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Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister (PM) is the head of the federal government. It is the most powerful position in Canadian politics. Prime ministers are not specifically elected to the position; instead, the PM is typically the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister controls the governing party and speaks for it; names senators and senior judges for appointment; and appoints and dismisses all members of Cabinet. As chair of Cabinet, the PM controls its agenda and greatly influences the activities and priorities of Parliament. In recent years, a debate has emerged about the growing power of prime ministers, and whether this threatens other democratic institutions.

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R.B. Bennett

Richard Bedford Bennett, 1st Viscount Bennett of Mickleham, Calgary and Hopewell, businessman, lawyer, politician, philanthropist, prime minister of Canada 7 August 1930 to 23 October 1935 (born 3 July 1870 in Hopewell Hill, NB; died 26 June 1947 in Mickleham, England). R.B. Bennett is perhaps best remembered for his highly criticized response to the Great Depression, as well as the subsequent unemployment relief camps and the On to Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot. However, he also created the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, which became the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also oversaw Canada’s signing of the Statute of Westminster. For his service during the Second World War, he was appointed to Britain’s House of Lords and became Viscount Bennett of Mickleham, Calgary and Hopewell.

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Fenians

Fenians were members of a mid-19th century movement to secure Ireland’s independence from Britain. They were a secret, outlawed organization in the British Empire, where they were known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. They operated freely and openly in the United States as the Fenian Brotherhood. Eventually, both wings became known as the Fenians. They launched a series of armed raids into Canadian territory between 1866 and 1871. The movement was primarily based in the United States, but it had a significant presence in Canada.

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History of Acadia

Acadia’s history as a French-speaking colony stretches as far back as the early 17th century. The French settlers who colonized the land and coexisted alongside Indigenous peoples became called Acadians. Acadia was also the target of numerous wars between the French and the English. Ultimately, the colony fell under British rule. Many Acadians were subsequently deported away from Acadia. Over time, as a British colony and then as part of Canada, Acadians increasingly became a linguistic minority. Nonetheless, Acadians have strived to protect their language and identity throughout time.

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Population Settlement of New France

Throughout the history of New France, soldiers and hired labourers (“engagés”) who crossed the Atlantic were the primary settlers in Canada. Those young servicemen and artisans, as well as the immigrant women who wished to get married, mainly hailed from the coastal and urban regions of France. Most of the colonists arrived before 1670 during the migratory flow which varied in times of war and prosperity. Afterwards, the population grew through Canadian births. On average, Canadian families had seven or eight children in the 17th century, and four to six children in the 18th century. As a result, the population of New France was 70,000 strong by the end of the French regime.

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The Underground Railroad (Plain-Language Summary)

The Underground Railroad was a secret organization. It was made up of people who helped African Americans escape from slavery in the southern United States. The people in this organization set up a system of routes that escaped slaves could travel to find freedom in the northern United States and Canada. In the 1800s (the 19th century) between 30,000 and 40,000 escaped slaves traveled to British North America (Canada) through the Underground Railroad.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Underground Railroad in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry on The Underground Railroad.)

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Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker)

Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker), Cree chief (born circa 1842 in central SK; died 4 July 1886 in Blackfoot Crossing, AB). Remembered as a great leader, Pitikwahanapiwiyin strove to protect the interests of his people during the negotiation of Treaty 6. Considered a peacemaker, he did not take up arms in the North-West Resistance. However, a young and militant faction of his band did participate in the conflict, resulting in Pitikwahanapiwiyin’s arrest and imprisonment for treason. His legacy as a peacemaker lives on among many Cree peoples, including the Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

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Marie de l'Incarnation

Marie de l’Incarnation, born Marie Guyart, founder of the religious order of the Ursulines in Canada, mystic and writer (born 28 October 1599 in Tours, France; died 30 April 1672 in Quebec City). Her writings are among the most important accounts of the founding of the colony of New France and the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in the Americas. Her work as a teacher helped to lay the foundations for formal education in Canada.

