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Kim Thúy

Kim Thúy, CQ, writer (born 18 September 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam). The winner of several prestigious literary awards for her first novel, Ru, this Quebec writer of Vietnamese origin is known for her short and elegant stories. Her novels deal with the migrant experience and the challenges of adapting to a new culture. Written in French, which Thúy calls her “second mother tongue,” they have been translated into 15 languages.

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Adam Beach

Adam Reuben Beach, actor, advocate, motivational speaker (born 11 November 1972 in Ashern, MB). Saulteaux actor Adam Beach is one of Canada’s most successful actors of Indigenous descent. After co-starring in Bruce McDonald’s Dance Me Outside (1994) and the American indie hit Smoke Signals (1998), he gave acclaimed lead performances in John Woo’s Windtalkers (2002), Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and the HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007). He also starred in such Canadian TV series as The Rez (1996–97), Moose TV (2007) and Arctic Air (2012–14). He is a motivational speaker and an outspoken advocate for Indigenous peoples’ rights. In 2012, he founded the Adam Beach Film Institute, a film school in Winnipeg for Indigenous Youth.

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Canada’s Cold War Purge of LGBTQ from Public Service

Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the Canadian government responded to national security concerns generated by Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union by spying on, exposing and removing suspected LGBTQ individuals from the federal public service and the Canadian Armed Forces. They were cast as social and political subversives and seen as targets for blackmail by communist regimes seeking classified information. These characterizations were justified by arguments that people who engaged in same-sex relations suffered from a “character weakness” and had something to hide because their sexuality was considered a taboo and, under certain circumstances, was illegal. As a result, the RCMP investigated large numbers of people. Many of them were fired, demoted or forced to resign — even if they had no access to security information. These measures were kept out of public view to prevent scandal and to keep counter-espionage operations under wraps. In 2017, the federal government issued an official apology for its discriminatory actions and policies, along with a $145-million compensation package.

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Rita Joe

Rita Joe (née Rita Bernard), PC, CM, Mi’kmaq poet (born 15 March 1932 in Whycocomagh, NS; died 20 March 2007 in Sydney, NS). Often referred to as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq people, Rita Joe wrote powerful poetry that spoke about Indigenous identity and the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Her works continue to influence Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists alike.

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Indigenous Feminisms in Canada

At their root, Indigenous feminisms examine how gender and conceptions of gender influence the lives of Indigenous peoples, historically and today. Indigenous feminist approaches challenge stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, gender and sexuality, for instance, as they appear in politics, society and the media. Indigenous feminisms offer frameworks for learning about and understanding these, and other issues, regardless of one’s gender or ethnicity.

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Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl)

The Kwakwaka'wakw peoples are traditional inhabitants of the coastal areas of northeastern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. In the 2016 census, 3,670 people self-identified as having Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry.

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Croatian Canadians

Croatia is a country in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Adriatic Sea. The first Croatians to set foot on the land known today as Canada may have been two sailors from Dalmatia. One, serving as crew on Jacques Cartier’s third voyage (1541-42) and another, a miner who accompanied Samuel De Champlain in his explorations (1604-06). The 2016 census reported 133, 970 people of Croatian origin in Canada (55, 595 single and 78, 370 multiple responses).

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Métis Experiences at Residential School

Although the first residential schools in Canada were established with the intention of assimilating First Nations children into Euro-Canadian culture, Métis and Inuit children were also institutionalized in such facilities. Métis children experienced similar day-to-day conditions to those of other students in residential schools, but they were often considered “outsiders” by their peers and administrators. This perception affected their experiences within these institutions in particular ways.


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George Manuel

George Manuel, OC, LLD (born 17 or 21 February 1921 in the traditional Shuswap territory in British Columbia; died on 15 November 1989 in Kamloops, British Columbia) was an Indigenous activist of the Shuswap Nation engaged in Indigenous politics on the local, national and international scales (seeIndigenous Peoples in Canada). He was the president of the National Indian Brotherhood of Canada (today’s Assembly of First Nations) from 1970 to 1976 and founded the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in 1975.

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Tlicho (Dogrib)

Tlicho (Tłı̨chǫ), also known as Dogrib, are an Indigenous people in Canada. They fall within the broader designation of Dene, who are Indigenous peoples of the widespread Athapaskan (or Athabascan) language family. Their name for themselves is Doné, meaning "the People." To distinguish themselves from their Dene neighbours, including the DenesulineSlaveySahtu Got'ine and K'asho Got'ine, they have come to identify themselves as Tlicho, a Cree word meaning “dog's rib,” referring to a creation story. In 2005, the Tlicho Agreement, which saw the Tlicho gain control of 39,000 km2 of their traditional lands, became the first combined self-government agreement and comprehensive land claim in the Northwest Territories. According to the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics (2019), the population of the Tlicho region of the territory was 2,983.

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Filipino Canadians

Filipinos have been in Canada as early as the late 19th century. Migration from the Philippines to Canada significantly increased from the 1960s onward. (See Immigration to Canada.) In the 2016 Census, 837,130 people reported being of Filipino ethnic origin. Filipino Canadians are the largest group of Southeast Asian Canadians. Among Filipino Canadians, women outnumber men by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. The Philippines was the most common country of birth among people who immigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2016.

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Alexandre Bilodeau

Alexandre Bilodeau, freestyle skier (born 8 September 1987 in Montreal, QC). Alexandre Bilodeau’s gold medal in moguls at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver made him the first Canadian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal on home soil. At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, he became the first male Canadian athlete to successfully defend his Olympic gold medal; as well as the first freestyle skier to win consecutive Olympic gold medals. He finished his career with three world championships in dual moguls and 19 World Cup medals. He then became an accountant and a national spokesperson for people with disabilities. He has been inducted into the Québec Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear)

Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear), Plains Cree chief (born near Fort Carlton, SK; died 17 January 1888 on the Little Pine Reserve, SK). Mistahimaskwa is best known for his refusal to sign Treaty 6 in 1876 and for his band’s involvement in violent conflicts associated with the 1885 North-West Rebellion.

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Sonja Gaudet

Sonja Gaudet (née Melis), Paralympic wheelchair curler (born 22 July 1966 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). A three-time Paralympian, Gaudet won gold for Canada at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Turin, at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. She is the first wheelchair curlerever to win multiple Paralympic gold medals. She is also a three-time world champion, having helped Canada win gold at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Gaudet has been inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame. She was named to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on 27 May 2020 and will be formally inducted in 2021.

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Janette Bertrand

Janette Bertrand, CCCQ, journalist, actor, author, playwright, feminist (born 25 March 1925 in Montreal, Quebec). A leading figure in Quebec television, Janette Bertrand has left a profound mark on journalism and culture in Quebec. She is renowned for her frank, sincere approach to social issues that had never before been addressed on Quebec television, such as sexual relationships, homosexuality, AIDSsuicide, and violence against women. She has long been recognized for her progressive stances on social issues and her role in educating the public about them. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec.

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10 Indigenous Firsts

Indigenous peoples have contributed greatly to Canadian society, culture and politics. Despite facing discrimination, racial segregation and policies of assimilation, Indigenous peoples have fought to make this country a better place for all, and to protect their own Indigenous cultures. From leaders in the fields of medicine and law, to war veterans, chiefs and politicians, many Indigenous peoples have risen to the top of their respective fields, championing a variety of causes. This list of 10 Indigenous “firsts” celebrates those trailblazers who were the first in their profession to make historic accomplishments in Canada.