• "Untitled" by Sidney E. King


    Britain began to push further west into the Appalachian Mountains after they established 13 colonies in the northeastern seaboard of the United States. This expansion resulted in the inhumane treatment and violent displacement of Indigenous peoples from their lands. Indigenous people were also kidnapped and taken back to Europe to be put on display and were never allowed to return home.

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  • "Olivier Le Jeune" by Uchenna Edeh


    Some of the earliest Africans in New France were slaves. Olivier Le Jeune represents the first accord of African enslavement. Originally from Madagascar, the young boy arrived in Quebec as the slave of English privateer David Kirke, who sold him to one of the colony’s clerks. Although slavery was against the law in France during this time, King Louis XIV granted permission for slaves to be imported to New France as labourers. By 1759 there were between 1,000 and 1,500 Black slaves in New France, and many did not live beyond the age of 25.

  • Celebrating 250th Anniversary of Hudson's Bay Company, 1670 - 1920


    The King of England granted The Hudson's Bay Company a monopoly over all the land that drained into the bay, although this land did not belong to England. Indigenous peoples began to travel to the trading posts to exchange furs for textiles, guns, and tools. The fur trade deeply impacted the lives of First Nations peoples. Although it introduced them to European items, it replaced their bows and arrows with guns, exposed them to European diseases, and created conflicts between other First Nations groups who were also competing for fur.

  • 1700 - 1800

  • 1763

    The Treaty of Paris marked the conclusion of the Seven Years War. France gave up Acadia (Nova Scotia), Cape Breton, the St. Lawrence River islands, and territory east of the Mississippi River (except for the New Orleans vicinity) to the British. To establish a basis of government administration amongst these North American territories, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation, which is also known as the Indian Bill of Rights. It stated that the Indigenous people reserved all lands not ceded by or purchased from them, and established a set of protocols for purchasing land.

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  • 1774

    The Quebec Act extended the boundaries of the Quebec colony to all the Great Lakes basin, which completely wiped out the Indigenous territory that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 had created.

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  • "Bedford Basin" by Robert Petley depicts a family of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia, 1835

    1781 - 1784

    During the American Revolution, tens of thousands of refugees were forced to flee. Those who promised to fight on Britain's side were known as loyalists and promised their freedom. Approximately 30,000 black people escaped to British lines to serve in the war as soldiers, labourers, ship pilots, and cooks. In 1783, as British defeat became inevitable, the army evacuated more than 2,000 Black loyalists to Nova Scotia. Others left for the West Indies, Quebec, England, Germany, and Belgium. Those left behind were recaptured into slavery.

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  • 1793

    John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada's First Lieutenant Governor, was faced with significant opposition from the Legislative Assembly after he proposed to abolish slavery. Although many members were slave owners themselves, they eventually reached a compromise for gradual abolition: current slaves remained slaves until death, the children of female slaves were freed at the age of twenty-five, and new slaves were not allowed in Upper Canada. Although this act was flawed, it was the first one that restricted slavery anywhere in the British Empire and set the groundwork for complete abolishment.

  • 1800 - 1900

  • Edward Percy Moran depicts the last major confrontation of the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans.


    The War of 1812 was a war against American Trade and expansionism, but it also marked a historical milestone between Canada’s colonizers and Indigenous peoples. While the British supported both American and Canadian Indigenous nations against the Americans, the end of the war marked the birth of Canada and the dissolution of Indigenous peoples’ relevance. They were no longer considered valuable allies but rather a problem.

  • 1820

    After the war of 1812, the British colonists viewed themselves as superior to the Indigenous peoples, whose military roles also became less important. The Indian Department implemented a 'civilization' program to assimilate Indigenous peoples into European society. This program encouraged European agricultural practices, and pushed for the abandonment of hunting and fishing and the adoption of Christianity. This program was a key element of the Indian Policy for the next 150 years.

  • 1829

    The Beouthuk were the original inhabitants of Newfoundland but their population began to decline after the introduction of European disease, conflict, and encroachment. Their eventual extinction came in 1829 after the last known Beouthuk, Shawnadithit, died of tuberculosis.

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  • A map of various Underground Railroad escape routes in the Northern United States and Canada


    The underground railway began operating in the 1780s and was actually a network of secret routes and safe houses. The organization helped enslaved Africans find freedom in Canada. Refugees arrived all across Canada, but most came to what is now southwestern Ontario and settled in Windsor, Fort Erie, Chatham, and Owen Sound.

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  • 1834

    Slavery was officially abolished in Canada after the British Parliament outlawed it throughout the entire British Empire. Slaves in Canada were predominantly Indigenous rather than African.

    "Slave ownership was found at every level of colonial Canadian society, whether French or English, working on farms, in bakery shops, working in leather tanning, slave orderlies working in hospitals, working for merchants, working in the fur trade as slave canoe paddlers for Scottish and French Canadian fur traders crisscrossing the country" - George Tombs

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  • The History of Africville

    Nova Scotia had the largest African-American population in the country before changes were made to Canada’s immigration policies, and they played a huge role in its development. Halifax was founded in 1749 after African slaves dug roads and built much of the city. The first large-scale immigration of Black people to Nova Scotia took place between 1782 and 1785. 2,300 Black loyalists migrated north, and 1,200 slaves also came to Nova Scotia with 30,000 White loyalists. However, Black loyalists received fewer and poorer quality acres of land in comparison to their white counterparts.

