Canada Corner

Road to Confederation
Canada Corner, O Canada

Road to Confederation

In 1866, the Fathers of Confederation—among them John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, Alexander Galt and George Brown—were in London, staying at the Westminster Palace Hotel. They were fine-tuning the British North America Act which, when passed, would create the Dominion of Canada. At a different hotel was Joseph Howe, who was trying to get Nova Scotia out of Confederation, waving a petition with 30,000 signatures. “Macdonald was the ruling genius and spokesman,” according to Sir Frederic Rogers, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. But there were a few non-genius moments. Macdonald woke up in the middle of the night to find that both he and his bed were on fire. His hair and hands were singed and his shoulder was burned—but he carried on.    The road...
Enough ships?
Canada Corner, Home Front

Enough ships?

What kind of navy should Canada have? With just 8,300 regulars, the Royal Canadian Navy is the smallest branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. This has been reflected in the RCN’s inability to produce officers to fill the highest post in the Canadian Armed Forces: chief of the defence staff.  Since the brief appointment of Admiral John R. Anderson in 1993, the RCN has had only two such officers—Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, who was interim CDS in 1996-97 during the turmoil of the Somalia Affair, and Admiral Art McDonald, who was appointed in January 2021. McDonald stepped down after 41 days in the post and is the subject of an ongoing investigation after allegations of misconduct were raised against him.    The apparent lack of highly qualified naval officers to fill the top position...
Walk in the park
Canada Corner, O Canada

Walk in the park

It began, as so many things did in this country, with John A. Macdonald.  In November 1885, he declared that 26 square kilometres on Sulphur Mountain overlooking Banff, Alta., would be designated for the public. It contained the Cave and Basin hot springs, which had been used by Indigenous peoples for centuries but had recently been discovered by railway workers. Macdonald had an ulterior motive. The hot springs could become a tourist attraction and help make his beloved railway economically viable. The following year, a legal survey of the area declared that “a large tract of country lying outside of the original reservation presented features of the greatest beauty, and was admirably adapted for a national park.” In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act created what is now Banff Nationa...
Britain’s defence
Canada Corner

Britain’s defence

While facing hard times, the United Kingdom is also increasing defence spending Speaking to the British Parliament in late November 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said his country faced its worst recession in 300 years (!) and an 11.3 per cent drop in gross domestic product. Worse yet, those numbers did not include the economic effects of Britain’s departure from the European Union, which was expected to add another two per cent to the decline in GDP.  The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the British economy have been devastating, and the pandemic has not yet run its course. Even Britain’s much-boasted contribution to foreign aid, pledged by the government during the 2019 election to remain at 0.7 per cent of gross national income, was chopped to 0.5 per cent. Despi...
Super Heroes
Home Front

Super Heroes

Wartime restrictions accidentally created a golden age for Canadian comic book heroes with patriotic messages Torontonian Leo Bachle was just 16 in 1941 when he created Canadian wartime comic book superhero Johnny Canuck.  “I didn’t see it as propaganda at the time,” he said in a CBC interview in 1995. “I created Johnny to give Canada a hero. I really believed in the war effort. I felt very nationalistic.”  With typical Canadian reserve, these heroes didn’t always possess Superman-like powers. Bachle was in the right place at the right time with the right talent. Canada’s War Exchange Conservation Act of December 1940 banning non-essential imports had an unintended benefit to the war effort. Among paper products it barred were pulp magazines and comic books. In blocking popular A...
Lord Stanley’s cup(s)
Canada Corner, O Canada

Lord Stanley’s cup(s)

When Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, was Governor General of Canada, he donated a trophy—known originally as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup—for Canada’s best amateur hockey club. It became known as the Stanley Cup. Lord Frederick Stanley of Preston, Canada’s Governor General from 1888 to 1893, saw his first hockey game on Feb. 4, 1889, and like so many of us, he was hooked.  Three years later, he donated a trophy to be awarded to the best hockey team in the country. The gold-lined silver bowl was 18.5 centimetres tall and cost $48.67. On May 15, 1893, the first Cup was awarded to a Montreal team (quelle surprise!)—the Montreal Athletic Association.  Among early winners were the Winnipeg Victorias, Montreal Wanderers, Kenora Thistles, Vancouver Millionaires and Ottawa Sen...

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