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Article

Bering Sea Dispute

During the 1880s, while Americans hunted seals on the Pribilof Islands, which the US had acquired from Russia in 1867, Canadians conducted sealing in the open waters. In 1886 US government revenue cutters, claiming to protect "American property," began seizing Canadian sealing vessels.

Macleans

Clark to Become Tory Leader

There is not much Canadians don’t know about Joe Clark by now. He is an eternal optimist to some, a punching bag for others, and that combination has set him up for some of the more humiliating political defeats of his generation.

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Petitioning in Canada

Petitioning is one of the most common tools of political protest accessible to the local population. Limited during the era of New France, the practice of collectively petitioning political authorities became much more frequent in the years following the Conquest by the British. Sanctioned in the 1689 Bill of Rights, petitioning had been a common practice in Britain for centuries, and ever since 1763, Canadians have been sending petitions to their governments (colonial, imperial, federal, provincial, and municipal) for a variety of reasons. With the recent introduction of e-petition, Canadians, more than ever, can have their voices heard in government.

Article

Rebellion in Lower Canada (The Patriots' War)

In 1837 and 1838, French Canadian militants in Lower Canada took up arms against the British Crown in a pair of insurrections. The twin rebellions killed more than 300 people. They followed years of tensions between the colony’s anglophone minority and the growing, nationalistic aspirations of its francophone majority. The rebels failed in their campaign against British rule. However, their revolt led to political reform, including the unified Province of Canada and the introduction of responsible government. The rebellion in Lower Canada, which is also known as the Patriots' War (la Guerre des patriotes), also gave French Canadians one of their first nationalist heroes in Louis-Joseph Papineau.

Article

Cabinet

In Canada’s parliamentary system of government, the cabinet is the committee of ministers that holds executive power. Cabinets are chaired by the prime minister (or in the provinces, by the premier). Ministers are typically elected politicians drawn from the party holding the most seats in the House of Commons (or the provincial legislature). Cabinets are traditionally strong, consensus-driven bodies; although some believe their influence is waning in the face of powerful prime ministers and their advisers.

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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

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted by the United States Congress on 18 September 1850. It extended the reach of the institution of slavery into the free Northern states, stating that refugees from enslavement living there could be returned to enslavement in the South once captured. The Act led thousands of freedom-seekers to take refuge in Canada. It was repealed 28 June 1864.

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.

Article

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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Canada West

In 1841, Britain united the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada. This was in response to the violent rebellions of 1837–38. The Durham Report (1839) laid out the guidelines to create the new colony with the Act of Union in 1840. The Province of Canada was made up of Canada West (formerly Upper Canada) and Canada East (formerly Lower Canada). The two regions were governed jointly until Confederation in 1867. Canada West then became Ontario and Canada East became Quebec.

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Terrorism and Canada

Terrorism is a phenomenon with deep roots. Scholars have noted examples of terrorism in the Middle East in the ancient and medieval periods. Since the late nineteenth century, terrorist attacks have been common.

Article

Somalia Affair

In 1992–93, Canada contributed military forces to UNITAF, a United Nations–backed humanitarian mission in the African nation of Somalia. In 1993, Canadian soldiers from the now-defunct Airborne Regiment tortured and killed a Somali teenager named Shidane Arone. These and other violent abuses during the mission shocked Canadians and damaged the country’s international reputation. They also led to a public inquiry that revealed serious failures of leadership at the highest levels of the Canadian Armed Forces, kick-starting reforms aimed a professionalizing the officer corps.

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

Article

Krever Inquiry

The infection of thousands of Canadians with the AIDS virus and hepatitis C is Canada's worst- ever preventable public health disaster. It has also become one of its most prolonged legal sagas, featuring a high-profile public inquiry, almost $10 billion in legal claims and a criminal investigation.

Article

History of Settlement in the Canadian Prairies

The Canadian Prairies were peopled in six great waves of migration, spanning from prehistory to the present. The migration from Asia, about 13,300 years ago, produced an Indigenous population of 20,000 to 50,000 by about 1640. Between 1640 and 1840, several thousand European and Canadian fur traders arrived, followed by several hundred British immigrants. They created dozens of small outposts and a settlement in the Red River Colony, where the Métis became the largest part of the population. The third wave, from the 1840s to the 1890s, consisted mainly but not solely of Canadians of British heritage. The fourth and by far the largest wave was drawn from many nations, mostly European. It occurred from 1897 to 1929, with a pause (1914–22) during and after the First World War. The fifth wave, drawn from other Canadian provinces and from Europe and elsewhere, commenced in the late 1940s. It lasted through the 1960s. The sixth wave, beginning in the 1970s, drew especially upon peoples of the southern hemisphere. It has continued, with fluctuations, to the present. Throughout the last century, the region has also steadily lost residents, as a result of migration to other parts of Canada, to the United States, and elsewhere.

Article

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.”

Article

Dominion Lands Act

The Dominion Lands Act was a federal law that received royal assent on 14 April 1872. It allowed for lands in Western Canada to be granted to individuals, colonization companies, the Hudson’s Bay Company, railway construction, municipalities and religious groups. The Act set aside land for First Nations reserves. Métis lands were organized by the government outside the Dominion Lands Act, using the scrip system. The Act also set aside lands for what would become National Parks (1883). The Dominion Lands Act devised specific homestead policies to encourage settlement in the West. It covered eligibility and settlers’ responsibilities, and outlined a standard measure for surveying and subdividing land. Some 1.25 million homesteads were made available over an expanse of about 80 million hectares — the largest survey grid in the world. The Act was repealed in 1930, when lands and resources were transferred from the federal government to the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. From 1870 to 1930, roughly 625,000 land patents were issued to homesteaders. As a result, hundreds of thousands of settlers poured into the region.

Article

Confederation

Confederation refers to the process of federal union in which the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada joined together to form the Dominion of Canada. The term Confederation also stands for 1 July 1867, the date of the creation of the Dominion. (See also Canada Day.) Before Confederation, British North America also included Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and the vast territories of Rupert’s Land (the private domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the North-Western Territory. Beginning in 1864, colonial politicians (now known as the Fathers of Confederation) met and negotiated the terms of Confederation at conferences in Charlottetown, Quebec City and London, England. Their work resulted in the British North America Act, Canada’s Constitution. It was passed by the British Parliament. At its creation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada included four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Between then and 1999, six more provinces and three territories joined Confederation.

(This is the full-length entry about Confederation. For a plain language summary, please see Confederation (Plain Language Summary).)