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Mary Simon

Mary Jeannie May Simon (Ningiukudluk); diplomat, civil servant, (born 21 August 1947, in Kangirsualujjuaq, Nunavik, Quebec). In addition to her roles in the civil service, Mary Simon is an advocate for international cooperation in the Arctic and Indigenous education and rights. She is also Canada’s 30th Governor General and first Indigenous person to serve in that role.

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Cowboys and Cowgirls in Canada

Cowboys and cowgirls are people employed to tend cattle or horses. The first cowboys to work on the Canadian prairies arrived in the 1870s. The traditional cowboy lifestyle has since given way to a more contained, corporate model of ranching. But the romanticized image of the cowboy on the “open range” lives on as a symbol of the prairies. Today, the terms cowboy and cowgirl can refer to ranch workers or rodeo competitors.

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

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92 Resolutions

Drafted in January 1834 by Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the Parti patriote, and Augustin-Norbert Morin, the 92 Resolutions were a list of grievances and demands made by the Parti patriote with regards to the state of the colonial political system. They were drafted following a long political struggle against the governor general and Château Clique and the Patriotes’ inability to produce any significant reforms. The document critiqued the division of authority in the colony and demanded a government that was responsible to the Legislative Assembly. The imperial government responded with the Russell Resolutions, which rejected their demands, preparing the way for the Canadian Rebellion.

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Portia White

Portia May White, contralto, teacher (born 24 June 1911 in Truro, NS; died 13 February 1968 in Toronto, ON). Portia White was the first Black Canadian concert singer to win international acclaim. She was considered one of the best classical singers of the 20th century. Her voice was described by one critic as “a gift from heaven.” She was often compared to the celebrated African American contralto Marian Anderson. The Nova Scotia Talent Trust was established in 1944 specifically to enable White to concentrate on her professional career. She was named a “person of national historic significance” by the Government of Canada in 1995.

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Gabriel Dumont

Gabriel Dumont, Métis leader (born December 1837 at Red River Settlement; died 19 May 1906 at Bellevue, SK). Dumont rose to political prominence in an age of declining buffalo herds. He fought for decades for the economic prosperity and political independence of his people. Dumont was a prominent hunt chief and warrior, but is best known for his role in the 1885 North-West Resistance as a key Métis military commander and ally of Louis Riel. Dumont remains a popular Métis folk hero, remembered for his selflessness and bravery during the conflict of 1885 and for his unrivaled skill as a Métis hunt chief.

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Morris “Two-Gun” Cohen

Morris (Moishe) Abraham Cohen, a.k.a. “Two-Gun,” bodyguard, aide-de-camp, arms dealer (born 3 August 1887 in Radzanow, Poland; died 11 September 1970 in Salford, England). Cohen’s life evolved from one of petty crime to international arms dealing. During that time, Cohen ingratiated himself with the revolutionary movement of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, and joined his inner circle. Before more formal biographies were written about him, Cohen was a figure of self-aggrandized legend.

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Sam Steele

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, mounted policeman, soldier (born 5 January 1848 in Medonte, Canada West; died 30 January 1919 in London, England). As a member of the North-West Mounted Police, Steele was an important participant in the signing of Treaty 6 and Treaty 7, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the North-West Rebellion and the Klondike gold rush. His military career began as a private in the Red River Expedition, included service in the South African War as an officer commanding Lord Strathcona’s Horse and as a major general during the First World War.

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Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Duke of Cumberland, military commander, privateer, administrator, artist, scientist, first governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and founding member of the Royal African Company (born 17 December 1619 in Prague, Bohemia [now Czech Republic]; died 29 November 1682 in London, England [now United Kingdom]). A nephew of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland, Rupert was a cavalry general and privateer during the English Civil Wars (1642–51). He was the first close relative of an English monarch to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Rupert introduced Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Grosseilliers to his cousin King Charles II and persuaded the king to grant a royal charter to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Rupert’s Land and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, are named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine.