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Irish Canadians

The Irish have played an important role in the history of Canada. From their early settlements in Newfoundland, to the larger waves of migrations in the 19th century and the present, the Irish have been ever-present in the Canadian landscape. Irish Canadians have contributed to Canadian society and its economy, and the Irish-Canadian identity continues to be expressed and celebrated.

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Underground Railroad

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).

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Ivan P. Fellegi

Ivan Peter Fellegi, OC, statistician (born 22 June 1935 in Szeged, Hungary). Ivan Fellegi served as Statistics Canada’s chief statistician for 23 years. In this role, he introduced new methods for collecting and compiling national statistics. He has also vocally defended the agency’s independence from politics.

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Chinese Canadians of Force 136

Force 136 was a branch of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. Its covert missions were based in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia, where orders were to support and train local resistance movements to sabotage Japanese supply lines and equipment. While Force 136 recruited mostly Southeast Asians, it also recruited about 150 Chinese Canadians . It was thought that Chinese Canadians would blend in with local populations and speak local languages. Earlier in the war, many of these men had volunteered their services to Canada but were either turned away or recruited and sidelined. Force 136 became an opportunity for Chinese Canadian men to demonstrate their courage and skills and especially their loyalty to Canada.

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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.

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Scottish Canadians

Though often considered Anglo-Canadians, the Scots have always regarded themselves as a separate people. The Scots have immigrated to Canada in steady and substantial numbers for over 200 years, with the connection between Scotland and Canada stretching farther — to the 17th century. Scots have been involved in every aspect of Canada's development as explorers, educators, businessmen, politicians, writers and artists. The Scots are among the first Europeans to establish themselves in Canada and are the third largest ethnic group in the country. In the 2016 Census of Canada, a total of 4,799,005 Canadians, or 14 per cent of the population, listed themselves as being of Scottish origin (single and multiple responses).

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Doukhobors

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.

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Chinese Canadians

Chinese Canadians are one of the largest ethnic groups in the country. In the 2016 census, 1.8 million people reported being of Chinese origin. Despite their importance to the Canadian economy, including the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), many European Canadians were historically hostile to Chinese immigration. A prohibitive head tax restricted Chinese immigration to Canada from 1885 to 1923. From 1923 to 1947, the Chinese were excluded altogether from immigrating to Canada.

Since 1900, Chinese Canadians have settled primarily in urban areas, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto. They have contributed to every aspect of Canadian society, from literature to sports, politics to civil rights, film to music, business to philanthropy, and education to religion.

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Russell Peters

Russell Dominic Peters, comedian, actor (born September 29, 1970 in Toronto, ON). Russell Peters is one of the most successful comedians in the world. His trademark politically incorrect humour confronts racial stereotypes and draws upon his experience as an Indo-Canadian. His struggles to break through in the United States, combined with his record-breaking success virtually everywhere else, led Chris Rock to call him the “most famous person nobody’s ever heard of.” Peters was named Toronto’s first Global Ambassador in 2008 and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2011. Forbes magazine has listed him among the world’s highest-earning comedians numerous times since 2009.

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Fenian Raids

​The Fenians were a secret society of Irish patriots who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. Some North American members of this movement were intent on taking Canada by force and exchanging it with Britain for Irish independence. From 1866 to 1871 the Fenians launched a series of small, armed incursions of Canada, each of which was put down by government forces — at the cost of dozens killed and wounded on both sides.

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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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Lilly Singh

Lilly Saini Singh, actor, comedian, author, television host (born 26 September 1988 in Scarborough, ON). Internet personality Lilly Singh has amassed nearly 15 million subscribers and more than 3 billion views since launching her popular channel of YouTube videos under the name IISuperwomanII in 2010. She has since appeared as an actor in films and TV series and published the book How To Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life (2017), which topped the New York Times Business Best Sellers list. In 2017, she ranked No. 10 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid YouTube stars and won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite YouTube Star. In 2019, NBC announced that Singh would be the host of a new late-night talk show premiering in September of that year called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. She is an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate and came out as bisexual in 2019.

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Albert Jackson

Albert Jackson, letter carrier (born c. 1857–58 in Delaware; died 14 January 1918 in Toronto , ON). Albert Jackson is thought to be the first Black letter carrier in Canada (see Postal System). Jackson was born into enslavement in the United States, and escaped to Canada with his mother and siblings when he was a toddler in 1858. In 1882, Jackson was hired as a letter carrier in Toronto, but his co-workers refused to train him on the job. While his story was debated in the press for weeks, the Black community in Toronto organized in support of Jackson, meeting with Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to have Jackson reinstated. Jackson returned to his post days later and served as a letter carrier for almost 36 years.

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Jully Black

Jully Ann Inderia Gordon, singer, songwriter, actor, TV personality (born 8 November 1977 in Toronto, ON). Known as “Canada’s Queen of R&B,” Jully Black is an award-winning R&B and soul singer-songwriter. In 2013, CBC Music named her one of the 25 Greatest Canadian Singers Ever. Her rich and soulful alto voice has garnered comparisons to Tina Turner and Amy Winehouse. Her album Revival (2007) was certified gold in Canada and won the Juno Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. She has written songs for Destiny’s Child, Nas, Sean Paul and Missy Elliott, among others, and started her own recording, management and publishing company. Black has appeared on stage in productions of trey anthony’s play Da Kink in My Hair and Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Caroline, or Change. She is also a popular television host and panel guest. 

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Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC, judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster (born in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India). Shergill spent 26 years practising law before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was the first turbaned Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in Canada.

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Douglas Jung

Douglas Jung, CM, OBC, politician, lawyer, soldier (born 25 February 1924 in Victoria, BC; died 4 January 2002 in Vancouver, BC). Douglas Jung was a member of Force 136, a group of Chinese Canadian soldiers who fought behind enemy lines in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War. After the war, Jung became a lawyer in British Columbia and was the first Chinese Canadian lawyer to appear before the BC Court of Appeal in 1955. On 10 June 1957, Douglas Jung was elected as the first Chinese Canadian member of Parliament.