Canada Year-By-Year: 1890

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On Jan. 1, Joseph-Goderic Blanchet would pass away at the age of 60. Blanchet was the only person to ever serve as both Speaker of the House of Commons and Speaker of a provincial legislature. He served as the first speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec from 1867 to 1875, while at the same time serving as a member of parliament from 1867 to 1874. He would serve in Parliament again from 1878 to 1883, during which he also served as the third speaker of the House of Commons from 1879 to 1883.

On Jan. 25, William Kennedy would pass away at the age of 75. He had been born in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan to a chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1814 and would work as a fur trader as a young man with the company. He would stay with the company until 1846 when he left because he disagreed with the policy of selling liquor to Indigenous people. In 1851, he would serve as the commander of the expedition sponsored by Lady Franklin to find her husband Sir John Franklin. The expedition did not find Franklin but did gain substantial knowledge of the Canadian Arctic region in the process. His expedition bucked the English trend and chose to dress the way the Inuit did and used their survival techniques, while also using dog sleds and working with the Indigenous to find the best routes in the area, he would return to England in 1852 without losing a single man, the first Arctic expedition to ever do so. After another expedition for Lady Franklin, he would spend two years trading around the South American coast and would settle in the Red River Settlement with his wife in 1860 where he operated a store.

On March 4, Henry Bethune was born in Gravenhurst, Ontario. His family had a long history in medicine going back to the Middle Ages and his great-great-grandfather, the Reverend Doctor John Bethune had established the first Presbyterian congregation in Montreal. As a young man, Henry attended Owen Sound Collegiate Institute and graduated in 1907. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp as a stretcher-bearer and was wounded by shrapnel and returned to Canada in 1915. He would earn his medical degree in 1916. As a young man he was an advocate for socialized medicine and would be an early member of the Communist Party of Canada. He would come to prominence internationally as a front line trauma surgeon supporting the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. During his time in the Spanish Civil War, he would develop a mobile blood-transfusion service for soldiers. Afterwards, he would support the Communist Party of China’s Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese where he brought modern medicine to rural China in his treatment of wounded soldiers and sick villagers. In 1939, he would accidently cut his finger while performing surgery on a Chinese soldier, resulting in blood poisoning that would kill him on Nov. 12, 1939. Mao Zedong, the future leader of Communist China, had respected Bethune and would give a eulogy for him. In 1972, he would be named a person of National Historic Significance and in 1976, the home he was born in was restored and made into the Bethune Memorial House and is now a National Historic Site of Canada. In 1990, both Canada and China issued postage stamps to honour the 100th year since his birth. In 1998, he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and a statue of Bethune was unveiled in Gravenhurst by Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson. Montreal would name a public square for him and erect a statue of him as well. In China, Bethune is one of the few Westerners to have dedicated statue, which have been erected around the country and his life is taught in elementary schools to this day in China. Also in China, there are many schools and medical universities named for him and built in his honour. In 1991, China created the Bethune Medal, the highest medical honour in China, which is given to seven individuals every two years who are recognized for their outstanding contribution, heroic spirit and great humanitarianism in the medical field.

On March 24, Agnes Macphail would be born in Grey County, Ontario. She would eventually earn a second-class teacher’s certificate and would go on to teach at several rural Ontario schools, while also becoming politically active in various organizations including the United Farm Women of Ontario. In 1921, two years after changes came to the Elections Act, she was elected to the House of Commons as a member of the Progressive Party of Canada as the first female MP in Canadian history. She would serve as an MP until 1940 and then moved to provincial politics in Ontario, serving in the Ontario Legislature from 1943 to 1945 and then again from 1948 to 1951. She would pass away three years in Toronto at the age of 63. In 1968, Macphail Memorial Elementary School was named for her, followed by a second school in Scarborough in 1981. In 1993, Agnes Macphail Day was declared in Toronto every March 24 and in 2017, the Canada 150 Canadian ten-dollar note was created with John A. Macdonald, George Etienne Cartier and James Gladstone joining Macphail on the currency. This would make her the first woman other than the sovereign to have a permanent spot on Canadian currency. Several roads, parks and buildings are also named for her.

On March 31, Thomas Greenway, the premier of Manitoba, would halt public funding of Catholic schools causing a huge uproar in Quebec. Greenway had been premier of the province since 1888, and would remain so until 1900, did not outlaw Catholic schools but all funding was removed and parents who sent their children to Catholic schools were required to contribute to the public school board as well. Greenway was noted for being anti-Catholic and anti-French and the Court of Canada would also force Manitoba to translate all its legislation into French, which would take seven years to complete. With a large Protestant population in Manitoba, his legislation was very popular and would contribute to his majority government win in 1892.

On April 4, Pierre-Joseph Chaveau would pass away at the age of 69. He had served as the first premier of Quebec from 1867 to 1873, at which point he was appointed to the Canadian Senate and served as the Speaker of the Senate of Canada for one year. From 1867 to 1874, he served in the House of Commons while also serving as the premier of Quebec. After he suffered an election defeat, he would retire from politics and become the dean of the faculty of law at the Universite Laval.

