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John Cabot

John Cabot (a.k.a. Giovanni Caboto), merchant, explorer (born before 1450 in Italy, died at an unknown place and date). In 1496, King Henry VII of England granted Cabot the right to sail in search of a westward trade route to Asia and lands unclaimed by Christian monarchs. Cabot mounted three voyages, the second of which, in 1497, was the most successful. During this journey Cabot coasted the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, possibly sighted the Beothuk or Innu people of the region, and famously noted that the waters teemed with cod. At the time, the land Cabot saw was thought to be the eastern shore of Asia, the fabled island of Brasil, or the equally fabled Isle of Seven Cities. Cabot and his crew were the second group of Europeans to reach what would become Canada, following Norse explorers around 1000 CE. Despite not yielding the trade route Cabot hoped for, the 1497 voyage provided England with a claim to North America and knowledge of an enormous new fishery.

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John Diefenbaker

John George Diefenbaker, prime minister 1957–63, lawyer, politician (born 18 September 1895 in Neustadt, ON; died 16 August 1979 in Ottawa, ON).

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Editorial: The Stanley Flag and the “Distinctive Canadian Symbol”

Prime Minister Lester Pearson and John Matheson, one of his Liberal Members of Parliament, are widely considered the fathers of the Canadian flag. Their names were front and centre in 2015 during the tributes and celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the flag’s creation. But the role played by George Stanley is often lost in the story of how this iconic symbol came to be.

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Robert Foulis

Robert Foulis, inventor, civil engineer, painter (born 5 May 1796 in Glasgow, Scotland; died 26 January 1866 in Saint John, NB). Robert Foulis is known as the inventor of the world’s first steam-operated fog alarm, which was installed on Partridge Island in 1859. While Foulis never patented or even profited from his life-saving innovation, his invention assisted fogbound mariners for over a century.

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K.C. Irving

Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving, OC, industrialist and entrepreneur (born 14 March 1899 in Bouctouche, NB; died 13 December 1992 in Saint John, NB). K.C. Irving built a business empire under the Irving name that ranges from pulp and paper and oil refining to newspaper publishing and broadcasting. He has been called New Brunswick’s first modern entrepreneurial industrialist. Businesses he founded were divided up among his sons and remain within the family. Irving companies continue to account for a large portion of New Brunswick’s economic activity.

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Sir John A. Macdonald

Sir John Alexander Macdonald, first prime minister of Canada (1867–73, 1878–91), lawyer, businessman, politician, (born 10 or 11 Jan 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland; died 6 June 1891 in Ottawa).

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Fathers of Confederation

Thirty-six men are traditionally regarded as the Fathers of Confederation. They represented the British North American colonies at one or more of the conferences that led to Confederation and the creation of the Dominion of Canada. These meetings included the Charlottetown Conference (September 1864), the Quebec Conference (October 1864) and the London Conference (December 1866 to March 1867). Beyond the original 36 men, the subject of who should be included among the Fathers of Confederation has been a matter of some debate. The definition can be expanded to include those who were instrumental in the creation of Manitoba, bringing British Columbia and Newfoundland into Confederation, and the creation of Nunavut. (See also  Fathers of Confederation: Table.)

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Pacific Scandal

The Pacific Scandal (1872–73) was the first major political scandal in Canada after Confederation. In April 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald and senior members of his Conservative government were accused of accepting election funds from shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan in exchange for the contract to build the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. The affair stung Macdonald and forced the resignation of his government in November 1873, but it didn’t destroy him politically. Five years later, Macdonald led his Conservatives back to power and served as prime minister for another 18 years.

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Chinese Head Tax in Canada

The Chinese head tax was enacted to restrict immigration after Chinese labour was no longer needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1885 and 1923, Chinese immigrants had to pay a head tax to enter Canada. The tax was levied under the Chinese Immigration Act (1885). It was the first legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic background. With few exceptions, Chinese people had to pay at least $50 to come to Canada. The tax was later raised to $100, then to $500. During the 38 years the tax was in effect, around 82,000 Chinese immigrants paid nearly $23 million in tax. The head tax was removed with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. Also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it banned all Chinese immigrants until its repeal in 1947. In 2006, the federal government apologized for the head tax and its other racist immigration policies targeting Chinese people.

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The Great Coalition of 1864

The politics of the Province of Canada in the early 1860s were marked by instability and deadlock. The Great Coalition of 1864 proved to be a turning point in Canadian history. It proved remarkably successful in breaking the logjam of central Canadian politics and in helping to create a new country. The coalition united Reformers and Conservatives in the cause of constitutional reform. It paved the way for the Charlottetown Conference and Confederation.  

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