Social Issues

The issues that affect people’s lives and interactions are sometimes political, sometimes economic and, often, a combination of the two. Broadly termed, these “social issues”, are controversial and generate strong and diverse opinions. The 100 years of this exhibit (1845 – 1945) saw many complicated and divisive topics come to light. From a “colony” struggling for responsible self-government to waves of immigration that helped to populate the new country; from railways that created supply lines and provided access to remote communities to telecommunications that made information to and from those places available and immediate - Canada was a hotbed of change and ready for reform.

The industrial revolution brought with it the mechanization of processes and the industrialization of manufacturing. As a burgeoning country with new geographical relationships to foster, Canada needed to find ways to compete and to succeed for the good of the nation and of her people. And, as each of the World Wars’ effects were felt, this industrialization became more firmly entrenched in Canadian business and life.

Another critically important factor in these 100 years, was the changing role of women. From suffragists struggling for acknowledgement of “personhood” to innovators with careers in medicine, politics, religion and business, women played vital and pivotal roles throughout the creation and history of Canada.

But by far the most compelling social issue at this time and even to the present, was the Canadian response to the country's indigenous people. In an effort to quash the indigenous way of life, political leaders created the residential school system and attempted to remove cultural and spiritual understanding and practice, as well as language, from the First Nations people. This had a disastrous impact on indigenous people and on Canadian society as a whole, the effects of which are still being felt today.