Faked, forged and counterfeit stamps at Library and Archives Canada

By James Bone

You probably know that Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive number of postage stamps in its collections, but did you know that we also have a large number of faked, forged and counterfeit stamps?

The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but technically, a fake is an unofficial (not genuine) item, a forgery is a genuine item that has been altered unlawfully, and a counterfeit is a copy of a genuine item. Fakes, forgeries and counterfeits are made for various purposes, including defrauding the postal authority of revenue, tricking collectors who are eager to get a rarity at a too-good-to-be-true price, or succeeding in the intrinsic challenge of producing a convincing imitation. Within philately (the study of postage stamps and their uses), the intentional collection and study of fakes, forgeries and counterfeits helps to ensure that collectors are not being deceived.

Sometimes a counterfeit is easy to spot when placed beside the genuine article. Compare these two stamps from pre-Confederation Prince Edward Island depicting Queen Victoria. It should be obvious which is real and which is not (the one on the left, which has a portrait that is clearly of inferior quality).

A counterfeit beside a genuine Prince Edward Island Postage stamp, each with a portrait of Queen Victoria.

A counterfeit and a genuine Prince Edward Island Postage stamp featuring Queen Victoria (e001219314 and e001219313)

Often it is much more difficult to detect a fake, forgery or counterfeit, and some stamp collectors enthusiastically seek the challenge of finding fraudulent stamps. Three of the main collections with stamps of dubious provenance are the Rowcliffe F. Wrigley collection (R4595), the André Frodel collection (R3759) and the E.A. Smythies fonds (R3853). Each collection holds curiosities for philatelic researchers and collectors.

Rowcliffe “Roy” Wrigley (1885–uncertain) began collecting stamps as a child at age 10. He later became well known for publishing catalogues for collectors of postage stamps used by government departments, characterized by their perforation with the initials OHMS (On His Majesty’s Service) or overprinted with the letter G. Through unknown circumstances, Wrigley came to possess thousands of stamps with forged OHMS perforations: genuine stamps that had been carefully perforated with OHMS to deceive collectors. The problem for Wrigley was that he was also a well-known dealer of OHMS stamps; as a result, the Vancouver detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took an interest in his activities. Though Wrigley was never proven in court to have done anything wrong, he agreed to transfer the collection by way of the RCMP to the former National Postal Museum, which defaced all of his stamps with a “counterfeit” mark.

Three one-cent Canada Postage stamps, each with a portrait of King George V, maple leaves and crowns, and forged OHMS perforations.

Canada Postage stamps featuring King George V, with forged OHMS perforations (MIKAN 164142). Photo: James Bone

The man who became known as André Frodel in Canada began his life as Andrzej Frodel, born in 1890 to a Polish family in Lviv, then part of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and now part of Ukraine. He worked at the Hungarian State Bank Note Company in the interwar years, during which he learned about lithographic printing processes and postage stamp paper stock. He joined the Polish Armed Forces fighting alongside the Western Allies during the Second World War. Frodel was resettled in Canada thereafter with a grant of farmland in Alberta. Within a few years, the farm had failed, and Frodel moved to British Columbia. Making use of his knowledge of printing, inks and stamps, he began to experiment in the creation of counterfeit stamps. As best we know, Frodel had no ill intentions and wanted only to demonstrate his skill, but in time those who acquired his works took the opportunity to resell them as genuine. A striking example is his counterfeit of Canada’s most famous stamp error: the St. Lawrence Seaway invert of 1959. The genuine error sells for more than $10,000, with a well-established number of copies in existence.

A counterfeit beside a genuine five-cent Canada Postage stamp, each with the St. Lawrence Seaway inverted centre error, including a maple leaf and an eagle.

A counterfeit and a genuine Canada Postage stamp featuring the St. Lawrence Seaway, with the inverted centre error (e010784418 and s002662k)

Frodel also made a type of fake stamp known as a fantasy: something that does not exist in genuine form but looks like it could.

A fantasy (fake) four-cent United States Postage stamp, with the St. Lawrence Seaway invert, including a maple leaf and an eagle.

A fantasy (fake) United States Postage stamp featuring the St. Lawrence Seaway, with invert, by André Frodel (e010784431)

Frodel died in poverty in 1963. At the time of his death, he lived as boarder under Lieutenant Colonel Frederick E. Eaton, who owned a stamp shop and was a stamp dealer for whom Frodel was probably making counterfeits and forgeries. Eaton likely had others working to produce materials for him to sell as genuine. Eventually, the RCMP began investigating Eaton and his shop. As with Wrigley, Eaton donated his fraudulent stamps to the National Postal Museum, but in doing so he appears to have falsely attributed all of them to Frodel, who being dead made for an excellent scapegoat. Many of these items were marked on the verso as being forgeries by Frodel to misdirect authorities and philatelic researchers.

A forgery beside a genuine five-cent Canada Postage War Tax overprint revenue stamp, each with a portrait of King George V, maple leaves and crowns.

A forged and a genuine Canada Postage War Tax overprint revenue stamp featuring King George V (e010783309 and s001014k)

Evelyn Arthur Smythies was born in 1885 of British parents in India and was later educated at the University of Oxford. Although he never lived in Canada, his wide-ranging philatelic collecting interests included a strong focus on the stamps of British North America. Smythies collected some of the highest-quality known fakes, forgeries and counterfeits. He spent years studying the details of different fakes, forgeries and counterfeits to identify their creators, but research ongoing to this day has questioned his attributions. Smythies died in 1975. Material from the E.A. Smythies collection is featured in our Unexpected! Surprising Treasures From Library and Archives Canada exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, until November 26, 2023.

A counterfeit beside a genuine six-pence New Brunswick Postage stamp, each with flowers and crowns.

