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Coalition Governments in Canada

Coalition governments are created when different political parties co-operate by forming a temporary alliance large enough to enjoy the confidence of Parliament, allowing them to form a government. Members of all parties in the coalition are appointed to Cabinet. This sometimes happens when no single party has achieved a majority of seats in the House of Commons or provincial legislature. Federal coalitions normally appear during periods of crisis such as war or political breakdown. The strengthening of party affiliations and the development of the party system since Confederation has made coalitions more difficult to negotiate. Politicians have become wary of the long-term results of coalitions and are reluctant to introduce them.

Article

Populism in Canada

Populism is a political ideology or movement that champions the idea of “the people,” usually in opposition to an established elite. It is often considered a right-wing ideology, but there are left-wing populists as well. Populism has a long history in Canada and continues to be an important factor in Canadian political culture and public life. In Canada, there have been right-wing populist parties (e.g., Social Credit Party, Créditistes, Reform) and left-wing populist parties (e.g., United Farmers of Alberta, Co-operative Commonwealth Federation). Although populism can be difficult to define, all populists claim to speak on behalf of ordinary people who have been let down in some way by an elite establishment.

Article

Referendum

A referendum is the asking of a political question to an electorate, for direct decision by general vote. Although federal referendums are rare in Canada, there have been numerous provincial referendums and plebiscites since Confederation.

Editorial

Editorial: The Canadian Constitution Comes Home

In April 1982, as an Ottawa winter turned to spring, Queen Elizabeth II made her eleventh visit to Canada. She had come to make it official. After more than a half-century of trying, Canada would have its own constitution. A Canadian-made constitution was unfinished business from the country’s colonial past. The British North America Act in 1867 set out the jurisdictions of the federal and provincial governments and created the Dominion of Canada. It was, however, a law of the British Parliament, and it could only be amended (changed) by the British.

Macleans

Toronto Bans Smoking

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on July 15, 1996. Partner content is not updated.

The doors of The Pilot Tavern were wide open last Wednesday evening, but the unseasonably cool breezes wafting through the popular Toronto pub did little to clear the air. Like the tobacco haze hanging over the long, dark bar, a tough, new antismoking bylaw threatened to poison the atmosphere.

Article

Capital Punishment in Canada

In pre-Confederation Canada, hundreds of criminal offences were punishable by death. By 1865, only murder, treason and rape were still considered capital offences. In 1962, Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were the last of 710 prisoners to be executed in Canada since 1859. After 1976, the death penalty was permitted only for members of the Armed Forces found guilty of cowardice, desertion, unlawful surrender, or spying for the enemy. The federal government completely abolished state executions in 1998.

Article

Temperance Movement in Canada

The temperance movement was an international social and political campaign of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was based on the belief that drinking was responsible for many of society’s ills. It called for moderation or total abstinence from alcohol. This led to the legal prohibition of alcohol in many parts of Canada. The Canada Temperance Act (Scott Act) of 1878 gave local governments the “local option” to ban the sale of alcohol. In 1915 and 1916, all provinces but Quebec prohibited the sale of alcohol as a patriotic measure during the First World War. Most provincial laws were repealed in the 1920s in favour of allowing governments to control alcohol sales. Temperance societies were later criticized for distorting economic activity, and for encouraging drinking and organized crime.

Article

Keegstra Case

Jim Keegstra was a secondary school teacher in rural Alberta who taught anti-Semitic propaganda to his students. He was charged with a hate crime in 1984 and was found guilty in 1985. However, Keegstra launched repeated appeals arguing that the Criminal Code violated his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. The landmark case (R. v. Keegstra) tested the balance between the right to freedom of speech outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the law’s limits on hate speech stipulated in the Criminal Code. The case came before the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990 and 1996. The Court ultimately ruled against Keegstra by deciding that Canada’s hate laws imposed a “reasonable limit” on a person’s freedom of expression.

Article

Murdoch Mysteries

Murdoch Mysteries is a TV series about William Murdoch, a fictional Victorian-era detective who is ahead of his time and uses forensic science and technology to solve Toronto’s most complex crimes. Often referred to as a Victorian-era CSI, the long-running police procedural features a mix of humour, intrigue, science fiction, history and period production values. Based on Maureen Jennings’s successful series of mystery novels, the show  attracted a cult following after premiering on City TV in 2008. It garnered a much larger audience after being picked up by the CBC in 2013. It was Canada’s highest-rated scripted television series in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and won the Golden Screen Award in 2017, 2018 and 2020. It is seen by millions of viewers in more than 100 countries.

Macleans

Medicare Threatened by Funding Cuts

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on December 2, 1996. Partner content is not updated.

Like hundreds of other hospitals across the country, The Pas Health Complex - a 60-bed facility attached to a 62-bed nursing home - has had its budget slashed and its staff reduced. It is operating on 20 per cent less money, or $1.4 million, than it did three years ago.

Article

Constitution of Canada

The Constitution of Canada is the country’s governing legal framework. It defines the powers of the executive branches of government and of the legislatures at both the federal and provincial levels. Canada’s Constitution is not one document; it is a complex mix of statutes, orders, British and Canadian court decisions, and generally accepted practices known as constitutional conventions. In the words of the Supreme Court of Canada, “Constitutional convention plus constitutional law equal the total constitution of the country.” The Constitution provides Canada with the legal structure for a stable, democratic government.

Article

Media and the Law

The media are the means by which we receive information we want and need. Over time, town criers and clay tablets have given way to printed text. Now, a wide variety of aural and visual information is conveyed to us in bits and bytes through a number of intermediaries.

Macleans

Charest Controls Tory Convention

Ryan Craig loves to Rollerblade. He listens to the Smashing Pumpkins, surfs the Net and likes Seinfeld almost as much as beach Frisbee. Ask him about politics, though, and Craig, a 21-year-old personnel officer for the Manitoba Lotteries Corp. in Winnipeg, becomes deadly earnest.

Article

Political Protest

Political protest is the kind of political activity, eg, demonstrations, strikes and even VIOLENCE, usually but not always undertaken by those who lack access to the resources of organized PRESSURE GROUPS, or by those whose values conflict sharply with those of the dominant ELITE.