, and the work of various democratic reformers had diminished the group’s power. The equivalent to the Family Compact in Lower Canada was the Château Clique.

Article

Province of Quebec 1763-91

At the end of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), Great Britain set out to organize the North American territories surrendered by France in the Treaty of Paris, 1763.  By the Royal Proclamation of 1763,  the Province of Quebec was created out of the inhabited portion of New France. The boundaries took on a rectangular shape on each side of the St. Lawrence River, and stretching from Lake Nipissing and the 45th parallel to the Saint John River and Ile d'Anticosti. These boundaries were modified by the Quebec Act of 1774 to include the fishing zone off Labrador and the Lower North Shore, and the fur trade area between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Great Lakes. The Treaty of Paris, 1783 pushed the boundary farther north. With the Constitutional Act, 1791, Britain divided the Province of Quebec into Upper Canada (the predecessor of modern-day Ontario) and Lower Canada (whose geographical boundaries comprised the southern portion of present-day Quebec).

Article

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.

Macleans

On to Ottawa Trek/Regina Riot

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on July 1, 2002. Partner content is not updated.

Pulling down the bill of his hat, Jack Geddes squinted against the Prairie wind. Perched atop the boxcar of a moving train, Geddes could just make out the Alberta foothills. Beyond them, through the thick, black smoke belching from the steam engine, lay the snow-capped Rockies.

Macleans

Toronto Subway Crash Kills 3

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on August 21, 1995. Partner content is not updated.

So began a night of horror and heroism, of painful sacrifices and simple acts of human kindness. Sadd's train was about to go out of service when it was rammed from behind by another subway at 6:07 p.m. Between them, the two trains were carrying about 700 people.

Macleans

Red River Flood

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on May 12, 1997. Partner content is not updated.

The flood of the century, they have been calling it in Manitoba, an awesome demonstration of nature’s raw might.

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Ludwig Farm Shooting

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on July 5, 1999. Partner content is not updated.

On a brilliant summer's evening last week, two children's teams played soccer outside the Beaverlodge Community Centre. Another group of youngsters splashed with glee in an adjacent outdoor swimming pool. Inside the town hall, though, the mood was ugly.

Macleans

Ottawa Massacre

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on April 19, 1999. Partner content is not updated.

Like many of his colleagues at Ottawa-Carleton's public transit company, Grant Harrison wore his grief openly.

Article

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.

Article

Komagata Maru

The SS Komagata Maru was a chartered ship featured in a dramatic challenge to Canada’s former practice of excluding immigrants from India. This challenge took place in the spring and summer of 1914, on the eve of the First World War.

Article

Journée nationale des patriotes (National Patriots’ Day)

The holiday which takes place on the first Monday immediately preceding 25 May has had several names: Victoria Day, the Queen’s Birthday, Empire Day, Commonwealth Day, fête de Dollard, fête de Dollard et de Chénier and Journée nationale des patriotes (National Patriots’ Day). This day is at the heart of a conflict between representations and memories. For most people, it represents the arrival of sunny days. (See also National Holidays.)