A counterfeit and a genuine New Brunswick Postage stamp (e001219080 and e001219065)

The cat-and-mouse game of making and detecting fakes, forgeries and counterfeit stamps is still ongoing, both for users of the postal system and for collectors. In recent years, one expert consultant for Canada Post estimated that counterfeit stamps defraud the postal system of millions of dollars annually. For collectors, the risk of unknowingly purchasing fraudulent stamps is mitigated by authentication services: items are submitted to a committee of experts who specialize in identifying the false from the genuine articles. By maintaining a collection of known faked, forged and counterfeit stamps, Library and Archives Canada is able to assist in this highly specialized field.

Additional resources

James Bone is a philatelic and art archivist in the Visual and Sound Archives section at Library and Archives Canada.

Origins of Cree syllabics

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

This blog is part of our Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada series. To read this blog post in Cree syllabics and Standard Roman Orthography, visit the e-book.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.

By Samara mîkiwin Harp

Mixed-media artwork. In the centre is a rectangular black-and-white photograph depicting two rows of First Nations children seated and standing in front of a brick building. The photograph is overlaid on a background that is organized into vertical bands on both sides with horizontal bands that run across the top and bottom. The bands are mostly shades of purple, red and blue, and at the top, each has layers of multi-coloured curvilinear and angled lines that look like pencil crayons. There is a black band with white syllabics text running across the top of the photograph, and on the lower-right corner there is a small white rectangular form with black handwriting in English.

If Only We Could Have Our Stories Told, by Jane Ash Poitras, 2004 (e010675581)

This mixed-media work by Cree artist Jane Ash Poitras features a group of children at residential school awaiting the missionaries’ teachings. Church and Crown purposefully disregarded our teachings and stories in an effort to assimilate us. “If only we could have our stories told” expresses the desire of our people to reclaim our language and culture that were taken from us.

“In all the oral accounts of the origins of the Cree syllabary it was told that the missionaries learned Cree syllabics from the Cree. In the [Wes] Fineday account Badger Call was told by the spirits that the missionaries would change the script and claim that the writing belonged to them.” [Please note that in the literature on the subject, Badger Call is also known as Calling Badger and Badger Voice.]

Preliminary research shows that it is generally accepted that the Reverend James Evans (1801–1846) created Cree syllabics sometime during the early 19th century. In 1828, while teaching in Anishinaabe (Ojibway) country, Evans was immersed in “Ojibway” and became proficient in the language. In August 1840, Evans was stationed at a mission in the Cree-speaking community of Norway House (in present-day Manitoba). Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) and nêhiyawêwin (the Cree language) are in the Algonquian language family and are somewhat similar in their use of sounds.

Black-and-white illustration of a group of people seated on the ground encircling a kneeling man who is recording syllabic writing on a sheet of bark on top of a large stone. Several of the seated people hold sheets of bark with syllabics. A woman is standing in the right foreground and looking toward the group. She is carrying an infant in a cradleboard on her back. There are three teepees behind the group, and a forest in the background.

James Evans recording syllabics on birch bark with a group of nêhiyawak (people of the Cree nation), unknown date, illustration in Egerton R. Young, The Apostle of the North, Rev. James Evans, New York, Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., [1899], plate between pages 190 and 191 (OCLC 3832900)

Evans worked on the development of a writing system for Ojibway for several years. It is thought that this work formed the basis for his later success in developing a Cree syllabary (a set of written characters representing the syllables of the Cree language). By October 1840, Evans had printed a Cree syllabary chart, and in November of the same year, he printed 300 copies of “Jesus, My All, to Heaven Is Gone,” a short hymnal in syllabics.

Cream-coloured page from a book with black type. It has a chart divided into a wide centre column flanked by two narrow columns. At the top of the centre column is a line with language sounds, and below it are nine rows of syllabics. The left column contains nine sets of letters from the Roman alphabet that correspond to the syllabics, while the right column contains nine sets of syllabic characters and English letters. There are two typed headings in English at the top of the page above the chart. Below the chart are three typed lines in English and syllabics. The page number is located in the centre at the bottom.

Replica of the Cree syllabary chart developed ca. 1840, published in Egerton R. Young, The Apostle of the North, Rev. James Evans, New York, Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., [1899], p. 187 (OCLC 3832900)

Cream-coloured page from a book with a combination of English and syllabics in black type. The page is filled with five numbered paragraphs, each containing four lines in syllabics. The page title is in English across the top. Just above the paragraphs are two lines in syllabics and English.

The first hymn written and printed in Cree syllabics, ca. 1840, published in Egerton R. Young, The Apostle of the North, Rev. James Evans, New York, Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., [1899], p. 193 (OCLC 3832900)

Despite his seemingly incredible skill with nêhiyawêwin, Evans required the knowledge of an interpreter, Thomas Hassall, for the duration of his time in Cree country. Hassall was a Dene man who was able to speak Dene, Cree, English and French. Tragically, Evans accidentally killed Hassall during a duck-hunting trip and, it was rumoured, Evans himself never fully recovered from Hassall’s death. By 1845, the Reverend was facing charges of sexual misconduct toward three Indigenous women and was sent back to England to answer for his crimes. According to Evans’s brother, “before leaving Norway House for England, [James Evans] burned nearly all his manuscripts.” If we are to believe this account, it is quite possible that the physical evidence to establish the creator of Cree syllabics has been lost forever.

Further research suggests that Evans conceived his ideas for the syllabary from other sources that he never credited. According to the British and Foreign Bible Society annual report in 1859, “The idea he derived from an Indian Chief.”

