For Canada, Asia does not exist “over there.” It is, has been, and will continue to be, right here, contributing to and shaping our country. Canada’s citizenry includes over 7.5 million people — almost 22 per cent of the population — who were born outside Canada. Recent immigrants to this country are more likely to have come from Asia and the Middle East than from Europe. Chinese ancestry, East Indian ancestry and Filipino ancestry are among the 20 most common ancestries reported by the Canadian population. (Census of Canada, 2016).
This collection of articles, exhibits, images and quizzes explores francophone Canada in all its complexity, bringing its communities, institutions and struggles for language and education rights into focus. It also showcases francophone culture in Canada, from arts, literature, music, folklore and symbols to the identity and heritage of these communities. Above image: Saint Boniface Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Nov. 2013. 38962960 © Wwphoto | Dreamstime.com
Canada has its roots in immigration and remains a nation formed of many different communities. From European colonization of Aboriginal territory to the recent arrival of refugees from Syria, the laws and regulations governing immigration to Canada have long been marked by discrimination. On the other hand, Canadians have shown their humanity by welcoming several hundred thousand refugees with open arms over the course of the country’s history. As a result, diverse cultural, religious and linguistic communities have established themselves here and integrated into Canadian society — some with relative ease, others with greater difficulty. Through articles, features, exhibits and timelines, this collection explores the diversity that defines Canadian society today. Image below: Vancouver's Chinatown, ca. 1955. © Rolly Ford/Heritage Vancouver.
The Fred Christie Case (1939) is a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that allowed private businesses to discriminate on the basis of freedom of commerce. In July 1936, Fred Christie and two friends went to the York Tavern attached to the Montreal Forum to have a beer. The staff refused to serve them because Christie was Black. Christie sued, eventually bringing his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the York Tavern was within its rights to refuse to serve people on the basis of race. The case reveals an era of legalized racism, while its facts hide the subtle ways that racism operated in early 20th-century Canada.
Midi Onodera, media artist, filmmaker (born 26 October 1961 in Toronto, ON). Midi Onodera is an experimental film and video artist whose work reflects her experience as a feminist, lesbian and Japanese Canadian. Working in a variety of formats, she has produced more than 25 independent short films, as well as a theatrical feature film and numerous short videos. Her work has earned national and international attention, including a Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts in 2018.
Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil libertarian (born 6 July 1914 in Halifax, NS; died 7 February 1965 in New York, NY). Viola Desmond built a career and business as a beautician and was a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture. It is, however, the story of her courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination that provided inspiration to a later generation of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In December 2016, it was announced that Desmond would be the first Canadian woman depicted on the face of a Canadian banknote — the $10 note in a series of bills released in 2018.1
Barbara Howard, athlete, educator (born 8 May 1920 in Vancouver, BC; died 26 January 2017 in Vancouver). Barbara Howard is believed to be the first Black female athlete to represent Canada in international competition. At only 17 years old, she broke the British Empire record for the 100-yard dash, qualifying to represent Canada at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, Australia. At the Games, she finished sixth in the 100-yard race but won silver and bronze medals as part of the 440-yard and 660-yard relay teams. Howard never competed in the Olympic Games, which were cancelled in 1940 and 1944 because of the Second World War. In 1941, she became the first racialized person to be hired by the Vancouver School Board. She had a 43-year career in education, including 14 years as a physical education teacher, before retiring in 1984.
The Afghan community in Canada is relatively new. Until 1978, about 1,000 Afghans were living in Canada. Following the 1978 coup led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, the subsequent Soviet invasion and occupation of the country and continued war over the last four decades, the Afghan population in Canada has grown. According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, approximately 84,000 Afghans are living in Canada, the majority of whom are settled in the suburbs of major cities.
Hugh Burnett, civil rights activist, carpenter (born 14 July 1918 in Dresden, ON; died 29 September 1991 in London, ON). Burnett was a key figure in the fight for anti-discrimination legislation in Ontario. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, he organized tirelessly against racial discrimination in public service in his hometown of Dresden, Ontario, rising to prominence as a leader and organizer of the National Unity Association (NUA), a coalition of Black community members pushing for equal rights in Dresden and the surrounding area. He was instrumental to in bringing about legislative and legal victories for civil rights at the provincial level related to the 1954 Fair Accommodation Practices Act, an early anti-discrimination law in Ontario.
