My great-grandfather’s Vimy Memorial visit: fact or fiction?

By Rebecca Murray

As a reference archivist, I absolutely love receiving questions from researchers that tap into their family histories. One such story—very close to home—arrived in my inbox on the morning of April 9, 2020, when my father sent his annual reminder to our extended family of his grandfather’s attendance at the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial in 1936. My father and I had visited this memorial near Arras, France, on a foggy day in November 2010.

A white stone structure with carved human figures against a foggy sky.

A view of the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Murray

As family members chimed in with expressions of interest, I was intrigued—why, out of all of the senior military officials in Canada, did my great-grandfather attend the unveiling? Might I find more information about his visit to the Vimy Memorial in archival records held at Library and Archives Canada?

Before I discuss my search, I should provide some context. My great-grandfather, Thomas Caleb Phillips, was a Captain Engineer in the Royal Canadian Navy during the interwar period. A family anecdote told me that he was at the unveiling of the memorial alongside the “band from Skeena,” one of the ships that he had helped to design.

A screenshot of Collection Search on the Library and Archives Canada website, using the search term “vimy memorial.”

The author’s keyword search in Collection Search

I began with some keyword searches in Collection Search, relying on various combinations including, but not limited to, Vimy unveiling, Vimy memorial, Vimy monument, Vimy Skeena, Vimy Phillips. I did not expect to find any records that included Phillips in the title, but for the sake of a diligent search, I decided to include his name. I was focused on archival records, so I filtered my results by the Archives tab and then by date (1930s) and type of document (textual). When presented with long lists of results, I further filtered by year (1936), since this was the year of the unveiling and the period that I thought most likely to include records relevant to my research.

I then compiled a list of potentially relevant files, most of them from the Department of External Affairs fonds (RG25), with a smattering from other government records and private fonds. Here are three examples:

  • RG25 volume 400 file Ex7/65 part 8 “Vimy Memorial Unveiling Ceremony,” 1936
  • RG25 volume 1778 file 1936-184 parts 1–3 “UNVEILING OF VIMY MEMORIAL,” 1934–38
  • RG24 volume 11907 file AE 30-2-2 [Superintendent, Esquimalt] – HMCS SKEENA – Movements 1932–37

These three files listed above were among 19 textual files that I identified for consultation. My research strategy is usually to identify somewhere between 5 and 10 files for preliminary review, but due to limited time for on-site work with records this past winter, I decided to “go big” before “going home.”

I reviewed all of the files, keeping my eyes open for the name Thomas Caleb Phillips (or T.C. Phillips) and any references to a “band from Skeena.”

And I found nothing!

No reference to Phillips’s attendance.

And no indication that the HMCS SKEENA or an associated musical ensemble was even at the event.

This was, of course, very disappointing. And yet, something similar probably happens every day as researchers wade through pages of textual documents, sift through contact sheets of images, and scour lists, reports and other records to confirm family anecdotes like the one that my father had shared with me.

I am not saying this to be discouraging, nor am I saying that these anecdotes are untrue. But what can be done when information, or lack thereof, contradicts family lore?

I have been working in Reference Services for eight years now; I believe that in that time, I have fine-tuned my research skills, learned how to think outside the box, and can read between the lines when doing archival research. Yet I too have come up against this obstacle.

Archival research, especially with government records, requires a patient, diligent approach. It also takes willingness on the part of researchers to continually learn from their findings and incorporate those learnings back into their research. For example, I chose to focus on textual records because I was not sure whether I would be able to identify T.C. Phillips in a photograph, especially in negative format. I also chose to start with a set of facts that I myself had not double-checked, nor had I conducted secondary research before starting my primary research.

I made presumptions about the period and the type of record to focus on, and my great-grandfather’s relative importance, which led me to a narrow scope for my research. Would I need to backtrack? Expand the scope of my research? Query different fonds? Might I be better served by an item in the published holdings? Or what about a document unrelated to the unveiling of the memorial but relevant to Phillips’s transatlantic crossing? There are a lot of different avenues of research that I could choose to follow, so the next step is to decide on my approach: forward or backward? Published or archival? It is
not easy, it is not simple, and frankly if it were, would it be as much fun?

An expanse of green grass showing a white stone memorial in the distance, a grey stone sign with the engraved word VIMY and maple leaf symbols. The Canadian and French flags are on the right, against a foggy sky.

A view of the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Murray

For me, this search was never about proving my great-grandfather’s attendance—I do not doubt the general accuracy of the family anecdote—but it would have been nice to find a document that told just a bit more. A document that helped make a small but valuable connection across close to 100 years of Canadian history. Something concrete to share when my father tells the story again next year. So I will keep searching!

For more information about the Canadian National Vimy Memorial:


Rebecca Murray is a Senior Reference Archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

From modest beginnings

By Forrest Pass

For an institution that conserves so many treaties, charters and proclamations, Library and Archives Canada’s own founding document is a modest one. On June 20, 1872—150 years ago—the federal cabinet appointed Douglas Brymner as “senior second-class clerk” responsible for a newly approved “Public Archives Service” within the Department of Agriculture. The handwritten order-in-council might look unassuming, but it marked the beginning of a century and a half of collecting and caring for Canadian documentary heritage.