    By 1838, many black people began to settle in an area outside of Halifax known as Africville. With no paved roads, electricity, or water services, this small settlement was just like other communities outside of Halifax. However, the municipal government began offering necessary services to all communities in the region except Africville. Over the years, residents of Africville encountered a variety of environmental hazards including the instalment of an oil plant and storage complex, a fertilizer plant, a rolling mill, two slaughterhouses, a coal factory, a tar factory, a tannery, a shoe factory, stone crushing facilities, a foundry, a waste plant, Rockhead prison, an infectious disease hospital, and a Trachoma hospital.

    In the 1950s, the city dump was relocated to the edge of Africville. The city of Halifax continued to deny the tax-paying people of Africville basic municipal services such as garbage collection, paved roads, and clean water. By the 1960s, Africville was a national scandal. In response to the exposure of segregated living conditions in Canada, the residents of Africville were uprooted and relocated to a public housing complex elsewhere in Halifax. Often, without prior notice, their belongings were transported in garbage trucks and their houses bulldozed. The land which Africville was built on is now home to a container pier, a bridge, highways, railroad tracks, and a park. Dislocated residents continue to fight for their rights against the municipal government, who are planning to build a sewage treatment plant in their neighbourhood.

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  • 1839

    The Crowns Land Protection Act transferred ownership of Indian lands to the Crown and prevented First Nations groups from gaining political rights because they were no longer landowners. It also made it more difficult for Indigenous peoples to move around and live a nomadic lifestyle.

  • 1857

    The Gradual Civilization Act permanently disenfranchised all Indian and Métis peoples and placed them in a separate legal category that was inferior to citizens. Under the Act, Indigenous men could seek enfranchisement if they were at least 21 years old, able to read and write in English or French, free of debt, well educated, and deemed of good moral character. An enfranchised man could receive up to 50 acres of land and a per capita share of treaty annuities and other bond monies. His wife and children had no choice in the matter and automatically lost their Indian Status.

  • 1858

    Mary Ann Shadd was the first Black journalist and editor for a weekly paper in North America, and one of the most known and prolific writers of her generation. In 1853, she established a weekly paper, the Provincial Freeman, to cover the lives of Canadian blacks and promote black emigration to Canada. She founded the Anti-Slavery Society in Toronto five years later and continued to lecture frequently in the United States against slavery and for black emigration to Canada.

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  • 1860

    All authority of Indigenous peoples and their lands in the province of Canada was transferred to the Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs. This position was created through the Indian Lands Act as a way to centralize the control of Indigenous affairs. The Chief Superintendent also had broad discretionary powers over reserves.

  • 1860s

    Theatres in Victoria banned Black people from sitting in the dress circle area after White patrons of the Empress rioted. The Palace Theatre in Windsor, Ontario referred to its designated Black section as 'the Crow's Nest' while others called this restricted area 'the Monkey's cage.'

  • 1867

    Reserves and Indigenous peoples were taken out of the commercial mainstream and made the responsibility of the Canadian Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs after the first series of Indian Acts were passed. These Acts solidified the position of Indigenous people as wards of the state, and government agents were given discretionary power to control almost every aspect of Indigenous lives. Permission was required for Indigenous people to sell their own harvested crops and wear their own traditional dress off the reserve. Indigenous people were not permitted to gamble or drink alcohol.

  • 1870

    The Canadian government introduced the scrip policy as a means to terminate the Métis title in the same way that the treaty process did for the First Nations. However, unlike the treaty process, the Métis were addressed on an individual basis and the protection of their land was not guaranteed. The scrip policy did not account for the Métis way of life and was simply part of a broader policy to clear the West for settlement.

  • 1871

    Treaties 1 and 2 were signed by the Canadian government, the Anishinaabe and the Swampy Cree peoples. In addition to opening Manitoba to immigration, these treaties set a precedent for nine future treaty negotiations, and formed the legal foundation for Western Canadian settlement and agricultural development. In each treaty, First Nations groups ceded, released and surrendered their lands in exchange for reserved land, fishing/hunting rights, and educational provisions which were never met.

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  • The Legacy of Residential Schools

    The Canadian government believed it was their responsibility to educate and care for the country’s Indigenous people so they developed a policy aimed at aggressive assimilation. At the beginning of 1870, Indigenous children were taken from their homes and communities and placed in residential schools that were run by the Department of Indian Affairs. The government felt children were easier to mold than adults so agents were employed to ensure all Indigenous children attended. They were forced to learn English and adopt Christianity in hopes that their traditions would not be passed on to the next generation.

    Every territory and province with the exception of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick operated approximately 130 residential schools. For over a century, approximately 150,000 Indigenous, Inuit, and Métis children were forcibly removed from their communities and placed into residential schools. Students attended classes for ten months out of the year and lived in substandard conditions while enduring severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Activities were segregated by gender so brothers and sisters at the same school rarely saw one another. Students were discouraged from speaking their first language so all correspondence to their families had to be written in English, which many parents could not read.

