"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.
Acadia is a land deeply imbued with history. Its present status is that of a minority, a "country" with vague outlines but a vigorous spirit. Its territorial origin follows the French colonial efforts in the early 17th century. The first permanent agricultural settlements in what is now Canada occurred there.
Internment is the forcible confinement or detention of a person during wartime. Large-scale internment operations were carried out by the Canadian government during the First World War and Second World War. In both cases, the War Measures Act was invoked, which gave the government the authority to deny people’s civil liberties, notably habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial before detention), and to hold them in camps across the country. More than 8,500 people were interned during the First World War and as many as 24,000 during the Second World War — including some 22,000 Japanese Canadians.
In 1939, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia signed an agreement creating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Located in Canada, the plan's mandate was to train Allied aircrews for the Second World War, including pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators, air gunners, and flight engineers. More than 130,000 crewmen and women were trained between 1939 and 1945, making this one of Canada's great contributions to Allied victory in the war. It led United States President Franklin Roosevelt to call Canada the "aerodrome of democracy."
During Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914–20, 8,579 men, and some women and children, were interned by the Canadian government acting under the authority of the War Measures Act. While most were recent immigrants from the multinational Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, some were Canadian-born or naturalized British subjects — most of the civilian internees came from the western Ukrainian regions of Galicia and Bukovyna. Held in 24 receiving stations and internment camps across the country — from Nanaimo, BC to Halifax, NS — these “second class” prisoners of war (POWs) were generally separated from “first class” German and Austrian POWs. Many were transported into the country’s frontier wildernesses and obliged to work for the profit of their jailers. Personal wealth and property was confiscated, not all of which was returned on parole or following the end of the internment operations.
Camp X — a popular name that reflects the secrecy surrounding its activities — was a training school for covert agents and a radio communications centre that operated close to Whitby, Ontario, during the Second World War. It was the first such purpose-built facility constructed in North America. Known officially as STS (Special Training School) 103, Camp X was one of several dozen around the world that served the needs of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the British agency created in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze” by promoting sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines. The radio communications centre, with its high-speed transmitter known as Hydra, was closely linked with British Security Co-Ordination (BSC), the New York-based agency directed by the Winnipeg-born businessman William Stephenson. Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko was hidden there after his defection in September 1945.
Although the Reform (that is to say liberal) Party swept the constituencies like a broom, the principle that the majority party controls parliament was not yet established. Colonial government was still firmly in the grip of the governor, who was appointed by London.
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment or “call up” (sometimes known as “the draft”) of citizens for military service. The federal government enacted conscription in both the First World War and the Second World War, creating sharp divisions between English-speaking Canadians, who tended to support the practice, and French-speaking Canadians, who generally did not.
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.
In 1953 and 1955, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, acting as representatives of the Department of Resources and Development, moved approximately 92 Inuit from Inukjuak, formerly called Port Harrison, in Northern Quebec, and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), in what is now Nunavut, to settle two locations on the High Arctic islands. It has been argued that the Government of Canada ordered the relocations to establish Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and proposed to Inuit the move, promising improved living conditions. The Inuit were assured plentiful wildlife, but soon discovered that they had been misled, and endured hardships. The effects have lingered for generations. The Inuit High Arctic relocations are often referred to as a “dark chapter” in Canadian history, and an example of how the federal government forced changes that fundamentally affected (and continue to affect) Inuit lives.
The Battle of Seven Oaks, or the Victory of the Frog Plain (la Victoire de la Genouillère), took place 19 June 1816. The battle was a culmination of the Pemmican Wars and the escalating fur trade disputes between the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the North West Company (NWC). Pemmican was the food supply that the fur traders depended on to carry out operations. On the day of the battle, a party of about 60 Métis and First Nations men, led by Cuthbert Grant, was heading west of the Forks to deliver pemmican to the NWC canoe brigades on Lake Winnipeg. They were confronted at Seven Oaks by HBC Governor Robert Semple and 28 men (mostly HBC officers and employees). The gunfire and hand-to-hand combat that resulted left Semple and 20 of the HBC party dead. On the Métis side, 16-year-old Joseph Letendre died, and Joseph Trottier was wounded.
The development of steam-powered railways in the 19th century revolutionized transportation in Canada and was integral to the very act of nation building. Railways played an integral role in the process of industrialization, opening up new markets and tying regions together, while at the same time creating a demand for resources and technology.
After the 1885 Northwest Rebellion (also known as the Northwest Resistance), the federal government developed the pass system — a process by which Indigenous people had to present a travel document authorized by an Indian agent in order to leave and return to their reserves. The pass system was a way of controlling the movement of Indigenous people. It aimed to prevent large gatherings, seen by many White settlers as a threat to their settlements. Colonial officials also believed that the pass system would prevent another conflict like the Northwest Resistance. Used in conjunction with policies such as the Indian Act and residential schools, the pass system was part of an overall policy of assimilation. Though it never became a law, the pass system restricted Indigenous freedom in the Prairie West during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has had lasting impacts on generations of Indigenous people, as restrictions on mobility caused damage to Indigenous economies, cultures and societies.
The Constitution of Canada is the country’s governing legal framework. It defines the powers of the executive branches of government and the legislatures at both the national and provincial levels. Canada’s Constitution is not one legal document but is composed of several statutes and orders, as well as generally accepted practices known as constitutional conventions.
Kings Landing Historical Settlement is located 37 km west of Fredericton, NB. It was created in the late 1960s when the Mactaquac Dam threatened to flood many historic buildings in the Saint John River valley. Over 70 restored and reconstructed buildings and other structures are now located at Kings Landing to represent a New Brunswick settlement of the 19th and 20th centuries.
To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the 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.