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Article

Crown

In a monarchy, the Crown is an abstract concept or symbol that represents the state and its government. In a constitutional monarchy such as Canada, the Crown is the source of non-partisan sovereign authority. It is part of the legislative, executive and judicial powers that govern the country. Under Canada’s system of responsible government, the Crown performs each of these functions on the binding advice, or through the actions of, members of Parliament, ministers or judges. As the embodiment of the Crown, the monarch — currently Queen Elizabeth II — serves as head of state. The Queen and her vice-regal representatives — the governor general at the federal level and lieutenant-governors provincially — possess what are known as prerogative powers; they can be made without the approval of another branch of government, though they are rarely used. The Queen and her representatives also fulfill ceremonial functions as Head of State.

Article

Jean Chrétien

Joseph-Jacques Jean Chrétien, CC, PC, OM, QC, prime minister of Canada 1993–2003, lawyer, author, politician (born 11 January 1934 in Shawinigan, QC). Lawyer and longtime parliamentarian Jean Chrétien was Canada’s 20th prime minister. Early in his political career, Chrétien helped negotiate the patriation of the Canadian constitution as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As Prime Minister, he led the federal government to its first surplus in nearly 30 years. However, his administration also presided over a costly sponsorship program in Quebec that sparked one of the worst political scandals of modern times. His government committed Canadian forces to the Kosovo conflict (1999) and to the war in Afghanistan (beginning in 2002). Chrétien publicly refused to provide direct support for the subsequent American war in Iraq. The recipient of numerous honours and awards, he is involved in several international organizations dedicated to peace, democracy and other global concerns.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Arthur Tremblay

Arthur Julien Tremblay, PC, OC, OQ, professor, educational reformer, senior public servant, senator, author (born 18 June 1917 in St-Bruno, QC; died 27 October 1996).

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC, judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster (born in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India). Shergill spent 26 years practising law before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was the first turbaned Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in Canada.

Article

Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms (born 21 April 1926 in London, United Kingdom). The Queen has reigned since 1952 and is the Head of State of Canada, the United Kingdom and 13 other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth II was the first monarch to be crowned Queen of Canada. She is the longest reigning monarch in British and Commonwealth history.

Article

Samuel Simpson Sharpe

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

Samuel Simpson Sharpe, barrister, politician, soldier (born on 13 March 1873 in Zephyr, Ontario; died 25 May 1918 in Montreal, Quebec). Sharpe was a militia officer and sitting Member of Parliament when he raised the 116th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and took it overseas. After participating in some of Canada’s bloodiest battles of the war, he was hospitalized for “nervous shock” and returned to Canada. While undergoing treatment, he committed suicide by jumping from a Montreal hospital window.


Article

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.

Article

Annamie Paul

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada 2020–21, lawyer, activist (born 3 November 1972 in Toronto, ON). Annamie Paul has worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and with various international organizations devoted to preserving human rights and fighting climate change. She served as the leader of the Green Party of Canada from October 2020 to November 2021. She was the first Black Canadian and the first Jewish woman to be elected as leader of a major federal political party in Canada.

Article

Jim Egan

James Leo (Jim) Egan, gay activist, writer, politician, environmental activist (born 14 September 1921 in Toronto, ON; died 9 March 2000 in Courtenay, BC). Egan was the first person to publish long articles written from a gay point of view in Canada. He was also one of the first openly gay politicians to serve in Canada. Egan is best remembered for a court challenge he and his partner, Jack Nesbit, launched against the spousal allowance benefit under the Old Age Security Act in 1988. In the subsequent Egan v. Canada decision (1995), the Supreme Court read in that sexual orientation is a protected ground of discrimination in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a monumental finding in support of LGBTQ2 rights in Canada.  

Article

Cairine Wilson

Cairine Reay Wilson (née Mackay), senator, diplomat, philanthropist (born 4 February 1885 in Montreal, QC; died 3 March 1962 in Ottawa, ON). In 1930, the year after the success of the Persons Case, Wilson was the first woman appointed to the Senate of Canada. She helped found and run political organizations that encouraged women and youth to get involved in politics. From the 1930s onwards, Wilson advocated for the admission of European refugees to Canada.

Article

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.

Article

Andrew Bannatyne

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

Article

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.

Article

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).