    The last residential school closed in 1996 yet the impacts of sexual, mental, and physical abuse, shame, and deprivation continue to affect generations of survivors, their families, and communities.

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  • Fort Walsh


    On June 1, 1873, a group of American hunters killed over 20 Assiboine people, believing that they had stolen their horses. This is known as the Cypress Hills Massacre, one of the most violent events that occurred during the settlement of the Canadian West. The Canadian government attempted to have the perpetrators deported to the United States. In part, this event led to the creation of the North-West Mounted Police, now known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The site of the massacre was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1964.

  • 1876

    The Indian Act of 1876 was an attempt to consolidate all existing legislation regarding First Nations and their relationship to Canada. Through this act, The Crown would administer the land on behalf of the First Nations people through the representative of the Minister of Indian Affairs. First Nations were allowed virtually no self-governing power. Reserves were now considered Crown Land set aside for Indigenous peoples, and "Status Indians" became wards of the Crown.

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  • 1880

    In 1880, an amendment to the Indian Act declared that any First Nations individual with a university degree would be automatically enfranchised, meaning that they would no longer be a member of a First Nation. This was part of a broader program to force enfranchisement upon First Nations peoples without their consent.

  • A Chinese work gang for the Great Northern Railway, circa 1909

    1881 - 1884

    5,000 Chinese labourers were recruited for construction on the Canadian Pacific Railway, but less than 1, 500 workers remained by the end of 1881. Seven thousand additional workers were sent to Canada from China to replace those who left for the goldfields, fell ill, or died during construction. They were paid $1 a day while White, Black, and Indigenous workers were paid three times more. Chinese railway workers also worked through the Fraser Canyon, which some considered the most dangerous section of the railway.

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  • 1884

    The Indian Act was revised to prohibit several traditional Indigenous ceremonies, such as potlatches. The ban, which severely limited First Nations people from not only celebrating their cultures but retaining important practices and passing them along to future generations, was not lifted until 1951.

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  • The Chinese Exclusion Act

    Poster announcing the democratic passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act

    The Canadian Pacific Railway brought fifteen thousand labourers from China from 1881 to 1885. Although Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald acknowledged the necessity of Chinese labour, he willingly yielded to prejudiced and discriminatory politicians, trade unionists and public opinion.

    The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 was the first in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic origin. It levied the Chinese head tax so Chinese people, with the exceptions of diplomats, government representatives, tourists, merchants, scientists and students, had to pay $50 to enter the country until 1923.

    The Act also contained other restrictions. Ships carrying European immigrants were permitted one person per two tons of the ship’s total weight, while only one Chinese passenger was permitted for every 50 tons of a ship’s total weight. Entrance was denied to Chinese immigrants with leprosy, infectious diseases, or records of sex work. Whether naturalized or Canadian-born, all Chinese resident had to pay a fee of $0.50 to register with local authorities.

    Many amendments were made to the Act. In 1887, Chinese women married to non-Chinese men were exempt from the head tax as well as any Chinese person travelling through Canada by railway en route to another country. An 1892 amendment required that any Chinese person who temporarily left the country had to register with immigration authorities. In 1908, students were no longer exempt from the head tax. In 1917, immigration officials gained the right to arrest any Chinese person believed to be in Canada illegally. In 1921, Chinese people leaving Canada for two years or without registering had to pay the head tax upon his or her return.

    In response to continued demands for more prohibitive regulations to limit Chinese immigration, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King passed the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. The legislation restricted all Chinese immigration to Canada by narrowly defining the acceptable categories of Chinese immigrants: students, merchants, diplomats, and Canadian-born Chinese returning from education in China. Canada did not repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act until the signing of the United Nations’ Charter of Human Rights in 1947. Although the Charter granted Chinese-Canadians the right to vote in federal elections, they were not admitted under the same criteria as other applicants until the adoption of the points system in 1967.

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  • 1885

    Under General Middleton’s Pass System, Indigenous people could not leave their reserves without obtaining a pass from their farming instructors, which were also government agents. Neither the Indian Act nor any other legislation allowed the Department of Indian Affairs to institute such a system. By 1892, government lawyers knew this system was illegal but it was enforced until the early 1930s.

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  • Hand-coloured, Canadian Pictorial & Illustrated War News Souvenir Number, Pub. Toronto Lithographing 1885


    The Frog Lake Massacre is considered one of the most influential events associated with the North-West Resistance. On the morning of April 2nd, a break-away element of the Plains Cree, incited by hunger and frustration, murdered nine white men. Although Chief Big Bear was not a member of the massacre and sought a peaceful resolution, he was killed in the largest public hanging in Canadian history.

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  • 1891

    From 1891 to 1965 the Separate Schools Act segregated Black and White students. However, impact and duration varied across Canada.