Additional evidence pointing to the influence of nêhiyawak (people of the Cree nation) in the creation of syllabics has also been proposed. For example, the four-directional nature of the syllabics hints at a Cree influence, as the Cree ways of knowing utilize the four directional teachings. We also find evidence in missionary reports that “hieroglyphics” were “painted upon” pieces of birch bark before the arrival of the missionaries: “It was not until Missionaries were sent among the Cree Indians, that any other mode of conveying ideas, except orally, existed; if we exclude the rude hieroglyphics painted upon large pieces of birch bark.” Furthermore, nêhiyawak were known to have used birch bark for creating birch bark bitings. Using the eye teeth, the artist bites designs into thin pieces of birch bark, creating perfectly symmetrical designs when unfolded. This ancient art form can be achieved through a wide variety of folds. A typical folding pattern starts with a square piece of bark, which is folded into a right angle, followed by a complementary-angle fold that, when completed, results in what mathematicians refer to as perfect symmetry. This pre-contact style of art uses spatial thinking and reasoning to create records of ceremony, stories, events and later beadwork patterns. Similarly, Cree syllabics can be arranged in perfect symmetry. Cree oral history says that when the syllabics were gifted to the people from the spirit world, the syllabics were on birch bark.

It is my belief that today’s syllabics are ultimately the result of collaboration between numerous Indigenous people and James Evans. However, to delve deeper into their origins, learners must enter into the world of Cree oral history. My research into oral histories available online uncovered the story of mistanâkôwêw (Calling Badger), a spiritual man from the west in the area now known as Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan. In this account, mistanâkôwêw entered the spirit world and returned with the knowledge of Cree syllabics. A similar story exists about a man named mâcîminâhtik (Hunting Rod) who lived in the east. Fortunately, there are some recordings by Winona Wheeler and Wes Fineday, available online through the CBC, which discuss the Cree origin stories on syllabics.

Additional Resources

Samara mîkiwin Harp was an archivist with the Listen, Hear Our Voices initiative at Library and Archives Canada. She now works in Woods Cree language revitalization and is further pursuing archival studies. Samara grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with Cree roots in both the Southend and Pelican Narrows areas of Treaty 6 in northern Saskatchewan. The first of her father’s family arrived in Ontario in the 1800s from Ireland and England.

Black porters’ voices and stories: the Stanley Grizzle interview collection

By Stacey Zembrzycki

This article contains historical language and content that some may consider offensive, such as language used to refer to racial, ethnic and cultural groups. Please see our historical language advisory for more information.

The history of the railway in Canada is often narrated in a celebratory manner. It is seen as having united the country from coast to coast, with the last spike coming to symbolize the fruition of Confederation. And yet, this history is deeply rooted in the dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands and territories, the exploitation of Chinese migrant labourers, and the discriminatory labour practices experienced by Black sleeping car porters. The Stanley Grizzle interview collection, which consists of interviews with 35 men and 8 women who were either porters or had loved ones who worked the rails, offers a different account of the railway. The collection is exceptional because of its ability to bring us deep inside this history. It tells it from a new perspective that places Black Canadian and Black migrant labourers’ voices, as well as the stories of the racism that they experienced while employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), at its centre. These interviews also offer glimpses into the Depression, the Second World War, the struggle to unionize porters, the creation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) and its Ladies’ Auxiliary, and ultimately what life was like inside Black communities across the country. The difficult narratives in this collection speak to the strength and resilience of those who have long been discriminated against simply because of the colour of their skin.

A painted head-and-shoulders portrait showing an older Black man dressed in judge’s robes and a crisp white shirt. His black robes are embellished with a burgundy sash. The man, who looks directly at the viewer, has short grey hair and a grey moustache.

Portrait of Citizenship Judge Stanley Grizzle by William J. Stapleton (c151473k)

In 1986 and 1987, Stanley Grizzle travelled across the country, to the CPR’s major junction points of Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. There, he documented the experiences of those who were born in the first two decades of the 20th century and went on, in most cases, to have long and storied careers as porters. Grizzle was himself a porter for 20 years, as well as a labour union activist, political candidate, civil servant and citizenship judge. The narratives that he collected informed his 1998 memoir, My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada, Personal Reminiscences of Stanley G. Grizzle.

Portering was not a profession of choice. It was one of the only employment options available to Black men in the 1950s and 1960s. As Torontonian Leonard Oscar Johnston recounted:

I applied for jobs, but I was refused because of colour. Well, actually they called me “n….” And I remember one day, I walked from Jane and Bloor to River Street, along King Street, lookin’ for a job as a—I was a machinist. I had a couple of years machine shop, and I was told to shine shoes. Yeah. Now that’s 50, 60 years ago, but—and I decided, “Okay, I’ll shine shoes.” So, I went down the CPR.
(Interview 417394)

For others, being a porter was a way to escape the racial violence of the Deep South or to make a better life for themselves after leaving the Caribbean. Many of these migrant labourers were either university educated or held trade specializations but still could not find jobs in Canada. In desperation, they responded to CPR advertisements and recruitment campaigns, becoming porters. Some men stayed for 10 years, moving to other sectors once they opened up. Others remained for up to 40 years, to collect the pensions they earned for their service.

A crowd of people disembark from a train as railway employees and porters help them with their luggage.

Railway porters help passengers to disembark at a railway station (a058321)

These men were responsible for greeting rail passengers and attending to their every need while in transit. Prior to the creation of the BSCP, which ratified its first collective agreement in 1945, it was typical for porters to be on the road for three to four weeks at a time. While away from their families and communities, porters worked 21-hour days. They were permitted to sleep on the leather sofas in the smoking cars beside the bathrooms for just three hours a night, but only when all of their tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms, shining shoes, making beds, counting linens and attending to passengers’ needs, had been completed. The CPR also monitored porters’ time while on layovers, requiring them to report to the main stations daily, where they were forced to relay their activities and movements. For this work, the CPR paid porters a monthly salary of $75. This flat rate, coupled with the absence of overtime pay, meant that tips were the only way to survive.

