The one hundred plans that follow are subject content and/or outlines for a significant body of Canadian Classroom on Rails’ curriculum.
These are not exhaustive of all the lessons or topic to be presented but they give a reasonable summary of the range, scope and depth of themes and topics to be addressed. Other substantial content is to be found in the “Reflections” section of the site and this be explained and absorbed in dramatic readings (readers theatre) using these scripts.
The same applies to the 200 songs in the Music/Poetry section. Songs will be used as supporting material for many of these lessons, often with an accompanying “explication du texte” to make both meaning and content clear. Other songs (bio “Sir James Douglas,” listing of “Capital Cities of Canada,”) are so evidently data-intensive as to require no explanation apart from the lyrics themselves.
Unless otherwise noted, each of the numbered lessons is projected to require a two hour block of time for presentation. This will normally be divided into two 60 minute or three 40 minute periods with breaks.
Collective these add up to 200 hours of instructional time over a 50 day itinerary. Since weekends will be largely free of formal instruction, except for tours of sites on route or guest lecturers travelling aboard, the actual scheduling will approximate 5½ hours daily for five days each of the seven week itinerary. (This is additional to daily drama, music and site visits and projects that all add to content and value.
Specific scheduling in the day and week will adapt to the transport timetable. Extended travel blocks by air or rail lend themselves ideally to lesson presentations, providing they can be punctuated by points of interest en route, whether or not these relate specifically to a topic being presented. Station stops/other layovers will preferentially serve for field studies and some of these will entail lessons in this section.
Some topics are site-specific: Blanshard-Douglas (30) to Victoria BC, Time Out at Amherstburg (46) to Windsor ON. Others are regionally specific: Crowfoot-Lacobme (49) to Alberta while topics Continental Drift (1) or Canadian Values (6) can be slotted freely in the itinerary.
These lessons are original material, not copied from, or published elsewhere. Copyright is freely shared with Classroom participants
Themes & Overviews
Land and other forces that shaped us
- Continental Drift … A study of the evolution of the land mass that makes up Canada’s territory, beginning with differentiation of what is now the North American continent, ameba like, from the primordial Pangea. How the pieces on our on our east and west coasts were not originally parts of this continent but drifted here as migrants from other tectonic plates: Newfoundland and Nova Scotia from the North African plate, Vancouver Island and Haida Gwai across the Pacific from the southern “ring of fire.” This shows that our land, like our peoples, is not purebred but hybrid and composite geologically: a country of migrants!
- Prehistoric Climate – The cycles of warming and cooling that ancient Canada went through as part of an evolving planet. Our reputation as a “cold spot” is relatively recent in geological time as seen from fossil records. Our high arctic islands were once equatorial, our central plain a tropical inland sea warmer than the Florida everglades. Remains of the earlier state are stored as oil, gas and bitumen in layers of sedimentary rock making us a leading supplier of petrochemical energy in a cooler world.
- Alpine Glaciation – How massive ice and snow that covered most of our country sculpted the mountains it flowed through, over and among, and how to recognize this in the peaks, arrets, serracs, cirques and valleys when you see them. This is like using a multilayered textbook of the human body, and lifting the transparencies of skin, musculature, sinews and major organs to see the skeletal structure beneath and how it supports the whole. After this, you’ll never see mountains as inert rock but as snapshots of a dynamic process. You’ll also see the sources of watersheds and the passes, valleys and other open spaces that have shaped migration and settlement (human geography).
- Watersheds/borders – Though most of our southern border follows an arbitrary east-west line, that line was fixed as an extension of the Saint Lawrence/Great Lakes watershed. It was intended that our western boundary follow the Columbia River but compromise on the 49th parallel ended up with the line just south of the Fraser. Watersheds can serve both to divide and to draw together. Here we’ll look at four river systems: the Ottawa-St. Lawrence, St. John, Saskatchewan-Nelson and Thompson-Fraser that influenced the country in an east-west direction, and three north-south systems: the Red and Missouri-Mississippi that cross the 49th parallel on the prairies, and the Peace-Slave-Mackenzie that is the lifeline of Canada’s Western Arctic.
- The English & French in North America & the World – Wolfe defeated Montcalm at Quebec the same day as Britain bested France in the Indian Ocean and world power passed to Britain from France. This was a pivot point in a 750 year struggle from William the Conqueror through Joan of Arc to the end of the War of 1812-14. (Napoleon had plans to retake Canada from Britain.) Removal of the French threat from North America permitted U.S. Independence; refugees from that Revolution gave Canada its first major English speaking population. So Europe’s longest standing rivals became cohabitants of Canada with First Nations: eventual collaborators in a pluralistic state.
- Canadian Values – Many Canadians are at a loss to describe their country except in terms of our southern neighbour and our European parentage. Yet there are four underlying values all our regions/peoples affirmed at some point and are recognized and sought by newcomers who join us in a steady stream. These are accommodation, our ability to stretch and adapt; accountability, political, financial, social and environmental, to which we hold each other and our leaders), a creative tension between the two preceding values, and one that expresses in our regionalism; and a quest for connectedness that holds the parts together in the hope/belief of a greater whole. We’ll study how these overlap and have played out on our shared journey.
- Canadian Symbols – In the maple leaf, beaver, Niagara Falls, the great river that opens the continent, our motto “from sea to sea”, the railway, Peace Tower, Charter and Crown in its Canadian form, we have reference points that connect us in time/space. We look at these in detail to see how they do so.
- The Planter tradition & the Métis mode – The world’s most conflicted spots have resulted from one people’s attempt to impose a régime on a territory that is already inhabited. First Nations speak call this “being colonized.” Like the peoples of South Africa, they set up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to expose attempts to enslave or assimilate them. Canada’s worst example was the extinction of Newfoundland’s Beothuk people. Many attacks faced by New France grew from the race by French and English to arm each other’s Indian allies, others from aboriginal fears their lands were being taken from them.
As European traders moved inland, farther from colonies on the coast, they gradually got it right. Collaborating with First Nations in exchange of furs and buffalo robes, they intermarried and the Métis people emerged. These formed a distinct, stable and generally peaceful society except when embroiled in trade wars between companies, or attempts to import agricultural settlers.
The Métis provisional government on the Red River at the end of the Hudson Bay Company lease was the first elected self-government in Canada that included European members but was not a colonial offshoot. It included French, Scottish and English speaking Métis and was related through them to the Cree and other First Nations who had their own councils. It was prepared to negotiate with the Government of Canada for admission to Canada as a province, not a territory. It began its manifesto with a pledge of loyalty to Queen Victoria, a loyalty shared by the outgoing Company and the incoming Dominion.
These factors of election, inclusiveness and the rule of law make the Red River régime a good starting point in a study of Canadian self-government. The April 14, 2016 Supreme Court ruling that the Métis people are a Federal responsibility, along with other First Nations, can be seen as an example of the line “The first shall be last, and the last, first.” It is more than a legal, political or financial settlement. It is a social and spiritual one.
With immigration and intermarriage, Canadians have become a mixed people. I am/Je suis métis is something we can all affirm as members of Kanata, the global village. Vive la convergence!
(Module to be delivered with members of the Métis Association)
- Is Canada a Country? This was called in question by the last Québec Premier to lead his province on a platform to separate from Canada. It was asked 40 years earlier by some in Alberta who felt a greater cultural and economic affinity with the US. It has been asked at one time people in every part of Canada except Ontario. (See 57. survey of separatist movements …)
Like the Baptist minister who replied to the professed atheist’s “I don’t believe in God,” with “Very well. Now tell me about this god you don’t believe in. (Chances are, I don’t either)”, we need to broaden this question from Canada to “What is a country?”
Canada brought together a group of distinct colonies in the same decade as Italy and Germany united in Europe. But where the unification of these two countries rested on ethnic nationalism—a sense of Germanness or Italianness—Canadian confederation was built on more pragmatic foundations.
People in Québec wanted out of the straitjacket of the United Province with Ontario. Ontarians wanted to get their hands on land to the west (Rupertsland). And some Maritimers—most were split on the issue—were bought/brought in by promise of payment of their provincial debts. Only a very few had a vision of a larger country built on principle rather than self-interest.
The unifiers of Italy and Germany relied on the realpolitik of provoking conflicts with neighbours to achieve their aim, igniting Italians and Germans against others to force them together. Canada did not have this luxury. The only potential adversary was the US that could have annexed us easily had it chosen to.
The possibilities of conflict for Canada were greater internally than externally. French and English had been at each others’ throats in Québec 30 years before. Since one group had been unable to assimilate the other, getting out of the United Province was the main reason for seeking a new arrangement.
Canada was the first modern state to emerge without revolution or civil war: an achievement in itself. With the original goals of the Fathers of Confederation met, we can consider what kind of a country we have and what it brings to the world. In this we’ll look at meanings: nation, state, country, dominion, federation.
- Deciding Moments in Canada’s story – Mahatma Gandhi, father of modern India, spoke of “the power of a simple ‘No’.” William Lyon Mackenzie Canada—and the Commonwealth’s—longest serving PM, asked about his greatest achievement in his 22 years, replied “More important is what I prevented from happening.” He was probably speaking of his part in averting another conscription crisis of the kind that had split the country in World War I.
Applicants to Canadian Classroom on Rails … were asked to identify defining moments in our history. There is no one right answer to this question. Answers may differ depending on the part of the country we live in. Hearing each other’s answers can help us to understand both our country and each other better.
This lesson will begin by considering a list of defining moments based on the Gandhi/King premises of things we have prevented from happening by saying No to a choice that was offered. After these have been discussed, there will be time for students to share replies, if they wish, that they gave in their applications.
- Adam Dollard’s Non in the stand at Long Sault 1660
- Frontenac’s Non to Sir William Phips ultimatum 1690
- Madeline de Verchères Non to Iroquois invaders 1692
- Quebec’s Non to Benjamin Franklin’s invitation 1776
- Crowfoot’s No to Louis Riel’s invitation 1885
- Canadians’ No/Non to Reciprocity 1911
- The Five’s No to Supreme Court on “persons” ruling 1928
- Canadians’ No/Non to Nazi invasion of Poland 1939
- Pierre Trudeau’s Non to the FLQ Manifesto 1970
- June Callwood No to Charter unless women’s rights 1981
- Elijah Harper’s No to the Meech Lake Accord 1990
- Canadians’ No/Non to the Charlottetown Accord 1992
- Québécois Non in Sovereignty Referendum 1995
- Canadians’ No/Non to niqab ban in election 2015
These 14 are included because without them Canada would not exist or not exist in its present form. A corresponding list could be developed on individuals/events that said Yes to Canada.
- Voyageur Routes/Tradition – Francophone voyageurs’ role in opening the West is evident in the names of Miette Hot Springs, Lac Beauvert and Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Tête Jaune Cache (Yellowhead Pass) in British Columbia west of the Park and Pouce Coupé near Dawson Creek to the north. These names, along with aboriginal ones, were given to waterways these men plied in their annual trek running furs to Montreal.
We may also be aware of voyageurs costumes, songs and dances that figured in the layovers en route or in the winter freeze up. A good map and folklore book can give us these. Less evident is a deeper stream of the voyageur tradition: a stream that distinguished them from their fellow stay-at-home Québécois and that continues in Québec and Canadian politics.
In language and national unity debates, English speakers outside may be confused: Do they want a separate Québec, a bilingual Canada or both: to have their cake and eat it?
Such questions involve two different “theys” and these groups go back 400 years to New France. Québec society was built along the rivers on narrow strip farms that stretched back from the river like a roadway, which it was. If a habitant took to the river or to a path overland, it was to visit his seigneur (senior farmer of the development), the parish priest or a relative.
Quebec had a three-fold leadership. There was the governor in change of military affairs, protection from invaders and building and maintaining necessary fortifications. The intendant was in charge of economic affairs, stabilizing the currency, providing encouragement for small business, imports and exports from the colony. The Church was responsible for what we call social services: hospitals, schooling and the relief of poverty. Though the bishop was officially in charge, most of these institutions were run by women, some laypersons and some in orders.
The Church wanted men to be “sons of the soil” who would farm, pay their tithes and raise subservient Catholic families. The Intendant shared these goals with a great largesse for different types of business as long as it brought economic activity and revenue to the colony
The fur trade was frowned on by Bishop and Intendant. It was outside their control, its practitioners “runners of the woods” not sons of the soil, away much of the year, mated with indigenous women, not baptized Catholics, building up fortunes they could blow on their return, and living as dandies. Some supplemented their wages with ventures such as selling brandy to the natives.
Because these voyageurs were not rooted to Quebec homes, they were seen as vendus (“sellouts”) or worse by mainstream society. But they were not rootless; they simply had a larger, freer field of play interspersed by the grueling days of paddling. Most fathered Métis children and many were quite committed to their native partners when they were with them.
The distinction between sons of the soil and runners of the woods continues in a more secular urbanized society. Most Québécois prefer to stay close to home—while they may travel to Florida in winter! This has forced some highly successful Québec enterprises to recruit non-Québec managers to staff out-of-province offices and branches. For this group, Québec is their home, and they focus on the provincial government as the one that reflects who they are. When federal-provincial tensions arise they generally rally in support of “la nation québécoise.”
Today’s voyageurs include Québécois who join the Canadian Armed Forces, Air Canada, the Gendarmerie Royal du Canada (RCMP), Federal public service including the national parks service or teach French immersion classes in other provinces. The world is their oyster; while they still see Québec as “home,” they’re less likely to be caught in the religion of Québec politics. To those in in the first group, they may still be vendu(s), as an earlier generation might have seen then as lapsed Catholics.
Our study of this topic will include readings from four eras:
- from New France on the fur trade, from both viewpoints
- after 1763 when the trade ownership passed to the British
- the Confederation debates: to join or not to join
- during la révolution tranquille, e.g., P-E Trudeau, Nouvelle trahison des clercs (Cité libre)
It will conclude with a discussion by Classroom … participants, particularly by those living in/with family connections to Québec.
- Redrawing the map: our internal boundaries – In 38 years after Confederation, Canada added five provinces to the initial four and carved new territory, Yukon, from the remaining NWT. It was not only in extension of land mass that Canada evolved. There were frequent changes of administrative districts and somewhat less frequent changes of the Territorial capital.
There were multiple additions to the original postage-stamp province of Manitoba and boundary adjustments between it and Ontario. There was a northward extension of Ontario and Quebec to include former Rupert’s Land territory to tidewater.
After the Great War (WW I) Canada was offered and declined territory from the Alaskan panhandle. After World War II, we gained a tenth province, Newfoundland, following a vote by Newfoundlanders. Mainland Labrador came along with the island but was not included in the name as “Newfoundland and Labrador,” until the 21st century. Acquisition of Labrador by Canada made internal a longstanding dispute over boundaries between Newfoundland and Quebec, a dispute that reopened in the debate leading up to Québec’s sovereignty referendums.
Study of these changes will include illustrated maps of “before” and “after” each, and key parties in the adjustments. We’ll also look at some of the pre-Confederation changes including the joining of Cape Breton Island to Nova Scotia, and Vancouver Island to mainland British Columbia. Had these mergers been delayed, Canada could have had two additional provinces!
- Changing flags, changing faces – Some students may have heard from parents and grandparents that Canada had another flag before the present red maple leaf. They may have seen an earlier Canadian red ensign. There were five versions of this flown in Canada, not counting two provincial flags still based on it. Our maple leaf flag is the eleventh to flag over Canadian soil since Europeans arrived. (First Nations did not use flags.)