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  • 1900 - 1950

  • 1900

    Over the next decade, approximately 52,000 Jewish immigrants settled in Canada due to a demand for immigrants that were outside of the traditional European source-countries and the United States. However, Jews were excluded from many professions, prohibited from living in certain parts of the country, and ostracized. During the Second World War, the Canadian government refused the entry of Jewish peoples.

  • 1903

    Parliament increased the Chinese head tax to $500 after it became clear that the $100 head tax had not diminished immigration. This new number was equivalent to two years’ salary or the purchase of two homes. As a result of institutional racism — perpetuated by the Chinese Immigration Act and hundreds of other policies which denied Chinese people the right to vote, practice law or medicine, hold public office, seek employment on public works or own crown land, among other restrictions — the Chinese community suffered low social standing and family life suffered.

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  • 1904

    The first Sikh immigrants arrived in Canada as part of a Hong-Kong military contingent that was travelling to the coronation of King Edward VII. In 1905, the Canadian government placed a $50 landing fee for all Sikh immigrants arriving in Canada. This fee increased to $200 in 1908, which was the same year that the first Sikh place of worship, a gurdwara, was built by the Khalsa Diwan Society in West Vancouver.

  • Dr. Bryce, the Medical Inspector for the Department of Indian Affairs


    On a tour of Western Canada's residential schools, Dr Peter Bryce, Medical Inspector for the Department of Indian Affairs, discovered that Indigenous children were being deliberately infected with diseases like tuberculosis and left to die without treatment. His report on these health conditions stated an average death rate of 40 percent and made the headline of the Ottawa Citizen. The Superintendent of Indian Affairs removed Dr Bryce from his role in 1908 in an attempt to cover up his research.

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  • The Vancouver Race Riot

    Black and white cartoon depicting the illustrator's interpretation of immigration policy, Courtesy of Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections

    On August 12, 1907, Mayor Alexander Bethune and several city councillors founded Vancouver’s Asiatic Exclusion League (AEL). Shortly after, the league decided to host its first anti-immigration rally in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Japantown. A crowd of almost 8,000 people gathered at the Cambie Street Grounds on the weekend after labour day. Businesses contributed signs with white-supremacists slogans and Major E. Browne stepped forward to lead the parade. The crowd walked north to Hastings Street and then east to Westminster (now Main Street) where religious and political leaders delivered speeches on the main floor of city hall.

    A.E. Fowler of Seattle’s Japanese and Korean [sic] Exclusion League delivered a particularly rousing speech in which he called not only for a stop to immigration from Asian countries but also the expulsion of all people of Asian origin from North America. The mob burned Lieutenant Governor Robert Dunsmuir in effigy for his refusal to give royal assent to British Columbia’s 1907 Immigration Act which aimed to exclude all oriental immigrants from British Columbia.

    Reports say the rally exploded into violence and vandalism after a young boy threw a rock into the window of a Chinese merchant’s store. The surprised citizens of Chinatown locked their doors and set up barricades to protect themselves. After every window in Chinatown was broken, the crowd turned toward Vancouver’s Japanese population. They marched towards Little Yokohama, or Nihon Bachi, which was a few blocks around the Powell Street Grounds, which is now Oppenheimer Park.

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  • Men in front of the Sam Kee building on 8 West Pender Street in Vancouver's Chinatown, circa 1936, Courtesy of Vancouver Public Library


    After the Vancouver Riot, an agreement was made to restrict Japanese immigration to Canada. Under the terms of the “gentlemen’s agreement,” the Japanese government agreed to voluntarily limit the number of Japanese immigrants entering Canada on a yearly basis. However, four classes of Japanese immigrants were still allowed to enter Canada: returning residents, and their wives, children and parents; personal and domestic employees of Japanese residents in Canada; labourers approved by the Canadian government; and agricultural labourers contracted by Japanese landholders in Canada.

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  • 1908

    Through the Continuous Journey Regulation, immigrants who did not come to Canada by continuous journey from their country of origin were prohibited from entering Canada. They were also required to have two-hundred dollars on them. This regulation primarily affected immigrants from India and Japan because the main immigration routes from these countries did not offer direct passage to Canada.

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  • John Ware's Ranch


    By 1908, Segregation legislation was passed and implemented in Oklahoma. Oppressed by social conditions and denied voting rights, Black farmers began fleeing their homes in Oklahoma and travelling to Canada. However, agents hired by the Canadian government refused entry of Black immigrants based on strict interpretations of medical and character examinations.

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  • 1911

    Through the Indian Act of 1911, the Canadian Federal Government had the power to expropriate portions of reserves for roads, railways and other public works, and move entire reserves away from municipalities. Another act was passed shortly after that made it a requirement for Western Indigenous peoples to seek official permission before wearing traditional dress in any public dance, show, exhibition, stampede or pageant.

