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Alberta

Alberta, the westernmost of Canada's three Prairie provinces, shares many physical features with its neighbours to the east, Saskatchewan and  Manitoba. The Rocky Mountains form the southern portion of Alberta's western boundary with British Columbia. Alberta was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. The province is home to the country’s largest deposits of oil and natural gas.

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Resistance and Residential Schools

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools that many Indigenous children were forced to attend. They were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Indigenous parents and children did not simply accept the residential-school system. Indigenous peoples fought against – and engaged with – the state, schools and other key players in the system. For the duration of the residential-school era, parents acted in the best interests of their children and communities. The children responded in ways that would allow them to survive. 

Credit: M. Meikle / Library and Archives Canada / PA-101771

Inuit children who lived too far away and had to stay at school during the summer. Anglican Mission School. Credit: M. Meikle / Library and Archives Canada / PA-101771

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Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools

Historical trauma occurs when trauma caused by historical oppression is passed down through generations. For more than 100 years, the Canadian government supported residential school programs that isolated Indigenous children from their families and communities (see Residential Schools in Canada). Under the guise of educating and preparing Indigenous children for their participation in Canadian society, the federal government and other administrators of the residential school system committed what has since been described as an act of cultural genocide. As generations of students left these institutions, they returned to their home communities without the knowledge, skills or tools to cope in either world. The impacts of their institutionalization in residential school continue to be felt by subsequent generations. This is called intergenerational trauma.

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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.

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Inuit Experiences at Residential School

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools created to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Schools in the North were run by missionaries for nearly a century before the federal government began to open new, so-called modern institutions in the 1950s. This was less than a decade after a Special Joint Committee (see Indigenous Suffrage) found that the system was ineffectual. The committee’s recommendations led to the eventual closure of residential schools across the country.

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Nunatsiavut

Nunatsiavut (meaning “our beautiful land” in Inuktitut) is the homeland of the Labrador Inuit (Labradormiut). The territory covers 72,520km2 of land and 44,030km2 of sea in the northern part of the Labrador Peninsula. On 1 December 2005, the Labrador Inuit celebrated the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government, their own regional government within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Labradormiut became the first Inuit in Canada to achieve self-government. Of the approximately 6,500 beneficiaries, about 2,500 live within the settlement area in five communities: Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale (the legislative capital) and Nain (the administrative capital).

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Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories lie northwest of central Canada, bordered to the east by Nunavut, to the west by the Yukon and to the south by the northeastern corner of British Columbia, as well as the entire northern borders of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The name was originally applied to the territory acquired in 1870 from the Hudson's Bay Company and Great Britain: Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory. In 1880 Great Britain also transferred to Canada the arctic islands, north of the mainland, thereby adding to the territories. The acquisition of the NWT was a major component of the Canadian government’s desire, led by Sir John A. MacDonald, to construct a British nation in North America and to guard against the potential incursion of American settlers.

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Quebec

Quebec is the largest province in Canada. Its territory represents 15.5 per cent of the surface area of Canada and totals more than 1.5 million km2. Quebec shares borders with Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The province also neighbours on four American states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The name Quebec was inspired by an Algonquian word meaning “where the river narrows.” The French in New France used it solely to refer to the city of Quebec. The British were the first to use the name in a broader sense.

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Nunavut

Nunavut, or “Our Land” in Inuktitut, encompasses over 2 million km2 and has a population of 35,944 residents (2016 census), approximately 85 per cent of whom are Inuit. Covering roughly the part of the Canadian mainland and Arctic Archipelago that lies to the north and northeast of the treeline, Nunavut is the largest and northernmost territory of Canada and the fifth largest administrative division in the world. Nunavummiut live in 25 communities spread across this vast territory, with the largest number, 7,740 (2016 census), in the capital, Iqaluit. The creation of Nunavut in 1999 (the region was previously part of the Northwest Territories) represented the first major change to the political map of Canada since the incorporation of Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949. Beyond changing the internal political boundaries of Canada, Nunavut’s formation represented a moment of great political significance; through political activism and long-term negotiations, a small, marginalized Indigenous group overcame many obstacles to peacefully establish a government that they controlled within the Canadian state, thereby gaining control of their land, their resources and their future. As such, the creation of Nunavut represents a landmark moment in the evolution of Canada and a significant development in the history of the world’s Indigenous peoples.

