"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.
The Canadian Pacific Railway company was incorporated in 1881. Its original purpose was the construction of a transcontinental railway, a promise to British Columbia upon its entry into Confederation. The railway — completed in 1885 — connected Eastern Canada to BC and played an important role in the development of the nation. Built in dangerous conditions by thousands of labourers (including 15,000 Chinese temporary workers), the railway facilitated communications and transportation across the country. Over its long history, CPR diversified, establishing hotels, shipping lines and airlines, and developed mining and telecommunications industries. In 2001, Canadian Pacific separated into five separate and independent companies, with Canadian Pacific Railway returning to its origins as a railway company. CP, as it is branded today, has over 22,500 km of track across Canada and the United States. It is a public company and trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CP. In 2016, CP had $6.2 billion in revenue and $1.6 billion in profit and held assets valued at $19.2 billion.4
The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists who helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada. It was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America, having brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (Canada).
In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. Enslavement was introduced by French colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834.
York Factory, also known as York Fort, Fort Bourbon, and Kischewaskaheegan by Indigenous people, was a post on the Hayes River near its outlet to Hudson Bay, in what is now Manitoba. During its life, it served as a trading post and later as a major administrative centre in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trade network. It also bore witness to the largest naval battle to take place in Arctic Canada.
Canada has been involved in various wars from the beginning of its colonial history. Just as the nature of these wars has changed over time, so too has their effect on Canadian women. Women have actively participated in war, from nursing and munitions manufacturing during the First and Second World Wars to the increasing involvement of Canadian women in the military.
Nortel Networks Corporation, or simply Nortel, was a public telecommunications and data networking equipment manufacturer. Founded in 1895 as the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Company, it was one of Canada’s oldest technology companies. Nortel expanded rapidly during the dot-com boom (1997–2001), purchasing many Internet technology companies in a drive to remain competitive in the expanding information technology (IT) market. At its height in 2000, the company represented over 35 per cent of the value of Toronto’s TSE 300 index. It was the ninth most valuable corporation in the world and employed about 94,000 people worldwide at its peak. But Nortel soon entered an extended and painful period of corporate downsizing, and in 2009, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in the largest corporate failure in Canadian history. Shareholders, employees and pensioners suffered losses as a result. Company executives, however, were paid a total US$190 million in retention bonuses between 2009 and 2016. Nortel sold off its assets for a total US$7.3 billion. Those assets were scheduled to be distributed to Nortel’s bondholders, suppliers and former employees in 2017.
The Aroostook War was a confrontation between British and Maine authorities in disputed territory known as Madawaska. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was in dire need of wood and the region’s pine forests became an important commodity. Claimed by both Maine and New Brunswick, Madawaska became fertile ground for confrontations between the two. The war peaked in 1838‒39 when the governor of Maine, John Fairfield, sent a group, led by Rufus McIntyre, to stop “provincials” from entering territory that Fairfield believed was Maine’s. McIntyre was captured and accused of invading the colony. The conflict ended in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which divided the territory along the Saint John River.
The Canadian Red Ensign was the de facto Canadian national flag from 1868 until 1965 when it was replaced by the maple leaf design. Based on the ensign flown by British merchant ships since 1707, the three successive formal designs of the Canadian Red Ensign bore the Canadian coats of arms of 1868, 1921 and 1957.
Treaty Day commemorates the day that certain treaties were signed by the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples between the 18th and 20th centuries. Treaty Day is also a celebration of the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. It promotes public awareness about Indigenous culture, history and heritage for all Canadians.
Founded in Montréal on 5 September 1837, the Société des Fils de la liberté was a paramilitary group affiliated with the Patriotes, formed in response to growing frustration among the Parti patriote and its supporters that political reform in Lower Canada was taking too long. Their aim was to support and protect the Patriotes. Borrowing their name from the American revolutionary secret society known as the Sons of Liberty, the group included some of the most important members of the party, including Louis-Joseph Papineau and Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan. In Montréal, the group was opposed by the English-speaking paramilitary group the Doric Club, which led to a violent confrontation on 6 November 1837. The group disbanded shortly afterwards and many of its members went on to participate in the Canadian Rebellion.
To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the Canadian colony of New France — which held the most slaves and for the longest duration in Canada — were Indigenous. These people were products of the slave trade that developed in the southernmost of Britain’s thirteen colonies during the late 1600s. It was there that settlers turned an Indigenous practice of slavery into a devastating cycle of events that tore apart Indigenous nations and affected all of the European colonies in North America.