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Article

Quebec as a Distinct Society

The concept of “distinct society” distinguishes Quebec from English Canada.

This concept originated during the Quiet Revolution, at a time when French Canada came to no longer be seen as a single entity, but as a collection of regional francophone communities. It is found in the 1965 preliminary report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism shared by Laurendeau and Dunton. It was subsequently used on a number of occasions, notably during the negotiation of the Meech Lake Accord (1987–90). Today, the concept of “distinct society” continues to be used in debates regarding various political, social and cultural issues.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Internment in Canada

Internment is the forcible confinement or detention of a person during wartime. Large-scale internment operations were carried out by the Canadian government during the First World War and the Second World War. In both cases, the War Measures Act was invoked. This gave the government the authority to deny people’s civil liberties, notably habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial before detention). People were held in camps across the country. More than 8,500 people were interned during the First World War and as many as 24,000 during the Second World War — including some 12,000 Japanese Canadians.

Article

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was a Royal Commission established in 1991 in the wake of the Oka Crisis. The commission’s report, the product of extensive research and community consultation, was a broad survey of historical and contemporary relations between Indigenous (Aboriginal) and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The report made several recommendations, the majority of which were not fully implemented. However, it is significant for the scope and depth of research, and remains an important document in the study of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

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Gun Control in Canada

Gun control in Canada is governed by the Criminal Code, as well as the Firearms Act (1995) and related regulations. The Criminal Code lays out the criminal offences related to the misuse, storage, transportation, sale and possession of firearms; as well as consequent punishments. The Firearms Act regulates the manufacture, import/export, acquisition, possession, transfer, transportation, and storage of firearms in Canada. It lays out prohibitions and restrictions on various types of firearms, which are classified as either non-restricted, restricted, or prohibited. The Act also outlines the requirements for the licensing and registration of firearms in Canada. The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP), led by the RCMP, administers the Firearms Act. Fulfilment of the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and obtainment of a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) are required to possess and use firearms in Canada.

Article

Right to Vote in Canada

The term franchise denotes the right to vote in elections for members of Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils. The Canadian franchise dates from the mid-18th-century colonial period. At that time, restrictions effectively limited the right to vote to male property holders. Since then, voting qualifications and the categories of eligible voters have expanded according to jurisdiction. These changes reflect the evolution of Canada’s social values and constitutional requirements.

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Pacific Scandal

The Pacific Scandal (1872–73) was the first major post-Confederation political scandal in Canada. In April 1873, Prime Minister  Sir John A. Macdonald and senior members of his Conservative cabinet were accused of accepting election funds from shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan in exchange for the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. The affair forced Macdonald to resign as prime minister in November 1873. But it did not destroy him politically. Five years later, Macdonald led his Conservatives back to power and served as prime minister for another 18 years.

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Responsible Government

Responsible government refers to a government that is responsible to the people. In Canada, responsible government is an executive or Cabinet that depends on the support of an elected assembly, rather than a monarch or their representatives. A responsible government first appeared in Canada in the 1830s. It became an important part of Confederation. It is the method by which Canada achieved independence from Britain without revolution.

Article

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 Anishinabe of southern Manitoba (see Aboriginal Peoples: Eastern Woodlands). From the perspective of Canadian officials, treaty making was a means to facilitate settlement of the West and the assimilation of Aboriginal peoples into Euro-Canadian society (see Aboriginal Treaties). Aboriginal 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 Aboriginal and Euro-Canadian participants.

Article

Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister (PM) is the head of the federal government. It is the most powerful position in Canadian politics. Prime ministers are not specifically elected to the position; instead, the PM is typically the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister controls the governing party and speaks for it; names senators and senior judges for appointment; and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet. As chair of Cabinet, the PM controls its agenda and greatly influences the activities and priorities of Parliament. In recent years, a debate has emerged about the growing power of prime ministers, and whether this threatens other democratic institutions.

Article

The Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations

The Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations is a Canadian-led multilateral project aimed at increasing women’s meaningful participation in peace operations. Named after aeronautical engineer and women’s rights pioneer Elsie MacGill, the initiative figures into Canada’s feminist foreign policy and Global Affairs Canada’s commitment to the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security agenda (see Canada and Peacekeeping).

Article

Cannabis Legalization in Canada

Cannabis, also known as marijuana (among countless other names), is a psychoactive intoxicant that was banned in Canada from 1923 until medical cannabis became legal in 2001. The consumption and sale of recreational cannabis was legalized and regulated on 17 October 2018, after Parliament passed Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. Legalization was supported by a majority of Canadians, despite concerns about the drug’s addictiveness and health effects, especially among young people.

Article

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.

Article

École Polytechnique Tragedy (Montreal Massacre)

On 6 December 1989, a man entered a mechanical engineering classroom at Montreal’s École Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic weapon. After separating the women from the men, he opened fire on the women while screaming, “You are all feminists.” Fourteen young women were murdered, and 13 other people were wounded. The shooter then turned the gun on himself. In his suicide note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note contained a list of 19 “radical feminists” who he said would have been killed had he not run out of time. It included the names of well-known women in Quebec, including journalists, television personalities and union leaders.

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Robert Pickton Case

Between 1978 and 2001, at least 65 women disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton, who operated a pig farm in nearby Port Coquitlam, was charged with murdering 26 of the women. He was convicted on six charges and sentenced to life in prison. In a jail cell conversation with an undercover police officer, Pickton claimed to have murdered 49 women. The murders led to the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history, and Pickton’s farm became the largest crime scene in Canadian history. The case became a flash point in the wider issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. In 2012, a provincial government inquiry into the case concluded that “blatant failures” by police — including inept criminal investigative work, compounded by police and societal prejudice against sex trade workers and Indigenous women ­— led to a “tragedy of epic proportions.”

Warning: This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Article

Elizabeth Wettlaufer Case

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is a former nurse who murdered eight elderly patients and attempted to harm six others in southwestern Ontario between 2007 and 2016. One of the most prolific serial killers in Canadian history, she was sentenced to life in prison for the murders in 2017. The case prompted widespread public outrage and made headlines internationally. It later resulted in lawsuits against Wettlaufer, and the nursing homes she worked for, and a sweeping provincial inquiry into flaws in Ontario’s long-term care system.