O Canada

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...
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...
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...
Battle of Britain Day
Air Force, Military History, O Canada

Battle of Britain Day

Hitler’s plan was to destroy the Royal Air Force then launch Operation Sea Lion, an invasion of England. Winston Churchill assumed as much. “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war,” he told the House of Commons in 1940. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: “This was their finest hour.” The Battle of Britain was a proving ground for Britain’s aerial forces, and it also stirred Churchill to some of his most memorable speeches. On June 4, 1940, he addressed the House, emphasizing how critical the RAF would be in the months ahead. He ended with the famous words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing gro...
O CANADA: Overweight span
O Canada

O CANADA: Overweight span

Overweight span When they started building the Pont de Québec spanning the Saint Lawrence River in 1905, there was a sense of pride. Designed mainly for rail traffic, it was going to be the biggest cantilever bridge in the world, longer than the Forth Bridge in Scotland. But on Aug. 29, 1907, a riveter noticed that a rivet he’d put in only an hour earlier had broken in half. Minutes later the structure twisted and collapsed with such force that people in Quebec City, 10 kilometres away, thought it was an earthquake. The engineering challenges of the Quebec Bridge had been daunting. It spanned a shipping lane, so it had to have a 45-metre clearance for ocean-going ships. It was 850 metres long, but needed a single 550-metre span in the centre. Key to its structural integrity was the ...
Eyewitness to war
O Canada

Eyewitness to war

Now the rest of the assault troops are going in. I am going ashore with them.” This was the last line in Ross Munro’s dispatch on D-Day. As the lead correspondent in Europe for The Canadian Press during the Second World War, he covered D-Day on June 6, 1944, as well as the 1941 Canadian raid on Spitsbergen, Norway, the 1942 raid on Dieppe, the 1943 Allied landings in Sicily, the Italian campaign of 1943-45, and other battles. Munro was the first Allied journalist to report on the D-Day invasion. A British officer tipped him off that a destroyer was heading back from the Normandy beachhead to pick up General Bernard Montgomery. On board was Munro’s dispatch, the first from the coast of France. It wasn’t the first time Munro had been first. His accounts of Dieppe, Sicily and Italy wer...

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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.