The ancestors of the Maroons of Jamaica were enslaved Africans who had been brought there by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later by the British (who captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655), to work its lucrative sugar plantations. The word maroon was widely used to describe a runaway, and maroonage to denote the act and action of escaping enslavement, whether temporarily or permanently. After a series of wars with the colonial government in Jamaica, one group of Maroons was deported to Nova Scotia in 1796. While Maroon communities existed in Nova Scotia for only four years before they were sent to Sierra Leone, their legacy in Canada endures.1
Joane Cardinal-Schubert, RCA, artist (born 1942 in Red Deer, AB; died 16 September 2009 in Calgary, AB). Award-winning Kainaiwa (Blood) artist Joane Cardinal-Schubert was also a successful and influential curator, lecturer, poet and director of video and Indigenous theatre. Her artworks and writing often addressed contemporary political issues such as Indigenous sovereignty, cultural appropriation and environmental concerns. She supported other Indigenous artists as a curator and activist, while also questioning methods of displaying historical and contemporary Indigenous artworks. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the Commemorative Medal of Canada and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Art.
Soldiers rounding up terrified civilians, expelling them from their land, burning their homes and crops ‒ it sounds like a 20th century nightmare in one of the world's trouble spots, but it describes a scene from Canada's early history, the Deportation of the Acadians.8
Sir James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island (1851–63) and of British Columbia (1858–64), fur trader (born 15 August 1803 in Demerara [Guyana]; died 2 August 1877 in Victoria, BC). A resourceful, energetic and intelligent man, Douglas helped the Hudson’s Bay Company become a trading monopoly in the Pacific Northwest. As colonial governor, he initiated British rule west of the Rocky Mountains, and as the founder of settlement, trade and industry, he is remembered as “the Father of British Columbia.”
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 inthe Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a monumental finding in support of LGBTQ2 rights in Canada.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) refugees face unique challenges when they flee persecution in their home countries and come to Canada to seek protection. Many countries in the world continue to criminalize and prosecute members of the LGBTQ+ community. Canada has been a leader in recognizing LGBTQ+ refugee claims and resettling refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender-based identity.
Ukrainians first came to Canada in the 19th century. The initial influx came as Canada government promoted the immigration of farmers. During the First World War, thousands of Ukrainian Canadians were imprisoned as enemy aliens due to their origins in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. According to 2016 Census, Ukrainian Canadians number 1,359,655 or 3.8 per cent of the country's population and are mainly Canadian-born citizens.1
Thousands of children became orphans during the 1847 Irish famine migration to British North America. Public authorities, private charities and religious officials all played a part in addressing this crisis. Many orphans were placed with relatives or with Irish families. A considerable number were also taken in by Francophone Catholics in Canada East, and by English-speaking Protestants in New Brunswick. Although many families took in orphans for charitable reasons, most people were motivated by the pragmatic value of an extra pair of hands on the farm or in the household.
Wonny Song, pianist and artistic and executive director (born 6 April 1978 in Seoul, South Korea). Originally from South Korea, this Canadian pianist has received several prestigious awards and has played with many symphony orchestras around the world. Thanks to his many recordings and media presence, particularly on the radio, classical music has become accessible to and appreciated by the general public.
Everett George Klippert was the only Canadian ever declared a dangerous sexual offender and sentenced to what amounted to life in prison, for no other reason than he was a gay man. Outrage over that sentence, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1967, led to the decriminalization of gay sex two years later. Klippert was released from prison in 1971. In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he would recommend a pardon for Klippert. The following year, the Trudeau government formally apologized and issued a compensation package to men who were charged, convicted and punished simply because they were gay.
Afua (Ava Pamela) Cooper, educator, historian, performance artist, poet (born 8 November 1957 in the Whithorn district of Westmoreland, Jamaica), is considered one of the most influential and pioneering voices in the Canadian dub poetry and spoken word movement. Her poems are published in numerous regional, national and international journals and anthologies. Afua Cooper also has CDs of her performances that make her work well known to the global community. In addition to her renown as a performance artist, she is an internationally-ranked historian. She has taught Caribbean cultural studies, history, women's studies and Black studies at Ryerson and York universities, at the University of Toronto and at Dalhousie University.
Two-Spirit, a translation of the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) term niizh manidoowag, refers to a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit. Activist Albert McLeod developed the term in 1990 to broadly reference Indigenous peoples in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Two-spirit is used by some Indigenous peoples to describe their gender, sexual and spiritual identity.