The men, many of whom had knowledge of or experience working in other unions, knew that their situation could be improved only through unionization. They aligned themselves with famed American labour unionist, civil rights activist and organizer of the BSCP, A. Philip Randolph. The gains in their first collective agreement not only improved the lives of the men, leading to salary increases, overtime pay, assigned sleeping berths and decent meals, but also those of their families. Upward mobility, signified by purchasing homes, moving to the suburbs, and accessing higher education, were key developments that followed. The interviews in this collection describe the struggles to organize union locals across the country. They also depict the people, including the women participating in the Ladies’ Auxiliary, who made these efforts possible.

The experiences of the porters are still difficult to hear, but the interviews are fascinating, bringing us deep into the world of what Melvin Crump referred to as “porter talk” (Interview 417403). Namely, they give listeners the ability to view these experiences as the porters once did. We hear these men seamlessly move beyond the racism and discrimination that they experienced, spinning their everyday encounters into learning opportunities where fun could be had and power could be taken back. George Forray’s reflections were similar to those of others who recognized the systemic racism they faced:

“Well, I found it quite an education. I found it an education which I couldn’t have got at no university. An education in, uh, all the, uh, practically that we can say the facts of life all through and something I couldn’t have bought or earned or been taught, except when I went experienced it myself.”
(Interview 417383)

At heart, the Stanley Grizzle interview collection preserves voices and stories of survival. It tells us how porters viewed their passengers, themselves, and ultimately the world that worked so hard to beat them down.

Additional resources
My Name’s Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada, Personal Reminiscences of Stanley G. Grizzle by Stanley G. Grizzle with John Cooper (OCLC 1036052571)
• “Chapter 3: The Black City below the Hill,” in Deindustrializing Montreal: Entangled Histories of Race, Residence, and Class by Steven High, pp. 92–128 (OCLC 1274199219)
Unsettling the Great White North: Black Canadian History by Michelle A. Johnson and Funké Aladejebi, eds. (OCLC 1242464894)
North of the Color Line: Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870–1955 by Sarah-Jane Mathieu (OCLC 607975641)
The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr (OCLC 1302576764)

Stacey Zembrzycki is an award-winning oral and public historian of immigrant, ethnic and refugee experiences. She is currently doing research for Library and Archives Canada.

Douglass Day featuring Mary Ann Shadd Cary – a Co-Lab challenge

Born around 1818 as an enslaved person, Frederick Douglass became a leader in the abolitionist movement in the United States. A prolific writer and a masterful speaker who captivated audiences throughout the U.S. and Great Britain, Frederick Douglass contributed to the rise of antislavery sentiment. He is widely considered the most influential civil and human rights advocate of the 19th century.

Like many enslaved people, Douglass never knew his birthdate. He chose to celebrate every year on February 14. In recognition of his birthday and to honour his legacy, Douglass Day is an annual celebration that highlights resources for learning about Black history and makes them more available. Douglass Day focusses frequently on important Black women’s archives. In 2023, the day will highlight the archives of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a teacher, journalist, lawyer and activist who worked on both sides of the border, and made history when she became the first Black woman in North America to start and publish a newspaper.

A black-and-white photograph of a Black woman looking towards the camera.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (c029977)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born free in the slave state of Delaware in 1823. Her parents, Abraham and Harriet Parnell Shadd, were abolitionists, and their home was a station on the Underground Railroad. In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which compelled Americans to assist in the capture of runaway slaves and levied heavy penalties on those who did not comply. Shadd Cary and her family moved to Canada West (known today as Ontario) in 1851, where she opened a school in Windsor catering to the area’s growing fugitive slave population.

Following her move to Windsor, Shadd Cary gained prominence as an important figure and influential leader within several antislavery societies. In 1853, Shadd Cary was actively involved in founding the weekly newspaper The Provincial Freeman, in which she published content that advocated for equality, integration, and self-education of Black people in Canada and the United States, and promoted emigration to Canada. Shadd Cary continued in her role as a schoolteacher in Chatham, Ontario, and in 1862 became a naturalized citizen of Canada West during the first years of the American Civil War, but returned to the United States thereafter.

A two-tone legal-sized document with print and handwritten text.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s naturalization certificate (e000000725)

Having later moved to Washington, D.C., Mary Ann Shadd Cary pursued law at Howard University, where she reached another historic milestone in 1883 by becoming the second Black woman in the United States to earn a law degree. During this time, she continued to participate in both civil and equal rights movements in the United States, returning to Canada only briefly, to organize a suffragist rally in 1881.

A document with handwritten and text portions, with a crest along with the letter “A” and the number “128” at the top.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s passport (e011536884-004)

LAC received the collection of original material relating to Mary Ann Shadd Cary in 1960 and 1964 from her granddaughter Muriel E. Thompson. This donation included correspondence between Shadd Cary’s family members, her naturalization certificate for Canada West, her passport for the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec), as well as portions of an edition of The Pioneer Press, published in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Most significantly, however, this donation included the only known photograph of Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s archives are found not only at Library and Archives Canada, but also at the Archives of Ontario and Howard University in Washington. This year, Douglass Day will feature virtual and local events to help transcribe, read and teach the papers of Mary Ann Shadd Cary held at LAC and the Archives of Ontario. At the centre of the celebration will be a crowdsourcing transcription project called a transcribe-a-thon. During this event, thousands of participants will transcribe the digitized collections. Once their work is complete, this fascinating and important material will be accessible to researchers around the world.

We invite you to use our Co-Lab tool to transcribe, tag, translate and describe the digitized records that are part of this challenge. You can also make contributions to any image through our Collection Search tool.