The decision to establish a national archive was the result of a petition circulated in 1871 by the Quebec Literary and Historical Society. The petitioners lamented the “very disadvantageous position” of Canadian historians when it came to accessing historical documents and proposed a national repository. The government agreed in principle, but it could not offer any immediate funding. The project would have to wait until the next fiscal year.

A handwritten page that reads: “On a Memorandum dated 18th June 1872, from the Hon: the Minister of Agriculture, recommending that Mr Douglas Brymner, aged 42 years be added to the Staff of the Department of Agriculture as a Senior Record Class Clerk at a Salary of $1200.00 per annum – and he further recommends that during the present year the Salary of Mr Brymner be paid partly from the vote of Parliament for the collecting of Public Archives to the amount of $600 – as he proposes to employ Mr Brymner on the …”

A certified copy of Order-in-Council 1872-0712, dated June 20, 1872, approving Douglas Brymner’s appointment as a senior second-class clerk, responsible for both the Public Archives and “getting of information on Agriculture” (e011408984-001)

Douglas Brymner, a Montréal journalist, was not an obvious choice to be the country’s first archivist. He had an interest in history but was not active in historical circles. However, Brymner was not hired solely as an archivist; at first, he was to split his time between archival projects and “a preliminary enquiry for the getting of information on Agriculture.” Investigating the state of Canadian crops and livestock was as pressing a task as organizing a national archive, and Brymner, a former farmer as well as a journalist, seemed qualified to do both.

A man with a beard wearing a white shirt and a black jacket.

Douglas Brymner, the first Dominion Archivist, in an oil portrait by his son, artist William Brymner, 1886 (e008299814-v6)

Whatever the intention, Brymner soon found that building the archives was a full-time commitment. As he later recalled, “the work had to be begun ab ovo, not a single document of any description being in the room set apart for the custody of the Archives.” Within weeks, he was on the road, rummaging through courthouse attics, legislature basements and the dusty papers of prominent settler families.

This collection strategy reflected both the new archives’ limited mandate and the new archivist’s own concept of Canadian history. Before 1903, the archives did not collect recent government records. Instead, Brymner looked for documents of the pre-Confederation past, focusing on settler history, especially its political and military aspects. Although his reports indicated a passing interest in “Indian affairs” as an aspect of colonial policy, Brymner’s archives recorded Indigenous experiences or voices only incidentally, if at all.

His colonial focus led the archivist to prioritize the transcription of Canadian historical records in British and French archives, continuing the work that the Quebec Literary and Historical Society had quietly pursued for decades. Brymner travelled to London to investigate relevant collections there, while the Quebec historian Hospice-Anthelme Verreau did the same in Paris.

These were ambitious projects for the archives’ limited resources. In its first year, the new archives’ budget was a meagre $4,000 (about $94,000 in 2022 dollars). For office and storage space, Brymner’s chief, the deputy minister of Agriculture, had to haggle with the Post Office Department for the use of three rooms in the basement of the West Block on Parliament Hill.

A large stone building with towers, behind a dirt road and a wrought-iron and stone fence.

The West Block on Parliament Hill from Wellington Street, as it appeared when the Dominion Archives took up residence in the basement. The northwest wing of the building, including its imposing tower, was not completed until 1879. William Topley Studio photograph, about 1872 (a012386-v6)

Underfunding led to embarrassment. In 1880, Gilbert-Anselme Girouard, a New Brunswick Member of Parliament, suggested that Brymner hire the Acadian historian Pascal Poirier to transcribe Acadian parish records. However, on receiving Brymner’s reply, Girouard regretted that he could not possibly recommend Poirier or any other competent copyist for the paltry amount that the archives were prepared to pay.

More startling was the archives’ willingness to contemplate using what today would be considered child labour to cut costs. In 1878, F.J. Dore, Canadian Agent-General in London, sought permission from the British Museum, on Brymner’s behalf, to transcribe the papers of Sir Frederick Haldimand, the Governor of Quebec during the American Revolutionary War. Dore regretfully informed Brymner that the museum prohibited anyone under the age of 21 from working in its building. “Otherwise,” Dore wrote, “a number of Juvenile copyists might have been got to do the work at a much cheaper rate than the one quoted.” At the time, teenaged copying clerks were common in England and Canada alike. Nevertheless, the idea of using young, inexperienced copyists to save money underlines the early archives’ budgetary woes.

Yet for all these challenges, Brymner accomplished much in his first decade as archivist. Transcriptions from England began to arrive in the early 1880s. By 1884, the archives’ catalogued holdings filled some 1,300 volumes, with thousands of pages awaiting indexing and binding. Transcription projects in European archives would continue well into the 20th century.

A typed and handwritten form, signed by William Blackwood. There is a stamp in the right-hand corner, and writing in red over the left side of the page.

A shipping receipt for “one case of Archives,” likely one of the first batches of Haldimand transcriptions, 1881 (e011408984-001)

Among original documents, Brymner’s “first major archival acquisition” was a large accession of records from the Halifax Citadel. Primarily military in focus, the records touched on many aspects of early colonial history. Brymner acquired these in 1873, after negotiations with the British War Office.

