"Have we read our own authors such as Dionne Brand, Afua Cooper and George Elliott Clarke? Do we know that the story of African-Canadians spans four hundred years, and includes slavery, abolition, pioneering, urban growth, segregation, the civil rights movement and a long engagement in civic life?" — Lawrence Hill
France was a colonial power in North America from the early 16th century, the age of European discoveries and fishing expeditions, to the early 19th century, when Napoléon Bonaparte sold Louisiana to the United States. French presence in North America was marked by economic exchanges with Indigenous peoples, but also by conflicts, as the French attempted to control this vast territory. The French colonial enterprise was also spurred by religious motivation as well as the desire to establish an effective colony in the St. Lawrence Valley. From the founding of Québec in 1608 to the ceding of Canada to Britain in 1763, France placed its stamp upon the history of the continent, much of whose lands — including Acadia — lay under its control. Through the use of encyclopedic articles, biographies, exhibits, study guides and searchable timelines, this collection features content related to this history.
Established on 15 July 1870, the North-West Territories was the first Canadian territory. That is, the region became part of Canada, but lacked the population, economic and infrastructure resources to sustain provincial status, and thus fell under the jurisdiction of the federal government. It covered a vast area, stretching west from a disputed boundary with Labrador, and included the northern portions of present-day Québec and Ontario, across the prairies to British Columbia, and north from the 49th parallel to the Arctic Ocean. The territory was subject to numerous boundary changes before 1905, when the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were carved out of the southwest portion of the region. In 1906, the remaining territory was renamed the Northwest Territories.
As each new area of Canada was opened to European settlement, pioneers faced the difficult task of building homes and communities from the ground up. Pioneer life revolved around providing the basic necessities of existence in a northern wilderness — food, shelter, fuel and clothing. Pioneering life was integral to family life and provided social stability for the settlement of a larger population across the country.
The Halibut Treaty of 1923 was a Canadian-American agreement on fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean. As the first treaty independently negotiated and signed by the Canadian government, it was one of several landmark events that transitioned Canada into an autonomous sovereign state. The treaty confirmed Canada’s political and economic place in North America. It was also the first environmental treaty targeting the conservation of an ocean fish stock.
The North-West Schools Question was a conflict between church and state for control of education in the North-West Territories (now Saskatchewan and Alberta) in the late-19th century. The controversy was similar to other educational crises across Canada, and reflected the larger national debate about the future of Canada as a bilingual and bicultural country.
Based on the Lower Canadian Frères Chasseurs, Hunters’ Lodges were American secret societies that aimed to liberate the Canadian colonies from the tyranny of British thralldom. With estimates ranging from 15,000 to 200,000 members, lodges counted on much support from borderlanders, from Maine to Wisconsin, who were disillusioned and frustrated with the social, economic and political changes that shook 1830s America. Though they failed to liberate Canada, losing key military encounters near Prescott and Windsor in November and December 1838, their importance was significant enough that they had forced the American president, Martin Van Buren, to send a military force to the American-Canadian border to ensure that the neutrality between the United States and Britain was strictly followed. For months, Hunter activities dominated American foreign and internal policy.
First Nations and Métis peoples played a significant role in Canada in the War of 1812. The conflict forced various Indigenous peoples to overcome longstanding differences and unite against a common enemy. It also strained alliances, such as those in the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy in which some branches were allied with American forces. Most First Nations strategically allied themselves with Great Britain during the war, seeing the British as the lesser of two colonial evils and the group most interested in maintaining traditional territories and trade.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal is located at the intersection of Notre-Dame Street West and Saint-Sulpice Street in the borough of Ville-Marie in Montréal. This jewel of Québec’s religious heritage was built by the Sulpicians over the years 1824 to 1829, to serve as a parish church. It is one of the oldest examples of Gothic Revival religious architecture in Canada. At the time it was built, it was a daring, innovative edifice on a scale unequalled anywhere else in North America. The architect was James O’Donnell, an Irish immigrant to New York City. Its interior decor, which was overseen by Victor Bourgeau, along with its rich ornamentation, are unique and evoke a true sense of wonder in visitors. The Basilica is also one of the major tourist attractions in the city of Montréal.
The Ordre de Jacques-Cartier (OJC), commonly known as “La Patente,” was a secret society founded in 1926 in Vanier (now Ottawa), Ontario, to further the religious, social and economic interests of French Canadians. At the forefront of the conflicts over language and nationalism until the 1960s, it discreetly wielded its influence by infiltrating various associations, and it mobilized its members within a strict authoritarian structure. The rise of Québécois nationalism and internal tensions led to its dissolution in 1965.
In international relations, the term middle power refers to a state that wields less influence on the world stage than a superpower. As the term suggests, middle powers fall in the middle of the scale measuring a country’s international influence. Where superpowers have great influence over other countries, middle powers have moderate influence over international events. Canada was considered to be a middle power during the postwar period — from 1945 until about 1960. Though Canada was not as powerful or prominent as the United Kingdom or the United States during this time, it was an international player that influenced events through moral leadership, peacekeeping and conflict mediation.
Few words conjure the futility and the staggering losses of the First World War like the Somme. In the summer of 1916 the British launched a major offensive against German lines. The battle lasted five months, killed or wounded approximately 1.2 million men, and produced little gains.
Wood was the staple of Canadian trade for much of the 19th century. Fueled by European demand, the timber trade brought investment and immigration to eastern Canada, fostered economic development, and transformed the regional environment far more radically than the earlier exploitation of fish and fur.
A worker, minor partner in a company or independent contractor involved in the fur trade. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs and living a life full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.
In the 18th century, Louisbourg was a fortified town and an important strategic capital in the French colony of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). It was the scene of two major military sieges in the Anglo-French wars for supremacy in North America. The fall of Louisbourg to the British in 1758 paved the way for the capture of Québec and the end of French rule in North America. Today, Louisbourg is a national historic site and a popular tourist destination in Cape Breton.
Frontier College is the oldest Canadian literacy organization. Its goal is to improve literacy in Canada by helping people in need of a basic education who have, for whatever reason, been overlooked by the standard public education system. To meet this objective, Frontier College provides a range of literacy and educational programs, in English and in French, for children, youth and adults (see Adult Education). The organization is active throughout Canada, working in community centres as well as in Aboriginal reserves, refugee centres, farms, logging camps and prisons.