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Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is Canada’s second-smallest province (following Prince Edward Island) and is located on the southeastern coast of the country. The province includes Cape Breton, a large island northeast of the mainland. The name Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland,” reflecting the origins of some of the early settlers. Given its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Nova Scotia’s economy is largely influenced by the sea, and its harbours have served as military bases during many wars.

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Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland, the youngest of the Canadian provinces, joined Confederation in 1949. Some portion of its coast was undoubtedly one of the first parts of the continent seen by Europeans. Its total area is 405, 720 km2, of which Labrador makes up almost three-quarters (294,330 km2). The island of Newfoundland is the easternmost region of Canada, while Labrador is located on the mainland to the northwest. Since John Cabot's arrival on the “new isle” the island has been referred to as Terra Nova, or in English, Newfoundland. Labrador probably received its name from the Portuguese designation, "Terra del Lavradors."

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New Brunswick

New Brunswick is one of three provinces collectively known as the "Maritimes." Joined to Nova Scotia by the narrow Chignecto Isthmus and separated from Prince Edward Island by the Northumberland Strait, New Brunswick forms the land bridge linking this region to continental North America. It is bounded in the north by Québec and in the west by the US (Maine). In 1784, the British divided Nova Scotia at the Chignecto Isthmus, naming the west and north portion New Brunswick after the German duchy of Brunswick-Lunenburg. New Brunswick is now the only officially bilingual province in Canada.

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Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province, making up just 0.1 per cent of Canada’s total land area. It is situated in the Gulf of St Lawrence and separated from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the Northumberland Strait. PEI was known to its earliest settlers, the Mi’kmaq as Abegweit, meaning "cradle in the waves,” and was described by Jacques Cartier in 1534 as "the fairest land that may possibly be seen." PEI's deep red soil has always been its most striking feature and, together with the sea, the mainstay of the population since the early 18th century.

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Yukon

The name Yukon comes from the Gwich’in word Yu-kun-ah meaning "great river" and is a reference to the Yukon River. Lying in the northwestern corner of Canada and isolated by rugged mountains, the Yukon borders Alaska to the west, British Columbia to the south and the Northwest Territories to the east. Historically, it is indelibly associated with the great Klondike Gold Rush.

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Anne of Green Gables

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), became an instant bestseller and has remained in print for more than a century, making the character of Anne Shirley a mythic icon of Canadian culture. The book has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide, been translated into at least 36 languages, as well as braille, and been adapted more than two dozen times in various mediums. A musical version first produced by the Charlottetown Festival in 1965 is the longest running annual musical theatre production in the world, while the award-winning 1985 CBC miniseries starring Megan Follows is the most-watched television program in Canadian history. Thousands of tourists visit Prince Edward Island each year to see the “sacred sites” related to the book, and the sale of Anne-related commodities such as souvenirs and dolls has come to constitute a cottage industry.

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Saskatchewan (Province)

Saskatchewan is part of the Prairie region and is the only province with entirely artificial boundaries. It is bordered by the US to the south, the Northwest Territories to the north, and Manitoba and Alberta to the east and west respectively. It was created from the Northwest Territories in 1905, at the same time as Alberta, and shares with that province the distinction of having no coast on salt water. The name, which was first used officially for a district of the Northwest Territories in 1882, is derived from an anglicized version of a Cree word, kisiskâciwanisîpiy, meaning “swiftly flowing river.”

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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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Manitoba

Manitoba is a Canadian province located at the centre of the country, bounded by Saskatchewan to the west, Hudson Bay and Ontario to the east, Nunavut to the north, and North Dakota and Minnesota to the south. The province was founded on parts of the traditional territories of the Assiniboine, Dakota, Cree, Dene, Anishinaabeg and Oji-Cree peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. The land is now governed Treaties 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10. As of the 2016 census, Manitoba had 1,278,365 residents, making it the fifth most populous province or territory in Canada. Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870, and its capital city, Winnipeg, was incorporated shortly thereafter, in 1873. Brian Pallister is the province’s current premier, leading a majority Progressive Conservative government.