This lesson will trace the history of those flags, English, French, Spanish, British, plus provincial and corporate ones (Hudson’s Bay Co.) and how these reflected a changing sense of identity. We’ll also at changing faces on our currency/postage stamps.
- A survey of separatist movements in Canada – In 1995 a referendum to give the Québec government a mandate to negotiate separation from the rest of Canada failed by 1 per cent. Though this caused great unrest, given Québec’s size and its role as the focus of one of our two official languages, it was not the first time this kind of discussion has taken place here. Québec was the fourth province to raise the issue in 128 years.
The first dissenter was Prince Edward Island. It had hosted the 1864 Maritime Union conference that was gate-crashed by delegates from the Canadas with proposals for a wider union. PEI took part in later discussions but was not among the four Confederation provinces of 1867. It joined six years later.
The second was Nova Scotia, that elected an anti-Confederate provincial assembly the year after Confederation took effect. Joseph Howe, leader of the fight for responsible government two decades earlier, was one of the chief opponents. Sir John A Macdonald increased federal funding for the province, invited Howe into the federal cabinet and two years later made him Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor. At the provinces next election, opinion was reversed and Confederation affirmed.
British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871 on promise of the building of a railway to the Pacific within ten years. With Sir John’s defeat in the Pacific Scandal three years later, followed by five years of Liberal rule, the project lapsed and BC began talking secession. The Conservatives reelection in 1976 and incorporation of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1871 slowed the debate that ended before the railway’s completion in 1885.
Québec’s relationship with the rest of Canada suffered in the 1885 hanging of Louis Riel that convinced many French speaking Quebeckers there was no secure home for them outside their own province. The imposition of conscription by a Unionist government in the Great War proved they were not safe even within their own province when English speaking Canadians could outvote them in the House of Commons.
The Quiet Revolution, accompanied by a falling birthrate, led some to a conviction of “now or never” before the strength declined still further in proportion to the Canadian population. Separatist parties were formed; one, the Parti Québécois, led by former Liberal Cabinet Minister René Lévesque, won 23% of the vote in the 1970 provincial election but only 6 of 100 seats.
The PQ formed a government in 1975 buoyed by public support for Les gens de l’air, an association of Francophone air traffic controllers who’d been blocked from using French in Québec airspace. In 1980 Lévesque’s government held a “sovereignty-association” referendum that it lost by 60% in part due to strong intervention by federal PM Pierre Trudeau who promised “constitutional change” if the referendum was defeated.
Trudeau’s change was patriation of the Canadian constitution with an amending formula and an entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Though it was not what Quebecer’s had had in mind when Trudeau talked of constitutional change, Québec’s Liberal MP’s (62 of 65 in the House) supported it and in time it proved popular with the populace inside and outside Québec.
The PQ government rejected the package. Its support was not essential after Premier Lévesque agreed to surrender Quebec’s customary veto in negotiations with his colleagues. Personally he felt betrayed that PM Trudeau had adopted a package approved by the other premiers—at a meeting to which he’d not be invited—after agreeing to put the deal to a referendum.
The Charter passed and public attention moved on. Five years later Progressive Conservative PM Brian Mulroney proposed a five-point plan, the Meech Lake Accord, to gain Québec’s consent under a federalist government. The original provincial unanimity broke down when three of the signing premiers’ governments were defeated and the Accord died unratified.
Nationalist feeling took this as a “rejection” of Québec, leading to breakup of the federal PC caucus and formation of the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois. With the next election of a PQ government, plans proceeded for the 1995 referendum, narrowly lost, this time attributed to a mass rally of Canadians from other provinces who came to appeal Please don’t go. Chantal Hébert has attributed a subsequently decline in support for sovereignty to the fact it has been debated freely, showing Canada is not the alleged oppressor to be escaped.
- The Pluralistic Society in Canada – Our record here derives less from our diverse origins than from some specific choices made along the way. Our First Nations from the Micmac of New Brunswick to the Haida of British Columbia, the Blackfoot of the prairies to the Dene and Inuit of the arctic, represent an enormous culture spread. But they could not collectively be called a society, being separate and distinct societies.
Sometimes they traded with each other across borders of their respective territories. Occasionally, with or without permission, they passed over each other’s land. Some formed alliances such as the Iroquois and Blackfoot confederacies. Outside such alliances individuals might be permitted enter on the territory of others as emissaries and explorers. Wholesale encroachment was a challenge; if continued, it could lead to conflict.
Arrival of the Europeans with metal objects increased trade across traditional boundaries. Small or large scale, trade was important to the livelihood of all; the building of trading posts and forts was permitted if it did not lead to major settlement.
The establishment of New France as a settlement colony led to such enmity with the Iroquois for 200 years from Champlain’s equipping their Huron enemies with firearms. It was punctuated by victories, defeats and truces, and fired by European wars.
New France could not be considered pluralistic, even if friction between farming and the fur trade created a counterculture. De Mons and Champlain who first led the venture were Huguenots (Protestant) but after Henri IV revoked the Edict of Nantes, New France became exclusively Catholic and the Church, reporting directly to Rome, had enormous influence in day to day life.
Settlement in the New England colonies to the south was drawn from a diversity of religious dissenters from the Old World, who were often intolerant of each other and split within their ranks.
Before the American Revolution the English speaking presence in Canada consisted of North West and Hudson Bay Company workers and a coterie of merchants who had come north from New England in the hope of profiting from the British takeover. It was partially for the purpose of restraining these newcomers, who showed little regard for the inhabitants already there, that the British Parliament passed the 1774 Quebec Act, securing the rights of French Canadians to their language and culture. It was also hoped to win the loyalty or at least the neutrality of Québec in the growing struggles with the American colonies.
The British already understood pluralism, having appeased and incorporated Welsh and Scots cultures under a common crown. But they went farther in accommodation of their new French colony than they had ever gone in their own islands.
The Quebec Act, citing Elizabeth I’s Act of Toleration as a precedent, laid the foundation for Canadian pluralism. It is fair to say that if the order in Canada had been reversed, and the French had been the conquerors here, they would have been far less generous to their new subjects than the British were. They would have in all probability have attempted to assimilate them as the English attempted to do only occasionally, and they would have been more persistent, ruthless and successful.
The protection of indigenous people, at least temporarily, had begun in Britain’s Proclamation of 1763, and the closing of “Indian lands” to settlement was spelled out in 1774, adding a further grievance to the Thirteen Colonies that coveted them. French traders/voyageurs had reached a mutually respectful relationship with the First Nations, and the British recognized the wisdom of continuing this approach.
The American Revolution gave Canada its first wave of refugees and its first major English speaking population. Accommodating them while not undermining those already here led to partition of the former Acadia into Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and of Quebec into Lower and Upper Canada.
This influx laid the ground for 200 years of French/English (Catholic/Protestant) struggle inflamed by Protestant extremists from the Loyal Orange Order in Northern Ireland. Inflammatory words and actions by Orangemen made much more difficult the government’s handling of the two Louis Riel-led Métis uprisings.
Alternation between separation of French and English in Lower and Upper Canada, and attempted integration and assimilation in a United Province culminated in Confederation of 1867. This was a further affirmation of pluralism within a larger framework as the Quebec Act had attempted to achieve 93 years earlier.
In the 1970s the status given the French language in in Québec at Confederation was being sought by francophone minorities outside the province. This culminated in Ottawa’s offering its services in both languages “where numbers warrant” and in federal institutions such as CN and VIA Rail, the post office, Air Canada and national parks, establishing a bilingual presence cross country even where French is not spoken or understood.
To neutralize opposition from other minority language groups, especially in the West, the policy was reframed as Bilingualism and Multiculturalism. Grants were made available for language instruction and cultural events. It was at this point that people began to talk explicitly about Canada as a pluralistic society.
Further immigration including refugees continued to stretch our sense of who we are. Muslims actively practicing their religion, even when this places them at variance with Canadian practice, may prove a less long lived challenge than the Roman Catholic-Protestant tensions of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Acceptance of diversity such as the niqab, and the turban in the RCMP in 1990, shows that “the one who can define ‘Canadian’ has not been born and both his/her parents are deceased!
- Playing cards to paper money to A Nation of Bankers – In 1684 a ship from France did not reach Québec to bring soldiers their pay before Saint Lawrence freeze-up. Intendant Jacques de Meulles declared playing cards bearing the Governor’s seal to be legal tender, exchangeable for coin when the ship arrived in spring. Paper and leather bank drafts had been used before, but this was the first paper currency in fixed denominations.
As de Meulles moved to stabilize the economy, Canada’s 1871 government established a banking system that required a bank to have solid reserves and branches cross country to qualify for charter. Canada’s banking system and currency has become a world model withstanding challenges where others have failed.
- Canada and the Northwest Passage – From the arrival of the Europeans, Canada’s story can be told in this framework:
- Seagoing explorers—Cabot, Cartier, Frobisher, Davis, Hudson, Cook—searched for a passage to Asia
- Québec based voyageurs—La Vérendrye, Kelsey, Alex Mackenzie—found it : « from Canada by land
- Canadian Pacific built the passage: steamships on both oceans, 6000 km rail between: 19 da. London-Shangha
- Workers imported to build the railway who stayed here became the passage: a global community of humanit
- With the melting of Arctic ice, a sea route opens on our north coast, and Canada guards/maintains the passage
This is a multi-session lesson in which we study the specifics (persons, routes) of each point and how they all come together.
- The Labour Movement in Canada – PM Sir John A. Macdonald brought in an act to legalize unions in Canada’s first parliament. Canada’s labour tradition differs from that of Britain, the United States and the European continent. Milestones include:
- a shorter work week
- (un)employment insurance
- automatic dues deduction
- public service bargaining
- jobsite safety
- maternal/parental benefits
We will look at each of these achievements in its context.
- Dating our beginnings – To talk of “Canada’s 150th birthday” in 2017 is a narrow view. It ignores 408 years French speaking Canadians lived here and much longer tenure of First Nations. 1867 marked Canada’s 5th constitution enacted under British administration: a political milestone. Other ways of dating are: (a) geological, (b) migration/settlement, (c) technological, (d) culture and (e) human rights – how we treat each other. In this session we’ll date our country on each of these scales.
- Governance Models in northern North America – Much of this lesson is to with indigenous government that has operated in Canada, past and present. We’ll sample a model from each of six regions: (a) Atlantic coastal, (b) Pacific coastal, (c) arctic coastal, (d) arctic inland, (e) eastern inland and (f) central plain.
For each of these we’ll look at social responsibility in the group, hierarchy/status, leadership: eligibility/accountability/succession code of behaviour & enforcement, economy in the group, and relations with others outside the group – This last point may tell us about a culture’s approach/susceptibility to the Europeans.
We’ll then briefly survey four contemporary models: (i) urban municipal, (ii) rural/county, (iii) Westminster, (iv) band council. Looking at how these actually work will tell us something about day-to-day relations among these orders of government.
- The Crown in Canada – There are three common mistakes we make in thinking about the Crown: One is assuming it’s English. (It’s not. Sovereigns of five national origins have worn it.)
Next is to believe it’s all about the royals and royal family. (Again, it’s not. The Canadian Crown is made up largely of governors, general and lieutenant, and at times, supreme court judges. One can be a committed monarchist and not a royalist.)
Last is to see it as purely ceremonial. (Yes, it is ceremonial but it’s not only that. It has specific day-to-day tasks, as well as reserve or emergency tasks/powers. While we’re on ceremony, let’s remember symbols can be very powerful e.g., Der Führer.)
Having rid ourselves of these misconceptions, we can look at
- what the Crown actually does, including the above powers,
- how the Crown has evolved in Canada, and impact abroad,
- what the last 6 sovereigns have done in and for Canada and
- specific legacies of some governors general (Stanley Cup)
- The Changing Shape of Canadian Federalism – Federalism was not Sir John A’s choice as part of the Canadian cocktail. He wanted straight-up Westminster with a supreme Parliament. Provincial governments were foisted on us by Quebec’s need for protection for its uniqueness and something most other Canadians are now thankful for as a check on federal power.
Once stuck with them, Sir John resolved to make them as small and weak as possible. He called them “local governments,” little more than municipalities. That didn’t last long. Over 149 years we’ve had provinces and federal government, there have been five distinct phases of federalism, so different from each other we could almost believe we’re looking at different countries:
First was the Sir John A. honeymoon: subservient provinces he could ignore or overrule through a “disallowance” clause of the constitution that’s since fallen into disuse. He used it … times.
Second was a period when the premiers of Ontario and Québec put their heads together and challenged the federal power. They appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK, which could overrule our Supreme Court at the time. Viscount Haldane, chief law lord from 1911-1928 overturned and redefined many aspects of Sir John’s dream of a strong central government at the expense of provincial powers.
Third was after 1949 when Canada’s Supreme Court actually became supreme, and appeals could no longer be made to the British House of Lords. Though supreme, it was not very active, perhaps from having been overruled so often by the Lords. On one occasion it asserted itself, using John Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights to quash a conviction under the Indian Act.
Fourth was the high water mark of “Cooperative Federalism” in the late 1960s when a minority Pearson government found itself across the table from strident provinces. Three of their premiers wanted to be addressed as “prime minister” like the federal PM.
Fifth was the post-Charter period. After 1985, the Court was both Supreme and active, prepared to revisit and revise many aspects of Canadian life, including the federal-provincial power balance in the light of the new constitutional framework.
We’ll examine, and possibly dramatize/debate, one example of federal-provincial relations from each of these periods
- Ombudsmen, Commissioners & other add-ons/innovations – In the 1960s there was a widespread perception that our parliamentary system, at both federal and provincial levels was not functioning as well as it could. One response to this was to strengthen the executive (first minister’s office) based on belief that a presidential system was more effective in getting things done. A contrasting response that drew on the Scandinavian system focused on the individual who could fall through the cracks, and the office of ombudsman (later ombudsperson) was imported into/grafted onto the Westminster model.
The first ombudsman appointed in Canada was in Alberta in 1967 and the first appointee was a former Commissioner of the RCMP. This became the gold standard for other régimes. While the federal government did not set up a single ombudsman’s position, it pioneered with Access and Privacy Commissioners. Soon a plethora of parliamentary or legislative officers including ethics commissioners, conflict of interest commissioners, and children’s advocates, seniors advocates veterans ombudsmen sprung up in the way governments created new cabinet posts for the Status of Women and other visible and target groups.
In time the same governments that had set up these positions began to resent their interventions and cut back on their powers and research budgets. This lesson will look at the effectiveness and impact of parliamentary officers at the federal level, with selective reference to provincial and municipal level examples.
- Law enforcement models in the Canadian tradition – In 1846 Sir Robert Peel set up the London Metropolitan Police force and “bobbies” became a model. Thirty years later Canada created the North West Mounted Police—the name was to have been “Rifles” but Sir John changed it at the last moment—that for years set a world standard for integrity and effectiveness.
This lesson will survey a variety of Canadian police models at the federal, provincial and local levels. We’ll look at the town or band constable and “les voltigeurs” (darts) Victoria, BC’s first police force composed of voyageurs from the Hudson’s Bay Company. We’ll also examine provincial/territorial policing and the NWMP and Dominion Police that joined to form the RCMP.
- Canada’s Heads of Government: survey of our federal PMs – Unlike US youth, Canadian students do not learn the names of their heads of government/PMs. There is good reason for this.
