O Canada

The RCMP turns 100
O Canada

The RCMP turns 100

When Canada bought Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1870, it needed to police those millions of square kilometres, so in 1873, the North West Mounted Police was formed by an act of Parliament. Successful applicants had to be males between the ages of 18 and 40, of sound constitution and good character. The pay was one dollar a day and their first job was to clean up the whiskey trade on the southern Prairies. On July 8, 1874, 300 men set out from Dufferin, Man., on a two-month odyssey across the Prairies. They dealt with the whiskey traders, went on to put down the 1885 Métis resistance against the government, and policed the Klondike gold rush. Crowfoot, the inspirational leader of the Blackfoot, said, “The Mounted Police have protected us as the feathers of the bird pro...
A day off
O Canada

A day off

The 19th century wasn’t a golden era for workers. In Newfoundland, six-year-olds were given the job of splitting fish, while processing was done by 10-year-old girls. Eight-year-old boys worked in Cape Breton coal mines. At Toronto’s Gooderham and Worts distillery, child workers as young as 10 worked long days and were given rations of whisky to help ease the burden. Things weren’t any better for adults. Twelve-hour days were standard, along with six-day weeks. In company mining towns, most of the workers’ wages went to pay rent for the company-owned houses and to buy supplies at the company-owned store. If the workers threatened to strike, the store would close. Conditions were often unsafe, wages were low and workers could be fired on a whim. In response to these conditions, the “Ni...
O Canada: Moon legs
O Canada

O Canada: Moon legs

What was the first thing to touch the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969? Before Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface with the words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” the Canadian-made legs of the lunar landing module settled into the dust of the moon. The legs were made of lightweight honeycomb compressible aluminum, manufactured by Quebec’s Heroux-DEVTEK. The module itself was primarily designed by Sarnia-born Owen Maynard, an engineer and former Second World War RCAF pilot. He had previously been one of the engineers on the supersonic Avro Arrow. When Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow program in 1959, Robert Gilruth, who was with the American space program, flew to Toronto the next day and hired 25 men to join his team in Virgi...
Appreciating “Voice of Fire”
O Canada

Appreciating “Voice of Fire”

“My five-year-old could paint that.”  This was a familiar response from viewers staring at “Voice of Fire.” The huge painting—on a canvas measuring 5.4 metres by 2.4 metres—by American artist Barnett Newman occupied a central place in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The problem wasn’t that it consisted solely of a vertical red stripe against a blue background, it was that in 1990, $1.76 million of Canadian taxpayers’ money had been used to buy it. It didn’t help that the Canadian economy was sliding into recession at the time. And it didn’t help that the artist was an American. “Voice of Fire” did have a Canadian angle; it had been created for Expo 67, where it was displayed in Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome—the United States pavilion. But when news broke that the Nation...
The ‘fightingest’ ship in the navy
O Canada

The ‘fightingest’ ship in the navy

In the course of its remarkable life, HMCS Haida was attacked by German bombers, engaged with enemy battleships, participated in the Normandy invasion, escorted Russian convoys, sank U-boats, circumnavigated the globe, and shelled trains during the Korean War. One of 27 Tribal-class destroyers built between 1937 and 1945, Haida is the only one that has survived. It sank more enemy ships than any other Canadian warship, earning it the nickname “the fightingest ship in the Royal Canadian Navy.”  Haida was launched in a shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England, on Aug. 25, 1942, and commissioned into RCN service a year later. Its first few months were spent in escort duty, but it saw more action the following year. In January 1944, Haida joined Operation Tunnel and Operation Ho...
O Canada

The legacy of “Mr. Veteran”

Born in Fort William (today’s Thunder Bay, Ont.) in 1919, Cliff Chadderton enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles on Oct. 15, 1939, with the idea of playing hockey for them. He had been playing for the Winnipeg Rangers, farm team for the New York Rangers. “That’s really why I got into the Army,” he said.  “It wasn’t for military reasons at all.” But he was soon pressed into action and quickly rose through the ranks. In October 1944, he was in command of a company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. They were fighting at the Leopold Canal in northern Belgium when a German grenade exploded nearby. “That ended my war,” Chadderton said.  “My troops dug me out.” They put him in a small boat and ferried him across the canal using rifles as paddles. Stretcher-bearers then took him to a field hospi...

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