Top List of Events in Canada’s Social and Cultural Evolution

There have been important social and cultural events throughout Canadian history. A good starting point of the list would be the development of craft unions in some cities in Canada. This happened in the period between 1820 and 1830. Before this time, the social and cultural situation in the country was markedly conservative, and there were few mechanisms in place to protect workers and employees. The trade union movement also developed in Canada between 1850 and 1900. The Ontario Workman, a labor newspaper, was founded in 1872. The newspaper echoed the Enlightenment ideals of Rousseau, stating that cooperation was a cornerstone, which had shone upon humanity through the progress of intelligence. He believed that cooperation would supersede the serf system in time. During the 1880s, the organization Knights of Labor, founded in the United States, started to spread across Canada. It was the largest and most important American labor organization at the time. The Knights supported labor rights, rejected socialism, and promoted an eight-hour workday. The Knights also supported the cultural and social uplift of workers and rejected radicalism. They called for the adoption of legislation to end convict and child labor. The organization had around 700,000 members in 1886, but their numbers gradually decreased until the union closed in 1949.

Not all was well during the 1880s and 90s. Some important labor newspapers, like that of labor journalist T. P. Thompson closed because the most avid of readers turned to commercial newspapers. This happened in 1891. Events like this came to herald the coming of a new, somber age. Thankfully, economic prosperity in Canada surged during the Second World War. Government policies came to encompass social welfare, universal health care, seniors’ pensions, and veterans' pensions. On the downside, women were forced back into the home. Armed forces’ divisions were disbanded after the end of the war, and women would not serve in the Army again for a long period of time. Policies like free childcare and tax reductions were repealed in an effort to encourage women to go back home. The government passed an act ensuring a family allowance to help families and gave a financial bonus to parents of children under 16 years of age.

Women’s suffrage is another important issue when it comes to Canada’s social and cultural revolution. Unmarried women and widows were given the right to vote in 1884 in Ontario. They could vote in municipal elections only. This was a limited suffrage, which was extended in other provinces. It was not until 1916 when a bill was passed in Manitoba. Women were granted a limited right to vote in federal elections in 1917. Women who had relatives serving in the army and were British subjects could vote, but only on behalf of close male relatives. The Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women extended the right to vote to all women in 1919. All provinces granted women the right to vote, except for Quebec where this happened in 1940. The first woman to be elected to Parliament was Agnes Macphail (1921). She was one of the first women who were elected to the Legislative Assembly in Ontario and the first woman in the Canadian House of Commons.

Although not as blatant as in the United States and Australia, Canada is also a little guilty when it comes to policies toward Native American populations. During the Cold War, the Canadian government made some efforts to assert sovereignty in the High Arctic geographic region, but this area was populated by the Inuit at the time. These populations were displaced to Cornwallis Island, Nunavut, where they were promised game and homes, but neither was provided. Eventually they learned to sustain themselves by hunting beluga whales. In this region, the sun did not rise for weeks on end in winter and did not set for weeks in summer.