Even before the Halifax records arrived, however, a small donation anticipated the institution’s eventual role as a library as well as an archive. In the summer of 1872, Brymner had visited the Séminaire de Québec, a 200-year-old religious community and college. The Séminaire was not interested in transferring its own rich archives to Ottawa, but Brymner did come away with a small consolation prize: a set of the Séminaire’s student newspaper, L’Abeille (“The Bee”), which occasionally featured transcribed historical documents.

Bound in red leather and buckram, this set of L’Abeille remains in the collection at Library and Archives Canada to this day. Several issues bear the embossed stamp of the “Dominion Archives – Library,” undoubtedly from Brymner’s day. A volume of a revived edition of L’Abeille, published between 1877 and 1881, is inscribed to the “Archives of Canada” by a director of the Séminaire, evidence of Brymner’s ongoing relationship with the donor.

Five books bound in red leather, with white paper flags sticking out of the top. The books are in a wooden book cart.

The Dominion Archives’ set of L’Abeille (“The Bee”). Brymner received the three slim volumes on the left in 1872, his first documented acquisition. The volume on the far right was donated to the archives in 1885 (OCLC 300305563) Photo Credit: Forrest Pass

A typed page of L’Abeille, Vol. 1, Petit Séminaire de Quebec, December 11, 1849, No. 12.

The front page of an 1848 issue of L’Abeille (“The Bee”), featuring a transcribed letter from François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec, dated 1690 (OCLC 300305563) Photo Credit: Forrest Pass

Douglas Brymner could only have imagined how the collection he started would grow over the following century and a half. Under his successor, Sir Arthur Doughty, the “Dominion Archives” evolved into the Public Archives of Canada, with a broad mandate to collect government records and private manuscripts, as well as maps, artwork and photographs. Before the creation of a national history museum, the Public Archives also collected artifacts and maintained a museum. The National Library of Canada, founded in 1953, complemented the work of the archives by collecting and preserving published documentary heritage. In 2004, the two institutions merged to form Library and Archives Canada. Today, collections at Library and Archives Canada include over 20 million books, 250 linear kilometres of archival records, over 30 million photographs and nearly half a million works of art.

The Library and Archives Canada of today is a far cry from a part-time archivist working in a cramped basement on Parliament Hill, making the most of his modest resources and as busy as, well, a bee!


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

Women in the war: the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in the Department of National Defence’s archives

By Rebecca Murray

March 2022 marked the 80th anniversary of the incorporation of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) into the Canadian Army. The CWAC was first formed in the summer of 1941 as an auxiliary organization. Like their compatriots in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, CWAC members served across Canada and around the world during the Second World War. You can read more about the formation and history of the CWAC in my colleague’s post.

Building on lessons learned from indexing navy photographs from caption lists (see Women in the War: The Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service), I turned my attention to compiling a listing of photographs of servicewomen in army photographs.

I started with the Army Numerical sub-sub-series (1941–46), which consists of 110 photo albums and negatives, arranged in sequential order based on when the photos were registered by Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit staff. This sub-sub-series is probably the best resource at Library and Archives Canada for researchers looking for primary source graphic material of the Canadian Active Service Force (the overseas component of the Canadian Army) for this period.

All 110 of the albums, along with the majority of corresponding caption lists, have been digitized and made available through Collection Search. You will find available caption lists linked in the Record Information – Details tab of the album description, in the Finding aid field. These digitized albums and caption lists allowed me to continue the indexing project during pandemic lockdown.

A screen capture of a record display from Collection Search.

A Collection Search record display with the Finding aid field expanded and circled

Working exclusively with caption lists to index images was a challenge because captions do not always describe or identify all individuals in an image. Yet, when looking directly at an image, one can usually quickly ascertain if there are any servicewomen pictured. Further research, such as consulting a caption list or other collection resource material, can help to identify those individuals or provide additional context.

Here is an example from the ongoing indexing work using digitized album R112 volume 42827 “Army Numerical 22542-23813 – Sicily – Album 62 of 110,” (August 6–20, 1943).

A page from a photo album with 11 black-and-white photographs and handwritten notations.

Page 14 of Album 62 showing Canadian nursing sisters and other medical staff in Sicily in August 1943 (e011213504)

I identified 13 images in the album that include servicewomen and noted these in a table using the negative numbers, the caption provided on the page, the date of the photograph and the photographer’s name.Then I looked at the caption list in Finding aid 24-513P-ARMY to see if it included any additional information about the servicewomen in these specific images. The caption list identifies servicewomen by name for 9 of the 13 images that I identified.

Typewritten negative numbers on the left with corresponding captions, including the names of nursing sisters, on the right.

Captions for photographs 22807 to 22813, from page 8 of Finding aid 24-513P-ARMY

A total of 2,723 photographs of servicewomen have been identified from this sub-sub-series.

The work continues, but in the meantime I invite you to check out the numerical albums yourself. You can filter the list of 110 albums by date or add a keyword (such as United Kingdom or Northwest Europe) to sort by location and review thousands of digitized images from home. If you are interested in helping to identify servicewomen in photographs held at Library and Archives Canada, check out our Co-Lab challenge.


Rebecca Murray is a Senior Reference Archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

“Were my ancestors UEL?”

