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Saidye Rosner Bronfman

Saidye Rosner Bronfman, OBE, community leader, philanthropist (born 9 December 1896 in Plum Coulee, MB; died 6 July 1995 in Montreal, QC). Saidye Bronfman was a leader in the Jewish community who generously supported the arts and various charities. She received the Order of the British Empire for her work with the Red Cross during the Second World War. Saidye and her husband, Samuel Bronfman, drew from their fortune in the liquor business to create a foundation that continues to fund community groups today.

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Bronfman Family

Descendants of Russian immigrant tobacco farmer Yechiel (Ekiel) Bronfman and his wife, Mindel, members of the Bronfman family have owned and controlled huge financial empires built from the profits of the family liquor business (see Seagram). The best-known members of the family are Samuel Bronfman, founder of Seagram and president of the Canadian Jewish Congress (1939–62), and his descendants. Samuel’s wife, Saidye Rosner Bronfman, was an influential philanthropist who supported the arts in Canada and was awarded the Order of the British Empire for organizing work on the home front during the Second World War. Sons Edgar and Charles Bronfman ran Seagram for decades, while grandson Edgar Miles Bronfman Jr. oversaw the sale of Seagram to Vivendi. Charles was also co-founder of the Historica Foundation of Canada and Heritage Minutes, as well as chairman and principal owner of the Montreal Expos. His sister Phyllis Lambert is a well-known architect who founded the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Their cousins, Edward and Peter Bronfman (sons of Allan Bronfman), developed a financial empire in their own right. The family has given generously to several charitable organizations and been involved in the Canadian Jewish Congress and World Jewish Congress. 

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Voyageurs

Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.

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Coureurs des bois

Coureurs des bois were itinerant, unlicenced fur traders from New France. They were known as “wood-runners” to the English on Hudson Bay and “bush-lopers” to the Anglo-Dutch of New York. Unlike voyageurs, who were licensed to transport goods to trading posts, coureurs des bois were considered outlaws of sorts because they did not have permits from colonial authorities. The independent coureurs des bois played an important role in the European exploration of the continent. They were also vital in establishing trading contacts with Indigenous peoples.