Kimutset Labradorimi

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

This blog is part of our Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada series. To read this blog post in Inuttut, visit the e-book.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.

by Jennelle Doyle

Dog sledding has remained at the core of Inuit communities since time immemorial; the use of dog sleds and dog teams is one of many reasons why Inuit are historically such good navigators of the nuna (land). Inuit learned to read the land over time, using their Kimutset (dog teams) to travel long distances, hunt, collect firewood and carry out many other tasks essential to everyday life in Labrador. Kimutset were our ambulances, our freight carriers, our food transporters and our vehicles. Without them during winter, all we had was our feet.

A Kimutsik (dog team) consists of anywhere from 2 to 12 or more Kimmet (husky dogs), depending on what is being towed. The Kimmet are tethered to a Kamutik (sled) by means of an anuk (harness), which is most often made from anuksak (usually sealskin made into harness). Today, anuksak is less commonly used, and rope or cord is favoured.

Black-and-white photograph of a group of dogs sitting on a mound of snow piled against a frame building. Horizontal slats of wood cover a window. A lone dog stands near the lower right corner.

Kimmet, Nain, Nunatsiavut (Labrador), [1920–1922]. (e011369232-023_s1)

Over sea ice, the fan-type anuk is utilized, so that the Kamutik moves more smoothly over the uneven surface. A tandem anuk, where the Kimmet pull single file, is used on occasion, usually in areas with more trees. As you can imagine, not having a Kimutsik in the past was very limiting and, in some cases, dangerous if you could not get out on the nuna/nunak for supplies or to hunt.

Although many mushers have adopted English commands for their Kimutsik, Inuttut commands are still used today. Inuttut commands are being reintroduced in some communities as Inuit highlight the importance of speaking their ancestral language in day-to-day life. Some notable commands are â! (stop!), au/auk (right), ha’ra (left), hau (come), huit! (go! or mush!) and kimmik (heel). Note the important distinction between the capitalized K and the lowercase k in the Roman orthography of Inuttut (Labrador dialect): Kimmik means dog, and kimmik means “a heel.” The two words sound different as well; the first word has an initial “h”-like sound.

Kimmet generally stay outside all year. When my great-grandmother was a child, a sled dog could commonly be seen sleeping on top of an illuk/illusuak (sod house) in aujak (summer). Today, you can find sled dogs in pens or near the sea ice. They are fed KimmiKutitsiak/KimmiKautitsak (dog food), which consists of mainly country food scraps like caribou and arctic char. Utsuk (seal fat) provides Kimmet with energy while keeping them warm in the cold months of ukiuk (winter) and giving them a nice coat.

Then and now

In the early days, settlers who came to Labrador relied heavily on Inuit sled dog guides and locals for survival. The Grenfell Mission, a medical mission in Labrador, established in the late 1800s by Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, would never have reached the majority of Labrador communities and some northern Newfoundland communities had it not been for Inuit guides and their Kimutset. This reliance is outlined in many mission diaries, though Grenfell eventually learned enough about sled dogs to have his own team.

Inuit continue to adjust to an ever-changing environment. The introduction of the snowmobile has certainly led to a decline in the number of dog teams, but you will still find Kimutsik (dog-sled team) across Inuit Nunaat/Nunangat. Dog sledding is now highly recreational, and a favourite tourist attraction in the North. This is a good thing; it supports Inuit mushers and, thus, Inuit families, cultural preservation and practice. There are also annual heritage races in some communities as well as at the Labrador Winter Games, held every three years in Happy Valley–Goose Bay for all communities in Labrador.

Black-and-white photograph of a boy walking towards the viewer in the lower right corner. There are two men on either side of a packed sled in the middle ground. Further in the distance is a group of dogs on harnesses pulling the sled. In the far distance is a large hill with patches of snow.

Inok/Inuuk (two) men with a Kimutsik heading out on the bay, Inuk boy in foreground, Nain, Nunatsiavut (Labrador), [1920–1922]. (e011369232-027_s2)


  • Anuk – harness
  • Anuksak – harness made from sealskin
  • Kamutik – sled
  • Kimmet – husky dogs (sled dogs)
  • Kimmik – husky dog (sled dog)
  • kimmik – heel (command for dogs)
  • KimmiKutitsiak/KimmiKautitsak – dog food
  • Kimutset – dog teams
  • Kimutsik – dog team
  • Utsuk – seal fat

Labrador Inuttut Dictionary

Jennelle Doyle was an archivist with the Listen, Hear Our Voices initiative at Library and Archives Canada. Jennelle grew up in Churchill Falls, Labrador, her family being from both the south coast of Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. 

Improving your online experience: How we are making digital legal deposit better for publishers, LAC and you

Image of fingers on a keyboard

By Arlene Whetter

Along with highly visible improvements to its public website and research tools, LAC is making changes behind the scenes to how it adds new digital publications to its library collection. One example is our new submission methods for digital legal deposit. Legal deposit is the way that we build our library collection of published materials. Federal laws in place since 1953 require Canadian publishers to send copies of every publication to the national library. Over the years, the law has changed to include not only printed books but also new formats entering the publishing landscape. Digital publications have been subject to legal deposit since 2007.

No one is ever surprised to hear that the growth in the number of digital publications submitted for legal deposit since 2007 has been extraordinary. Not only is almost every trade publication now available in both print and digital versions, but the number of self-publishers submitting materials for legal deposit has grown exponentially as well. The ease of online publishing and distribution via self-publishing platforms, such as Amazon, allows many more Canadians to join the ranks of published authors. To cope with the influx, we’ve developed more efficient ways to collect and process digital publications.

A white box with fields for User Name and Password and a login button. In the background are book spines of various colours.