A group of people, with tents and animals, by a body of water.

Loyalist camp on the banks of the St. Lawrence River (c002001k)

When I started working in the Genealogy section at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), I quickly realized that there was a lot to learn. To be effective at the job, you had to be a jack-of-all-trades in Canadian (and world) history. In just one afternoon, you could be called on to help researchers with wide-ranging topics like the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel, the Chinese Head Tax, Ottawa Valley logging history and New France census records.

One of the first questions I fielded at the Genealogy desk was “Were my ancestors UEL?” I recall that day like it was yesterday. A cold panic came over me. I froze and stared at the researcher like a deer in headlights. I did not recognize the acronym. Luckily, after the researcher patiently spelled it out for me, my training, education and experience kicked in, and I remembered the United Empire Loyalists (UEL) and all the material LAC has about this unique group. Fortunately, that momentary blank did not happen again, as UEL was a very popular research topic.

The term “United Empire Loyalists” refers to the American colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution (1775-1783), and may also have fought for Britain during that conflict. They fled the newly created United States and settled in what are now the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario. Archives in each of these provinces hold records relating to Loyalists, some of which are searchable online.

Two people walking along a dirt road beside a cart, in which one person is sitting.

Black Loyalists in Bedford Basin, near Halifax (c115424k)

Loyalists became an even more popular topic after Lawrence Hill’s novel The Book of Negroes was published in 2007. Hill’s remarkable novel about a Black Loyalist won many prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2008, CBC’s Canada Reads for 2009 and Radio Canada’s Combat des livres in 2013. It was also released as a TV miniseries in 2015. The novel was named after a ledger preserved at the National Archives in England, which lists the names of approximately 5,000 people, including 2,831 Black men, women and children who travelled — some as free people, and others the slaves or indentured servants of white United Empire Loyalists — in 219 ships sailing from New York between April and November 1783. This ledger is part of a large collection called the British Headquarter Papers, also known as the Carleton Papers. LAC has a microfilm copy of these records and created a database indexing this important ledger.  More information about Black Loyalists, including their names, can be found in the Port Roseway Associates Muster Book of Free Blacks: Settlement of Birchtown 1784 and the Ward Chipman Muster Master’s Office (1777–1785) collections, which can be searched on Collection Search and Ancestors Search.

LAC holds a variety of sources relating to the United Empire Loyalists who settled in Canada after the American Revolution (1775–1783). For more information about Loyalist records held at LAC, visit the Loyalist section of our website.

Additional resources:


Sara Chatfield is a project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Anne Heggtveit: A good night’s sleep brings Olympic gold

by Dalton Campbell

In 1960, Anne Heggtveit won Canada’s first Olympic gold in alpine skiing.

She was competing in the VIII Olympic Winter Games, in what is now Palisades Tahoe, California. In her first two races, the women’s giant slalom and the downhill, Anne had finished 12th. She said that the evening before the third race, the slalom, the other racers were out trying to familiarize themselves with the course, but she went back to her room to sleep. She thought that if she looked at the course that evening, she would become nervous and probably not sleep well. Her decision was the right one: she finished first, beating the silver medalist by more than 3 seconds, earning the gold in the slalom.

A young woman wearing a winter coat holding a medal in her left hand.

Anne Heggtveit with her Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing, 1960. The medal, at 55 mm in diameter, was one of the smallest awarded at the Winter Games. By comparison, since 2000, the smallest medal awarded at a Winter Olympics has been 85 mm in diameter. (a209759)

Following her extraordinary success at the Olympic Games, she surprised the sports world when she announced her retirement in March 1960. In an interview with the Globe and Mail later that year, she said that she would miss the sport and her friendships, but that she thought the years of preparation for the 1964 Olympics would be too much of an emotional strain. She discussed the importance of balancing confidence and recklessness when skiing. She also said, “When you stand at the top of that course, you can be scared stiff, you can feel you don’t care what happens to you, or you can suddenly feel the perfect mixture of emotions that can help you make a championship run.”

Her retirement, although a shock, was similar to that of her teammate Lucile Wheeler, who retired in 1958 after winning that season’s world slalom and downhill titles. In an interview in 2019 for The Canadian Encyclopedia, Anne described how Lucile had been a trailblazer, as one of the first Canadians to train in Europe. Anne learned from Lucile at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, where Lucile earned a bronze in the downhill and Anne had three top-30 finishes.

Anne’s 1960 Olympic results also gave her the Fédération internationale de ski (FIS) [International Ski Federation] world gold medal and the gold in Alpine combined. At the time, the FIS did not hold separate championships in Olympic years; instead, it awarded medals based on the Olympic results. This was her second FIS Alpine combined title. She also won in 1959.

In 1960, Anne received the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian athlete of the year and was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Her win was voted Canadian sports story of the year. Her medal was one of only four medals earned by the Canadian team.

Anne had an early start in skiing. Her father, who immigrated to Canada from Norway as a young man, was Canada’s cross-country ski champion in 1934, but was unable to raise money to go to the 1936 Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Anne started skiing when she was two years of age and entered her first competition at five. From the age of 8, her goal was to win the Olympic gold medal.

