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Leonard Braithwaite (Primary Source)

Leonard Braithwaite served with the Canadian Air Force as a Safety Equipment Operator from 1943 to 1946. However, he was rejected multiple times at a Toronto recruiting station because he was Black. Read and listen to the story of how Braithwaite overcame adversity and served overseas.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Black History Month in Canada

Black History Month is observed across Canada every February. Black History Month in Canada provides an opportunity to share and learn about the experiences, contributions and achievements of peoples of African ancestry (see Black Canadians). It was initiated in Canada by the Ontario Black History Society and introduced to Parliament in December 1995 by Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected as a member of Parliament. Black History Month was officially observed across Canada for the first time in February 1996 (see also Black History in Canada).

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Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster

In the early morning of 6 July 2013, a runaway train hauling 72 tankers filled with crude oil derailed as it approached the centre of the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The tanker cars exploded and the oil caught fire, killing 47 people and destroying many buildings and other infrastructure in the town centre. The fourth deadliest railway disaster in Canadian history, the derailment led to changes in rail transport safety rules as well as legal action against the company and employees involved in the incident. Years after the derailment, re-building was still ongoing and many of the town’s residents continued to suffer from post-traumatic stress.

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Christopher Plummer

Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer, actor (born 13 December 1929 in Toronto, ON; died 5 February 2021 in Weston, Connecticut). Christopher Plummer, a great-grandson of Prime Minister  Sir John Abbott, was an international star who worked widely on stage and in film and television in the US, Britain and Canada. He was Canada’s most distinguished movie star in the classical mould — the New York Times hailed him as “the finest classical actor in America.” He took on innumerable larger-than-life roles, including Cyrano de Bergerac, King Lear, Hamlet, Rudyard Kipling, John Barrymore, and Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965), one of the most popular films of all time. He won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, two Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Film Independent Spirit Award, a Canadian Screen Award and a Genie Award. He received lifetime achievement awards from the Governors General’s Awards, the Canadian Screen Awards and the National Arts Club of America. A Companion of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and Canada's Walk of Fame.

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Jann Arden

Jann Arden Anne Richards, singer, songwriter, actor, broadcaster (born 27 March 1962 in Calgary, AB). Jann Arden is a multiple Juno Award-winning singer and songwriter. Her melancholy yet hopeful adult contemporary pop songs, distinguished by her expressive vocal delivery and introspective lyrics, earned her an international following in the 1990s and 2000s. Candid and down-to-earth, she has parlayed her salty sense of humour and affable, self-deprecating persona into a successful second career as a host, broadcaster and sitcom star. She is a member of the Order of Canada and Canada’s Walk of Fame. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2020.

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NORAD

The North American Air Defense Agreement (NORAD) was a pact made in 1957, at the height of the Cold War. It placed under joint command the air forces of Canada and the United States. Its name was later changed to the North American Aerospace Defense Command; but it kept the NORAD acronym. Canada and the US renewed NORAD in 2006, making the arrangement permanent. It is subject to review every four years, or at the request of either country. NORAD’s mission was also expanded into maritime warnings. The naval forces of the two countries remain under separate commands.

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Bobby Curtola

Robert Allen Curtola, CM, singer, songwriter (born 17 April 1943 in Port Arthur, ON; died 4 June 2016 in EdmontonAB). Bobby Curtola emerged as a teen idol and dominated the Canadian pop chart in the 1960s. His string of hit singles, including “Fortune Teller” (1962), dominated the Canadian singles chart from 1960 to 1967 and sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. Curtola was one of the first Canadians to receive a multi-million-dollar contract to perform in Las Vegas. He also helped raise millions of dollars for charities as a host of various telethons. He was a Member of the Order of Canada, the RPM Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

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Nonnie Griffin

Nonnie Griffin (née Lorna Margaret Jean Griffin), also known as Margaret Griffin, actor, playwright and director (born 20 October 1933 in Toronto, ON; died 7 June 2019 in Toronto). A gifted mimic blessed with striking beauty, Nonnie Griffin was known for her virtuosity with accents and her ability to play different ages and styles. Her work was distinguished by sensitivity and intelligence, and she excelled as a radio performer. She worked extensively in CBC TV and CBC Radio productions in the 1950s and 1960s and co-starred in the highly successful musical production of Anne of Green Gables. She appeared in numerous Canadian plays, films and TV series, and wrote and starred in her own one-woman shows, right up to her death at the age of 85.

