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Senate of Canada

The Senate is the Upper House of Canada’s Parliament. Its 105 members are appointed and hold their seats until age 75. The Senate’s purpose is to consider and revise legislation; investigate national issues; and most crucially according to the Constitution, give the regions of Canada an equal voice in Parliament. The Senate is a controversial institution. It has long been regarded by many Canadians as a place of unfair patronage and privilege. An unresolved debate continues about whether it should be reformed into an elected body accountable to the voters, or abolished.

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Propaganda in Canada

Propaganda refers to messaging that aims to spread or “propagate” an ideology or worldview. Psychologists have described propaganda as “manipulative persuasion in the service of an agenda” or communications that “induce the individual to follow non-rational emotional drives.” During the First World War, propaganda was used to recruit soldiers and supporters. The Second World War saw it take a dark turn toward using outright lies to spread hateful ideologies and practices. (See also Fake News a.k.a. Disinformation.) During the Cold War, governments in the West and East used propaganda to try to spread the ideologies of capitalism and democracy, or communism and the Soviet Union. Today, propaganda is most often found on social media; it is used to marshal support for, or opposition to, various political, economic and social movements.

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On to Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot

In April 1935, about 1,500 residents of federal Unemployment Relief Camps in British Columbia went on strike. They travelled by train and truck to Vancouver to protest poor conditions in the Depression-era camps. After their months-long protest proved futile, they decided to take their fight to Ottawa. On 3 June, more than 1,000 strikers began travelling across the country, riding atop railcars. By the time they reached Regina, they were 2,000 strong. But they were stopped in Regina, where the strike leaders were arrested, resulting in the violent Regina Riot on 1 July 1935.

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Governors General of Canada Since Confederation

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The governor general acts as the representative of the Crown in Canada. The governor general has extensive ceremonial duties. They also fulfill an important role in upholding the traditions of Parliament and other democratic institutions. Canada’s most recent governor general was Julie Payette. Following her resignation on 21 January 2021, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, assumed the responsibilities of the office until a replacement could be confirmed.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Canadian Human Rights Act

The Canadian Human Rights Act, created in 1977, is designed to ensure equality of opportunity. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex and a variety of other categories. The Act produced two human rights bodies: the Canadian Human Rights Commission and, through a 1985 amendment, the Human Rights Tribunal Panel (it became the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 1998). Decisions of both the Commission and the Tribunal can be appealed to the Federal Court of Canada. Unlike the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides Canadians with a broad range of rights, the Canadian Human Rights Act covers only equality rights. It also governs only federal jurisdictions. Each province and territory in Canada has its own human rights legislation, which apply to local entities such as schools and hospitals.

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Peace and Friendship Treaties

Between 1725 and 1779, Britain signed a series of treaties with various Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy peoples living in parts of what are now the Maritimes and Gaspé region in Canada and the northeastern United States. Commonly known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties, these agreements were chiefly designed to prevent war between enemies and to facilitate trade. While these treaties contained no monetary or land transfer provisions, they guaranteed hunting, fishing and land-use rights for the descendants of the Indigenous signatories. The Peace and Friendship Treaties remain in effect today.

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Same-Sex Marriage in Canada

In 2003, Ontario and British Columbia became the first two provinces to legalize same-sex marriage. The federal Civil Marriage Act came into force on 25 July 2005, making same-sex marriage legal across Canada. Canada became the fourth country to permit same-sex marriages, after the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005). Since then, all provinces in Canada have recognized same-sex marriages. Marriage itself falls under federal jurisdiction in Canada. But the provinces regulate the solemnization of marriage (the formal ceremony that is either civil or religious). They also grant marriage licenses. The Supreme Court has ruled that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a religious official cannot be legally compelled to perform same-sex marriages if it is contrary to their religious beliefs.

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NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created on 4 April 1949. It was Canada’s first peacetime military alliance. It placed the country in a defensive security arrangement with the United States, Britain, and Western Europe. (The other nine founding nations were France, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Italy.) During the Cold War, NATO forces provided a frontline deterrence against the Soviet Union and its satellite states. More recently, the organization has pursued global peace and security while asserting its members’ strategic interests in the campaign against Islamic terrorism. As of 2021, there were 30 member countries in NATO.

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Canada and the Cold War

The Cold War refers to the period between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During this time, the world was largely divided into two ideological camps — the United States-led capitalist “West” and the Soviet-dominated communist “East.” Canada aligned with the West. Its government structure, politics, society and popular perspectives matched those in the US, Britain, and other democratic countries. The global US-Soviet struggle took many different forms and touched many areas. It never became “hot” through direct military confrontation between the two main antagonists.