She twice received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s female athlete of the year (1959, 1960), was elected to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1971), and was awarded the Order of Canada (1976). After her retirement, Anne married, started a family and taught skiing, among other pursuits. In 1988, she was an Olympic flag bearer at the Calgary Olympics.

Further research


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.

What was really signed on Parliament Hill 40 years ago, on April 17, 1982?

By Natasha Dubois

There are many terms used to describe this particular moment in Canadian history: patriation of the Constitution, signing of the Constitution, signing of the Charter, and more. All of these terms are both correct and incomplete.

Yes, the Canadian Constitution was indeed patriated 40 years ago, in the sense that only Canada has the power to amend it now, not the United Kingdom. It was not signed, however, because it was a legislative act of the British Parliament. British and Canadian laws are proclaimed, not signed, by the head of state. As for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is not even a document, so it cannot be officially signed.

So what document was actually signed on April 17, 1982?

On that date, Queen Elizabeth II signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982 (Schedule B of the Canada Act 1982, proclaimed by the United Kingdom a few weeks earlier), which gives Canada the power to amend its own constitution and includes, among other things, the wording of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A page of coloured calligraphy. The Canada Coat of Arms and a few signatures are at the top centre, with other signatures at the bottom centre.

Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. Damaged slightly by rain during the signing ceremony, this version is informally known as the “raindrop” copy (e008125379)

So, then, what is the Charter?

 We often see posters of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with the Canada Coat of Arms and the signature of the prime minister, but if this is not an official document, then what is it?

A typewritten page in colour. The Canada Coat of Arms is at the top centre, and a drawing of the main Parliament Building is at the bottom centre. There is a signature in the bottom-right corner.

Poster published by the Government of Canada to promote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (e010758222_s1-v8)

Contrary to popular belief, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not a document in and of itself. It is actually Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982 and was presented in poster format in 1985. This poster was never officially signed or proclaimed, since it is not a complete proclamation or legislative act. It is also missing the Great Seal of Canada, which must be affixed to all proclamations and certain official documents of Canada.

In 1985, after all of the provisions of Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982 came into force, the government wanted to promote its contents (that is, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). To do so, it created posters that looked like an official document, with a stamped signature of the prime minister of the day, and distributed more than 250,000 copies to schools, libraries and public places across Canada. Today, the Charter poster can be downloaded (PDF format) or a printed version can be ordered (certificate or poster) from the Canadian Heritage website. Unfortunately, there is no official original version of this poster in the collections held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is available in 29 languages and seems to have served as a model for the creation of several other constitutions and charters of rights throughout the world. It has also inspired hundreds of works in Canadian literature, many of which have been acquired by LAC through legal deposit: legal treatises, theses and dissertations, professional journal articles, popular works and even children’s literature.

So, what was signed on April 17, 1982?

On March 29, 1982, the United Kingdom proclaimed the Canada Act 1982, Schedule B of which is the Constitution Act, 1982, which applies only to Canada. On April 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II signed the proclamation bringing the Constitution Act, 1982 into force for Canada.

According to British and Canadian rules, before legislation comes into force, it must go through a number of steps. First, the bill must be introduced in both chambers of Parliament, where it is discussed and debated before being passed by each chamber. The act must then be proclaimed by the head of state, that is, through royal assent (the Queen’s or the Governor General’s signature). Following the adoption of the Canada Act 1982, the Government of Canada itself drafted the text for the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982, which the Queen agreed to sign in Ottawa on April 17, 1982. As with all previous Canadian proclamations, the other signatories were the Registrar General of Canada and the Attorney General of Canada. The Prime Minister of Canada also signed the 1982 proclamation, although this was not essential for the document to be considered official.

In fact, the signing ceremony of April 17, 1982, was only the public display of the real political event occurring at the time: Canada’s acquisition of the last political power that it needed to become a truly sovereign state. Until then, only the British Parliament had the power to amend Canada’s Constitution, under the British North America Act of 1867.

In enacting the Canada Act 1982, the United Kingdom agreed that no subsequent act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom would have effect in Canada. This act was also the only British law to be written in both English and French since the Middle Ages.

The Constitution Act, 1982 (Schedule B of the Canada Act 1982) affirms the primacy of the Canadian Constitution over any other law and defines what constitutes the Canadian Constitution (Part VII). This act also sets out the procedures for amending the Canadian Constitution (Part IV), and contains sections on the rights of Indigenous peoples (Part II) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Part I).

This is why the Charter is said to be enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. The Charter cannot be amended without amending the Constitution, because the Constitution Act, 1982 is an integral part of the Canadian Constitution (Part VII). The constitutional amendment procedures (Part V) would have to be used. This also explains why the Charter takes precedence over all other legislation in the country, because it is one of the components of the Constitution.

In conclusion, there is no single document that can be called the “Charter.” Multiple reproductions of the text that makes up the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are available free of charge. Even though LAC does not have the original poster of the Charter, it does preserve in its collections parchment facsimiles of all six of Canada’s constitutional documents: the Royal Proclamation (1763), the Quebec Act (1774), the Constitution Act (1791), the Act of Union (1840), the British North America Act (1867) and the Canada Act 1982. This collection of parchment copies of the documents was given to Canada by the United Kingdom after the signing of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982. Approximately 40 pages long, the Canada Act 1982 comes closest to being the original version of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In some ways, this constitutional text can be considered to be our national copy of the Charter.