A screen shot of the new digital legal deposit login page

Our new submission methods

In December 2021, LAC launched new online forms for low-volume submissions of digital publications, such as those from self-publishers who may have only a few books to submit. We’ll soon launch a new way for large commercial publishers to submit publications in high volumes, with hundreds of titles in a single submission. The new methods are convenient for publishers, and they allow us to acquire and catalogue the publications more quickly. The short-term impact for Canadians is that LAC can acquire more digital publications and provide timely access to them. The long-term impact is that we preserve more of Canada’s digital publishing heritage for the generations to come. We offer two types of public access: open or restricted. Access to trade publications and publications for sale is always restricted. These publications can be viewed onsite at LAC for research purposes.

To reach our goal of acquiring and providing access to more digital publications, we took a two-pronged approach. We needed to revise the submission methods and data requirements for publishers, and we needed to revise the internal processing methods for LAC staff. Our old methods, from publishers’ perspective, were simple: they transferred the files to us, either through bulk file transfer or by attaching files to a short online form. We did not request additional data such as lists of titles, author names, and ISBNs, because our systems were not set up to automatically transfer this data to our own records. After receiving the files, LAC staff would manually type all of the data into our library catalogue. We decided to develop new workflows that would take advantage of publisher-supplied data to give us a head start with catalogue records and reduce internal processing times.

Different methods for different publishers

We knew from the start of our planning process that a one-size-fits-all submission method would not work for Canadian publishers. We acquire digital publications from self-publishers, from associations, from government bodies, and of course from large commercial publishers and producers. Each type of publisher has specific needs. For example, commercial publishers create records about their publications in the form of ONIX data, the industry standard used to share information between publishers and booksellers. Since commercial publishers already have this rich source of data, it makes sense for LAC to build a workflow that can accept ONIX data and use it to create the first draft of a library catalogue record. We’re currently in the midst of the final testing for this workflow. We plan to launch it with trade publishers in 2023.

Another submission method is the one we’ve already launched for self-publishers, associations, and smaller publishers who typically do not use ONIX data. Since the efficiency of our new workflows depends on the receipt of additional data from publishers along with their publication files, we needed to develop a way for these publishers to provide the data via forms on our website. Filling in forms for every title is more time-consuming for publishers than our previous method. As a result, we thoroughly assessed our decisions at every step in the design process, looking for a happy medium that would not place a burden on publishers but would still allow us to create efficient workflows.

Spreadsheet showing columns for publisher, city, province or territory abbreviation, year of publication, language of publication, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), International Standard Music Number (ISMN) and series title.

Snapshot of spreadsheet with a red box when an error is made – a QA feature

We set up quality control functionality in the forms where possible, using drop-down boxes and rules to highlight data entry errors. We included instructions and examples that explain what information to include and how to format it. Once we had prototype forms ready for testing, we sent them out to variety of publishers and received a lot of useful feedback, which we incorporated before launching the forms last year.

Striking a balance

In the early stages of the project, we researched the methods used for digital legal deposit at every other national library we could find. We contacted many international librarians to find out more and to learn how, with hindsight, they might have done things differently. We found ideas to inspire us and gained confidence in our planned approaches. The British Library shared the data specifications for its ONIX workflow, which have been very helpful as a foundation for our own workflow.

In general, other national libraries use a variety of approaches. At one end of the spectrum, we found some that accept files without any data as we did with our previous workflow. At the other end, we found libraries with deposit requirements sufficiently complex that private companies have built niche businesses to help publishers meet their legal deposit obligations. At LAC, we set out to strike a balance between these two approaches.

The introduction of these new digital legal deposit workflows at LAC is a big improvement behind the scenes. There is no doubt that we are now more efficient. In addition, we are able to acquire and provide access to more digital material than before. We continuously monitor how publishers are using the forms and make improvements based on our experience and publisher feedback. We’re always happy to hear from publishers and encourage you to reach out to us at depotlegalnumerique-digitallegaldeposit@bac-lac.gc.ca


Arlene Whetter is the supervisor of the Digital Legal Deposit team at Library and Archives Canada.

Expect the Unexpected!

By Forrest Pass

What do Inuit mapmakers, German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, a notorious Italian stamp forger and Soviet spies have in common? Their works are all represented in the collections at Library and Archives Canada. These artifacts are also showcased in Unexpected! Surprising Treasures From Library and Archives Canada, which opens at the Canadian Museum of History on Thursday, December 8, 2022. This new exhibition gives curious visitors a chance to see, first-hand, many intriguing items that they might not expect to find at Canada’s national library and archives.

The exhibition features some 40 original documents, maps, photographs, rare books and works of art. Regular readers of this blog will know that researchers and staff are always coming across surprises in the collection. A few of the items displayed in Unexpected! are perennial favourites. Others are new finds, the never-before-exhibited results of research into the unusual stories that library and archival collections can reveal.

A handwritten document on lined paper, with some words in black ink scratched out in red ink.

A secret agent receives instructions from his handlers. The delivery of this and other Soviet espionage documents to Canadian authorities in 1945 helped to start the Cold War. (e011316511_s1)

These stories are clustered around three themes. The first, Wonders, presents artifacts that delighted or intrigued their audiences when they were created, and they continue to do so today. Visitors will discover how a manuscript composition by Beethoven ended up in Canada. They can experience an 18th-century version of virtual reality. They may also contemplate two contrasting visions of the Arctic: one, the product of an imaginative European cartographer who had never visited the region, and the other, the work of two Inuit mapmakers with deep connections to the land.

A street with pink, green and beige buildings, soldiers, a dog, and a horse and carriage.

Perspective views, like this imaginary street scene in the city of Québec, appear to be three-dimensional when viewed through a device called a zograscope. The exhibition features a reconstructed zograscope, enabling visitors to experience virtual reality, 1770s-style. (e011309357)

In the second theme, Secrets, Unexpected! explores how and why people keep secrets, and how they share secrets with those who need to know. Visitors can crack a coded love letter, ponder the rich symbolism of a centuries-old masonic ritual painting, and find out why the Dominion Archivist once mused (or “mew-sed”?) about putting cats on the government payroll.