Not all are significant. Some served for only a few months as interims, “transitionals” or caretakers at a fin du régime. They took the fall for predecessors who realized their time had run out and did not want to face the voters’ verdict themselves.
Only four of Canada’s post-Confederation PMs served 15 years or more and three of these had a Time Out in Opposition stuck between their terms in office. William Lyon Mackenzie King, who served 22 years in all, had two Time Outs: one lasting only a few months to Arthur Meighen and one of five years to R. B. Bennett. Pierre Trudeau had nine months out of power (to Joe Clarke’s minority) between his third and fourth terms as PM.
Sir John A. Macdonald second term as PM ended prematurely in the Pacific Scandal and he spent five years in Opposition. He returned to power for our more terms with majorities. Only Sir Wilfrid Laurier served his five terms (15 years) consecutively.
Three of these four 15-plus prime ministers, Macdonald, Laurier and King, are on our paper currency along with Robert Borden who served almost nine years through the Great War (WW I).
Longevity in office is one mark of political success. These four plus Borden are significant not only in the time they served but how they shaped the country. There are other PMs who served for shorter periods but must be considered significant too.
Chief among them is Lester Pearson whose five years (back-to-back minorities) gave Canada its current flag, Medicare and the Canada Pension Plan. A diplomat more than a politician, his skill held together a cabinet with considerable and competitive talent and showed how minority government could work well.
Other short term PMs had significant roles not of their choosing. John Diefenbaker’s initiatives such as Commons bilingualism, Bill of Rights and “One Canada” stand paved the way for later lasting achievements by Pierre Trudeau. And the limitations of Mackenzie and Clark led to return of their opposites Macdonald and Trudeau for more productive years than before their losses!
- Canada’s Corporate Legacy – Though corporations have had dubious publicity, two of the world’s earliest and largest in their time had a significant positive role in Canada’s development.
The Hudson’s Bay Company and Canadian Pacific Railway both ruled territories larger than the settled Canada of their day. HBC Governor George Simpson was referred to as “The Little Emperor”; his protégé James Douglas was founder of the first British colony on Vancouver Island (Victoria) and father of the later, larger province of British Columbia. It was the voyageurs of the North West Company (later merged with the Hudson’s Bay Co.) who held Western Canada within the British sphere of influence after the American Revolution, and whose exploration of the waterways prefigured the later path of the railways.
It was Canadian Pacific that took up the development where the Hudson’s Bay rule left off. It created the port city of Vancouver and other cities and towns along its line, laying out the streets and determining the value of real estate. Its own land holdings including natural resources (coal, oil, gas and base metals) made it self-sufficient in world economic downturns. Its ships on Pacific and Atlantic oceans, in tandem with the transcontinental railway, enabled it to fulfill the earlier dream of the North West Passage, providing an unsurpassed connection from Europe to Asia until the days of air travel and the Panama Canal.
Both companies proved imaginative at reshaping themselves to meet changing conditions, and we’ll look at these successive restructurings and leaders who made them corporate models. Well also study a later Canadian company that went global: Québec’s Bombardier that began by inventing snowmobiles and now focuses on passenger aircraft and rail production.
With Canada’s tradition of a mixed (public/privately) economy, we’ll examine Crown corporations CN and BC Rail, Hydro-Quebec, Ontario Hydro and BC Hydro and Alberta Government Telephones (AGT) and BC Tel that became Telus Corporation. T. C. “Tommy” Douglas said he considered rural electrification his greatest achievement as Premier of Saskatchewan.
- Canada and Titanic competition by builders of Canadian origin
– Titanic was conceived by Québec born William Pirrie, Chair of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders and senior director of the White Star Line that had New Brunswick roots. The monster ship plan (Titanic was second of three sisters) was intended to rival the new turbine steamers Lusitania and Mauritania of the Cunard Line founded by Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Titanic’s distress signals reached the world through the wireless relay station at Cape Race, Newfoundland. Once damaged, the ship was first reported to be under tow to Halifax, from which the operation to recover remains was launched with chartered vessels. Most of the bodies recovered are buried in Halifax.
130 passengers aboard Titanic were bound for Canada, representing almost every region and major city in the country. Well known figures include the Countess of Rothes (married to a BC fruit farmer), Charles Melville Hays, President of Canada’s Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, Harry Molson of the brewing family, French sculptor Paul Chevré, on his way to attend the unveiling of his bust of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, singer Berthe Mayné and Arthur Peuchen, Toronto president of a chemical company. There were also a number of immigrants from Europe and the Middle East on their way to start a new life in Canada.
In addition to the human loss, the greatest Canadian impact fell on Prince Rupert BC. Hays had chosen it as GTP’s western terminus, being two days closer to Asia by sea than Vancouver.
He planned to build Rupert from scratch as Van Horne had done with Vancouver that Hays planned to surpass in size. His death robbed his Company of his energy and oversight. Though the trackage to Rupert was laid, the Company failed and the route was downgraded to a branch line out of Jasper. Had Hays lived and succeeded, BC would have had two large competing cities on different rail lines, as Saskatchewan and Alberta do, rather than being dominated by one lower mainland metropolis.
Titanic is a story with Canadian connections as much as US and British ones. These will be set out in detail in this lesson, based on an educational program presented in Alberta and BC.
- Key Technologies in Canadian development – Canada is a nation of minorities and far-flung regions that was put together and built up by technology. Transportation and communication were vital to this project and led to much innovation. Railways (Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk) were major players and investors here, a legacy that continued with Bombardier and earlier, with Canadair. The CBC began as a CN Rail project to provide music and other entertainment to passengers travelling on its lines. Satellite and microwave followed, essential for connecting inhabitants of remote regions with the rest of the country. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, largest shareholder of CN Rail, has identified Canadian classrooms as being in first place in introduction and use of the internet. Canadian Classroom on Rails will develop and connect these features in this lesson.
- Prefixes, Propulsion and Canadian Marine Transport – This lesson applies the technical aspect of the preceding lesson to the shipping theme presented in the lesson before. The prefixes before the names of mechanically powered vessels tell us two things: (a) the ownership/usage of the vessel such as “HMCS” for Canadian naval tonnage and (b) the means of propulsion such as SS (“steamship”) or MV (“motor vessel”). A relatively unique prefix, TEV (“turbo-electric vessel”) was applied to a highly successful pair of coastal liners, Princess Marguerite and Princess Patricia, built for high speed and maneuverability as part of Canadian Pacific’s marine operations in BC. Princess Patricia was the namesake/pioneer of Princess Cruise Lines. In this lesson we’ll examine both the operational and esthetic particulars of these ships.
- From Magna Carta to Charter of Rights and Freedoms –
Canada’s Charter has replaced the American Constitution and Bill of Rights as a model for emerging and restructuring states. International jurists and legal scholars now consider Canada a “constitutional superpower” and our Supreme Court rulings are cited by high courts in South Africa, Israel and New Zeeland. This session will trace the development and democracy and human rights from Magna Carta over 800 years of enactments in Britain, the United States and United Nations to Canada’s own contribution to global governance.
- Balladeers: Bolduc, Carter, the 1960s, Lightfoot, the bards
– “Canadian” folk music begins with the plaints of First Nations and the songs and dances of those who came here from other places. Establishment of Canadian societies of folklore and folk music was a vital step in collecting and compiling this material.
Ethnologist Marius Barbeau and Canadian Pacific publicist John Murray Gibbon pioneered/collaborated in these efforts. Edith Fowke and Allan Mills were part of a next generation with the CBC, culminating in production of a recorded collection of traditional Canadian folk songs for 1967 centennial.
Two pioneer sing/songwriters, Mary Rose-Ann “La Boduc” and Wilf Carter, emerged in the 1920s with successful recording and performing careers. Bolduc was known as “The Queen of Canadian Folk singers,” Carter as father of Canadian country music. Radio helped the careers of both; the Canadian Pacific Railway and Calgary Stampede were frequent Carter gigs.
In the late 1950’s early Rock and Roll music was temporarily displaced on the Hit Parade by the “North American folk music revival.” This began in the US with songs of the Weavers a decade earlier, and continued to dominate the charts until the arrival of the Beatles in the early 1960s.
In Canada two of the giants Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell emerged as composers and performers whose works were first popularized by others. Leonard Cohen is another example in the English speaking stream. In Québec Félix Leclerc and Raymond Lévesque were founding “chansonniers,” followed by Jean-Pierre Ferland and Claude Léveillée.
Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Young, String Band and Tom Connors followed in English. Gordon Lightfoot’s two historical songs, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (the first commissioned by the CBC) opened a door that was enlarged by Stan Rogers who blended traditional themes with strikingly contemporary lyrics and music.
Rogers can be considered a bard of English speaking folk music; his Québec counterpart is Gilles Vigneault. Both wrote songs that became unofficial national anthems in their time: Rogers’ “Northwest Passage” and Vigneault’s “Mon Pays.” Both have been models and inspiration for a wave of later artists.
- A survey history of print journalism in Canada – Addressing a crowd in support of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, former PM Stephen Harper said, “Journalists practice freedom of the press but they did not create freedom of the press. All our freedoms were won by the brave men and women in uniform…”
That statement is not correct. Journalists Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia, William Lyon Mackenzie in Ontario and Louis-Joseph Papineau in Québec were reformers who advocated/agitated through the printed word and were prepared to put their liberty on the line for their causes. Howe’s denunciation of privilege and favour in Halifax won a bloodless victory for responsible government; it almost sent him to jail. Mackenzie and Papineau eventually resorted to violence making their stands ambiguous but does not diminishing the power of the pen and press.
This lesson will consider these individuals and others like them like Calgary’s Bob Edwards (“The Eye Opener”) who pressed the limits. We’ll also examine journalist Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aiken who made a fortune aboard), Calgary publisher Max Bell who ran a responsible and qualify local, and franchises such as Southam Press (then Hollinger Inc., now PostMedia) and consider the challenges faced by print in an electronic age.
- A survey history of electronic/broadcast media in Canada – Canada has networks, public and corporate, growing internet and social media usage and a figure of note here: Marshall McLuhan, the 1960s media guru whose prophecies are now established fact. McLuhan gave us works and phrases “The Gutenberg Galaxies,” “The Medium is the Message” and “Global Village.” The latter is of particular interest for a country whose Algonquin name means “village, that depends on communications to remain a country and where media ownership is concentrated in a small numbers of hands. We’ll explore these issues from viewpoints of content (journalism), production (publication) and regulation (guild and government).
Regional Specifics/People and Places
- Newfoundland from Cabot through the Victorian Age – This lesson will trace the evolution of “life on the Rock” to the era when the Theory of Evolution emerged in Western thinking. Due to the 1829 extinction of the Beothuk, our knowledge of First Nations on the island of Newfoundland is limited. On the mainland (Labrador) we have Inuit, Innu, Micmac and Métis.
John Cabot’s discovery of Grand banks cod transformed the island into a multi-cultural European fish processing station and we’ll look at the states—England, France, Spain and Portugal—that had interests and bases here. We’ll examine the English (later British) influence that became a year round colony and a base for Britain’s forays into the Arctic.
With most of the rest of the country under French colonial influence, Newfoundland is Canada’s one window on the Elizabethan age: seamen Gilbert, Frobisher, Davis and a Thanksgiving tradition the preceded the Puritan one.
We’ll study the Kirke brothers, a bicultural (English/French) brood of adventurers and privateers who traded in the Saint Lawrence under the French régime, and successfully raided and displaced Champlain as Governor for three years. Although their patron Charles I later rewarded David Kirke with a knighthood, he could not sustain the conquests but returned Québec and Acadia to the French Company of 100 Associates.
In compensation for his expropriated losses, Kirke was granted proprietary governorship of the Avalon Peninsula, arriving in 1638 with 100 colonists. His grant included rights to “the sole trade of the Newfoundland, the Fishing excepted,” a restriction he did not scrupulously respect in the building of an economic empire. His infractions drew mounting complaints from other trading interests. The end of England’s civil war, in which the Kirkes had supported the Royalist side, left them unprotected.
Kirk was seized, taken to England, tried and found not guilty. He re-purchased title to his lands and sent his wife back to Newfoundland to manage his affairs and reclaim his property. But new changes were laid against him. He died awaiting trial.
- From Titanic to a tenuous place as Canada’s 10th province
– This focuses on Newfoundland and Labrador as a case study on the impacts of 20th century technology from steel ships (Titanic and trawlers), communications (telegraph, wireless in the outports), world war (Newfoundland’s place geographically and a participant), world markets (1930s) and oil (1980s on).
We’ll follow politics and governance in this perspective: from Crown colony
- Prince Edward Island – From a jetliner overflying from London to New York, PEI looks like a giant red tuber, the predominantly red clay soil of its fields being the colour of potatoes they grow. For a tourist entering the province on the Confederation Bridge, the pontoon-supported structure over Northumberland Strait, the welcoming structures look like a hybrid motel village and an amusement park: colourful storefronts even more picture-framed in winter when they’re boarded up. To the right off the causeway is the highway to the capital, Charlottetown; to the left is the road to the Island’s second city Summerside. Right ahead, immediately off the Bridge, are these clean, coloured plywood fronts that put one in mind of a carnival or circus.
A circus was the first impression of delegates from the Canadas East and West (formerly Lower and Upper), who arrived on the chartered steamer Queen Victoria, to attend a meeting to discuss Maritime Union, and to crash the party with their own agenda for a wider Confederation that could go coast to coast.
No one was there to meet them at first, as the Island and its visitors had all gone out to see a circus that had come calling. At length a solitary rowboat appeared to ferry them to shore. This was the Canadians first taste of Island life, a laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes, where people do not hurry and life is good.
The week’s discussions, ending with a ball in Charlottetown’s Province House, where John A. Macdonald signed the register as “Cabinet Maker,” successfully in launched the Confederation project though Islanders delayed five years before joining it. Their support was eventually won, like that of other colonies, by offer of a railway! (merged into CN 1918 and abandoned 1989)
Legends tell of islands and kingdoms rising from the sea; one of these appears in the first verse of the anthem “Rule, Britannia!” Prince Edward Island actually did that, and its geological origins are different from the rest of Atlantic Canada. It was composed of sediment deposited by runoff from the surrounding mainland like the islands in a river delta. This formed a single mass that hardened to sandstone—PEI’s red cliffs—and rose 5000 years ago after melting of the glacial cover reduced the weight on the Earth’s crust and enabled it to rebound. Rising sea levels reduced the Island’s size and flooded its own river estuaries, producing the Charlottetown, Summerside and other harbours.
The Island was first inhabited by Micmac First Nations that named it Epekwitk (European “Abegweit”), meaning “cradled on the waves. Their beliefs in its origins—the Great Spirit’s placing of dark red clay on the waters—are not far off the mark!
Jacques Cartier sited the island on his 1534 voyage. It became part of France’s colony Acadie and was named Île Saint-Jean. Port-la-Joye, (present-day Hillsborough) was the administrative centre. New England troops, later repulsed, invaded in 1745: a precursor of the Acadian expulsion that finally came in 1758-59.
Britain acquired Acadia from France in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, and continued to use the name “St. John’s Island.” In 1770 the Island’s first British Governor Walter Patterson and his Colonial Assembly attempted to rename it “New Ireland” in a campaign to attract Irish settlers. This measure was disallowed by Britain.
