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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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Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy (née Ferguson, pen name Janey Canuck), writer, journalist, magistrate, political and legal reformer (born 14 March 1868 in Cookstown, ON; died 27 October 1933 in Edmonton, AB). Emily Murphy was the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. She was also one of the Famous Five behind the Persons Case, the successful campaign to have women declared persons in the eyes of British law. A self-described rebel, she was an outspoken feminist and suffragist and a controversial figure. Her views on immigration and eugenics have been criticized as racist and elitist. She was named a Person of National Historic Significance in 1958 and an honorary senator in 2009.

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Agnes Macphail

Agnes Campbell Macphail, politician, reformer (born 24 March 1890 in Proton Township, Grey County, ON; died 13 February 1954 in Toronto, ON). Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons (1921–40) and was one of the first two women elected to the Ontario legislature (1943–45, 1948–51). She was also the first female member of a Canadian delegation to the League of Nations. Macphail was a founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the forerunner of the New Democratic Party). She was a noted pacifist and an advocate for prison reform. As a member of the Ontario legislature, she championed Ontario’s first equal pay legislation (1951).

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W.A.C. Bennett

William Andrew Cecil Bennett, PC, OC, premier of British Columbia 1952-72, merchant, politician, (born 6 September 1900 in Hastings, NB; died 23 February 1979 in Kelowna, BC). Bennett led his province during a period of unparalleled economic expansion and is the longest serving premier in BC history.

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Grant MacEwan

John Walter Grant MacEwan, author, historian, ​lieutenant-governor of ​Alberta (born in ​Brandon, ​Manitoba on 12 August 1902; died in ​Calgary, Alberta on 15 June 2000).

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Fred Rose

Fred Rose, union organizer, politician (b Fred Rosenberg at Lublin, Poland 7 Dec 1907; d at Warsaw, Poland 16 Mar 1983). Rose moved with his parents to Montréal. In the 1930s, as a member of the Young Communist League, he organized unions of unemployed and unskilled workers.

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Jack Layton

John Gilbert "Jack" Layton, educator, municipal and federal politician, New Democratic Party leader (born at Montréal, 18 Jul 1950; died at Toronto 22 Aug 2011). Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party from 2003-2011, headed the first NDP party to sit as Canada's Official Opposition in the House of Commons. Layton's career revealed a strong dose of social activism spanning issues ranging from the white ribbon campaign (seeking to stop violence by men against women), to environmental climate change (championing Toronto's first urban wind turbine and supporting the Kyoto Accord), to homelessness and the need for affordable housing, to fostering an AIDS urban strategy, to participating in anti-free-trade protests.

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McIvor Case

The McIvor v. Canada case was about gender discrimination in section 6 of the 1985 Indian Act, which deals with Indian status. Sharon McIvor — a woman who regained status rights after the passing of Bill C-31 in 1985 — was not able to pass on those rights to her descendants in the same way that a man with status could. In her case against the federal government, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that section 6 did, in fact, deny McIvor’s equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response to this case, the federal government introduced new legislation (Bill C-3) in 2011 to counter gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

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Viola Desmond

Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil rights activist (born 6 July 1914 in Halifax, NS; died 7 February 1965 in New York, NY). Viola Desmond built a career and business as a beautician and was a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture. In 1946, Viola Desmond challenged racial discrimination when she refused to leave the segregated Whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Viola Desmond was arrested, jailed overnight and convicted without legal representation for an obscure tax offence as a result. Despite the efforts of the Nova Scotian Black community to assist her appeal, Viola Desmond was unable to remove the charges against her and went unpardoned in her lifetime. Desmond’s courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination provided inspiration to later generations of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In 2010, Lieutenant-Governor Mayann Francis issued Desmond a free pardon. In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on the face of a banknote — the $10 note released on 19 November 2018. Viola Desmond was named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government in 2018.

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Governor General of Canada

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. As such, there is a clear division between the head of state and the head of government. The head of government is the prime minister, an elected political leader. The head of state is the Canadian monarch. Their duties are carried out by the governor general, who acts as the representative of the Crown — currently Elizabeth II — in Canada. (Lieutenant-Governors fulfill the same role in provincial governments.) The governor general performs a wide array of ceremonial duties. They also fulfill an important role in upholding the traditions of Parliament and other democratic institutions. Inuk leader Mary Simon was formally installed as Canada’s 30th Governor General on 26 July 2021. She is the first Indigenous person to hold Canada’s viceregal position.

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John Humphrey

John Thomas Peters Humphrey, OC, lawyer, diplomat, scholar (born 30 April 1905 in Hampton, NB; died 14 Mar 1995 in Montreal, QC). John Humphrey was the director of the United Nations Human Rights Division from 1946 to 1966. He was instrumental in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. He also taught law and briefly served as dean at McGill University. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1974 and received the United Nations Prize for human rights advocacy in 1988.

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Kay Livingstone

Kathleen (Kay) Livingstone (née Jenkins), organizer and activist, broadcaster, actor (born 13 October 1919 in London, ON; died 25 July 1975). Kay Livingstone founded the Canadian Negro Women’s Association in 1951 and organized the first National Congress of Black Women in 1973. An established radio broadcaster and actor, Livingstone also devoted a great deal of her life and energy to social activism and organizing. Her tireless work to encourage a national discussion around the position of racialized people in society, particularly Black women, led Livingstone to coin the term visible minority in 1975.

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Andrew Bannatyne

Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne, businessman, politician (born 31 October 1829 at South Ronaldsay, Orkney ; died 18 May 1889 at St Paul, Minnesota).

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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada (MMIWG) refers to a human rights crisis that has only recently become a topic of discussion within national media. Indigenous women and communities, women’s groups and international organizations have long called for action into the high and disproportionate rates of violence and the appalling numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Prior to the launch of the national public inquiry on 8 December 2015, these calls were continually ignored by the federal government. Described by some as a hidden crisis, Dawn Lavell-Harvard, former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, refers to MMIWG as a national tragedy and a national shame. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada supported the call for a national public inquiry into the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls. The National Inquiry’s Final Report was completed and presented to the public on 3 June 2019.

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C.D. Howe

Clarence Decatur Howe, engineer, politician (b at Waltham, Mass 15 Jan 1886; d at Montréal 31 Dec 1960). Howe was the most successful businessman-politician of his day, and provided a link between the Liberal Party and Canadian industry.

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Roméo Dallaire

Roméo Antonius Dallaire, OC, CMM, GOQ, soldier, peace advocate, humanitarian, senator 2005–2014 (born 25 June 1946 in Denekamp, the Netherlands). Roméo Dallaire served with distinction in the Canadian Armed Forces. In 1994, he led the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Rwanda and witnessed the genocide there. He was so affected by it that he became a global advocate for victims of war and conflict. His account of the Rwandan genocide, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003) won the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Dallaire was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002 and a Grand officier of the Ordre national du Québec in 2005. He also served in the Senate of Canada from 2005 until 2014. He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.