A look at some of the most iconic images in Canadian history. This year is a milestone in Canada’s history. Celebrating 150 years of Confederation, Canadians are looking to the past as they ponder the future. While we imagine what’s to come, we’re also conjuring up collective memories, often through photographs of remarkable people and events in our history. When the first photographic process, the daguerreotype, was introduced worldwide in 1839, it became known as “the mirror with a memory” — and until the invention of digital cameras and modern editing techniques in the late 20th century, photos were widely considered to be objective visual records. In fact, these “mirrors” we look into were created by photographers who isolated their subjects and presented them to us in an effort to communicate what they believed to be true. Viewers then analyzed — as they do today — the resultant photos, filtered through their own histories and biases. The meaning of any photograph exists somewhere between the subject, the photographer, and the viewer. Thinking about Canada’s sesquicentennial, a number of images came to mind, and we are grateful to the photographers who made them for providing us with these windows onto our past.

Title: A huge Canadian flag is passed along a crowd that came to Montreal in support of Canadian unity, Oct. 27, 1995
Three days after this photograph was taken, Quebeckers voted to remain a part of Canada. The decision was really to carry on compromising — an important attribute of many successful relationships. (Image credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)


Title: Maungwudaus, also known as George Henry (c. 1805–after 1877) [c. 1846] George Henry

(Maungwudaus) was an exotic figure to the European audiences his troupe performed dances and exhibitions for between 1845 and 1848, after which the group toured Canada and the U.S.


Terrapin Tower, overlooking Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, ON, c. 1870

Niagara Falls has always been a popular tourist destination, even as surrounding attractions come and go. (Image credit: Alexander Henderson/McCord Museum, Montreal.)


This photo taken by Peter Martin, 23 has been awarded a National Newspaper Award for best feature. Martin took the photo in the early morning as Terry Fox resumed his Marathon of Hope run in southern Ontario July 13, 1980. (CP PHOTO/Str/Peter Martin)

Title: Silhouette of man running along a road. Terry Fox, Ontario, July 13, 1980

One of Canada’s greatest heroes, Terry Fox set an example that continues to inspire millions of people around the world. His determination and spirit are evident in this silhouette, taken in the early morning as he resumed his Marathon of Hope. (Image credit: Peter Martin.)

The Queen signs Canada’s constitutional proclamation in Ottawa on April 17, 1982 as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looks on. With the stroke of a pen by the Queen in Ottawa, Canada had its own Constitution, one of the many notable dates in the history of the country. Canada marks its 147th birthday July 1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Poling

Title: Signing of the Constitution, April 17, 1982 Canada’s relationship with the British monarchy is all about tradition.

Here, Pierre Trudeau, near the end of his career, looks on as Elizabeth II signs the Constitution. (Image credit: Ron Poling/The Canadian Press.)