Canada Year-By-Year: 1887

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Some amazing Canadians were born this year, and a lot of political things would happen as Canada moved into the latter part of the 1880s.

On Jan. 21, George Vezina is born in Quebec. He would go on to become one of the greatest hockey goaltenders in history. He would play seven seasons in the National Hockey Association and nine seasons in the National Hockey League, all with the Montreal Canadiens. In 1910, after he was signed by the Canadiens, he would play in 327 consecutive games in the regular season and 39 playoff games. He was the only goaltender for the team until 1925, when he left a game early in 1925. He would win the Stanley Cup in 1916 and 1924 and allowed the fewest-goals in the league seven times in his career. In 1918, he became the first NHL goaltender to record a shoutout and earn an assist on a goal. After he died on March 27, 1926 from tuberculosis, the Canadiens donated the Vezina Trophy to the NHL as an award to the goaltender who allowed the fewest goals during the season. Since 1981, it is presented to the most outstanding goaltender in the league. In 1945, when the Hockey Hall of Fame opened, he was one of the first nine inductees and in 2017, he was listed as one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history. Upon his death, the Montreal Standard called him the greatest goaltender of the last two decades.

On Jan. 25, Sir Louis Olivier Taillon becomes the premier of Quebec. He replaced his predecessor John Jones Ross and served from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29. This short term was because Ross had lost the 1886 election but kept power with a minority government until that started to collapse. After Jan. 29, Taillon became the Leader of the Opposition but he would make his way back to being premier in 1892, this time serving not for four days, but for four years.

On Jan. 27, Quebec got its new premier after four days with Taillon. Honore Mercier became premier, serving until 1891 to be replaced by the previously mentioned Taillon.

On Feb. 20, Vincent Massey was born in Toronto. He would befriend future prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King while studying law at Oxford and would eventually begin a diplomatic career that saw him serving as envoy to the United States and United Kingdom. From 1946 to 1951, he was the head of the Royal Commission of the Arts and would help establish the National Library of Canada and the Canada Council of the Arts. In 1952, he would be appointed as the Governor General of Canada, becoming the first Governor General of Canada who was born in Canada. He would serve in the post until 1959 and would pass away on Dec. 30, 1967.

On Feb. 22, Sir John A. MacDonald stayed in power as prime minister with a majority election win over Liberal opponent Edward Blake. Macdonald actually saw his party lose 10 seats to 123, while Blake and the Liberals rose six seats to 79.

On Feb. 25, Andrew McNaughton was born in Moosomin, in what would one day be Saskatchewan. He would join the Canadian non-permanent militia in 1909 and earn a degree in physics from McGill University in 1910. He would go overseas in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War and by Nov. 11, 1918, he had reached the rank of Brigadier-General, having been wounded twice and decorated several times during the war. From 1929 to 1935, he was the Chief of the General Staff and from Nov. 2, 1944 to Aug. 20, 1945, he was the Minister of National Defence. From January 1948 to December 1949 he was the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. He would pass away on July 11, 1966. On Nov. 6, 1967,

On March 28, William Smithe, the premier of British Columbia, would die in office. He had been serving as the seventh Premier of British Columbia since 1883. During his time in the office, the government made large grants of public resources and land to private entrepreneurs. He also helped ensure that the CPR was built through British Columbia to connect the province with the rest of Canada.

On April 1, Alexander Davie became the premier of British Columbia, replacing the deceased Smith. Davie was the first person to receive his entire law education in British Columbia and had served in the Legislature since 1875, with various gaps through the years. Davie served as premier from 1887 to 1889 but actually fell ill only a few months after taking office and left to live in California. While he was gone, Provincial Secretary John Robson ran the government, keeping in touch with Davie through letters. Davie would return to British Columbia in 1888 and would serve until Aug. 1, 1889 when he too died in office. His brother, Theodore Davie became premier in 1892.

On April 23, McMaster University is founded in Hamilton, Ontario. Today, the university h as 27,000 undergraduate and 4,000 post-graduate students. Notable alumni include the Greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, Cyrus Eaton, the founder of Republic Steel, Donna Strickland, a Nobel winner for her work with laser physics, and Myron Scholes, another Nobel prize winner.

On May 3, the Nanaimo Mine Explosion would occur, killing 150 miners. Of the miners at the mine, only seven survived. The explosion happened underground after explosives were put down incorrectly. Several miners died instantly, but others were trapped by the explosion and the fires that burned for an entire day. Most of the miners died from the poisonous gas fumes hours after the explosion. These men wrote farewell messages in the dust on their shovels. A total of 150 children lost their fathers and 46 women lost their husbands. The mine had operated since 1884 and the mine would re-open after the explosion, operating until 1938.

On May 4, William Murdoch would pass away. He had come to Canada in 1854 from Scotland and began to work as a manager at gas works in Saint John, New Brunswick, and as a journalist. He was also a noted poet who published Poems and Songs in 1860 and Discursory Ruminations: A Fireside Drama in 1876.

On May 21, James Gladstone was born in Mountain Hill, in what would one day be Alberta. He would attend St. Paul’s Indian Residential School and then the Anglican Mission School on his reserve. He would apprentice as a printer and work as an intern at the Calgary Herald. In 1911, he began working for the Royal Northwest Mounted Police as a scout and interpreter, as well as a mail carrier. He would then work as a farmer, with 400 cattle on his ranch. In 1949, he would be elected the president of the Indian Association of Alberta and travel to Ottawa three times to push for improvements to the Indian Act. In January 1958, he would nominated to the Senate by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, two years before Status Indigenous were given the right to vote in federal elections, becoming the first Status Indian to serve in the Senate. He would serve until the Senate until March 1971 and he would pass away on Sept. 4, 1971.