  • 1914

    Any person of German or Austrian descent that arrived in Canada after 1902 was considered an enemy alien. Over 8,000 people were interned in concentration camps and forced to develop the mines in British Columbia, logging in Northern Ontario and Quebec, and Banff National Park in Alberta. Over five thousand of those interned were Ukrainians who immigrated to Canada under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

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  • Indian immigrants aboard the Komagata Maru, 1914


    Three-hundred and seventy-six economic migrants who did not like their living conditions back home travelled from Hong Kong to Vancouver on the Indian freighter ship, the SS. Komagatu Maru. The freighter arrived in Vancouver on May 23, but because of Canada's covertly racist immigration policies, the government refused to let the passengers land. The passengers waited at the docks for two months but, instead of being granted permission to enter, they were denied food and water and forced to return to India in July. Many did not survive the trip back.

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  • No. 2 Construction Battalion, courtesy of Museum Windsor


    During the First World War, Prime Minister Borden permitted Black people to enlist in the armed service. After several appeals and protests to top military officials, The No.2 Construction Battalion was formed. It was the first and only segregated non-combatant unit in Canadian Military history.

  • 1917

    The War-Time Elections Act enfranchised people who were favourable to the government, such as women or any person in the Canadian army, and disenfranchised unfavourable groups such as Mennonites, Doukhobors, and nearly all individuals born in enemy countries naturalized after 1902. However, the thousands of new Canadians living on the prairies were the most seriously affected.

  • 1918

    After World War 1 ended, pressure mounted for foreign workers and Canadian immigrants to be dismissed from their work in order to employ returning Canadian soldiers. The British Columbia Employers' Association declared their willingness to dismiss "enemy aliens" and the International Nickel Company dismissed 2,200 employees who were mostly foreigners.

  • 1920

    The Federal government passed the Dominion Elections Act which made the qualifications for voting in federal elections the same as provincial elections. In other words, over half of Canadians, including visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and women had no democratic rights.

  • 1920

    The Klu Klux Klan formed in the 1920s and was active in Quebec, Ontario, BC, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Canadian Klan adopted discriminatory and hateful attitudes towards any Canadians who did not fit their idea of white normalcy.

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  • 1927

    The Canadian federal government amended the Indian Act to prohibit First Nations groups from fundraising to pursue a land claim. In order to fundraise, these groups would need to receive approval from the Department of Indian Affairs. This amendment was a direct response to a land claim pursued by the Nisga'a in British Columbia.

  • 1933

    The Sexual Sterilization Act was designed to ensure disabilities and undesirable traits were not passed to future generations. After it was passed in British Columbia, the eugenics board was permitted to sterilize individuals in government-run institutions without their consent. Alberta followed similar legislation with this act.

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  • 1939

    Fred Christie was denied service by a Montreal tavern because of the colour of his skin. Although he sued the tavern and was awarded two-hundred dollars in Quebec court, the tavern appealed the case on the premise that they operated within the law. The Supreme Court ruled that the general principle of the law in Québec is complete freedom of business and decided that racial discrimination was legally enforceable.

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  • Japanese Relocation, Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

    1941 - 1949

    Japanese Canadians were expelled and sent to relocation camps in isolated areas of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba after the bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 7. The RCMP's powers were expanded so they could search without warrants, impose curfews and confiscate properties. By 1942, the B.C. Security Commission broke up and uprooted nearly 22,000 individuals to road camps, internment camps, and prisoner of war camps. All of their property and belongings were sold without consent and liquidated at a fraction of their value. Detention continued until the end of WWII.

  • St. Anne's residential school in the 1960s. Survivors of school took the federal government to court over access to documents from a provincial police investigation in the 1990s.


    The Canadian government and several nutritional experts conducted a series of nutritional experiments in residential schools and Indigenous communities between 1942 and 1952. In an early report on Cree communities in Northern Manitoba, researchers documented a high rate of malnourishment. Officials used the population's hunger to conduct further studies. Many were done without proper knowledge or consent, and experiments failed to address the root and structural problems of malnourishment and yielded little long-term benefits.

  • 1944

    Ontario passed the Racial Discrimination Act which made it illegal to display or publish signs, newspapers and notices on radio or lands that indicated racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination.

  • Black businesswoman Viola Desmond faced segregation in the 1940s.


    Although Viola Desmond was arrested for sitting in the Whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Halifax, she was found guilty of race-neutral tax evasion. She was fined $20 for not paying the one-cent tax difference between the balcony ticket and the main floor ticket. Desmond paid the fine and fought her charge against the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Although her efforts failed, her lawyer reimbursed her for the fine and she set up a fund, which has since gone to supporting the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

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  • 1947

    Saskatchewan passed the Bill of Rights and introduced protections such as freedom of conscience, religion, and expression; and freedom of discrimination in employment, occupations, and services. This act was the first of its kind in Canada and preceded the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The bill formed the legal basis for John Diefenbaker’s efforts to create a Canadian Bill of Rights.

  • 1947

    On January 1, 1947, the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946 came into effect, and Canada became the first member of the British Commonwealth to create a citizenship distinct from that of Great Britain. A person born in Canada was no longer considered a British subject without a distinct, Canadian identity. Women gained control over their nationality, which had been previously tied to their marital status, and native-born Canadian citizens became equal in status, privilege, and obligations. However, Canadians could not possess dual citizenship.

  • Copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms


    The majority of Canadian provinces enacted legislation that prohibited racial and religious discrimination in employment and housing.