Related resources


Natasha Dubois is an archivist in the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Travel posters in the Marc Choko collection—a Co-Lab challenge

By Andrew Elliott

The Marc Choko collection of travel posters represents a fantastic cross-section of Canadian travel poster art during the period from 1900 to the 1950s. “One’s destination,” wrote Henry Miller, as he travelled through Greece in the 1930s, “is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” In fact, the entire Modernist movement of the era was about seeing old things in new ways. For railway companies, and later airlines, the posters helped market companies to as wide an audience as possible. While promoting their fast and efficient services, they also projected to travellers a stylish, romantic vision of travel to and within Canada.

Between 1900 and 1930, and particularly in the 1920s, there was a shift in the way people travelled. During this period, middle-class tourists rivalled immigrant travellers for space on trains. Tourism became a kind of mass culture theatrical experience, and as a result, leisure time was commodified. The publicity departments of both Canadian National Railways (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) developed close ties with Canadian (and American) artists to create poster art (and art for other types of marketing and publicity, including magazines and timetable booklets). In 1927, for example, CN commissioned members of the Group of Seven to create a 33-page scenic guide advertising the wild, natural and romantic beauty of Jasper National Park. (This guide, with a couple of digitized pages, can be found in the Museum Train Collection series of the Canadian National Railway Company fonds.) Neither the railway companies nor the artists operated in a vacuum; they were influenced by the travel and artistic movements that were spreading across the world in the early 20th century. There was a remarkable convergence: cars, trains, airplanes, zeppelins and ocean liners were all competing for customers. To sell their services, the various companies turned to posters that suggested, among other things, speed and experience.

The Marc Choko collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) features a collection of travel posters by various artists who were commissioned by transportation companies. The collection was donated to LAC in the early 1990s by Marc Choko, a professor emeritus with the School of Design at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Choko taught courses on design from 1977 to 2018 and has also published numerous books on design (website in French only), including Destination Québec; Une histoire illustrée du tourisme (2013), Canadian Pacific Posters 1883–1963 (2004) and Canadian Pacific; Creating a Brand, Building a Nation (2016).

Two of the best-known artists who created the posters were Peter Ewart and Roger Couillard. Ewart (1918–2001) was born in Kisbey, Saskatchewan, but grew up in Montréal. Upon completing his formal education, he studied art in Montréal, and later in New York. His paintings were exhibited by the Royal Academy (London, England), the Royal Canadian Academy, the Canadian National Exhibition and the Mid-Century Exposition of Canadian Painting. To learn more about Peter Ewart and his life and work, visit the comprehensive website petermaxwellewart.com.

In the late 1940s, Ewart helped to establish and then solidify a memorable advertising campaign for CPR as the “World’s Greatest Travel System.” His corporate commissions included a wide array of organizations and some events, such as Canadian Pacific Airlines, Bank of Montreal, Imperial Oil Company, B.C. Telephone Company, Calgary Winter Olympic Games, Ocean Cement and many more.

Some striking examples of Ewart’s work in the Choko collection include the following posters for CPR.

Moose in water with trees in the distance and a small company crest.

CPR poster “Hunt This Fall—Travel Canadian Pacific” (e000983752-v8) Credit: CRHA/Exporail, Canadian Pacific Railway Company Fonds

Large fish in water and a small company crest.

CPR poster “Full Information from Canadian Pacific—World’s Greatest Travel System” (e000983750-v8) Credit: CRHA/Exporail, Canadian Pacific Railway Company Fonds

The artist Roger Couillard (1910–1999) is also well represented in the Marc Choko collection. Couillard was born in Montréal and studied at the École des Beaux-arts de Montréal (School of Fine Arts in Montréal; EBAM). In 1935, the Institute of Foreign Travel organized a poster competition on the theme of “See Europe Next.” One of his posters was chosen and exhibited in Ogilvy’s department store in Montréal. Couillard opened a studio in the Drummond Building on the city’s St. Catherine Street in 1937. He later worked for the Quebec Ministry of Tourism from 1966 to 1975. (There is very little biographical information about Couillard available online. The information listed here was gleaned from a Canadian Design History/Theory course web page at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. For further details about Couillard’s art, see Artnet.)

The following striking examples of Couillard’s work show his versatility. He was able to work for a variety of organizations, such as CPR, CN, Trans-Canada Air Lines and Canada Steamship Lines. The posters capture the essence of what travel represented for voyagers at the time.

An arrow points to the sky and has a telegram on it.

Canadian National Telegraphs, “Telegraph—When Speed Is a Factor” (e010780461-v8)

A plane flying above the message “Costs only 3¢ more to all parts of Canada.”

Trans-Canada Air Lines—Air Mail (e010780458-v8)

These less well-known artists are also represented in the Choko collection:

The collection contains some striking work by unknown artists as well. For example, one notable poster for CN has been reprinted for numerous postcards, yet the artist has not been identified. Can you help to identify this artist?