The final theme, Mysteries, presents some unresolved puzzles. Here, visitors can pore over the contents of a UFO investigation file, or come face to face with the rare “Fool’s Cap Map,” printed in the 1500s and perhaps the most mysterious map ever created.

Two yellow stamps placed diagonally on a page. They both have a blue ink stamp.

One of these 1851 New Brunswick postage stamps is a forgery. Can you spot the fake? (e011309360 and e011309361)

The stories that these artifacts tell can be funny, thought-provoking or simply curious. What links them all is that each artifact, when you scratch beneath its surprising surface, reveals something important about the past. There are good reasons why they have found their way into the collections at Library and Archives Canada.

This is the latest in a series of exhibitions developed in partnership between Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Museum of History. As the curator for Unexpected!, I have had the privilege and pleasure of collaborating on this project with a multidisciplinary team of exhibition and collections professionals from both institutions. In addition to providing the venue, the museum has contributed creative development expertise and a scenographic approach that recalls the look and feel of mid-century mysteries and spy thrillers. The museum’s technicians also took up the challenge of constructing several interactive elements that will enhance visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the original artifacts.

Unexpected! Surprising Treasures From Library and Archives Canada is at the Canadian Museum of History until November 26, 2023. Watch this blog as well as Library and Archives Canada’s social media channels in the coming weeks and months to learn more about the astonishing treasures on display.

Forrest Pass is a curator in the Exhibitions team at Library and Archives Canada.

Dene language groups

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

This blog is part of our Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada series. To read this blog post in Denesųłiné, visit the e-book.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.

By Angela Code

The Dene (also known as Athabascan, Athabaskan, Athapascan or Athapaskan peoples) are among the largest group of Indigenous peoples in North America. Their traditional territories expand all along the northern and western regions of the continent, covering a total area of about 4,022,000 square kilometres. There are approximately 48 distinct Dene languages and various dialects. Dene, Eyak and Tlingit are subdivisions under the Na-Dene Language Family. Haida was also considered to be a part of this language family, but it is now determined to be a language isolate (not connected to other languages). In 2008, a number of linguists supported a proposal connecting Na-Dene to the Yeniseian languages of central Siberia, which further broadens the language family into Na Dene-Yeniseian.

Dene languages are categorized into three groups: Northern, Pacific Coast and Southern.

Black-and-white photograph from an elevated view showing a large group of people standing together in an elongated circular formation in the middle ground. Behind the group are four white canvas tents, and beyond the tents is a forest.

Treaty dance of members from Tłı̨chǫ (formerly Dogrib) First Nation, Behchokǫ̀ (formerly known as Rae-Edzo or Fort Rae), Northwest Territories, 1937.

The Northern Dene language group ranges across Alaska, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There are 32 Northern Dene languages: Holikachuk, Ingalik (Degxit’an/Deg Hit’an), Upper Kuskokwim, Koyukon, Tanaina (Dennina/Dena’ina), Ahtna, Tannacross, Upper Tanana, Middle Tanana, Lower Tanana, Gwich’in (Kutchin/Loucheaux), Hän, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Kaska, Tagish, Tahltan, Sekani (Tsek’ene), Beaver, Dakelth (Carrier), Shutah (Mountain), Bearlake, Hare, Tłįchǫ Yatiì (Dogrib), Northern Slavey, Southern Slavey, Dëne Sųłiné (Chipewyan), Babine-Witsuwit’en, Tŝilhqot’in (Chilcotin), Nicola, Tsetsaut and Tsuut’ina (Sarcee).

There are nine Pacific Coast Dene languages, originating in Washington, Oregon and northern California. These languages comprise Hupa (Hoopa Chilula), Mattole–Bear River, Wailaki (Eel River), Cahto, Upper Umpqua (Etnemitane), Lower Rogue River (Tututni/Coquille), Upper Rogue River (Galice-Applegate), Tolowa and Kwalhioqua-Clatskanie (Willapa).

Black-and-white photograph of a woman carrying a young boy on her back. The boy is secured by a beaded baby belt that is strapped across the woman’s shoulders. She is wearing a dark shawl with long fringe. The woman is smiling and turning her face toward the boy. Behind them is a one-storey log building with a chimney.

Caroline Kaye (née Robert) carrying her son Selwyn in a beaded baby belt, Teet’lit Zheh (also known as Fort McPherson), Northwest Territories, 1947.

There are seven Southern Dene languages spoken in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and northwestern Mexico. These languages are Navajo, Western Apache, Plains Apache, Lipan, Jicarilla, Chiricahua and Mescalero.

Additional Resources:

Angela Code worked as an archivist with the Listen, Hear Our Voices project at Library and Archives Canada.

Métis carioles and tuppies

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

This blog is part of our Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada series.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.

by William Benoit

Originally, a “cariole” referred to a horse-drawn sleigh, especially the lightweight open sleigh used in French Canada. During the era of the fur trade, dogs pulled carioles, which were important vehicles in winter that enabled the transporting of high-profile persons as well as mail, supplies and furs. These toboggan-style sleds had sides of animal hide (or canvas), and birch boards for planking.

Coloured lithograph of two men walking and one man seated in a cariole pulled by three dogs.

Hudson’s Bay Company governor travelling by dog cariole with a First Nations guide and a Métis musher, Red River, 1825. (c001940k)

Initially, the sides of a cariole were made from wet animal hide that was left to freeze over a lightweight wood frame. The cariole would keep its shape for that first winter. With the spring thaw, the owner would remove the leather and use it for something else. This practice was then repeated the following winter. In later years, the sides of carioles were decorated with painted designs.