  • 1951 - 2016

  • Cartoon Commentary on the Huntley Case


    The New Immigration Act gave the Canadian Government the power to screen, accept or deny immigrants based on nationality, citizenship, ethnic group, class, peculiar customs, habits, or the inability to become readily assimilated. The minister of citizenship and immigration gained the ability to grant or cancel immigration permits and overturn the decisions of immigration officers and appeals boards. Judges and courts were still barred from immigration proceedings unless they related to a Canadian citizen.

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  • 1960

    Canada officially passed a federal Bill of Rights. Through their resistance to religious oppression, court challenges, and the submission of petitions to parliament leading to thousands of signatures calling for a bill of rights, Jehovah’s Witnesses played an instrumental role in achieving this milestone.

  • This ad appeared in the Regina Leader-Post newspaper on Oct. 31, 1972.


    During the Sixties Scoop, Indigenous children were removed without the consent of their bands or families and placed in middle-class Euro-Canadian families by Indian agents. Although Indigenous children had been removed from their homes for decades prior, the 60's saw a mass spike.

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  • 1963

    For the first time in history, Canadians were allowed to adopt non-white children from abroad.

  • Leonard Braithwaite, Courtesy of Ontario Black History Society


    Leonard Braithwaite was the first Black man to hold provincial office in Canada, and he also served as a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature from 1963 to 1975. He spoke out against racial segregation in Ontario schools in his very first speech to the legislature. Soon after, the Ontario government repealed the law that allowed school segregation. In 1998, Braithwaite became a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2004 he was appointed to the Order of Ontario.

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  • 1966

    The White Paper on Immigration was tabled in Parliament in 1966 by Jean Marchand, the minister in charge of the newly formed Department of Manpower and Immigration. The report called for the greater alignment of immigration policy and long-term economic interests. Due to the rapid technological changes in the economy, it argued that Canada should focus on recruiting qualified immigrants and tighten the controls on the sponsorship system to avoid an influx of unskilled labourers.

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  • 1967

    By enacting a new points-based selection model for Canadian immigration that removed explicit racial discrimination and country preferences, Canada underwent a major immigration reform. Under this new system, applicants are awarded points based on criteria such as training, education, occupation, age, and official language abilities. This system attempted to develop a universal and neutral standard for entry and is still a central component of Canada's current immigration system. This reform was also instrumental in expanding sources of immigration beyond European countries.

  • The 1969 White Paper

    Formally known as the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, The 1969 White Paper was a Canadian government policy paper that attempted to abolish previous legal documents pertaining to Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the Indian Act and treaties, and assimilate all Indigenous peoples in the country. The policy put forward the elimination of Indian status, incorporation of First Nations under provincial government responsibilities, imposed land decisions and imposed notions of private property and economic agendas on Indigenous communities. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Jean Chrétien, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau faced widespread criticism for their proposal.

    The backlash to the 1969 White Paper lead to its withdrawal in 1970, and over five decades of activism, academic work, and court decisions. Many people within and outside of Indigenous communities, including the National Indian Brotherhood, thought the Canadian Government was trying to absolve itself of any and all fault instead of admitting to historical wrongdoings. The White paper did not meet any historical promises that had previously been made to First Nations people in Canada by the Federal Government.

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  • 1971

    Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a policy of multiculturalism. It is the first official multiculturalism policy to be adopted by any country; and states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination. The policy also states that everyone has the freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

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  • Rosemary Brown, Courtesy of The Canadian Press


    Rosemary Brown became the first Black woman to hold provincial office in Canada.

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  • 1977

    The Canadian federal government passed the Canadian Human Rights Act, which applied to all provinces and addressed discrimination based on sex, religion, race, family status, and colour. The Act also established the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to investigate and judge cases.

  • 1979

    The Vietnam War contributed to the "boat people" phenomenon in which millions of Southeast Asians were forced to flee their homelands. Canada accepted 60,000 refugees from Southeast Asia, a majority of whom were Vietnamese. The acceptance of these refugees represented a significant milestone in changing anti-Asiatic immigration attitudes. Thousands of Canadians, organizations and church groups mobilized to sponsor and welcome refugees, which highlighted the emergence of a post-war Canadian humanitarian tradition.

  • The Lovelace Case

    Under the Canadian Indian Act, Indigenous women who married non-Indigenous men lost their Indian Status. These women could not own a home on the reserve or borrow funds from the Band Council for housing and did not have the right to education or social assistance. They virtually lost all the cultural benefits of living among family and friends in the reserve including their traditional hunting and fishing rights. In 1981, Sandra Lovelace submitted an application to the Human Rights Committee.

    Lovelace had recently returned to live on the Tobique Reservation with her parents after her marriage to a non-Indigenous man ended. She claimed that because the act only stripped Indigenous women of their Indian status it was a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. When Lovelace’s case went before the International Court of Human Rights, the United Nations condemned Canada for this discriminatory practice.

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  • 1982

    Canada was founded as a nation after the British North America Act, Canada's original Constitution, was passed in 1867. Unlike the United States Constitution, Canada's Constitution did not have a distinct Bill of Rights that governments had to follow. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was significantly inspired by documents such as the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The equality rights section of the Charter was delayed until April 17, 1985.

