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History of Birth Control in Canada

Human beings have practised birth control throughout history. However, in 19th-century Canada, this practice was largely forbidden or taboo. It was only in the 1920s that groups of citizens formed to defend birth control. The information, services and products related to this practice became increasingly accessible after the war. During the 1960s, Canada decriminalized contraception and abortion. In the 1970s, the number of organizations and services promoting access to contraception and family planning began to increase. From then on, birth control became an integral part of the public health approach to sexual health. 

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Bluenose

The most famous ship in Canadian history, the Bluenose was both a fishing and racing vessel in the 1920s and 1930s. The Nova Scotia schooner achieved immortality when its image was engraved onto the Canadian dime.

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Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF)

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded in Calgary in 1932. It was a political coalition of progressive, socialist and labour groups. It sought economic reform to help Canadians affected by the Great Depression. The party governed Saskatchewan under Premier Tommy Douglas, who went on to be the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP). The CCF merged with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to form the NDP in 1961. Although the CCF never held power nationally, the adoption of many of its ideas by ruling parties contributed greatly to the development of the Canadian welfare state.

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NORAD

The North American Air Defense Agreement (NORAD) was a pact made in 1957, at the height of the Cold War. It placed under joint command the air forces of Canada and the United States. Its name was later changed to the North American Aerospace Defense Command; but it kept the NORAD acronym. Canada and the US renewed NORAD in 2006, making the arrangement permanent. It is subject to review every four years, or at the request of either country. NORAD’s mission was also expanded into maritime warnings. The naval forces of the two countries remain under separate commands.

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Royal Union Flag (Union Jack)

Before the adoption of the maple leaf–designed National Flag of Canada in 1965, Canada, first as a colony and later as a dominion, was represented by a succession of royal flags — the flag of France, the Cross of St. George, the first version of the Royal Union Flag (combining the English and Scottish flags), and, finally, the current Royal Union Flag (combining the British and Irish flags, and also known as the Union Jack).

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Ross Rifle

In the early 20th Century, the Ross rifle, a Canadian-made infantry rifle, was produced as an alternative to the British-made Lee-Enfield rifle. The Ross rifle was used during the First World War, where it gained a reputation as an unreliable weapon among Canadian soldiers. By 1916, the Ross had been mostly replaced by the Lee-Enfield.

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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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The Wars

Timothy Findley’s 1977 novel about the mental and physical destruction of a young Canadian soldier in the First World War won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English Language Fiction. It is widely regarded as one of the country’s definitive historical war novels. It has been called “one of the most remarkable novels of war ever published” and “the finest historical novel ever written by a Canadian.” The Globe and Mail referred to The Wars as “the great Canadian novel about the First World War.”

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Crown

In a monarchy, the Crown is an abstract concept or symbol that represents the state and its government. In a constitutional monarchy such as Canada, the Crown is the source of non-partisan sovereign authority. It is part of the legislative, executive and judicial powers that govern the country. Under Canada’s system of responsible government, the Crown performs each of these functions on the binding advice, or through the actions of, members of Parliament, ministers or judges. As the embodiment of the Crown, the monarch — currently Queen Elizabeth II — serves as head of state. The Queen and her vice-regal representatives — the governor general at the federal level and lieutenant-governors provincially — possess what are known as prerogative powers; they can be made without the approval of another branch of government, though they are rarely used. The Queen and her representatives also fulfill ceremonial functions as Head of State.

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Women's Suffrage in Canada

Women’s suffrage (or franchise) is the right of women to vote in political elections; campaigns for this right generally included demand for the right to run for public office. The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long struggle to address fundamental issues of equity and justice. Women in Canada, particularly Asian and Indigenous women, met strong resistance as they struggled for basic human rights, including suffrage.

Representative of more than justice in politics, suffrage represented hopes for improvements in education, healthcare and employment as well as an end to violence against women. For non-white women, gaining the vote also meant fighting against racial injustices.

(See also Women’s Suffrage Timeline.)

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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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Canadian Arctic Sovereignty

Arctic sovereignty is a key part of Canada’s history and future. The country has 162,000 km of Arctic coastline. Forty per cent of Canada’s landmass is in its three northern territories. Sovereignty over the area has become a national priority for Canadian governments in the 21st century. There has been growing international interest in the Arctic due to resource development, climate change, control of the Northwest Passage and access to transportation routes. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in 2008, “The geopolitical importance of the Arctic and Canada’s interests in it have never been greater.”

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Confederation's Opponents

Opposition to Confederation has existed since a union of British North Americancolonies was first proposed in the late 1840s. In the eastern parts of the country, opponents generally feared that Confederation would strip power from the provincesand hand it to the federal government; or that it would lead to higher taxes and military conscription. Many of these opponents ultimately gave up and even served in the Canadian government. In the West, Indigenous peoples in the Red River Colonywere never asked if they wanted to join Confederation. Fearing for their culture and land rights under Canadian control, they mounted a five-month insurgency against the government. Many Quebec nationalistshave long sought to separate from Confederation, either through the extreme measures of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), or through referenda in 1980 and 1995.

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Newfoundland and Labrador and Confederation

Attempts to bring Newfoundland into Confederation in the 1860s and 1890s were met with lukewarm interest in the colony. In 1934, Newfoundland was in bankruptcy during the Great Depression. It suspended responsible government and accepted an unelected Commission Government directed by Britain. In a 1948 referendum, Newfoundlanders were given the choice to either continue with th Commission Government, join Canada, or seek a return to responsible government as an independent dominion. The independence option won the first vote. But the Confederation option won a run-off vote with 52.3 per cent support. The British and Canadian parliaments approved of the union. Newfoundland became Canada’s 10th province on 31 March 1949. In 2001, the province’s name was officially changed to Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Haldimand Proclamation

On 25 October 1784, Sir Frederick Haldimand, the governor of 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.