Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
Introduction Objects Photos & Papers Themes Kids & Teachers

Arts and Crafts

* Canada's first art organization was the Halifax Chess, Pencil and Brush Club (1787-1817). A host of British army officers, trained also as artists and surveyors to record the lands they were posted to, sketched and painted hundreds of Canadian scenes. The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Canada were both established in 1880, but their emphasis was on fine art, leaving decorative and applied forms largely out in the cold.

** Not to be overlooked are the works in glass, leather, iron, brass or copper that stem from crafts practised in the homelands by immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. These works are now sought by Canadian manufacturers who are attempting to replicate such decorative, practical items for the mass consumer market. Vases, purses, brooches, shoes, trays - the list is endless.


** Today, Canada's Food Guide recommends a careful daily balance between grain products (5-12 servings), vegetables and fruit (5-10), milk products (2-4), and meat and alternatives (2-3). Source: Health Canada, 2004.

*** Pemmican is a dense high-energy portable food made from dry bison meat ground into a powder, then mixed with hot fat from that animal and crushed berries (often Saskatoon) to relieve the taste. The technique for making pemmican is illustrated in the Métis exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Canada Hall). One might think of pemmican as the granola or trail mix of the nation's early frontiers.

**** In the 1920s, workers on a green chain (lifting/sorting lumber) in British Columbia would burn upwards of 4,000 calories in an eight-hour shift. Average adult males in, say, offices or light delivery jobs today can expect to expend 2,400 calories every 24 hours, and women doing similar work, 1,800 (Canada Hall research, 2002).


* Some languages, like Algonquian, Athapascan and Inuktitut, are very widespread. Others, such as Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian and Wakashan, are confined to narrow stretches of the west coast.

** Parliament passed the Official Languages Act in 1969. It made French and English equal in all federal departments and agencies, and created bilingual districts anywhere in Canada where the minority accounted for at least 10% of the population. In such locations, all federal services became available in both official languages.

*** People from numerous linguistic backgrounds are expected to learn either French or English when deciding to reside in Canada. By 2001, for example, there were at least 20 European nations in which 1,000 or more residents of Canada had been born. Five countries - the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Germany and Portugal - were the motherlands of at least 200,000 people who immigrated to Canada. A similar pattern existed for Asian newcomers. In descending order, but still contributors of 200,000 or more, were China, India, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Vietnam. See also Table 4. Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2004.

Traditional Medicines

* The Irish potato famine of the 1840s forced over 90,000 people to migrate to Canada. In one sailing ship, on a 68-day passage from Liverpool to Quebec, 158 of the 476 steerage passengers (33%) died of cholera.

** The 1880s were noted for the rise in medicine shows, where "doctors" would lure people into purchasing bottles of liquid medicine (mostly alcohol-laced concoctions) "guaranteed" to cure countless ailments. Indeed, the most popular patent medicine of 1899 in Canada was Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People. Few folk medicines, quacks or sorcerers could compete with faith healing, however. Perhaps the most famous, and certainly most lasting, location for miraculous cures is Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, just east of Quebec City.

*** Strangers within Our Gates (1909), a book written by Rev. J. S. Woodsworth, focuses on Winnipeg's north end, revealing the very serious effects of urban poverty and isolation among tens of thousands of newly arrived Poles and members of other ethnic groups.

**** In 1957, Parliament passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act. Ten years later, it provided for physician and diagnostic services with the National Medical Care Insurance Act (Medicare). These were in essence joint agreements between the federal and provincial governments setting out standards for cross-country health care, as well as the methods and means of payment.

***** Nuns usually performed the duties of apothecaries and cleaners (excellently portrayed in the Canada Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization). Much of their pharmacopoeia came from Aboriginal sources and native plants. Between 1710 and 1750, there were official attempts to drive out people who were medically incompetent by introducing licensing and examinations for doctors. Fortunately for Canadians, bloodletting, lancing and evacuations (the most common treatments of the time) are much less common today. Nor shall they miss the tonics, or the use of lances, probes, saws, scissors and knives without anaesthesia.


* The U.S.A.'s big band era of the 1930s-1950s, its early years of rock and roll (1950s-1970s), and country music's heyday (1970s-1990s) greatly affected Canadian listeners and performers. Examples of the latter in those respective periods were Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians; Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman, leaders of The Guess Who; and singers Anne Murray and Shania Twain, who have become international stars.

** Father Bereave translated Jesus, He Is Born into Huron. Today it is known as the Huron Carol, and is sung by countless students and choirs each Christmas in Canada.

*** In 1956, for example, at the age of 23, Gould recorded Bach's Goldberg Variations. The quality and emotion of his interpretation have yet to be equalled.