On June 4, Tom Longboat was born at the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. In 1905, Longboat began to race and would finish second in the Victoria Day Race at Caledonia, Ontario. In 1907, he would win the Boston Marathon with a record time, five minutes faster than any previous winner of the marathon. He would dominate the running world throughout the next few years but in 1909 knee and back injuries began to plague him. During the First World War, he served as a dispatch runner in France, twice wounded and twice declared dead. As an amateur runner, Longboat lost only three races, one of which was his first race. When he turned professional, he owned two national track records, and several unofficial world records. He would set world records for the 24 and 32 kilometre races and nearly set the world record for the 19 kilometre race. He would pass away on Jan. 9, 1949 and was called one of the greatest, if not the greatest marathoner, of all-time at the time of his death. In 1951, the Tom Longboat Awards were created and awarded annually to outstanding Indigenous athletes and sportsmen in each province. Longboat would be inducted into the Ontario and Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the Indian Hall of Fame. In 1976, he was designated as a National Historic Person and in 2000, a stamp was created to honour him. In 2008, June 4 was declared Tom Longboat Day in Ontario and on that same day in 2018, a Google Doodle honoured his life and career.

On June 7, Wilfrid Laurier becomes the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He will lead the Liberal Party through seven elections, serving until the day of his death, Feb. 17, 1919. His 31 years as leader are the longest of any party leader of a major Canadian political party. During that time, he was the Prime Minister of Canada from July 11, 1896 to Oct. 6, 1911, the longest unbroken term as prime minister in Canadian history, and the fourth longest overall among prime ministers. His 45 years of service in the House of Commons, from 1874 to 1919, is the longest of anyone in the history of Canada’s Parliament. He also served as prime minister under three different Canadian monarchs.

On July 5, Joseph Trudeau would be born in Quebec. He would study law at the University of Montreal and practice for 10 years with Ernest Bertrand. He would also build gas stations around Montreal and form the Automobile Owners Association. By 1932, he had 15,000 members using 30 gas stations and he would sell the company for $1 million. A strong supporter of the Conservative Party, he was often opposed to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was a Liberal. He would pass away from a heart attack in 1935. His son Pierre Elliott Trudeau would become one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers, and his grandson, Justin Trudeau, is of course our current prime minister.

On Aug. 18, John Palliser would pass away at the age of 70. Born in Ireland to Colonel Wray Palliser, he would serve in the Waterford Militia for several years and would take a hunting trip to British North America in 1847. He would write Solitary Rambles and Adventures of a Hunter in the Prairies in 1853 and in 1857, he led an expedition to the uncharted regions of the Canadian west, lasting for four years and becoming known as the Palliser Expedition. He would explore several rivers and, along with the scientists on the journey, would show that the west was perfect for agriculture, countering the decades long story of the Hudson’s Bay Company that stated it wasn’t suited for agriculture. This would help bring an end to the fur trade as a dominant industry in the west. I did an episode on the Palliser Expedition a couple months ago, so please check it out. The Fairmont Palliser Hotel and the Palliser Neighborhood in Calgary is named for him, as is the Palliser Mountain Range and the Palliser Formation in the Rockies.

On Oct. 8, Huntley Gordon was born on Montreal. He would work various jobs before finding his way to the stage and would begin a screen career in 1916 when he was serving with the Canadian Army in England. After the war, he made his way to Hollywood and began acting in several films, appearing in more than 120 movies in his career. He would retire from acting in 1940 and would pass away on Dec. 7, 1956.

On Oct. 14, Frances Loring was born in Wardner, Idaho. She would find her way to Canada as a sculptor and in 1920, was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Ontario Society of Artists. She was the founding member and president of the Sculptors Society of Canada and became involved in the Federation of Canadian Artists and the Canada Council. In 1939, she would create the Queen Elizabeth Way Monument and in 1957, the statue of Robert Borden that is located at Parliament Hill. She had worked closely with Florence Loring and the two moved to Toronto together in 1913 and were known as “the Girls”. They both gained major commissions for sculptures in Canada and in 1965, the two created mirror wills that called for the creation of The Sculpture Fund. They would die three weeks apart and sadly, their request for The Sculpture Fund was never realized. In 1955, CBC would visit

On Dec. 3, Saturday Night begins to publish as a weekly broadsheet newspaper about public affairs and the arts. It would expand to become a general interest magazine and by 1925 had a circulation of 30,858 copies. By the time it ceased publication in 2005, it was the oldest general interest magazine in Canada.

On Dec. 20, Walter Shaw was born in West River, Prince Edward Island. He would work as a farmer and civil servant before becoming an MLA in 1959, serving until May 11, 1970. During that time, he would serve as the 22nd premier of Prince Edward Island, serving from 1959 to 1966 and becoming premier at the age of 71. He would set down as party leader in 1968 and retire from politics in 1970 at the age of 82. In 1971, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1980 was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame. He would pass away on May 29, 1981.

On Dec. 26, David H. Harrison becomes the premier of Manitoba after his predecessor resigned after a financial crisis involving railway transfers. Unable to win a clear majority of the MLAs, he would lose a by-election on Jan. 12, 1888 and resign one week later. In all, he served as the sixth premier of Manitoba from Dec. 26, 1887 to Jan. 19, 1888.

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