Browse "Communities & Sociology"

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Bessie Starkman

Besha (Bessie) Starkman (Perri), organized crime boss (born 14 April 1889 or 21 June 1890 in Poland; died 13 August 1930 in Hamilton, ON). During the Prohibition era she became known as Canada’s first high-profile female crime boss. With her common-law spouse, mobster Rocco Perri, she ran a bootlegging and drug-smuggling enterprise. Starkman was gunned down in the garage of her home and her murderers were never caught. Her funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Hamilton.

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Bishop Emile Grouard

Monseigneur Émile Grouard was energetic and inventive, having steamboats built on the Peace, Slave and Athabasca rivers. He was also respected by the Indigenous peoples of his diocese, and came to learn the Cree, Denesuline (Chipewyan) and Dane-zaa (Beaver) languages.

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Black Canadians

Black people have lived in Canada since the beginnings of transatlantic settlement. Although historically very few have arrived directly from their ancestral homeland in the continent of Africa, the term "African Canadian" became increasingly popular in the 1990s to identify all descendants of Africa regardless of their place of birth.

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Black Cross Nurses in Canada

The Black Cross Nurses (BCN) is an auxiliary group intended for female members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The BCN was modeled on the nurses of the Red Cross. Its first chapter was launched in Philadelphia in May 1920. Under the leadership of Henrietta Vinton Davis, the BCN quickly became one of the UNIA’s most popular and iconic auxiliary groups. Offering a safe and inviting place for the Black community, UNIA halls became important cultural hubs in many cities and towns across Canada, where BCN divisions were also established. Although they were not professionally trained nurses, members of the BCN were expected to provide care and advice on matters of health and hygiene.

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Black Enslavement in Canada

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. The buying, selling and enslavement of Black people was practiced by European traders and colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834. During that two-century period, settlers in what would eventually become Canada were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Canada is further linked to the institution of enslavement through its history of international trade. Products such as salted cod and timber were exchanged for slave-produced goods such as rum, molasses, tobacco and sugar from slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean. 

This is the full-length entry about Black enslavement in Canada. For a plain language summary, please see Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain Language Summary).

(See also Olivier Le Jeune; Sir David KirkeChloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Underground Railroad; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slavery Abolition Act, 1833Slavery of Indigenous People in Canada.)

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Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The practice of slavery was introduced by colonists in New France in the early 1600s. The practice was continued after the British took control of New France in 1760 (see British North America.) For about two hundred years, thousands of Indigenous and Black African people were bought, sold, traded and inherited like property in early Canada. Slavery was abolished (made illegal) throughout British North America in 1834.

(This article is a plain-language summary of slavery in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry on Black Enslavement in Canada.)

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Black Fur Traders in Canada

The role of Black people within the history of the fur trade is rarely considered. Black people were rarely in a position to write their own stories, so often those stories went untold. This owes to a complex set of factors including racism and limited access to literacy. Black people are also not the focus of many historical documents. However, historians have identified several Black fur traders working in different roles, and even an entire family of Black fur traders who left their mark on history.

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Black Volunteers in the First World War

Archivist Barbara M. Wilson explores the significance of a letter sent to Sir Sam Hughes by George Morton, a letter carrier, barber and civil rights advocate from Hamilton, Ontario. In his letter, dated 7 September 1915, Morton asked the minister of militia and defence why members of the Black community were being turned away when trying to enlist for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

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Black Voting Rights in Canada

The history of Black Canadian voting rights is marked by contrasting shifts. Enslaved during the period 1600–1834, Black persons could not vote. Emancipated, they were entitled to the rights, freedoms and privileges enjoyed by British subjects, including the franchise; however, racial discrimination did at times impede Black Canadians’ right to vote. The rights and freedoms of Black women were further restricted by virtue of their sex.

Black communities in Canada represent an array of experiences, below are some that relate to the right to vote.

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Blackfoot Confederacy

The Blackfoot Confederacy, sometimes referred to as the Blackfoot Nation or Siksikaitsitapi, is comprised of three Indigenous nations, the Kainai, Piikani and Siksika. People of the Blackfoot Nation refer to themselves as Niitsitapi, meaning “the real people,” a generic term for all Indigenous people, or Siksikaitsitapi, meaning “Blackfoot-speaking real people.” The Confederacy’s traditional territory spans parts of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as northern Montana. In the 2016 census, 22,490 people identified as having Blackfoot ancestry.

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Brethren in Christ

Brethren in Christ (identified as "Tunkers" in Canada in the 19th century) were a group of Christians who shared the Anabaptist belief in adult baptism.

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Brothers of the Christian Schools

The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools is a Catholic religious order founded by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle in France in 1680. In Canada, members are generally referred to as Christian Brothers or De La Salle Brothers. They are not to be confused with the Congregation of Christian Brothers who were founded by Edmund Rice in Ireland in 1802 and whose members in Canada were also called Christian Brothers or Irish Christian Brothers. The Brothers of the Christian Schools were a major force in Catholic education in Canada, especially in Quebec. They first arrived in Montreal in 1837, then experienced numeric growth, geographic expansion and a solid reputation over the next 125 years. The Brothers underwent a significant exodus and decline in vocations with the dramatic religious and social changes spawned by the Second Vatican Council and the Quiet Revolution.

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Buckam Singh and Sikh Canadians in the First World War

Buckam Singh, labourer, soldier (born 5 December 1893 in Mahilpur, Punjab, India; died 27 August 1919 in Kitchener, ON). There is little information published about the role of Sikhs in Canadian military service during the First World War. The discovery of Buckam Singh’s Victory Medal led to his reclamation by his community, which commemorates him with an annual Remembrance Day service

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Byelorussian Canadians

Byelorussians (Byelarussians, Belarusians) are an eastern Slavic people. From 1922 to 1991 Byelorussia was a constituent republic of the USSR. In the 13th century, Byelorussian lands formed part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

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Cabbagetown

Cabbagetown, a district in east-central Toronto, the general boundaries of which are the Don River on the east, Parliament St on the west, Gerrard St on the north, and Queen St on the south.

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Calvin Ruck

Calvin Woodrow Ruck, CM, senator, social workerhuman rights activist, author (born 4 September 1925 in Sydney, NS; died 19 October 2004 in Ottawa, ON). Ruck took leading roles in the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the NS Association of Social Workers, and the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia. He was the third Black Canadian appointed to the Senate.

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Cambodian or Khmer Canadians

Immigration of Cambodians to Canada is relatively recent. From 1980 to 1992, Canada welcomed more than 18,000 Cambodia refugees who were fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime. They settled in Canada’s major urban areas. In the 2016 Census, 38,490 people reported being of Cambodian ethnic origin. Over the years since Cambodians began immigrating to Canada, many Cambodian Canadians have become distinguished in their fields; examples include actress Ellen Wong, journalist Chan Tep and graffiti artist FONKi.