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  • 1985

    The Indian Act was amended to end discrimination against Indigenous women who married a non-Indigenous man. Now, Indigenous women could retain their status regardless of who they married. This amendment also repealed many other archaic sections of the Act and provided the reinstatement of those who had been unilaterally removed from Band Lists and the Indian Register.

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  • 1986

    The Federal Employment Equity Act was passed and stated that women, people with disabilities, visible minorities, and Indigenous people could benefit from employment equity programs, specifically for companies engaged with the government and the public service.

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  • 1986

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee awarded Canada the Nansen Refugee Award for the services that Canadian organizations, individuals, and the government offered Vietnamese refugees. This was the only time in history that the UNHCR awarded this honour to the citizens of a country.

  • Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (left) and Art Miki, President, National Association of Japanese Canadians, signing the Redress Agreement, 1988, Courtesy of the The Canadian Press


    Prime Minister Brian Mulroney released a formal apology to all Japanese Canadians. The government offered $21,000 to each individual directly affected by the internment, pardons for those who had been wrongfully imprisoned during the War, and Canadian citizenships for Japanese Canadians, and their descendants, who had been wrongfully deported to Japan at the War’s end. The agreement also promised twenty-four million dollars towards the creation of what is now the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

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  • Oka Confrontation, Courtesy of Canapress


    After a golf course and condominium development was proposed in Oka, a disputed Mohawk burial ground, a 78-day standoff ensued between Quebec police and Mohawk (Kanienʼkehá꞉ka) protestors. Although the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka lost in court, they were prepared to defend their land. After the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, tensions were so high that the army was called in to diffuse the situation. The proposal was canceled, and the Federal government purchased and returned the town of Oka to the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka community in 1997.

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  • 1990

    In 1987, the federal and provincial governments agreed upon a set of constitutional amendments to grant the provinces greater control over immigration and Supreme Court appointments, a veto over constitutional changes, increase control over federal spending in areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as education and health care, and recognize Quebec as a distinct society within Canada. However, the Meech Lake Accord had to be approved by Parliament and all provincial legislatures within three years. It failed to gain the necessary support before the deadline passed.

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  • Abuse of Human Rights of Somalian Refugees

    Somalian refugee Saeed Jama 23, pictured at his home in Edmonton in 2012 as he faced deportation because of his criminal record though he had never actually been to Somalia, Courtesy of The Globe and Mail

    At its peak, tens of thousands of Somalis fled the country’s Civil war and Human Right violations in search of refuge in Canada. In 1991, ss the conflict worsened, migrants poured into Toronto, along with other cities in the United States and Britain. Many arrived with limited English skills and few resources. In places like Toronto, where there was no existing Somali community to join, families were left to fend for themselves.

    Somali refugees faced significant obstacles because no established Somali Diaspora existed for them to join. As the first refugee wave integrated into Canadian Society, some were forced to confront double stigmatization as black Muslims. A 1993 CBC documentary titled A Place Called Dixon revealed the racial tension that existed in Toronto upon arrival of Somalis. Since 2005, dozens of young men from Canada’s Somali community have been killed, most of them casualties between the housing projects of Toronto and the oil patch in Alberta. Most cases remain unsolved.


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  • 1992

    Mr. Khan, a member of a political movement claiming independence for Kashmir, the Baltistan Student Federation, fled torture and persecution in Pakistan to Canada. Although a medical doctor affirmed that the marks and scars on Mr. Khan’s body corresponded with his alleged torture, he was rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada on the basis that he was not a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Convention. In 1994, the UN Committee against Torture found that, in this case, Canada had an obligation to refrain from forcibly returning the applicant to Pakistan.

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  • 1995

    A Right of Landing fee, widely known as The Head Tax, of $975 is imposed on immigrants and refugees entering Canada. The government rescinded the Right of Landing Fee for refugees in 2000 but maintained it for immigrants.

  • 1995

    The Canadian federal government amended the Criminal Code to address the legacies of injustice, oppression, and discrimination that contributed to the disproportionate and high rate of incarceration of Indigenous peoples.

  • Leilani Muir, circa 1995, Courtesy of Edmonton Journal


    Leilani Muir spent much of her childhood in an institution for people with disabilities. There, she was sterilized without her knowledge or consent. Muir was one of nearly 3,000 Albertans surgically prevented from having children under that province’s Sexual Sterilization Act before 1972. The Act became law in 1928 when “eugenics” — a theory about selecting or eliminating certain genetic traits—was popular. Many people believed that stopping those with disabilities from having children would improve the population. Forced sterilization is now recognized as a human rights violation.

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  • 1996

    The Parliament of Canada added sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in Canada.

  • Gordon's Residential School. Anglican Church of Canada. Courtesy of General Synod Archives.


    Gordon's Residential School drew students from a variety of surrounding areas in Saskatchewan and usually held the overflow from other schools. It was perpetually overcrowded and underfunded and burned down a number of times during its years as a residential school. In 1969 the school was transferred to the control of the Federal government and was officially closed in 1996.