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Kim’s Convenience

Kim’s Convenience is a CBC TV sitcom about a Korean Canadian family that runs a convenience store in Toronto. Based on a 2011 play by Ins Choi, it is the first Canadian comedy series to star a primarily Asian Canadian cast. The acclaimed comedy explores the generational tension between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born children and was inspired by Choi’s experience growing up in a Korean family in Toronto. The show was an instant hit when it premiered on CBC in fall 2016; its first season averaged 933,000 viewers per episode. The series has won eight Canadian Screen Awards, including best comedy in 2018.

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Félix Leclerc

Félix Eugène Leclerc, OC, GOQ, singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, playwright, actor, broadcaster (born 2 August 1914 at La Tuque, QC; died 8 August 1988 at Ȋle d'Orléans, QC). Félix Leclerc was a revolutionary artist whose work in several fields marked a turning point in Quebec culture. As a poet and playwright, he was one of Quebec’s literary giants. As a singer, he was a superstar in Canada and Europe, particularly in France. He greatly influenced the course of the Québec chanson and paved the way for the popular chansonnier movement in Quebec and France. He was a vocal proponent of Quebec nationalism and helped galvanize the collective identity of the people of Quebec. Some of his most popular songs included “Notre sentier,” “Moi, mes souliers,” “Bozo” and “Le Tour de l’Ȋle.” He received three Grand Prix du disque from the Académie Charles-Cros in Paris, as well as the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée, the Prix Denise-Pelletier and the Diplôme d'honneur. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Grand Officer of the National Order of Québec and a Chevalier of France's Légion d'honneur.

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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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Anne of Green Gables

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), became an instant bestseller and has remained in print for more than a century, making the character of Anne Shirley a mythic icon of Canadian culture. The book has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide, been translated into at least 36 languages, as well as braille, and been adapted more than two dozen times in various mediums. A musical version first produced by the Charlottetown Festival in 1965 is the longest running annual musical theatre production in the world, while the award-winning 1985 CBC miniseries starring Megan Follows is the most-watched television program in Canadian history. Thousands of tourists visit Prince Edward Island each year to see the “sacred sites” related to the book, and the sale of Anne-related commodities such as souvenirs and dolls has come to constitute a cottage industry.

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Schitt’s Creek

One of the most acclaimed Canadian TV series of all time, Schitt’s Creek is a CBC sitcom about a wealthy family who loses their fortune and is forced to live in the fictional small town of the show’s name. Created by co-stars Daniel Levy and his father, Eugene Levy, the series is centred on the tension between the town’s down-to-earth residents and the ostentatious Rose family. In 2020, it won nine Primetime Emmy Awards and became the first comedy series ever to win all seven of the top awards: best comedy series, best lead and supporting actor and actress, and best writing and directing. It has also won two Golden Globes and 24 Canadian Screen Awards, including five for best actress in a comedy series (Catherine O’Hara) and three for best comedy series.

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Edmonton Football Team (EE Football Team)

The Edmonton Football Team or EE Football Team (formerly the Edmonton Eskimos) is a community-owned football team that plays in the West Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). In the CFL’s modern era (post-Second World War), the team has won the Grey Cup championship 14 times, second only to the 16 championships held by the Toronto Argonauts. This included three victories in a row from 1954 to 1956 and an unprecedented five straight championships from 1978 to 1982. The club also holds a North American professional sports record for reaching the playoffs in 34 consecutive seasons between 1972 and 2005. Notable alumni include former Alberta premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty, former lieutenant-governor of Alberta Norman Kwong and former Edmonton mayor Bill Smith.

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Roberta Bondar

Roberta Lynn Bondar, CC, OOnt, FRSCastronaut, neurologist, physician, educator, photographer (born 4 December 1945 in Sault Ste Marie, ON). Bondar became the first Canadian woman and second Canadian in space when she flew aboard the American space shuttle Discovery in 1992. A doctor specializing in the nervous system, she is a pioneer in space medicine research. Bondar is also an exhibited and published nature photographer. She established The Roberta Bondar Foundation to educate people about environmental protection through art, and she currently serves as one of the organization’s directors.