Colour reproduction of a dog cariole arriving at a home met by a group of men, women and children.

People travelling by dog cariole to meet others for Christmas, Manitoba, unknown date. (e002291374)

The custom of decorating sled dogs with ornamented harnesses and embroidered blankets or “tuppies” (Michif tapii, from French tapis, “rug”) originated with the Red River Métis during the first half of the 19th century. Their tuppies and the “standing irons” upright part of their dog harnesses were trimmed with large jingle bells, fringe, tassels, pompoms and feathers. One can only imagine the sense of celebration when seeing and hearing the arrival of Métis sled dogs.

William Benoit is the Advisor for Internal Indigenous Engagement in the Office of the Deputy Librarian and Archivist of Canada at Library and Archives Canada.

Have you heard of Léo Major, the liberator of Zwolle?

By Gilles Bertrand

French-Canadian soldier Léo Major was a hero of World War II and the Korean War. He is a multi‑decorated soldier who is recognized in the Netherlands for single-handedly liberating the city of Zwolle from the Germans on April 14, 1945. He is the only Canadian to have received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) twice for his actions in two different wars.

Photograph of a man wearing a military jacket

Sgt Léo Major, DCM and bar, in Korea, 1952 (e011408966)

Born on January 23, 1921, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Léo Major grew up in Montréal. His family moved to Canada a year after his birth.

In the late 1930s, after working in various construction fields, he was employed as an apprentice plumber. He became unemployed in 1940 and decided to enlist in the Canadian Army. From 1940 to 1944, he underwent an intensive period of military training, the first year in New Brunswick and then the next three years in Europe.

His first battle took place on June 6, 1944, when he arrived in Normandy on Juno Beach with Le Régiment de la Chaudière. That same day, Léo captured a German Hanomag half-tracked armoured personnel vehicle.

Two days later, during a reconnaissance mission, Léo and four other soldiers came across a patrol of five elite German soldiers. They engaged and won the battle, but Léo lost the use of his left eye when a mortally wounded enemy soldier threw a phosphorus grenade at him. This earned Léo the nickname “one-eyed ghost.” Despite his injury, he refused to return to England and continued to act as a scout and sniper using only his right eye.

During the Battle of the Scheldt in the fall of 1944, Léo set out to search for a group of soldiers who had been delayed in returning from a patrol in the southern Netherlands. On his way, he took 93 German prisoners alone.

He suffered serious back injuries in February 1945 when the truck taking him back to camp exploded on a mine, killing all the other passengers on board. He again refused to be evacuated and, after a month’s rest, he returned to the battlefield.

On April 13, 1945, Léo and his friend Corporal Willie Arseneault volunteered for a reconnaissance mission. In the middle of the night, they made their way to the outskirts of Zwolle, a Dutch city of 50,000 inhabitants that was occupied by German troops. Corporal Arseneault was killed by enemy fire.

Determined to avenge his friend, Léo continued on, alone, with grenades and machine guns to attack the Nazi-occupied city. He spotted a bar with German officers inside and entered. He disarmed a French‑speaking, high-ranking officer and convinced him to leave the city with his men, claiming that Zwolle was surrounded by Canadian troops.

He raced through the city, firing everywhere to make it look like a Canadian offensive, and even set fire to the Gestapo headquarters. The Germans withdrew.

On the morning of April 14, 1945, thanks to Léo Major, the city of Zwolle was liberated from German troops and saved from the destructive artillery division attack that was to take place later that day. For this feat and for his bravery, Léo Major was awarded the DCM and received recognition from the people of Zwolle.

A typed page with the words War Diary or Intelligence Summary at the top and a table containing secret information.

Extract from a page of the April 1945 war diary of Le Régiment de la Chaudière. RG24 C 3, Volume number: 15181, File number: 743 (e011388179, article 6, image 7)

Returning to civilian life after the war, Léo worked as a plumber. Against all odds, despite his injuries and loss of vision in one eye, Léo volunteered for the Korean War in August 1950 and enlisted with the 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment.

In November 1951, Canadian troops from the Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal 22e Régiment were sent to a new area occupied by the Americans at that time, on the front line along Hills 355 and 227. Hill 355 was an important strategic position because of its ideal vantage point over the area. Nicknamed “Little Gibraltar,” it was highly coveted by both sides in the battle and changed hands several times.

The Canadian troops faced a strong attack by the Chinese forces, who had retaken the hill. Léo Major was ordered to attack Hill 355 to relieve the pressure on the Canadian troops, who were almost surrounded by the Chinese 64th Army. With a group of 18 scouts, Léo set out in the middle of the night and managed to surprise the Chinese behind their own lines. He regained control of Hill 355 and its neighbour, Hill 227. He himself directed the mortar batteries by radio to the Chinese attackers who tried to retake the hill the next day. Despite being outnumbered, the Canadian soldiers withstood the onslaught of the Chinese troops and held their position for three days before being replaced by American troops. For taking and defending this strategic position, Léo Major was awarded the DCM a second time.

Photocopy of a book extract describing Léo Major’s actions and citations for his two DCMs.

Excerpt from George Brown’s book, For Distinguished Conduct in the Field: The Register of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1939–1992 (OCLC 32387704)

Léo Major was a man of action and great courage who did not shrink from obstacles. He had a strong head and sometimes challenged orders (for example, refusing to return to England after suffering serious injuries or to abandon his position on Hill 355) because he cared about the freedom of the people. He was only doing his duty, he would say, but in an exemplary way, we might add. This hero, who died on October 12, 2008, in Montréal, will never be forgotten.

Additional resources:

Gilles Bertrand is an archivist in the Reference Services Division of Library and Archives Canada.