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  • 1999

    Adrienne Clarkson is appointed as Canada's Governor General by Prime Minister Jean Chretien. This was the first time the position was occupied by an immigrant and was described by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien as a "reflection of the diversity and inclusiveness of our society.”

  • People march in the National March Against Police Violence, which was organized by National Action Network, through the streets of Manhattan on December 13, 2014 in New York City, Courtesy of Getty Images


    The Toronto Star released a series of articles identifying racial profiling as a common practice among Toronto police. The articles stated that Black people were targeted by police more frequently and with less cause than White people, particularly while driving, and that Black people were treated more harshly when arrested.

  • 2006

    In a significant 8-0 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada said that a ban by a Montreal school board on the wearing of ceremonial daggers, or kirpan, by Sikh students is not justified under the Charter of Rights because the policy infringes on guarantees of religious freedom.

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  • A man who would not identify himself argues with Dr. Najat Boughaba at a seniors' centre in Hérouxville, Que., in 2007. The Quebec town made international news for its immigrant code of conduct, Courtesy of Ian Barrett.


    Herouxville, Quebec passes a controversial resolution at town council listing unsuitable town practices that was targeted towards Asian and Muslim people. Although the town had no immigrant population, the code of conduct warned immigrants against stoning and burning women and included an explanation of the importance of Christmas trees. In the days that followed, caught the attention of media around the world and was derided as an Islamophobic tract.

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  • 2008

    Based on disappointment with a previous conference in 2001, Canada withdrew its support for the upcoming World Conference Against Racism rather than striving for improvements. The withdrawal eliminated the unique perspective that Canada could have contributed.

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  • 2009

    After years of debate, Toronto's public school board voted to open an Africentric alternative school. The doors officially opened in September 2009.

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  • 2010

    After Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced immigration rules would remain the same for everyone. Although this meant there would be no special considerations for Haitians, it was also announced that pending cases would be dealt with more quickly. Students, tourists, and workers who were already in Canada under a temporary visa would be allowed to stay longer.

  • Members of the Haisla First Nation march in Kitimat, B.C. as part of a rally in support of the Idle No More movement on Sunday Dec 30, 2012. Photo by Robin Rowland


    Four Saskatchewan women concerned with the potential erosion of indigenous rights in Bill C-45, particularly changes that would affect legislation such as the Indian Act, organized a grassroots movement called Idle No More. The movement was partly inspired by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike and has been called, 'the largest Canada-wide social action movement since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”

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  • People from the group Black Lives Matter lead the annual Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday July 3, 2016.


    Black Lives Matter Toronto was created in response to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old, Michael Brown. The chapter began gaining attention after Jermaine Carby was shot by Ontario police during a heated traffic stop. Although Carby allegedly had a knife, the weapon wasn't located until several hours later. BLMT is working on what is being called “a culture of silence" in Canada that prevents open conversations about race and the country’s historical practices of slavery and segregation.

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  • 2014

    The Government of Canada began a national inquiry to address the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women in Canada. Indigenous women are subjected to higher rates of violence than their non-indigenous counterparts and disproportionately represented among all women murdered in Canada. Indigenous women only make up four percent of the Canadian female population, but between 1980 and 2012 they accounted for 14% of murdered Canadian women.

  • 2015

    Macleans Magazine labels Winnipeg as Canada's most racist city. Manitoba has the lowest school attendance record among Indigenous youth of any province or territory. 28 percent of Indigenous Manitobans living on reserve graduate high school - this is lower than any other province. Manitoba also imprisons a high proportion of Indigenous people. In Stony Mountain Penitentiary, a medium-security prison just outside Winnipeg, sixty-five percent of inmates are Indigenous.

  • 2015

    Justice Kieth M. Boswell ruled that wearing a niqab does not interfere in any substantive way with taking the oath and that the minister of immigration does not, in any event, have the authority to summarily forbid wearing one after Zunera Ishaq challenged the prohibition to ban niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with a Syrian refugee during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. Taken July 1, 2016 by Chris Wattie.


    Under the direction of Prime Minister Trudeau, the Liberal Government announced its plan to settle 25,000 refugees from Syria across the country. Canada decided it would accept only whole families, lone women or children in its mass resettlement of Syrian refugees while unaccompanied men would be turned away due to possible security risk.

  • Truth and Reconciliation

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for the full implementation of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, including the 94 Calls to Action. As their last official act, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released the final report to the public. For the past six years, the TRC has held hearings across the country to gather historical documents and testimony from residential school survivors. The TRC ’s June interim report concluded that Canada did indeed attempt to commit genocide against Indigenous people through the use of residential schools. The TRC interim report also discovered that at least 3,000 children died at residential schools, Senator Murray Sinclair said the total could reach upwards of 6,000.

  • 2016

    Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, offered a formal apology to Indigenous peoples for historical mistreatment and persecution. Over the next three years, the government allotted $250 million to reduce barriers, increase understanding of residential school history, and work towards reconciliation. Additionally, the premier announced that the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs would be renamed the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

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