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Article

British Columbia and Confederation

The colony of British Columbia was founded in 1858 in response to the Fraser River Gold Rush. (See also The Fraser River Gold Rush and the Founding of British Columbia.) The colony established representative government in 1864 and merged with the colony of Vancouver Island in 1866. In May 1868, Amor De Cosmos formed the Confederation League to bring responsible government to BC and to join Confederation. In September 1868, the Confederation League passed 37 resolutions outlining the terms for a union with the Dominion of Canada. The terms were passed by both the BC assembly and the federal Parliament in 1871. The colony joined Canada as the country’s sixth province on 20 July 1871. The threat of American annexation, embodied by the Alaska purchase of 1867, and the promise of a railway linking BC to the rest of Canada, were decisive factors.

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Family Law in Canada

Family law is critical to most Canadians as it governs relationships between spouses, and between parents and their children. In family law, marriage and divorce fall under federal jurisdiction but most other issues, including adoption and matrimonial property disputes, fall under provincial laws that vary widely. Traditional family structures have changed significantly over time, with increasing numbers of same-sex and common law relationships, and growing divorce rates. This has led to intense debates over the future of family law, court challenges and provincial reviews of legislation.

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Berger Commission

In 1974, the federal government formed a royal commission to consider two proposals for natural gas pipelines in the North. Thomas Berger, a judge, led the inquiry. Over the next two years, the Berger Commission assessed the potential impacts of the proposed pipelines. Berger held formal and informal hearings. These included 45 community hearings from the Northwest Territories and Yukon to Southern Canada. His 1977 report made several recommendations. He called for further study and the settlement of Indigenous land claims. He also called for a 10-year ban on pipeline construction in the Mackenzie Valley. Berger opposed building any pipeline across the sensitive caribou habitat of the northern Yukon. The Berger Commission involved the public and included Indigenous views more than any resource-related consultation had done before in Canada.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Maher Arar Case

Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian. In 2002 he was sent by the United States to Syria as an accused terrorist, based on faulty information supplied to US agents by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Arar was tortured in Syria before being released and returned to Canada. The federal government paid him $10.5 million in compensation for the wrongs done to him.

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Communist Party of Canada

The Communist Party of Canada, founded in 1924 as the Canadian branch of the international Communist movement, is a fringe political party that advocates for a pure socialist society based on the ideas of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx.

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Liberalism

Long before the political label was coined in 19th-century Spain, liberalism existed as a body of thought dedicated to the proposition that the individual is the unit of supreme value in society.

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Juvenile Justice Systems

On 7 July 1982, Parliament enacted the Young Offenders Act (effective April 1984, some sections not until 1985), which the government claimed would bring about a long-overdue reform of Canada's juvenile justice system.

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Impaired Driving

Impaired driving, also known as drunken driving, driving while impaired (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI), has been a serious social problem as far back as the beginning of this century, when social scientists took note of the often deadly combination of alcohol and motor vehicles.

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Constitutional Act, 1791

The Constitutional Act, 1791 was an act of the British Parliament. Also known as the Canada Act, it divided the Province of Quebec into  Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The Act was a first step on the long path to Confederation, but its rigid colonial structures also set the stage for rebellion in the Canadas. (See Rebellions of 1837–38.) The Act was also notable for giving women who owned property in Lower Canada the right to vote — a high level of inclusion by the standards of the time.

Editorial

Editorial: John Humphrey, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1946, John Humphrey became director of the United Nations Division on Human Rights, and Eleanor Roosevelt was named the United States representative to the UN’s Commission on Human Rights. Humphrey was an obscure Canadian law professor. Roosevelt was the world’s most celebrated woman. For two years, they collaborated on the creation of one of the modern world’s great documents: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was adopted on 10 December 1948.

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Patriation Reference

The Patriation Reference, formally known as Re: Resolution to Amend the Constitution, was a reference case of the Supreme Court of Canada. On 28 September 1981, the court decided that it was legal for the federal government to patriateand amend Canada’s Constitution without the consent of the provincial governments. But it also found that to do so in areas that affect provincial powers would be a breach of constitutional convention. The court’s decision concluded that such conventions are of great significance. In the words of the court, “Constitutional convention plus constitutional law equal the total constitution of the country.”

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NORAD

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (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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Union Government

Union Government In early 1917, during WORLD WAR I, recruitment for the CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE fell to a very low level. PM Sir Robert BORDEN, opposed to any reduction in Canada's commitment to the war effort, announced on 18 May 1917 that the government would introduce CONSCRIPTION to Canada.

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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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Finta Case

In its first decision relating to the Finta war crimes case (1993), the Supreme Court of Canada permitted 3 interested groups to intervene - the Human Rights League of B'nai B'rith Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress and InterAmicus.