This is where the Co-Lab challenge comes in! The challenge in Co-Lab is not only to tag and describe the posters, but also to identify some of the artists. Check out the Travel Poster Co-Lab Challenge to see more posters in the Marc Choko collection.


Andrew Elliott is an archivist in the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Norman Kwong: “I always want to be the winner”

By Dalton Campbell

In 1948, Norman Kwong stepped onto the field with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the first time. The 18-year-old rookie, and eventual Hall of Famer, was the league’s first Chinese-Canadian player.

A colour studio photograph of a football player in uniform, holding his helmet in the crook of his left arm.

Norman Kwong (1929–2016), photo from August 1957 (e002505702-v6)

Norman (born Lim Kwong Yew) was born in Calgary in 1929, the fifth of six children. His parents, Charles Lim and Lily Lee, operated a grocery store. They had immigrated to Canada from Guangdong, China, several years before Norman was born. His obituary in the Edmonton Journal stated that in the 1920s, there were fewer than 5,000 Chinese Canadians in Alberta. The vast majority were men, in large part because the racist and discriminatory “head tax” kept most men from bringing their wives and children to Canada. Norman’s mother was one of only five married Chinese women in Calgary. In 1923, the government passed the Chinese Immigration Act (commonly known as the “Chinese Exclusion Act”), effectively ending immigration from China. In 1947, the year before Norman began his professional football career, the Act was lifted, and Chinese Canadians gained the right to vote.

A black-and white-photograph of downtown Calgary, looking down at an intersection, with streetcars, cars and people visible on the streets and sidewalks.

8th Avenue, Calgary, Alberta, 1937 (e010862070-v8)

In 1950, Norman was traded from Calgary to Edmonton, where he spent the rest of his career. He led the CFL in rushing three times (1951, 1955 and 1956), rushed for over 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons, and set numerous league and team records. He was a four-time CFL West All-Star (1951, 1953, 1955 and 1956), was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian (1955 and 1956), and received the Lionel Conacher Award as the outstanding Canadian male athlete (1955). In 13 seasons, he played in seven Grey Cup games, winning the championship four times (1948, 1954, 1955 and 1956). He was named to the CFL Hall of Fame in 1969, to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, and as one of the top 50 players in CFL history (by TSN) in 2006.

His Edmonton Journal obituary quotes him as saying, “Sports is life, only it’s distilled into a shorter time. It’s clear-cut. Everything’s out in the open. There’s no way to hide. There’s always a winner and a loser. And I guess that appeals to my competitive nature. Of course, I always want to be the winner.”

Norman retired at the age of 30. He married Mary Lee and entered post-football life, working primarily in commercial real estate. In the 1980s, he returned to sports as an executive with the Calgary Stampeders and was part of the original ownership group of the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. When the Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, he became one of only five people to have won both the Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup as a player, manager or executive.

A colour image of a coat of arms. The shield in the centre has three footballs lined up diagonally from the upper left to lower right. There are two dragons, one standing on each side of the shield. The motto reads, “Strive to Excel.”

Coat of Arms of Norman Lim Kwong, courtesy of the Canadian Heraldic Authority (Office of the Secretary to the Governor General). The green and gold are the Edmonton team colours, and the horizontal stripes represent the 10-yard lines from a football field. The horse represents his first team, Calgary. The rose represents his wife, Mary, an avid gardener. The dragons represent his Chinese heritage, and the dragons’ hindquarters are representative of the Albertosaurus dinosaur.

Norman Kwong was the National Chair of the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism (1979–80) and Honorary Chair of the Easter Seals Campaign in Calgary (1982–84). He was named to the Order of Canada (1988) and later served as the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta (2005–10). The Calgary Flames named a bursary for medical students in his honour. He died in Calgary in 2016.

For further research


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.

Acadian heritage: the landscape of Grand-Pré

By Valerie Casbourn

Nova Scotia Heritage Day 2022 celebrates the Landscape of Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site. Acadian settlers to Grand-Pré built a system of dykes to transform the tidal marshland into farmland, creating an Acadian agricultural settlement that flourished from 1682 to 1755. The Grand-Pré landscape is rich in agricultural tradition and an important place of memory for Acadians. A variety of archival and published records related to Grand-Pré may be found in Library and Archives Canada’s collections.

Acadian roots in Nova Scotia

France first established a settlement in Mi’kma’ki, the lands of the Mi’kmaw people, in 1604. The French called the region Acadie (Acadia in English). The Mi’kmaq greeted and helped the early settlers. The Mi’kmaq and the French traded with each other and established an alliance that was renewed annually.

A marsh and a wooden dyke at Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia.

Grand-Pré dyke with Cape Blomidon in distance, Nova Scotia. Canada, Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys, 1926 (a020116)

In 1682, Acadians moved from Port Royal, near the Bay of Fundy, to the shores of the Minas Basin, an area known as “Les Mines.” Grand-Pré, which means big meadow in French, was established there and became a thriving settlement. The Acadians built wooden dykes with sluices, called “aboiteaux,” and transformed the tidal marshland into rich agricultural land. They grew crops, planted orchards and raised livestock. The Sieur de Dièreville travelled in Acadia in 1699 and published his observations.