After the US Revolution the Colony attempted to attract Loyalist refugees through the Governor’s brother who was one himself. Patterson’s 1789 recall interrupted this effort that resumed and succeeded under Governor Edmond Fanning (1789-1804)
The Island’s present name was adopted in 1798 to distinguish it from the two other St. Johns and honour Prince Edward, a son of George III and father of Queen Victoria. He served briefly as Canada’s Governor General from 1791-93 during the absence in England of Lord Dorchester and, after a year’s military command in the West Indies campaign, lived five years in Halifax where he oversaw the Royal Navy’s base, strengthened its defenses and contributed to social and cultural life.
His Canadian years were marked by an obsession with military discipline—he played troops like toy soldiers—and his love affair with French aristocrat Julie de Mont-Genêt he met in Geneva. She accompanied him to Canada as Julie de Saint-Laurent, presiding over glittering balls, soirees and skating parties that gave the Quebec court renown as a mini-Versailles.
In 1818 Edward was ordered to end his relationship with Julie to marry and produce an heir to the throne, which he did though the two remained friends. Edward’s legacy includes support for an early proposal to unite Britain’s colonies in North America, t for improved labour conditions, Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery. He is a deserving namesake for a province!
- Russia and Spain, early rivals on Canada’s Pacific coast
Focused on French-English duality in eastern Canada, we’ve overlooked another pair of powers that had an interest in our west coast. Spain had been in the Pacific since 1520 and Sir Francis Drake, who charted parts of the BC coast in the late 1500s, encoded his findings to avoid creating provocation at a time Spain was already massing its armada against England.
Spain had holdings in South America and began moving north to counter Russian expansion southward. Russia had a trading post in California; Alaskan Panhandle settlements Wrangell and Petersburg date from the Russian colonization of America. Both powers had an interest in trading with the First Nations for sea otter pelts that fetched a high price in China. Traders of British and Spanish roots plied this out of Nootka on Vancouver Island.
While Russia had no settlements on the BC coast, its presence in Alaska did affect Canada. The British government’s pressed its own interest on the coast farther north than if the Russians had not been in the vicinity. This resulted in British Columbia having a boundary at 60 degrees, farther north than that of any other Canadian province. This became a new norm for Alberta and Saskatchewan, also 60⁰ N, when they became provinces. Alaska was sold to the US in 1867 but a northern border for BC continued even after it was no longer under direct British rule.
Spain’s role on the BC coast was much greater. Spanish ships continued to explore, trade and affirm a presence through the time of George Vancouver’s expedition. Vancouver’s personal cordial relationship with the Spanish commander Juan Quadra facilitated British relations with the First Nations. (Lesson 47)
- New Brunswick: from shipbuilding to call centres – Once part of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick has a 4-fold post-aboriginal significance: as (a) the point Champlain began his explorations, (b) a home for refugees displaced by the American Revolution, (c) a source of shipbuilding lumber (reflected on the NB shield) (d) a bilingual province with a strong industrial economic base.
Before Europeans’ arrival, the area was home to the Micmac who contributed to both French and English cultural traditions.
Geographically New Brunswick divides into two main regions. The Saint John River and its tributaries form a corridor through the south of the province and a delivery chute for logs to the coast where they were used for shipbuilding or shipped abroad. (It also forms part of the NB-Maine border in two places.)
The north, peopled predominantly by Acadians and bordering on Northumberland Strait, is permeated by many fresh water streams that become the run of the Atlantic salmon. Besides French speaking Acadians, the north is home to many lodges and vacation spots for Anglophones, Canadian and American.
Southern New Brunswick is built around the Bay of Fundy, whose tides are among the highest in the world, creating the reversing falls in the Saint John estuary and powering the Passamaquoddy and other tidal power developments. The tides also spill into the muddy, fertile Tantramar Marshes on the Isthmus of Chignecto that links the province to its more recently arrived (in geological, not political time) neighbour Nova Scotia.
For the century after Confederation there was a linguistic, social and economic rift between the north and the south. In the late 1960s British loyalist societies in the Saint John Valley were still petitioning against use of the French language; this extended to Moncton in the north where the Université de Moncton had been set up to serve the province’s francophone population.
Since the time of Louis Robichaud and his successor premiers this has been turned about. New Brunswick is not an officially bilingual province and this has served to advantage from the days of Frank McKenna who encouraged the setting up of bilingual telephone call centres whose Acadian staff are cost competitive with Québec labour. The City of Moncton, named for an English military commander, is now the virtual capital to the Francophone population; its twin community Dieppe, across the Petitcodiac River, is one of the fastest growing in Canada.
The official provincial capital, Fredericton, is an hour’s drive up the River from Saint John and named after the second son of George III, one of the German House of Brunswick princes. Along with the seat of government and University of New Brunswick campus, it is home to Christ Church cathedral, Theatre New Brunswick and the Beaverbrook Gallery, all located in a picturesque lineup on the south bank of the River.
The economic life of the province is also rooted in these two regions. Two well-known families, the Irvings and McCains, made investment locally and income worldwide. K.C. Irving, founder of one, came from the Acadian town of Bouctouche on the North Shore); Wallace McCain from Florenceville “French Fry Capital of the World” on the western Saint John River.
Irving holdings are in oil, retail and the Saint John refinery seeking to access western bitumen and oil and shipbuilding (Canada’s 2nd largest yard now in Halifax. The McCain frozen food enterprise, the world’s largest, began with the potato, a local staple celebrated in Tom Connors’ song “Bud, the Spud.”
- James Douglas, Richard Blanshard: Victoria dialectic duo – Richard Blanshard was a British barrister and first Governor of Vancouver Island upon its proclamation as a Crown Colony. He was described as “a gentleman” in manners and dress by the rough-and-ready men of the society to which he came.
James Douglas, Hudson’s Bay Factor on Vancouver Island, had located and built the fort now part of the new Colony. He knew the region, the people there, aboriginal and settlers; from this and his company post, he was the man to get things done.
This unmatched pair, the man with the official power and the one with the knowhow, overlapped in Victoria for a year.
Douglas was deferential to the new Governor. Blanshard was totally dependent on the Hudson’s Bay man, having no staff other than one servant, and no salary or financial base for any project he wished to undertake. (Most British governors at this time where aristocratic/military men who were self-supporting.)
Blanshard’s first major request was for a Governor’s house; the Hudson Bay Company was contracted to build it. Pending a base of operations, he spent his days walking about, meeting the inhabitants and sizing up the situation in his new Colony.
He soon realized there was no future in the job under existing conditions, and sent the Colonial Office his resignation. He remained on the job until this was accepted, which took several months, as the mails travelled by boat around South America.
The British government accepted the inevitable: that it was impossible to have an effective government that did not take into account the reality in place. It offered the governorship to Douglas on condition that he give up his Hudson Bay position.
This proved to be a wise choice. Douglas gave the loyalty, advice and energy to Crown and colony he had given to the Company and is remembered as Father of British Columbia.
Besides bringing this situation to a head, Blanshard’s brief tenure left another legacy. He realized that while Douglas had the drive to get things done, he could be a dictator. Blanshard moved to set up a Council—not responsible but representative government—that could be a check on the Governor whoever he/she was. It is unlikely that Douglas would have proposed such a measure himself and he was not enthusiastic about it.
But this became the beginning of a balance of legislative and executive power on the coast. (Judicial independence had already been established by Justice Matthew Bailey Begbie.)
There may also have been a personal caveat here. The first Governor, whose power had been limited by HBC situation, assured his successors’ power would be limited by the people!
- J. J. Hill & W. C. Van Horne, cross-border rail rivals – James Jerome Hill was a Canadian rail developer who ended up building the Great Northern Railroad in the United States. William Cornelius Van Horne was the youngest superintendent of a US railroad, who came to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, the longest rail line in the world at that time.
With his rail know-how, Hill was one of the original members of the Canadian Pacific syndicate and hoped to benefit by having the CP line south of Lake Superior through American territory. This would have been less costly in construction terms than blasting through the Canadian Shield granite on Superior’s north shore and it would have provided feeder connections, traffic and profit for his American rail interests. Hill advised the CP Board to hire Van Horne as its first General Manager.
Once in place, Van Horne showed an unwavering loyalty to his new employer greater than to the man who recommended him. He insisted on an all-Canadian route and resolved to prevent private speculators from profiting from CP location of stations and other facilities. Recognizing Hill’s conflict of interest, Van Horne worked to have him removed as a CP director. While contrasting the two men, this lesson will focus on Van Horne, who came to Canada as an employee, chose to become a British subject and remain here as CPs second President and did more to build/shape the country than many prime ministers.
- The Semipermeable Boundary – The Canada-US dividing line has been described as the longest undefended border on earth. Even the security after 911 has been largely administrative and electronic, with a singular lack of razor wire, fortifications and marching troops that separate many countries from each other.
There is another feature that is quietly recognized by officials on both sides though seldom emphasized in public. That type of line has given both countries a safety valve by which individuals or groups that were a problem on one side could easily escape to the other where they were not a threat or political issue.
Three groups are particularly well known. Before the abolition of slavery in the US, escaped slaves from the south came north to Canada where they were safe from capture and return to their owners: the “underground railway” There is an American song “Follow the drinking gourd,” about it, the “drinking gourd” being the Big Dipper escapees used to navigate northward at night.
A second group was refugees from the US Revolution, who either fought against the rebels or supported the British side. Canada gave them a place to start over or at least to wait out until anti-British feelings died down after the peace. They gave Canada its first major English speaking population. Having that “out” for dissenters spared the newly independent republic from the bloodshed that followed many revolutions where losers were treated as traitors and tarred and feathered, or worse.
A third group was draft-dodgers from military service in Vietnam and Iraq wars. Some of these, too, returned to the US after the conflicts receded; others stayed to become Canadian citizens.
Well known individuals who crossed the line from the Canadian to the American side were Louis Riel, after the Red River uprising and Lucien Rivard who escaped Montreal’s Bordeaux Jail during the Pearson years. Both managed to remain out of trouble at least temporarily in the place they escaped to, and saved political leaders a problem in the place they came from.
This lesson will examine the cases of these individuals and groups in greater detail and the tacit understandings between political and security forces on both sides of the border.
- Conquest or transfer (cession or succession)? 1759 and after – Historian and sociologist, commentator and comedian all agree that the years 1959-60 and their aftermath were decisive for Québec and by extension for the Canada we speak of today. (Canada in 1759-1791 was Québec, pure and simple.)
Two generations ago, English speaking Canadians, especially of English or American origin as opposed to the Scots, Welsh or Irish, believed that what happened on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 settled everything for now and for all time. Québecers were conquered. Beaten on the field of battle, they had lost or forfeited any rights beyond their lives, individual liberties and opportunities for happiness and prosperity in the new régime. They ought to be grateful that the English had let them use their own language in their own province, not trying to impose this on their conquerors in the rest of the country(!)
Even if this were true as far it went, it ignores a number of other facts to be found from asking other unanswered questions: Who really conquered who? What did the conquerors believe? Were these beliefs (at the time) borne out in the years that followed when presumably the conquerors held all the cards and could do as they liked?
Key here is context, not the facts themselves but the framework in which they were viewed, interpreted and applied. Before we answer these questions in the Québec instance, let us put the lens of Conquest to another event that occurred 700 years earlier: William of Normandy’s defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a date learned by English school children.
Using the premise that England was conquered, it would follow that (1) The English should be speaking Norman French today, (2) earller laws and customs were lost and should be replaced and (3) England should be grateful to have been left its own language at home and not trying to impose it on its conqueror.
However ludicrous this seems, there is a truth to it. The English English adopted French for table talk—we “dine” rather than “eat” when we do it in style, and we eat pork, beef and mutton, not “pig,” “ox” and “sheep”—and government and diplomacy.
Yes, an assimilation took place but not of the English people by the Normans but of French. The English adopted and adapted what worked for them and became richer as a result. The shield on the coat of arms has English lions and French liles together.
Let us see if the same applies to events in Canada in 1759-60, as we subject them to specific questions rather than using Conquest as a slogan either as a victor or supposed victim.
The battle in Canada was part of a wordwide struggle that played out on land and sea, in internal North America, down the Mississippi, and in the Indian Ocean. It was struggle for trade, first between countries and eventually between their empires as they acquired colonies to supply home economies. Québec had changed hands before (Champlain’s surrender to the Kirkes – Lesson 34) and then been returned by England to France.
Colonies were part of an ongoing game: to be sold,swapped or sacrificed on a giant chess board. While Wolfe won decisively in 1759 at Québec, fulfilling Pitt’s confidence in him, there was no certainty it would be retained when at the conference table. Generals had seen this happen before. Their job was to fight battles, not to set policy. Pitt was gone from office; his star had dimmed on the political stage and there was no certainty the policy he’d pursued so agressively and singularly against the French would be taken to conclusion. In the interest of peace at home, many of these conquests might be handed back again.
Governor General Murray knew this and treated his Québec command pro tem, respecting the inhabitants, observing and reporting on what was happening to the home government and awaiting further instructions. Short term it seemed best to leave things in the Colony as they were; French officials did likewise, holding their cards close to see the next move would be.
Secondly, Murray’s regiment that had played a major part in the victory were Scots and viewed the French sympathetically. The Scots had fought the English at Culloden only a decade before and had used treaties with France to counter English power. So the military action at Québec was not an English but a British one that included many French sympathizers. In the face of New England opportunists who had been harrassing tre French Colony for years (William Phipps) and showed up immediately after Wolfe’s victory seeking gain or plunder, Murray’s choice was clear. The French were peaceable, loyal to their homeland of 150 years and to be preferred to the New England upstarts.
Canada may have been a bargaining chip but the major gains of the Seven Years War were offshore. Britain’s victory over the French fleet of Pondicherry gave her access to the wealth of the Indian subcontinent. In the short term there was greater potential elsewhere than North America. Even the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe with its sugar cane was more enticing.
For these reasons and in the light of long established patterns, it seemed that Canada would soon be back in the orbit of the power that had explored and developed her as a colony for a century and a half.
What turned the tide this time was a change of climate in the capitals of the two powers. In London there was a sudden and unexpected outpouring of public enthusiasm for the new lands that had been won, seen in the statue of Wolfe on the Zero Meridian at Greenwich: Great Britain stands astride the world.
Here was a man who’d given his life for the largest tract ever added to the Empire in one stroke. Britain’s North American colonies had been blocked to the west and north by France and in the south by Spain. Now two of these limits were gone. No one in his right mind would throw away an opportunity like this, and if politicians and diplomats in Whitehall were about to do that, the public clamour brought them to their political senses.
This event that kindled enthusism among the masses in Britain was met with a general ennui in France. Voltaire summed it up: “Canada? a few hecaires of snow” in his play “Candide.” The ideals and persistence of past generations of French women and men in building New France had been supported by the Sun King at France’s apogee. Now weakened by the economic burden of wars that that would lead to near bankruptcy, France was sophisticated, cynical and self-satisfied and one generation from the Revolution that threatened Europe. Holding one’s cards to one’s chest now meant not investing anything on long term strategies while there was a short term gain to be made.
In these contrasting attitudes France gave up her New World investment and Britain gained it and world supremacy. Many diplomats felt Britain was outplayed at the bargaining table for a tract of wasteland (the way many Canadians look at our Arctic).
Ironically, with the French threat in the New World removed, a new one arose in its place. The opportunistic New Englanders that upper class Britons disdained refused to pay their share of years of British protection they no longer needed. Defeat of the first French Empire opened the way to American independence.
British governors who had served in the American colonies saw the risk and moved to counter it. Guy Carleton, who had dealt with the New England merchant party, persuaded Westminster to adopt the Quebec Act. This was intended to hold the loyalty of Québec subjects against the siren songs of freedom to the south. This Act achieved its intended purpose in Quebec, assuring religion, culture and language in exchange for loyalty. It also gave American agitators further fodder for propaganda.
In Quebec the clergy soon realized they had greater power and influence under Britain than than France. In New France the Church was one of three pillars of society; competition among them made for a system of checks and balances. With loss of the Indendent, economic leadership passed to les anglais, and the clergy became one of two pillars in a Church-state duality. It collaborated in English running of the economy and became the intermediary between Quebeckers and the outside world.
This led to a more insular society. The polarity between “sons of the soil” and trader/voyageurs increasingly favoured the stay-at-homes, creating a more subservient order short on individual rights as long as the collective solidarity was unchallenged.
Rather than conquest, 1759 was more a buyout of a local company by owners that left local managers in place as long as profits continued. This arrangement worked as long as the clerical leadership truly identified with those they led, and perceived threats maintained the group loyalty. Both factors would change in the Quiet Revolution after World War II.
- Saint Jean-Baptiste, archetype of the Canadian Experience – The “John” who appears early in each of the four gospels of the New Testament has variously been identified as a Baptist, a Jew, an Islamic prophet and the Patron Saint of Québec. He is more than these in both a historic and a Canadian context.
Two cities, one in New Brunwick and one in Newfoundland and Labrador, are named after him. This happened because two European explorers landed on those shores on the Saint’s day: John Cabot (Giovani Cabotto) sailing under the flag of Henry Tudor of England, put ashore on the Rock on June 24, 1497. Jacques Cartier, sailing for François I, entered a river mouth that empties into the Bay of Fundy on June 24, 1534. The fact that these two signficant explorers, representing the two major European powers that figure in the colonization of Eastern Canada, landed on the same day 37 years apart is intriguing.
Coincidental or synchronistic, it invites us to examine this figure who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine and has had a new life in the New World. Our national anthem, “O Canada,” was written as an ode to the Baptizer as can be seen in the latter verses in French. Who was he, and what does he have to say to us?
As Jahya, he is one of 25 prophets of Islam: the second before Muhammad (PBUH) and immediately preceding Isa (Jesus). He is accepted as a prophet in the Hebrew tradition, contemporary with Jesus (Jeshua) by many Jews. Christians emphasize his role as forerunner to that of Jesus as the Messiah (“anointed”).
In the New Testament records it is apparent there is much more to his story. Three of the four gospels have him baptising Jesus while in the fourth he simply announces Jesus as the one who is to come. There is also evidence he later doubted this. There is reference to two of John’s disciples migrating to join Jesus.
There is also a story of competition between disciples of John and Jesus on two counts: (a) numbers of adherents baptized, and (b) the role of fasting (John’s disciples did, Jesus’ didn’t). There is no evidence that this extended to the two leaders, or that there was any conflict or animosity between them.
It is possible that John and his band did baptize more followers than Jesus’ disciples. Jesus did not emphasize baptism in his ministry. There is a reference in the later book of Acts to early Christian missionaries encountering people who had received “the baptist of John” and rebaptizing them in their own tradition. This implies that the two men had continuing separate streams of followers, and these may have continued into the 2nd century.
These facts may be of antiquarian historical interest, or even personal interest for those belonging to one of these traditions. However, the relevance to the Baptizer’s story in Canada has less to do with his biographical details than with his message where we find a number of points that can be seen as parallel to the Canadian context and experience.
John the Baptizer proclaimed a four-fold message:
- preparing a way in the wilds – This can be seen to resonate with our topography!
- a non-racial citizenship – an early advocacy of multi-culturalism?
- social justice: “let the one with two coats gve to him/her that has none” – the spirit of the social safety net.
- someone/thing (“the Kingdom”) greater that is to come and imminent – “In Canada, greater is always possible.”
It is on specific parallels and applications of this message that we will focus in this lesson. We’ll also examine the record of the Saint-Jean Baptiste socities in Canada to see if they “get it.”
Devout followers of the three Ibrahimic/Abram based religions may also consider if the Baptizer’s message makes it clearer or easier for them to live their faith in the Canadian context.
- Canada’s Pilgrim Mothers (multiple lessons) – The history of New France is full of stories of women married and single, who founded ministries, services and institutions that transformed a fur-trading colony into a caring, compassionate society. Many of these women worked in or set up religious orders to carry on this work as those were the social services of that day/age.
The 1960s Révolution tranquille (Quiet Revolution) reaction against the concentration of power in the Catholic church has meant these stories are not told as aften as they once were. That is unfortunate as the stories are inspiring models for people of any age, belief or orientation. They include:
- Marie Guyart (Marie de l’Incarnation) – founder of the Ursuline Order in Canada
- Marguerite Bourgeoys – educator, social worker with girls/women, founded one of first uncloistered communities
- Jeanne Mance – co-founder of Ville Marie (Montreal) and of Hôtel-Dieu, the first hospital built in the New World
- Marguerite d’Youville – founder of les soeurs grises (Grey Nuns) administering hospital care across Canada
- Marie-Madeleine de Chauvigny de la Peltrie – a woman of means, inspiration and determination who overcame opposition to woman’s property ownership and chartered a ship to Québec where she worked alongside Guyart, Mance and others in medical and social services
In the 1920s in Western Canada five women worked together and one took a case through the courts to prove that women are “persons” under the law. 300 years earlier an earlier Five proved it in fact. This lesson, which may extend to multiple sessions, will look at each of these women and trace their ongoing legacy and influence in shaping the Canadian Spirit.
Unlike the Pilgrim Fathers, who persecuted dissenters to the south, there is no record of any of these women being punitive or excluding anyone on the basis of faith or practice. Rather many focused on helping those who had no other support.
- Phipps & Frontenac: a stand off that proved to be a win-win – In 1689 New France’s most outspoken governor was faced by a hostile fleet below Québec: a band of privateers led by Sir William Phipps, Governor of Boston, demanging surrender of the fort within an hour on pain of destruction to follow.
With a garrison depleted by disease, Frontenac outbluffed and outshelled his challenger with help from the elements. Phipps returned to Boston in time to put a stop to the Salem witch trials. The epedemic had broken out in his absence, and nine had already been convicted and hanged. Phipps’ defeat and return enabled him to resume command and pardon the rest.
This session will examine not only the Phipps-Frontenac encounter but the two governoships of Frontenac, one of the most colourful and flamboyant figures in our history. A god-father to the French King, he had the troops to turn the tide against the Six Nations and the backing to take on the English on their own turf. His time was a high point for New France.
- Time Out at Amherstburg: the walk that changed the world – Those who at least 30 years of age may have memories of the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe and the 1989 tearing down of the Berlin Wall. They may not be aware that the chain of events that led to to that began in a private encounter on Canadian soil on May 19, 1983.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet Agriculture Minister, visited Canada in 1983, touring farms and processing facilities in the company of his Canadian counterpart Eugene Whelan, remembered for his signature green stetson. Groundwork for the visit had been laid some time before. The children of the Soviet Ambassador, Aleksandr Yakovlev who was in exile in Canada for political incorrectness in Moscow, played with the children of PM Pierre Trudeau and the two men became friends. Yakovlev knew that the relatively young Gorbachev was being groomed for the top job in Moscow. Trudeau wished to cultivate a closer relationship with the USSR. Gorbachev was a link that was accessible.
Minister Whelan had made a tour of Russian agriculture that Gorbachev now reciprocated. On his visits to a variety of farms the Russian was impressed by the initiative and independence of Canadian farmers and high output this flexibility permitted.
At the end of the tour Whelan wanted to treat his guest to an informal barbecue on his family form near Windsor. Neighbours and friends were invited. Gorbachev and Ambassador Yakovlev showed up with a phalynx of RCMP guards and Soviet security agents. But there was a hitch. Whelan the host of the evening, was delayed several hours at a meeting in Ottawa.
Elizabeth Whelan took the initiative. Realizing Gorbachev and Yakovev were the only guests of rank who spoke Russian (the other Russian speakers were staff or guards), she suggested they go for a walk in the fields where they could talk in private.
At first the men sounded each other out to see how freely they could speak. Realizing they were on the same wave band, they opened up. Gorbachev shared what he’d seen cross country and Yakovlev gave his impressions of Canada from Ottawa. They agreed: this was what the Soviet Union needed, and they sketched out specifics of how what they had experienced in Canada could apply to their homeland. This became a blueprint for glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (restructuring that ended the old Soviet empire and the Cold War with the West.
26 months later in Moscow, Soviet leader, Andrei Cherneko died, and Gorbachev was chosen to replace him. He recalled Yakovlev from Ottawa to prepare a plan of implementation of the changes they’d discussed on their Amherstburg farm walk.
This story will serve as introduction to the history of Canada’s policy towards/relationship with our far northern neighbour across the pole. The discussion will go back to Czarist times and Canadian immigrants who came seeking religious freedom.
It will include John Diefenbaker’s wheat sales to the Soviets, a departure from a more ideological anti-Communist US policy. It will also include PM Trudeau’s attempted peace initiative at the end of his tenure. The Soviet military’s shooting down a Korean airliner on September 1, 1983, killing all 269 aboard, provoked the most tense moment of the Cold War since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Pierre Trudeau refused to join the outcry and urged others to “stop shouting at each other.”
This was 3½ months after the walk on the farm and 30 months before Gorbachev rose to leadership of the Soviet Union. That incident strengthened conviction of the need for administrative change internally and for stablization of international relations.
- Quadra & Vancouver peacemakers on Canada’s west coast – Captain George Vancouver was an explorer who mapped our west coast, completing the work begun by Captain James Cook (Lesson 62). He was also here as a Commissioner to resolve a dispute with Spain that had almost led to war two years before.
His opposite, Seňor Juan Quadra, had risen to become Spain’s highest level naval officer born outside the European homeland. A native of Lima, Peru, he knew the coast well, sailing the North American Pacific coast to Alaska. He knew the First Nations, and had built up a hospitable base on Nootka Sound where he cultivated good relations with Nootka Grand Chief Maquinna.
Quadra used this to assist Vancouver in establishing his own rapport with the Chief, coaching his fellow captain on points of etiquette and passing along any ill reports of the British he had received so Vancouver could correct them. He never used his advantage against the British, though they were rival powers in the region. Thanks to Quadra’s good will, Canada’s west coast was not wracked by bloodshed from European conflicts the way the east coast was torn by French-English warfare played out through their Huron and Iroquois allies.
Before they parted at the end of Vancouver’s explorations, the Spanish commander asked his counterpart, “What can we name as a testimonial to our friendship?” Vancouver pointed to the shoreline they he’d circumnavigated and now to be knew an island and replied, “Let this be Quadra and Vancouver Island.”
For some years that was its name for seamen. It still is that in spirit, though the Brits moved Quadra’s name to an adjacent smaller island once their claim to the region was established.
This lesson may be delivered on the Vancouver-Victoria ferry, followed by a visit to the Quadra memorial in Victoria harbour.
- The Mountie & the Medicine Man: James Walsh was North West Mounted Police commanding officer in Cypress Hills (on the border of present day southern Alberta and Saskatchewan) when a large party of Lakota Sioux and their leader Sitting Bull crossed into Canada fleeing famine and feared reprisals for the Battle of the Little Bighorn slaughter (Custer’s last stand).
Walsh rode into the Lakota camp to meet the Sioux Chief and tell him and laws and conditions on he could remain in Canada. Though they often argued, the two men formed a mutually respectful friendship. Bull trusted the Inspector, and Walsh’s reports to Ottawa were totally free of cultural bias. He wrote the chief lived at a level of civilisation unknown by many white men.
Such praise caused concern to Sir John A. Macdonald who regarded most natives as “savages.” He wondered if the Sioux Chief, known as a shaman, might have entranced the police officer. The presence of so many “foreign Indians” was seen as a liability in a time of famine. The government wished to return them to the US. Bull’s friendship with Walsh was an impediment to this. South of the border Walsh was known as “Sitting Bull’s boss:” high praise where Bull was considered “uncontrollable.”
To move the file forward—and the Sioux south—Walsh was transferred to another command. On temporary leave from the force, he travelled to Washington, seeking unofficial assurance Bull would not be harmed when returned to the US, so he could send a message to the Sioux Chief. Walsh later became the first Lieutenant Governor of the Yukon where his unassuming confidence and unconventional manners were a good fit.
This lesson, which can be presented either in the Yukon or near Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, is a basis for examination of three topics: (a) case studies of the early NWMP’s approach to policing – Lesson 24, (b) the significance of the border in early Western Canada – Lesson 41, and (c) the Frontier in Canada in comparison/contrast to neighbouring American cexperience.
- The Elder Statesman and the Oblate – Crowfoot had been born a Blood and grew up a Blackfoot, distinguishing himself as a fearless warrior. He also had connections the Cree, traditional rivals of his people whom he had fought and later made peace with. He had become the most respected chief of the Blackfoot Confederacy when the Northwest Mounted Police first arrived.
Albert Lacombe was a priest from Québec who came on a mission to Alberta where he joined the Oblate order. He, too, crossed human boundaries and tried to stop warfare between Blackfoot and Cree. He was respected and trusted by Crowfoot who consulted him on a number of occasions, knowing he truly cared for the well being of aboriginal peoples.
One of Lacombe’s significant interventions with Crowfoot came when the Canadian Pacific Railway asked for permission for the line to cross his people’s land. The Chief had seen these fire-breathing, shrieking monsters with cyclops eyes, that killed horses and set the prarie grass on fire. He asked the priest if it were possible to stop the Railway. Lacombe, pointed to the Bow River they were standing beside, answered with another question in Blackfoot imagery: “Can you stop the river?”
Another intervention occurred at the time of the North West Rebellion. Riel had sent emissaries to many First Nations asking them to join his Métis in expelling the whites from the prairies. Crowfoot had earlier refused an invitation from Sitting Bull to join the Sioux on a similar project. But this invitation was from closer to home and had already been accepted by his adopted Cree son Poundmaker.
Once again the oblate stood with the chief as he pondered his options and considered the implications of each. He had visited Regina and Winnipeg in 1884, seen the numbers of whites living there, who were migrating west and would come in armies if their tribesfolk were attacked. In 1886 he would see more for himself on travels to Ontario and Quebec; for now he accepted Lacombe’s advice and pledged his neutrality.
Albert Lacombe immediately telegraphed PM Macdonald that he could trust the Blackfoot to remain quiet during the uprising. A grateful Railway bestowed lifetime passes on the line to both the Oblate and the Blackfoot Chief, and contributed generously to many of Lacombe’s missionary enterprises across Alberta.
This has given rise to two opposing stereotypes. Young braves, yearning to show their courage, and had not seen Crowofoot’s in his earlier, warrior days, accused him of cowardice; when he travelled the line on his rail pass, later militants have dismissed him as a sellout to the company and to the white man. On the other hand, school children until the 1960s were taught of the Blackfoot chief as “a good Indian” and “friend of the white man.”
Both descriptions are false. Crowfoot was first and always a protector of his people whatever stand that required. When he recognized resistance was futile and would cost enormously in suffering, he opted for neutrality with sadness at loss of their livelihood and bitterness at the white man’s unkept promises.
Crowfoot’s statue stands in a niche left of the entrance to the rontunda of Alberta’s Legislature Building. To the right is a niche with a statue of Louise Caroline Alberta, the Province’s namesake. She was a symbolic princess from away; he was in influence a sovereign prince on the Alberta southern plain. In opting for neutrality, he is as much a Father of Confederation of Canada as he was of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
This session will be presented at Edmonton’s Centennial Plaza, close to Crowfoot’s statue and a church Lacombe founded.
- The Crown Prince and the Cadet – Six after the end of the World War II Japanese Crown Prince Akihito passed through Canada on his way to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London. He came through Canada because the wounds of war, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, made it unthinkable to pass to the south through the US. A shy 19-year old, he came through almost incognito, meeting pockets of Canadians of Japanese birth along the way, and getting a feel for the type of travel and interations that would once day be part of his royal duties.
James Standen was a 20-year old wing commander attending Royal Roads Military Academy in Victoria. A top student in his class, he was chosen to show the Japanese student Prince the gardens of the castle Academy for an hour, chatting in French.
French was chosen because neither spoke the other’s language. Akihito later learned English but didn’t speak it then. French had priority in his training as the language of diplomacy.
Standen had limited French—this was before bilingual classes were widespread in western Canada. A cadet whose mother tongue was French was to go along with them as a backup.
It was the limits of his French that put the Anglo cadet in the driver’s seat. The native francophone said something to the Prince who turned to Standen asking, “Qu’est-ce qui’l dit?” (“What’s he saying?”) Standen replied “Je ne sais pas”—one of the first phrases learned by beginners.
The two were on a level playing field. Their shared vulnerability penetrated class and culture. For an hour they were two young men sharing a bit of the other’s world, the way young children do when they meet up with others on a beach or in a park.
56 years later, retired, Standen was invited to return to Victoria to meet the prince, now Emperor, on his second Canadian visit.
This story will be used as the basis of an exploration not only of language but the importance of vulnerability in human relations, and how Canada has often served as a venue
for this type of encounter and experience. Other examples will also be cited.
generations and gender in Canada/with Canadians
- A Century of Suffrage: From “Persons-hood” to Parity – Women in Canada won the vote in 1918. It took a further decade before they were recognized as full persons under the law with the right to sit as members of the Canadian Senate. And it has been almost a full century after gaining the vote till the first Canadian cabinets, one provincial and one federal, were made up of equal numbers of women and men. This lesson will trace that progress including:
- activists, advocates and achievers in women’s rights and equality including the Famous Five and “persons case”
- firsts as senators, mayors, magistrates, MPs/MLAs, PMs/ premiers, Lieutenants/Governors General, judges/justices
- legislation and social movements, reproductive rights, feminism and the shape of family life in the 21st century
- The Mayor, the Mosque and the Muslim Bride – The first mosque built in Canada, and the first one planned in North America, was the work of a group of women led by Helwi Hamdon who arrived in Edmonton from Lebanon as the 16 year old bride of an Athabasca fur trader. The mosque they built was saved by a later generation of Muslim women and is now in Fort Edmonton Park by the North Saskatchewan River.
This lesson covers the work of 3 generations: the builders, the preservers, and present female figures in Canadian Muslim life. It may also include participation by a Hamdon grand-daughter.
- The Gypsy and the Balladeer – With current hit “Hallelujah,” Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, in his eighties, is still giving concerts to packed houses aboard. He is particularly sought and admired by a generation of European women. This is not surprising, as Cohen’s musical career began in the 1960s with “Suzanne,” the first song by a major male composer to focus on the subject as she saw herself, rather than as a part of a male-female relationship. At that time practically all the major performing groups were dominated by men. This lesson will:
- describe the story and setting of “Suzanne” in 1966
- sketch the achievements and challenges of Canadian women in the music industry and
- trace Cohen’s rule as a cultural and human ambassador
- Hart House and a men-only encounter between democrats : Stephen Lewis was a student at the University of Toronto and member of the CCF, later the New Democratic Party. John F. Kennedy was a US Senator with sights on the presidency. The future New Democrat and Democratic President met November 14, 1957 at the U. of T. campus Hart House to debate “Has the United States failed in its responsibilities as a world leader?”
This is cited not for the debate, which Kennedy narrowly won, though many considered his performance “flat,” but for an elephant in the room that took second place to the celebrity figure. Hart House, the venue, had been donated to the University by the first Canadian born Governor General, Vincent Massey, on the stipulation it was for Men Only—a ruling of which Senator Kennedy heartily approved.
This lesson, which will include a visit to Hart House, will trace the venue’s history including 44 years of women’s admission. It will note women since identified with the House and examples of women’s leadership of Canadian universities including Simon Fraser University President/political scientist Pauline Jewett who left liberal politics to return to academia after PM Lester Pearson told her, “There’s already a woman in Cabinet.”!
- Emily Carr: a babe amongst the bears, hurman and ursine – Painter, author pioneer multi-cultural Canadian, Carr covered a lot of ground in her 73 years. Born to parents who revelled in the Englishness of Victoria as a colony, it was only after their deaths that she pursued artistic training in San Francisco, then London and Saint Ives, Cornwall. But it was in Paris where she rejected the pastels of a British heritage for the vibrant colours colours of modernist post-impressionism, that she found her mode, one well-suited to her work in aboriginal cultures and landscape portrayals. She is considered the eighth de factor member of the Group of Seven, whose founders were all men.
This lesson will be split among Victoria’s Carr House and Alert Bay and Skidgate, Haidi Gwai where she painted and include readings from her stories as well as reference to her art. British heritage, French training, aboriginal flair: a Canadian archetype.
assimilation, cultural and linguistic, and survival and rebirth
- Alert Bay/U’Mista (“Rise Again”) – The turnabout of the early post-Confederation policy of assimilation of native culture took an important step in this community on Cormorant Island BC where 80% of the population is indigenous. The the Big House the aboriginal tradition is artfully juxtaposed with the writings of Duncan Campell Scott. As a Confederation poet, he celebrated indigenous culture. As Deputy Minister charged with enforcing implementing the Indian Act, he worked to eradicate it.
Among the measures of this policy were the prohibition of the potlach and other traditional rituals, reservation schools and seizure and export of cultural artificats. The U’Mista campaign turned this around: in the re-introduction of aboriginal folklore to their own children in the Island “T-school” and repatriation of their masks and artifacts in a videod water-borne celebration.
The meaning/spirit harmonizes with Stan Roger’s “Rise again!” chorus. This session will take place at the U’mista centre, with a guided tour of the gallery, accompanying talk, question and answer session, and showing of the video of the celebration.
- The Durham Report: Intention and Outcome – The Two Solitudes in Canadian history are stark in the ways this event is recorded and remembered by Francophones and Anglophones.
For those taught in the English speaking system, Lord Durham was a progressive whose advocacy of responsible government was a significant step on the growth to our political maturity. For those in the French tradition he was an oppressor and would-be assimilationist whose line “They are a people without a history and without a culture” was blantant advocacy of their extinction.
This will study Durham’s governorship and sudden resignation and look at recommendations of his report: the assimilationist one Britain acted on, that failed; and “responsible government” on which it delayed but came about through a a combination of enlightened local leadership and later change of Colonial policy.
blips and icons on the Canadian landscape
- Aberhart and Pulitzer: radio premier vs freeom of the press – High school principal and lay preacher William Aberhard used his oratorical skills, the new medium of radio and the tragedy of the depression to win office by a landslide in Alberta in 1935.
Like other reformers in the 1930s Depression, he had pledge to end the widespread suffering. He focusedhis platform on fiscal reform, using the Social Credit monetary theory to British Major Douglas with a proposal to print “scrip” that could be exchanged for currency. This brought him into conflict with the Federal government that held sole jurisdiction over the money supply.
Other pledges also proved beyond his power to deliver, and his support eroded beginning with the press. Realizing the power of the media—which had brought him to power—he introduced a bill entitled The Accurate News and Information Act in the legislature in 1937. This required newspapers to print verbatim the government’s news releases and policy statements.
This was an attempt to counter what he regarded as unfair criticism and distortion of his attempts to explain himself. There was some justification to his view but his response served to unite competing newspapers that saw a threat to freedom of the press if Aberhart’s legislation was allowed to stand.
The bill passed but was ultimately found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada citing an “implied bill of rights” with freedom of speech as critical to parliamentary democracy.
The American Pulitzer Prize Committee awarded the Edmonton Journal a bronze plaque. now in the Journal Building rotunda, recognzing its role in leading media opposition to the Act. This was the first time such an award was made outside the US.
This lesson will use the particulars of the Aberhart bill incident to focus more broadly on the issue of the responsibility of the media in the accuracy of its reporting of the news.
- North Saskatchewan exposure: Diefenbaker, Dumont – Canada’s 13th prime minister, John Diefenbaker grew up on a prairie homestead and recounted seeing Métis do-leader Gabriel Dumont as a child. He had a more positive impression of Dumont than of his leader Louis Riel Batoche who he never met. The Prince Albert Riding Diefenbaker represented for many years is close to Batoche where the Métis under Riel and Dumont took their last stand in the 1885 North West Rebellion.
This lesson, to coincide with Classroom ‘s trip from Saskatoon to Prince Albert and return (with a side trip to Batoche), will study the contrasting lives/legacies of these men. The stopover in Saskatoon will include a visit to the Diefenbaker Centre (library and archives) on the University of Saskatchewan Province. Dumont will the Considered further in Winnipeg in connection with his role in the earlier Red River uprising (1870).
- Introduction to the lives/work of The Group of Seven – This session will draw upon the resources/personnel of one or more art galleries with prints and competence in this area. A biblical self-description the work of Saint-Jean Baptiste was “preparing a path in the wilds/wilderness.” Using the Canadian landscape, the … Seven “painted a way in the wilderness” and created a style that contrasted sharply with their European predecessors.
- The Beaver Hall Group – This contrasting group, that included women, numbered 20-plus artists whose work runs from 1920-1933. It takes its name from Montreal’s Beaver Hall where it had studio space, and its work is described as “one of the most original expressions of pictoral modernism in the country.”
Members of this group were conscious of and responding to the work of the earlier Group of Seven. Montrealler A.Y. Jackson was a link between the two groups.
This lesson will take place with a visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts which mounted an exhibition of the Group’s work.
- Finding Passes through the Western Mountains – While one l approach to “How old is Canada?” (see Dating our Beginnings – Lesson 19) focuses on the constitutional milestone of 1867, another sees it in a geopraphical goal that fulfilled our motto “From sea to sea.” In this view, it was the Railway that made us a country, for without it Canada would have remained a handful of patchwork colonies beside a country growing north and west. Building a railway from one coast to another faced two hurdles: the Canadian Shield north of Superior, and western mountains collectively called the Rockies the comprise several ranges:
The original route surveyed by Sanford Flemming and approved by the Canadian government was Yellowhead Pass west of Jasper. This was deemed to far north to stop US branch lines from encroching across the Canadian border to siphon off southern straffic. It was decided the Canadian Pacific Railway would enter the mountains from the east along the Bow River. Beyond this point there was no clear idea where it would go.
Survey parties were dispatched to explore possibilities, one led by American Major A.B. (Albert Bowman) Rogers who surveyed two of the passes eventually used, one that was named after himself as part of his contract. The three major passes on the CP mainline between Calgary and Vancouver are:
- Kicking Horse Pass over the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains from Lake Louise AB to Field BC, with the Kicking Horse River that ends in the northbound arm of the Columbia at Golden BC
- Rogers Pass through the Selkirk Mountains (a chain of the larger Columbia Mountain group) between Golden and Revelstoke on the western southbound arm of the Columbia River and
- Eagle Pass in the Monashee Mountains just west of Revelstoke where the Last Spike on the line was driven at 9:30 a.m. on November 7, 1885
The first two passes of this trio were explored by Rogers though others had preceded him in the Kicking Horse. (Rogers also checked Howse Pass north of the Kicking Horse, as a possible alternative. )The third pass was discovered by BC Surveyer Walter Moberly.
In this lesson we’ll look at the geological and other factors and the advantages and challenges faced in each pass. We’ll also look opertional and maintenance issues that caused the Railway to abandon its original choice in the first two passes for the Spiral Tunnels and Connaught and Mount Macdonald tunnels, respectively. This left the original rail rights of way for the Trans Canada Highway. We’ll consider the implication for the country of having to continually plow, shovel and blast snow with artillery in order to keep a surface line open joining BC with the rest of Canada.
- Champlain and the Meaning of Habitation – With the 1608 building of his habitation on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Samuel de Champlain is claimed as father of both Québec and Canada. There’s no necessary conflict between these two foci, yet we find there is a different view of his goal by those who focus on Québec’s founding from those who emphasize the Canada one.
The Québécois interpretation sees his habitation as a home. Though he would go father in search or furs and trade, it was here to which he would return and where others would follow, beginning with Louis Hébert, New France’s first farmer, and the women who built the infrastructure that turned a fur-trading operation into a hospitaable homeland.
The Canada founding view treats the habitation as a base from which he and others would set out to explore a continent down the Mississippi (La Salle) and to the Rockies (La Vérendrye) with the eventual goal of the Western (Pacific) ocean eventually fulfilled by Scot Alex Mackenzie with Québec voyageurs. While the Algonkin word kébec means “narrowing of the waters,” this didn’t necessarily entail a narrowing of the mind or purpose.
We will consider how this divergence applies to later and present views of our couuntry. In the 1870s and 1880s, a majority of those living in Ontario cared little about building a railway to the west coast. That was why it took the crisis of the second Riel-led uprising for Sir John A. Macdonald to get the necessary parliamentary support for a loan to see the line completed. Until the rebellion, that attitude was “That’s not Canada: we are. If BC wants to join the States, let them.” As a further question, we may ask, Why does it often take a threat or crisis to bring people to see a larger view?
- James Cook and Canadian observatories …
Explorer and seaman extraordinaire James Cook was one of the very few to sail on both our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
He first came to Canada as part of the Jeffrey Amherst/James Wolfe expedition that took Louisbourg on Île Royale (Cape Breton) in preparation for next year’s assault on Québec City.
As a junior officer, Cook led a survey expedition up the Saint Lawrence under cover of darkness in a rowboat. His job: to take soundings of the River depth and develop charts of the banks and shoals, as the French, expecting the assault, had removed all buoys and markers from the River. He used a phosphorous bottle that glowed like a luminous watch dial to give him light to record his soundings. The accuracy of his mapping may be seen in the fact that not a single ship, of a fleet of more than 70, was grounded in the British ascent of the unfamiliar waterway.
After Wolfe”s victory, Cook spent a summer charting the coast of Newfoundland and many of the names of the indentations and points on the shore are ones he gave them in his survey.
During this time he observed and wrote a report of an eclipse of the sun that was sent to the British admiralty and drew him to higher attention. This won him command of an expedition to Tahiti to set up an observatory and monitor a transit of the planet Venus that would help the Navy callibrate timepieces.
After this he sailed northward to Hawaii and North America, landing at Nootka on Vancouver Island where his cadet-protégé George Vancouver would later return to complete his work.
On the one Canadian coast he didn’t visit, Cook had a counter-presence. On his Venus-plotting mission in Tahiti, an alternate observatory was set up at Churchill MB, to observe and report the same event in case clouds obscured the view in the South Pacific. Churchill later became a Canadian space research station.
This background will serve as a basis to explore Cook’s legacy as a navigator in Canadian waters, including developing of map and list of sites he named and charted here. The nature of his expeditions contacts with First Nations will also be discussed.
- Observing and Understanding Communities – This lesson will serve as an introduction to an activity that will be ongoing throughout the Classroom itinerary. Using the survey outline of the same name (“Observing and Understanding …”) located in “Tools,” students will learn to maximize their minutes, and in some cases, seconds, passing through communities in which they do not stop. By extension, they’ll then be able to optimize longer time periods for observtion on stops in cities and towns.
This is an activity in which all students are expected to develop some proficiency during their time with Classroom, though they may chose to work in pairs and utilize complementary skill sets in their observation. It is essentially a matter of learning how to use one’s eyes and other senses without interference from “mind chatter,” and how to use the mind to ask the questions that will set the senses accordingly.
We’ll begin this activity practically from day one on the road until it is learned. At a certain point, pairs or students, rather than the whole group, will be assigned to “stand watch” (not necessarily standing physically) and maintain a log book of our journey for group reference.
This group of five lessons is meant to take a multi-focus view of important events in Canadian history. Of the list below usuually only one site—Charlottetown—is singled out because it hosted the first of three conferences that led to Confederation. But there are many other measuring sticks, or milestones by which to measure a country than by its legal or constitutional framework. The five here are not developed at length but will be in class. A code word/phase is given for each.
- Canadian birthplaces: Fort Langly BC: regulating a gold rush
- Canadian birthplaces: Charlottetown; seeking a wider union
- Canadian birthplaces: Fort Garry: standing up for our rights
- Canadian birthplaces: Ville Marie: meeting human need
- Canadian birthplaces: Halifax: building a maritime base
The following introduction to the works … With success, we may be able to invite or enlist one of the four figures on this list who are still alive and writing!
- John Ralston Saul
- The Great Darkness with Conrad Black (Duplessis regime)
- Northrop Frye: Literature, Soul & Society (Atwood, Margaret)
- Gabrielle Roy: 2nd hand happiness, “knowing…through the arts”
- Pierre Berton: Canadian History with texture and in vivid colour
- Grant MacEwan: agriculture, ecology, anecdote and overview
- Richard Gwyn: on “The Man who Made us” (Sir John A.)
- Susan Aglukark: new voice of the North
Time Lines (lessons 79-99)
- 1497-1599 Seagoing explorers of three powers on three sides – Cabot, Cartier and Champlain on the east, Hudson, Frobisher and Davis on the North, Drake and the Spaniards on the Pacific
- 1600-63 a succession of French fur-trading monopolies with a colonizing caveat culminating in Companie des Cent Associés
- 1664 New France Crown becomes a colony with a Sovereign Council and 3-pillar governance system. Tracy, Talon, Iberville, and Frontenac establish French dominance in North America. However the Hudson’s Bay Company establishes a presence.
- 1710-62 The Battle for North America – In 1710 Queen Anne (in whose reign the English and Scottish crowns were officially joined) welcomed four Iroquois chiefs from England’s American colonies, and promised them aid against their French enemies.
This was simply intention at the time. Anne’s first minister, the Duke of Marlborough, was focused on fighting the French in Europe, and a campaign in North America was not affordable or important. But 50 years later PM William Pitt the Elder put the full weight of his government into expelling France from the New World, and even picked James world to lead the invasion.
Meanwhile, New France society had grown stable, settled and soft. Frontenac’s successor governors did not have his passion or connections at the French court that guaranteed the troops they needed. The colony grew in size but lacked the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit of its founders except for a few in religious orders they’d set up. Underfunded, under armed, and without clear leadership, the inhabitants were vulnerable to the five-step assault the British threw against them. This lesson looks at the last 50 years of New France, how this prepared the colony for life under British rule and how the British rose to the task.
- 1763-91 – The impacts of Britain’s displacing France in North America: United States independence and refugees from the Revolution stream northward changing the character of former Acadia which is divided into Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Quebec which is partitioned into Lower and Upper Canada.
This establishes two precedents: parallel French and English-speaking societies (bilingualism, forerunner of wider pluralism), and two levels of government, one under lieutenant governors, in turn under a governor-general (an embrionic federalism).
- Parallel streams/Joint solidarity: 1792/1814 Queenston Hts After the separation of 1792, the “two solitudes” (later the title of a classic by Hugh McLennan) set in. In Lower Canada (present day Québec) this was between English speaking residents of the Eastern Townships and Montreal and Quebec City, the two main urban areas and the overwhelming Francophone rural population. In addition to seigneurs from the old régime, there was a new and growing English-speaking commercial class who aspired to be an aristocracy around the British-appointed Governor. Some of these were opportunists from New England, others Scottish immigrants with and interest in the fur trade.
In Upper Canada were aspirants who wanted to make their province as English and Anglican as they imagined Québec to be French and Catholic (ignoring minorities in both provinces). One of their proposals was the creation of “clergy reserves”: public land to be set aside for the Church of England which they saw as an equivalent established church to the Roman Catholic Church in Québec. But Upper Canada was too diverse to be controlled by any one religious or cultural body. Its new and continuing emigrants reflected the mix of the United States from which many had come—Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Mennonites and Quakers—as well as Baptists, Methodists, Plymouth Brethren and other dissenting groups in Britain. Many of them were not prepared to be corralled into any official state church, and the Anglican Church showed little interest in many of the rural areas, focusing on towns where there was an English speaking establishment with which it sought to identify.
But in 1812-14 these diverse groups rallied together to repel US Invasion. “At Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane” as a later song went, French and English, Catholic and Protestant, urban and rural joined to defend a shared homeland. While the War was a draw, territorially in the New World, many American scholars concede the one winner was a more unified Canada.
- 1815-38 – The rise of homegrown elites (“chateau clique” in Lower Canada, Lower Canada family compacts) and interest peddlers around the governor led to grievances, petitions and, depending on the response of the governor, unrest or rebellion.
Incendiary journalism had a role in three provincial campaigns.
In Nova Scotia the unrest was contined to judicial and political process (Joseph Howe’s acquittal by a jury on a libel charge). In Upper Canada it became violenct with a series of skirmishes between 500 rebels and British troops and loyalist volunteers. In Lower Canada the violence was widespread (six locations) and sustained with 4100 armed Patriotes and 25,000 militia smpathizers against 10,000 regular troops and 33,000 militia.
The later two campaigns, known as the Rebellions of 1837-38, marred the ascent of Queen Victoria and led to dispatch of Lord Durham as Commissioner to report on the situation to Whitehall and Governor-General to deal with the situation on the ground.
Durham’s report and its aftermath (eastern Canada 1839-45) are dealt with in Lesson 57. The focus in the next six lessons shifts to parallel histories on the plains and the Pacific Coast.
parallel histories west of Great Lakes
- West coast 1795-1841: post George Vancouver to Douglas Following the departure of George Vancouver and subsequent implementation of the Nootka Convention that he and Quadra had could not agree up, the Spanish withdrew from the area.
The regional history for the next 40 years is the histories of the Hudson Bay and First Nations in the vicinity. In 1921 young Hudson Bay clerk, James Douglas andhis Cree wife Amellia arrived in Fort Vancouver at the mouth of the Columbia River they’d sailed down from a Northern interior Company post.
At this time is seemed likely the Columbia would become the western border btween Canada and the US. This would make the Fort (not to be confused with the Port of Vancouver to the North) a strategic spot for both Company and country. Though this did not prove to be the case—the border being set farther north—the next 20 years he Douglas in the hierachy would be an apprenticeship for his later leading two Canadian colonies
- West coast 1843-71: island Colony to Confederation – Fort Camosun (later Victoria) was founded by James Douglas as a fallback position should Canada not be able to hold the shore bank of the Columbia as its western boundary with the US. The new Fort’s position at the southern tip of Vancouver Island was a toehold that kept the whole of the Island in Canada even though it extends south of the forty-ninth parallel. Its soil and mild climate made it a desirable destination for settlers as well as a base for Company activity. In 1849, in a move paralleling the takeover of New France from private monopolies (1664), the “Island of Vancouver and its Dependencies” became a crown colony of British North America. “Dependencies” included Gulf Islands of the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait to the north.
- History of Haida Gwai/northern coastal islands – A passing British sea captain in 1778 named the northern archipelago after his ship which was named after the consort of George III, Queen Charlotte, also namesake of Charlottetown PEI.
This lesson, to be presented on site at Skidgate by elders, will recount the oral historal of the Haida First Nation before the arrival of Europeans and the renaissance of Haida culture sealed in 2009 agreement with the BC provincial government.
- Rupertsland 1670-1779: Hudson’s Bay Charter monopoly
This traces the first century of the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson Bay from its proclamation under charter by Charles II and founding role of Prince Rupert (King’s cousin, and namesake of “Rupert’s Land” drainage area of the Charter and 17 other original investors including .
Reference will be made to the role of Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médart Chouart, Sieur de Groseilliers, recognized traders familiar with the region, who certified it a sound investment to capitalists, and the cargoes of pelts ship on the HBS Nonsuch.
(This lesson may be presented either in Moncton NB where the VIA Rail station is adjacent to the Hudson’s Bay store, and a two day Classroom … layover opens the possibility for participation of a Company representative or on the northbound trip of VIA’s “Hudson Bay” train from Winnipeg to Churchill that will include a trip to the historic Hudson Bay fort on the Bay!)
- North West Company competition 1779-1821 – When the Hudson’s Bay Company was granted its monopoly (lesson 89), it didn’t really have the whole of western Canada to itself. For its first century there was New France to the south, a New France supported by the Old that was still the dominant power in Europe and North America to the mouth of the Mississippi.
Governor Frontenac established a fur-trading for with his own name at the site of present day Kingson, and Intendant Talon encouraged French traders north to—and sometimes over—the height of land that marked the division between the southward draining Saint Larence/Great Lakes system and the Hudson’s Bay watership claimed by the British in the 1970 charter.
There were periodic passings-in-the-night in border zones, usually in the tacit understanding to stay out of each other’s way, like certain animal species in the woods. When war between the parent countries loomed, there were frontal assaults, like Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville’s 1690 capture of York Factory, British ships in the Nelson estuary and his taking the Hudson’s Bay Fort Churchill (named for HBC’s 2nd Governor).
Most of the early competition was non-violent, kept in check by their respective governments. As long as they weren’t already at war, they didn’t want zealous traders drawing them into one. This says something about the value of state regulation: a point we consider in Lesson 26 on “Canada’s Corporate Legacy.”
This general stability ended with France’s departure from North America and establishment of the rival North West Company out of Montreal with Scottish capital and French voyageurs on the Ottawa-Lake Huron-Lake Superior route they’d used before.
But with no boundaries or foreign spheres of interest at play, the rivals could be and were more aggressive in encroaching on each other’s turf. Initially there was a natural separation, as it was the British tendancy in Hudson Bay, as in New England, to stay on the coast and let the First Nations comes to them.
When the Hudsons Bay traders realized the territory at their backs was being mined by Nor’Westers coming up the Red River and into the Churchill/Saskatchewan drainage basin they turned inland and the competition became more ruthless. It became bloody when the element of settlement was introduced.
The Earl of Selkirk, who had earlier backed colonies on for poor Scots Highlanders in Upper Canada and Prince Edward Island, obtained the consent of the Hudson’s Bay Company to found a new settlement on the Manitoba plains, bringing in his colonists via Hudson Bay. The North West Company was strenuously opposed, arguing settlement would destroy the fur trade.
Equally serious, Métis descended from voyageurs who settled on the plains to hunt the buffalo were territorial and fierce fighters. Their attacks on the Selkirk settlement, culminating in the 1816 Massacre at Seven Oaks in which 21 died including the Governor, were intended to drive the settlers out. In this they eventually succeeded.
Though the settlers were not personally part of the commercial rivalry, their support by the Hudson’s Bay Company made them pawns and targets in the struggle. Their departure and the cost of continuing rivalry to both companies, led to merger in 1821.
The new company operated under the Hudson’s Bay name with equal number of seats to both groups on the board. It blended deep sea shipping and financial assets of the Hudson’s Bay with Nor’Westers skills in relations with First Nations. Though the Hudson Bay name is the one that survives, it is to the Nor’Westers we owe much of our exploaration and discovery..
- Manitoba Plains post merger to Confederation 1821-1870
This describes the development of the Canadian Red River Métis society from the failure of the Selkirk settlement and end of the inter-company fur trading wars until the arrival of the first settlers and speculators from Canada West (Ontario).
It was a relatively calm period, devoid of the battles, mass migrations and expansions that are favoured in news reports. But it strengthened and solidified the Métis society that would rise up and assert itself when newcomers arrived, presuming to take over. It was the arrivistes who would upset the peace with their claims, not the people who lived here.
The governance framework was the final years of the Hudson Bay Company lease and the governorship of Simon McTavish. The Council of Assinaboia, composed largely of Hudson Bay officials was the regional authority under lapse of the Company Rupertsland lease and the 1970 provisional government set up with Louis Riel as Secretary
The social framework was the founding of the Scottish parish of Kildonan (1917), a Roman Catholic mission in Saint Boniface (1818), of Saint Vital by francophone settlers (1822) and of the Hudson Bay Company trading post of Fort Garry (also 1822). The major families in later Manitoba history can be found in the church registers and cemetaries of these communities, that are are now parts of the City of greater metro area of Winnipeg.
Our presentation of this lesson will take place during one of the days of layover at the VIA Rail Station adjacent to Winnipeg’s “Forks/La Fourche” distict, and will entail walks to and talks by representatives of these historic areas. The Manitoba Métis Association may also be involved.
back to the Saint Lawrence mainstream and hinterland
- 1846-64: Responsible govt, Double Majority to Dominion – This lesson covers the 18 years from Britain’s grant of home rule in local affairs or responsible government (accountability of the executive to the legislature), as it’s called in Canada in the United Province of Canada (Ontario/Québec) until it was decided to pursue a “wider union” that became Confederation.
It deals primarily with partnerships and coaltions: examples of how government can function effectively when no one person of party holds a clear majority or control. First was the Baldwin-Lafointaine duo, a government whose principals frequently put the other’s interests ahead of his own. They worked together to restore Assembly usage of the French language that had been officially ended in the 1840 Act of Union.
Their intention was to prevent the Assembly from fracturing on language/religious grounds: a challenge as French and English had parity in the numbers of seats and either could block the other. To make this system work, then, required agreement to have both sides on board before attempting major initiatives.
Governments dissolved and reshaped day to day. We’ll recount examples to appreciate the challenges faced. From continual patching it became obvious something more was needed.
The second partnership was the Macdonald-Cartier one: John A. and Georges Cartier, a descendent of the explorer Jacques Cartier. Macdonald was not a supporter of the Confederation idea at first, believing he had enough on his hands to manage the “United” (?) Province without taking on a country beyond.
Gradually he came to see that the two issues—maintaining provincial stability, and wider expansion—went hand-in-hand. Bringing in more partners from other provinces increase the possibilities over working with the 50-50 group at home.
- 1864-86: Confederation to Craigellachie – The bringing of four colonies together in a federation was a beginning, not an end. To hold this framework together entailed shared projects and institutions. We’ll look at three conferences, Charlottetown, Québec and London, that put the deal together and what was discussed. The Senate took up more time than any other topic!
We’ll look at internal and external factors that contributed to the coming together: trade, defense, transporation and debt. We’ll look at the hopes and ideals expressed—some can still move us; some are antiquated—as well as the bottom-line accounting that sold the deal to ambivalent provinces and electorates.
We’ll look at the challenges and achievements of Sir John A’s first post-Confederation government: setting up a single voting system, post office, a Supreme Court (wasn’t “supreme” then), a military and a money system.
Somethings he didn’t have to concern himself with. The site of the capital had already been made—by Queen Victoria, with input by Prince Albert—and Parliament buildings had gone up for the former United Province of Canada. Foreign affairs were still run by the British government, and Sir John had to work hard once to get to sign a Fisheries Treaty that concerned Canadian halibut. (His was one of three British signatures.)
Two major projects—expanding westward, and a railway to facilitate this—were fumbled and dropped in his first term. Taking over Rupertsland was mishandled because he ignored the Métis who were already there. And the first proposal for a railway to the Pacific cost him badly, and put him out of power.
After a five-year time out for the Pacific Scandal, he was at it again. The Railway, incorporated in 1881, loomed large in his next two terms of office, and the year its last spike was driven, Macdonald faced the resurface of another challenge.
Louis Riel, who’d gone into exile possibly bribed to do so) after leading the Red River Uprising that brought Manitoba into Confederation as a province, rather than a territory, returned to lead an unsuccessful Métis and Indian revolt in North Saskatchewan, an event that might have been averted.
Of these two events, one was an evident success, the other a failure in the long term, though not immediately seen as that. The two were linked: the Railway transporting troops to put down the rebellion turned public opinion around, enabling a parliamentary oan would the line successfully completied.
The two events came to a climax within nine days of each other. The last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven by Donald Smith on November 7, 1885. Nine days later Louis Riel, who negotiated with Smith in the days of the Red River régime, was hanged for treason in Regina.
Though Macdonald was returned to power for two more terms (1886 and 1891) without serious opposition, his appeal for reelection was based entirely on past achievement. He died in office shortly after his last election and was widely mourned, most eloquently by opponent and future PM Wilfrid Laurier.
The Conservative base of support began to erode in Québec with Louis Riel’s execution. Another divisive issue surfaced in Manitoba’s abolition of French in its legslature, a term under which the Province joined Confederation under Louis Riel.
Macdonald had four Conservative successors in the remainder of his last term. With the exception of John Thompson who died at Windsor Castle two years in office—none was able to raise the energy or public support to save the Conservative régime.
- 1896-1920: “Sunny Ways,” Reciprocity and Under Fire
This lesson covers the tenure of thre prime ministers of two different parties who followed Macdonald for the last term of the 19th century and the first 20 years of the 20th. Sir Wilfid Laurier was de facto successor to Sir John A, in building a broad pan-Canadian base an furthering western settlement in two new provinces. He served a record 15 consecutive years and was defeat on his election proposal of reciprocity with the US, which many feared could lead to assimilation or annexation.
Sir Robert Borden served eight years, the greater part of which were taken up by the Great War to which Canada was automatically committed by membership in the British Empire. Borden attempted to prevent Canadian troops being wasted as British “cannon fodder.” He also had the misfortune to preside over conscription which split the country on English-French lines. (Laurier refused to join an all-party wartime coalition to pursue this policy and this ended his politicl life.)
Attorney General Arthur Meighten introduced the conscription bill in parliament and succeeded Borden when he retired as PM.
We develop this lesson by comparing wartime cheerleading—posters, songs, public appeals and other propaganda—to the news reports and economic conditions that emerged some time later after the hype on control of the media had lessened.
- Progressive and Protest movements in Canada, provinces – Following the War, social problems and the perceived inability of the traditional two parties to deal with them led to movements that became protest parties: the Progressives, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (now NDP) and later, Social Credit.
While these elected seats in Ottawa and Ontario’s Parliament, there influence was greatest in the three western provinces where they formed governments. We’ll look at each of these.
- 1921-48 Minority/Commonwealth/Depression/War King/Bennett – A block of Progressive Party seats in the House of Commons led to Canada’s first minority government and the “King-Byng” affair. This became a minor constitutional crisis when PM Mackenzie King was refused by the Governor General in his request to dissolve the House to avoid a non-confidence vote. Defeated, then back in power when Arthur Meighen was unable to form a lasting government, King was defeated in 1930 by R.B. Bennett whose Conservatives formed government for the worst of the Depression.
After hoping the situation would self-correct with market forces, Bennett attempted radical New Deal-style measures too late in his term to save him at the polls. The CBC began at this time.
King returned to power in 1935 remaining till 1949. His greatest achievement was preventing a repeat of the earlier conscription crisis. “Conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription” was a policy and slogan that enabled him to circumvent extreme positions and ensured no Québec conscripts died in combat.
- 1948-67: 9th-& 10th decades – St-Laurent/Diefenbaker/Pearson
Louis S. Saint-Laurent, King’s External Affairs Minister, was groomed to succeed him. He presided over eight years of solid reconstruction, interrupted by the more passionate leadership of John G. Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives. “Dief” proved unable to deliver the dynamic government he promised, even with a huge majority in the House. His more far-seeing measures—Bill of Rights, bilingualism and work towards the abolition of capital punishment—were built on by later régimes. The PCs were defeated by a Liberal minority with help from the US Kennedy Administration, irrate at Diefenbaker’s refusal to follow its lead in defense issues in the Cold War.
Lester Pearson who followed Diefenbaker as PM, helped in campaigning by a JFK speechwriter, brought in an ambitious, substantial program with the slogan “Sixty Days of Decision.”
Though the time frame did not stand up—the government was quickly distracted by scandals and rumours of scandals—the legacy of the Pearson years is solid and substantial, including national health care, the Canada Pension Plan, a new national flag, the centennary of Confederation, and a serious beginning to address the issues of updating Canada for another century.
The downside of those years: The political pettifrogging of the minority parliament—the government almost fell in its last few months—probably led Pearson’s successor Pierre Trudeau to run a tighter ship and a much larger Prime Minister’s Office. This more centrapetal system continued to a point where MPs, Senators and Cabinet Ministers became minnions reciting talking points prepared by the PMO. It was reversed ironically by Justin Trudeau in his pledge to “restore Cabinet government. (But that’s getting too far ahead and belongs in later lessons.)
There is much foot of these years and of the Expo ’57 centenniel that can be found on line and in CBC and Canadian Press and other archives to document studies of thes years.
- 1968-93 world stature, NAFTA: Trudeau/Mulroney, 3 interims Pierre Trudeau is generally admitted to be one of the four most significant men to serve as prime minister; the other three are Macdonald, Laurier and King. His significance lies in the degree to which he changed the country: for the better, in bilingualism, the Charter and patriation: to the detriment in the tighter PMO.
A strong centre was necessary for implmentation of his agenda for patriation given the strength of provincial governments that tried to withhold assent as a bargaining point ti secure transfer of additional powers. In contrast with the more collegial years of Pearson federalism, no English speaking provincial premier asked to be addressed as “prime minister” in the Trudeau era.
After a three month interregnum by John Turner, Trudeau was followed by Progressive Conservative Bryan Mulroney. While not as erudite or eloquent, Mulroney succeded in ways Trudeau had not including greater caucus loyalty and closer relationship with the US administration of President Ronald Reagan. This translated in benefits not only for free trade, that the Trudeau Liberals had not sought but in US action to clean up acid rain on the Great Lakes. Mulroney’s closeness to the US also enabled him to stand up decisvely to Britain regarding apartheid in South Africa, contintuing John Diefenbaker’s activist legacy.
Under both Trudeau and Mulroney governments, Canada had a good standing on the world stage. Both were succeeded and, in Trudeau’s case, interspersed by the 9 month Clark interregnum by transitional figures who were unable to sustain a recovery from the long term decline in popularity at a fine du régime.
This hindsight lesson can be validated/documented at almost any point on our itinerary with Wifi access to archives of the CBC, Macleans’, Actualité, and daily papers archived on line.
- 1993-2015 counter/reaction/entitlement Chrétien/Martin/Harper
Earlier written off as “yesterday’s man” by critics in and outside the Liberal Party, veteran cabinet minister-politician Jean Chrétien came to power in a wave of reaction against the inflated talk and projects of the Mulroney years, particularly the two unsuccessful attempts to open the constitution in the Meech Lake Agreement and Charlottetown Accord and animosity against the new GST.
Promising little but simple and straigh-forward good government after years of ups and downs, Chétien delivered modestly and impressed for having been underestimated. Facing a combined sovereigntist Bloc Québécois and Western based Reform Party opposition in the House, the Chrétien Liberals eventually gained at the expense of both. With Paul Martin as Finance Minister and a low Canadian dollar they made significant progress on reducing the deficit, undercutting a prime raison d’être of Reform.
And after a very near miss (1% margin) in the second Sovereignty referendum in Québec which would have destroyed Chrétien’s carreer and government had it gone otehrwise, the PM recovered quickly. He recruited political science professor Stéphan Dion (son of reowned Léon Dion) to handle the constitutional file. Over objections by all his Cabinet colleagues but the PM, Dion brought in the Clarity Act, that set benchmarks for future referendum. This was accepted by a majority of the Québec population over the protests of hardliners, and the seccession issue died down.
In the aftermath of the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, PM Chrétien played an even hand, expressing solidarity with Americans and sending Canadian troops to join the invasionary force in Afghanistan while staying out of the later more dubious campaign in Iraq. This was reflective of a majority of Canadian opinion at the time with the exception of western Conservatives.
Opposition Stephen Harper’s response to the Iraq abstention, “we should be standing shoulder with our Allies,” was remeniscent of that of an earlier Conservative Leader, Arthur Meighn, that our response should be “Ready, aye, ready!” whenever Britain called.
Chrétiens greatest challenge within his final months came from those within his own Liberal Party who had long supported Paul Martin’s leadership and felt it was now time for the PM to step down and give their man a chance. An alternate court of advisors that grew up around Mr. Martin made suggestions that when their time came, they would draw additional support from the right while maintaining Chrétien’s base to win an even larger Liberal majority.
When Jean Chrétien finally step down, Martin’s supporters having gained control of a majority of Liberal constituency organizations, the new prime minister quickly squandered his potential reserve of good will by trying to please everyone His proposed child care program and the federal-provincial Kelowna Accord for relief of aboriginal conditions appeled to the broad Liberal mainstream.
His attempt to distance himself from the preceding Chrétien government over the “sponsorship scandal” of unregulated spending projects in the Québec Referendum capaign and its aftermath, however, was another matter. It widened the rift in the Liberal party. His setting up the Gomery Commission “to get to the bottom of this,” provided a months daily-téléromain for Québec viewers and feeding frenzy for media and opposition of all parties.
PM Martin’s continued protestations of “knowing northing” and resolutions “to get to the bottom to find out” began to ring hollow. He began to appear like PM John Turner in the 1984 leaders’ debates, attempting to defend a predecessors record he did not agree with. Turner’s “I had no choice” reply to the accusation of patronage appointments cost him the 1984 federal election. Martin’s discomfort on the sponsorship file cost him the liberal majority he had inherited and returned him with a minority government in 2004. This government was defeated on non–confidence in the House in 2006 and defeated in a subsequent general election. In hindsight it can be called a government of good intentions, internal discension and lack of firm direction.
Stepher Harper’s new, narrower (not “Progressive”) Conservatives came to power as a minority, and under suspicion by many that they might be seeking to implement a “hidden agenda.” Their first two terms were spent in trying to dispell this notion, providing reasonable right-of-centre government that could win the respect of Canadians who were not dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives.
A second minority, resulting from the threat of a coalition of three opposition parties to overthrow them, led to a similar spend-your-way-to-power approach that was acceptable to voters even if it failled to satisfy hard-line idealogues. The social conservative element that moderate Canadians feared never really had the influence on part policy that was suspected.
As a backbencher in Reform in its early days, Harper had said clearly that the “party was going nowhere until it dealt with the evangelicals.” In a minority situation, he kept these muzzled on the threat that speaking out jeopardized the Party’s electoral chances.
Where Canadians faced death sentences in the US, Harper’s refusal to intervene as PM through diplomatic channels could be taken by social conservatives that he supported their values and would implement them in Canada if he had had a chance—except for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
When the Conservatives won a majority in 2011, the gloves came off. Supporters of a conservative social agenda could now claim the Party’s majority gave them greater scope. Harper listened to them regularly, but still did little. He could justify the inaction by legal opinions that the measurers they wanted would not pass a Charter test. At times it was good wedge politics to prove that by letting a piece of legislation work its way though the system.
Stephen Harper and his core supporters never believed in the Charter, seeing it as a reflection of liberal, elitist values offensive to their base, and a limit to implementation of their program through their parliamentary majority. When it appeared they were using the Charter as a whipping-post by proposing legislation likely to be struck under the Charter by the Supreme Court and then attacking the Court when it was, this was troubling to many Canadians.
In a curious replay of the story where a King’s oppression created an opposition that forced him to sign Magna Carta, Stephen Harper’s assaults and uncercutting of Charter values in many of his actions succeeded in unifying the Canadian people to throw him out. The government came to office on a wave of reaction against Liberal entitlement/financial corruption was swept out 10 years later by reaction against Conservative corruption by power
It remains to be seen if the Liberal inheritors of this reaction can deliver on many of their high intentions. If the 1993 ascent of the Chrétien Liberals (with more modest voter expectations) is any example, an absence of the provocations that drove the the voters to revolt may be enough to earn the newcomers some respite.
The period covered by this last lesson is so recent as to be suspect as “history” as the dust is still settling. The nearness of the events in time, however, offers students an opporunity for original research. They can look up back news reports on line and in old print newspapers and magazines in basements and recycling boxes. Be comparing pollsters and pundits’ predictions of events, reports of the events and editorial comment on them afterwards, they can develop a perspective of their own and learn first- hand how historic and journalistic research is conducted.
summing up/signing off…
- The Call of Canada –
Though other lessons in this section are not necessarily intended to be addressed in numerical order, this one is: the last lesson to be presented aboard before journey’s. Sign off on this lesson, and each student’s individualized project, is the last step in completing Canadian Classroom on Rails with Arctic Overview.
Think of it as a thesis/dissertation to complete an advanced degree. You have an idea or project you wish to pursue. You start by telling what’s been done in the field before. Whether or not you choose to build on it, or depart in a new direction, the strength of what you do relates to knowledge of the context: how your contribution will fit in.
What’s been done – Aboriginal youth often went on a vision quest to gain a sense of where Life was leading them. Canada’s Pilgrim Mothers and others in New France were drawn to the Colony by Recollect and Jesuit Relations reports just as others were drawn by the promise of adventure in the wilds. Reports to France drew many Old World figures of substance who were disinterested in the superficial sophistication and decadence of Imperial France and wanted to go where they could do something that “mattered.”
A similar if less overtly spiritual appeal for many after the British takeover. At the time of Confederation the appeal for “cleancut men” to join the North West Mounted Police drew from Britain many recruits that gave the force its upright sterling reputation.
Since the Second World War there have been new opportunities: overseas like CUSO, SIDA and Operation Crossroads Africa and home based such as the summer Katimovik program. Others, federa and provincial, private and non-profit can be found on line.
What’s your proposal/interest passion? Based on observations during your months with Classroom, your discussions with peers and mentors, and your study or What’s been done before, you can sketch your own proposing for continuing study/Canadian service.