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Jennie Smillie Robertson, physician, surgeon and teacher (born 10 February 1878 in Huron County, ON; died 26 February 1981 in Toronto, ON). Smillie is considered the first recorded female surgeon to practise in Ontario. She also performed the first major gynecological surgery in Canada.
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Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.
Robert H. Coats
Robert Hamilton Coats, FRSC, statistician, journalist (born 25 July 1874 in Clinton, Ontario; died 7 February 1960 in Ottawa, Ontario). Robert H. Coats was the first Dominion statistician of Canada (see Statistics Canada). He spent 24 years as the country’s chief statistician. During his career, he modernized and expanded Canada’s census and data collection programs.
Doukhobors are a sect of Russian dissenters, many of whom now live in western Canada. They are known for a radical pacifism which brought them notoriety during the 20th century. Today, their descendants in Canada number approximately 20,000, with one third still active in their culture.
Charlie Watt, Inuk leader (born 29 June 1944 in Fort Chimo [now Kuujjuaq], Québec). Watt founded the Northern Québec Inuit Association in 1972 and was a negotiator for the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), signed in 1975. He served in the Canadian Senate from 1984 to 2018. Since January 2018, he has served as president of Makivic Corporation in Nunavik, the Inuit homeland in northern Quebec.
Women and the Indian Act
The Indian Act has affected Indigenous cultures, systems of governance, societies and ways of life since its enactment in 1867. Gender discrimination in the Act further disadvantaged First Nations women, in particular. Until 1985, women with Indian status who married someone without status lost their status rights. Men, on the other hand, did not lose Indian status in the same way. Even after Bill C-31 reinstated the status rights of many women in 1985, the Act still discriminated against women by privileging male lines of descent. Amendments in 2011 and 2017 sought to fix these issues. In 2019, the federal government brought into force the remaining part of Bill S-3, which is meant to address lingering sex-based inequities in the Indian Act. (See also Indigenous Women’s Issues.)
Leo Bouchard, Ojibwe soldier and war hero (born 23 December 1898 in Lake Helen Mission, Nipigon, ON; died 28 July 1938 in English River, ON). Bouchard served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at the front.
Tookoolito, also known as Hannah and Taqulittuq (born in 1838 near Cumberland Sound, NU; died 31 December 1876 in Groton, Connecticut), Inuk translator and guide to American explorer Charles Francis Hall. Tookoolito and her husband, Ebierbing (traditionally spelt Ipiirvik), were well-known Inuit explorers of the 19th century who significantly contributed to non-Inuit’s knowledge of the North. The Government of Canada has recognized Tookoolito and Ebierbing as National Historic Persons.
Darren Zack (nicknamed Z-Man), pitcher in fastpitch softball (born 9 August 1960 in Garden River First Nation, ON). Compared in his skill to Babe Ruth, Zack dominated fastpitch softball in the 1990s. In addition to many other athletic accomplishments, Zack helped Team Canada win the Pan American Games fastpitch medal in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Though a fearsome competitor, Zack is known for his modest and humble demeanor off the field. He is actively involved in his Garden River First Nation community and in encouraging youth involvement in sports. (See also Baseball.)
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), administrator, business leader (born 29 August 1962 in Fort Qu’Appelle, SK). A member of the Little Black Bear First Nation, Bellegarde has been involved in politics since 1986. On 10 December 2014, Bellegarde was elected as the 12th national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, following the resignation of Shawn Atleo. (See also Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada.)
Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle that ensures First Nations children can access the same public services as other children in Canada. Jordan’s Principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy who died at the age of five after waiting for home-based care that was approved when he was two but never arrived because of a financial dispute between the federal and provincial governments. Jordan’s Principle was put in place to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.
Historically, the cradleboard (or cradle board), was used by various Indigenous peoples to protect and carry babies. Securely bound to a thin rectangular board, a baby could
be carried on its mother's back or put in a safe location while she performed her daily routine. In some communities, Indigenous peoples still use cradleboards.
Cindy Klassen, OM, speed skater, hockey player (born 12 August 1979 in Winnipeg, MB). Cindy Klassen is the first Canadian to win five medals in one Olympic Games (Torino 2006). With a total of six Olympic medals, she is tied with fellow speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes as the most decorated Canadian Olympians. Klassen was also overall world champion in speed skating in 2003 and 2006. In her career, she set six world records and won 115 international medals (46 gold, 41 silver and 28 bronze). She was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year in 2006 and received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada's female athlete of the year in 2005 and 2006. She has been inducted into the Order of Manitoba, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Andy Kim (born Andrew Youakim; also known as Baron Longfellow), songwriter, singer (born 5 December 1952 in Montreal, QC). Andy Kim is one of Canada’s most successful singer-songwriters. He started out as a teenager writing songs for a television show and thus drew comparisons to Paul Anka and Neil Diamond. His hugely successful pop hits — such as “Sugar, Sugar,” “Rock Me Gently,” “Baby I love You” and “How’d We Ever Get This Way” — have sold more than 30 million copies. He was the inaugural winner of the Juno Award for Top Male Vocalist in 1970. He enjoyed moderate success as the adult-contemporary singer Baron Longfellow in the 1980s and 1990s. He has also collaborated with the Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson, Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, and Ron Sexsmith. Kim has been inducted into the Billboard Hit Parade Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (for “Sugar, Sugar”), Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Emilien Dufresne (Primary Source)
Emilien Dufresne was a solider with the Royal 22e Régiment during the Second World War. He was one of 14,000 Canadian soldiers who stormed Juno Beach on 6 June 1944. Learn Dufresne’s story of being taken prisoner by the Germans, forcefully put to work in a sugar factory, and how he was liberated.
Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.
Sonja Gaudet (née Melis), Paralympic wheelchair curler (born 22 July 1966 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). A three-time Paralympian, Gaudet won gold for Canada at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Turin, at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. She is the first wheelchair curlerever to win multiple Paralympic gold medals. She is also a three-time world champion, having helped Canada win gold at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Gaudet has been inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame. She was named to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on 27 May 2020 and will be formally inducted in 2021.
Frances Elizabeth Owen “Feo” Monck, author (born 1 August 1835 in Charleville, Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland; died 31 July 1919). Feo Monck’s brother-in-law was governor general Viscount Monck, and her husband, Richard Monck, was military secretary to the governor general from 1864 to 1869. When Lady Monck was absent, she acted as the hostess for viceregal social occasions, including the ball held during the Quebec Conference of 1864. She recorded her experiences in the book, My Canadian Leaves: An Account of a Visit to Canada in 1864–1865.
Eleanor Coerr, journalist, children’s author (born 29 May 1922 in Kamsack, SK; died 22 November 2010 in Princeton, New Jersey). An award-winning writer of children’s books, Eleanor Coerr is best known for Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (1977), the result of a childhood fascination with Japan and a reporting trip there in 1949. As the wife of a diplomat, Coerr spent many years abroad. Her travels inspired her writing, much of which focuses on historical figures and subjects from far-flung locales.