It is necessary, in order to raise grains, to drain the marshes, which the sea at high tide overflows with its waters; and which they the (Acadians) call the lowlands. […] It is not easy to stay the course of the sea; the Acadians, nevertheless, accomplish the task by means of strong dykes, which they call aboteaux; and this is how they make them: They set up five or six rows of large trees, quite entire, at the places by which the sea enters the marshes, and between the rows they lay other trees lengthwise, one upon another, and they fill all the empty spaces so well with soft clay, well packed, that the water can no longer pass through. They fit in the middle of these works a flood-gate (un esseau) in such a manner that it allows, at low tide, the marsh-water to flow out by its own pressure, and prevents the water of the sea from entering. (Account by the Sieur de Dièreville, translated in John Frederic Herbin, The History of Grand-Pré, OCLC number 1016223920, 1911, p. 32)

 

The wooden structure of an old dyke at the edge of a field.

Showing old face, Grand-Pré dyke, Nova Scotia. Canada, Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys, 1926 (a020117)

In 1713, France ceded Acadia to the British under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. The British called the region the colony of Nova Scotia. There was no treaty or agreement between the British and the Mi’kmaq at that time. In 1755, the colonial administration of Nova Scotia demanded the Acadians swear an unconditional oath of allegiance to the British Crown. The Acadians refused because they wished to maintain a policy of neutrality. The British authorities then ordered the deportation of Acadians, beginning the Grand Dérangement (Great Upheaval).

The British expelled over 2,000 Acadians from their homes in the Grand-Pré region and sent them to other English colonies. Many did not survive the poor conditions on board the ships. Some Acadians escaped the deportations and were supported and sheltered by the Mi’kmaq. After the deportation, a group known as the New England Planters settled in the fertile lands at Grand-Pré. They learned to maintain the dykes and farm the land, along with later immigrants to the area. Some Acadians eventually returned and settled in other parts of what are now the Maritime provinces and Quebec.

Acadian archival records

Library and Archives Canada holds records about Acadia in the Fonds des Colonies (MG1), which has copies and transcriptions of selected records from the French colonial period. “Série C11D. Correspondance générale; Acadie” (MG1-C11D) (Series C11D. General correspondence; Acadia) contains copies of correspondence, instructions and other records related to Acadia.

Our Acadian genealogy and family history web page describes various records that are useful for those seeking information about Acadian ancestors. Parish records are particularly helpful; the 18th-century Grand-Pré parish church was Saint-Charles-des-Mines. The Fonds de la paroisse catholique Saint-Charles-des-Mines (MG9-B8-12) (Catholic parish of Saint-Charles-des-Mines fonds) has transcriptions of baptism, marriage and burial records dated between 1707 and 1749. You can access digitized copies on the Héritage Canadiana website (microfilm reel C-1869).

Finding Aid 300: Other census and related documents (1640 to 1945) is a comprehensive guide to early censuses and related records. The section for Acadia (1671 to 1763) has a list of census returns for different areas, with links to digitized copies of many of the records.

Handwritten transcriptions of households with details on family members and their ages, as well as on the amount of farm animals, land and guns owned.

Start of Les Mines section, Acadian census for 1693 (Reel C-2572, Image 82; MG1-G1 volume 466 page 79)

Memory and commemoration

Grand-Pré remained an important place in the memory of Acadians. In the early 1900s, John Frederic Herbin published several books and poems about Acadian history and culture, with a focus on Grand-Pré. In 1907, Herbin bought the land where the original Saint-Charles-des-Mines church had stood and established Grand-Pré Park as a memorial to Acadians. The Dominion Atlantic Railway purchased the land in 1917 and took over the park’s maintenance. The Société mutuelle de l’Assomption took official title to the church site in 1921 and built the Memorial Church there the following year.

The Acadian Memorial Church under construction, with people gathered in front for a dedication ceremony.

Dedication ceremony for the Acadian Memorial Church being built in the Dominion Atlantic Railway Park at Grand-Pré, August 16, 1922. Canada, Patent and Copyright Office (a031296)

Grand-Pré was designated a National Historic Site in 1955. In 1957, the Government of Canada acquired Grand-Pré Memorial Park with the understanding “that the park and the chapel were held by the government in perpetuity and that their historic character was maintained.” (Cabinet Conclusion “National Historic parks; acquisition of Grand Pre Memorial Park” 1957-01-14, RG2 volume 1892)

Three tourists standing beside Evangeline’s well, in front of the Acadian Memorial Church.

At Evangeline’s Well, Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia. National Film Board of Canada, July 1953 (e010949154-v8)

The Canadian Parks Service fonds (RG84) includes records about Grand-Pré. To consult file descriptions, try a search for keywords like “RG84 Grand-Pré” and select “Collections and Fonds (Archives Search)” in the LAC Collection Search tool. To access digitized copies of these files, note the microfilm reel number in the file description (e.g. T-11310) and then search for that reel number on Héritage Canadiana.

In 1995, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada added a second designation to commemorate the national significance of the Grand-Pré Rural Historic District. The significance of this cultural landscape was further recognized in 2012 when the Landscape of Grand-Pré became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Grand-Pré continues to be at the heart of Acadian cultural memory.


Valerie Casbourn is an archivist in the Reference Services Division at the Halifax office of Library and Archives Canada.