On April 20, Maurice Duplessis is born in Quebec. He would enter politics after practicing law in 1927, winning a seat as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. In 1931, he would be re-elected to his seat and in 1933 was elected as the leader of the party, which at the time was the Official Opposition in the Legislature. In 1936, he would serve his first time as the premier of Quebec, which ran until Nov. 8, 1939 when he called a snap election and was defeated. He would return to the premier position in 1944 and would hold power without any serious opposition until 1959 when he passed away in office on Sept. 7. At the time of his death he had served in the legislature since Feb. 5, 1923 and was referred to simply as “the boss”. While his critics call his time as premier “the great darkness”, his supporters consider it to be the greatest period of Quebec history due to his support of positive economic and social development policies, his support of property rights and strong opposition to Communism, feminism, environmentalism and separatism.

On April 25, Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot People died at the age of 59. When he was five, his father was killed during a raid on the Crow tribe. As a young man, he would fight as a warrior in as many as 19 battles, but despite his prowess as a warrior, he was known for always trying to obtain peace instead of war. He would become involved in Treaty Number 7 negotiations and while he did not take part in the North-West Rebellion, his son did participate. Crowfoot would die of tuberculosis at Blackfoot Crossing and 1,800 members of his tribe would attend his funeral. In 2008, he was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame for his contributions to the railway industry. Several museums and historical sites commemorate Chief Crowfoot and the Blackfoot. In 2014, the Blackfoot Historical Crossing Park was able to retrieve Crowfoot’s deerskin jacket, bow and pipe from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in England. In 1968, Willie Dunn, an Indigenous singer and filmmaker, would record The Ballad of Crowfoot and direct a video for it for the National Film Board, making it one of Canada’s first music videos and also the first film directed by an Indigenous filmmaker for the NFB.

On May 4, Franklin Carmichael was born in Orillia, Ontario. He would go on to become a member of the Group of Seven, famous for his use of watercolours, oil paints and charcoal. He would capture Ontario landscapes for the most part, while also working as a designer and illustrator creating promotional brochures, advertisements and stylizing books. He was the youngest member of the Group of Seven, which often had him on the fringe of the group due to his age. He would pass on Oct. 24, 1945 in Toronto at the age of 55. Emily Carr would say that his work was “a little pretty and too soft but pleasant.” The Franklin Carmichael Art Group would be founded in 1952 through the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and his 1929 watercolour, Lone Lake, was sold in 2012 at auction for $330,400.

On June 5, the Ontario general election would be held and Oliver Mowat and his Liberal party would go to a sixth consecutive majority government. He would lose a small number of seats, four in total, while the Conservatives picked up two. Mowat had been premier since 1872 and would continue to remain in that position until 1896.

On July 20, British Columbia held its election, which saw the number of MLAs increased from 27 to 33, while the number of ridings fell to 18. There were no political parties in the province at the time, and both Indigenous residents and Chinese-Canadians were disallowed from voting. John Robson would continue to serve as premier, having been elected in 1889 and continuing until 1892.

On Aug. 10, Prince Edward Island held its election, with the Conservative Party under Neil McLeod winning 15 seats, a reduction of three, and the Liberals picked up three seats to finish with 15 as well. McLeod would lose a motion of no-confidence the next year, ending his time as premier of the province.

On Sept. 20, Kathleen Parlow was born in Fort Calgary and quickly established herself as a violin prodigy. Moving to San Francisco at the age of four with her mother, she would go on to become a top professional violinist and established a concert career that took her to Europe. At the age of 17, she started to give public performances in Finland, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. In Norway, she would perform for the king and queen. She was billed as The Canadian Violinist, despite not living in Canada since the age of four. During the First World War, she would perform in neutral nations in Europe before returning to North America for a 1916 tour. In 1922, she did a 22-month tour of Hawaii, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Korea and Japan. By 1929, her concert career was not as profitable as it had been and she would begin teaching at various schools, including at the Julliard School of Music beginning in 1936. In 1940, she returned to Canada and began to perform again until her career started to decline in the 1950s. In 1959, she was appointed as the head of the College of Music of the University of Western Ontario. She would pass away on Aug. 19, 1963.

Also on Aug. 10, Angus Macdonald was born in Halifax. As a young man he would teach school to raise money for university. When the First World War broke out, he would join the Cape Breton Highlanders and spend two years in Europe fighting in the trenches. On Nov. 7, 1918, four days before the end of the war, a sniper shot him in the neck. He would survive but the wound required him to recover for eight months in England. In 1919, and back in Canada, he would begin attending law school and eventually lectured and taught law throughout the 1920s. On Aug. 22, 1933, he would be elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature and two weeks later was the premier of the province, serving until 1940. That year, he became the Federal Minister of Defence For Naval Services and would create the highly-effective Canadian Navy and Allied Convoy system that took soldiers and supplies to Europe throughout the war. After the war, he would become premier of Nova Scotia again, this time serving until 1954, when he died in office. As premier, he would completely alter the province including spending $100 million on building bridges and paving roads, while also improving public education and extending electric transmission lines.

On Dec. 10, Boss Johnson was born in Victoria, British Columbia. After serving in the First World War, he would be elected to the B.C. Legislature in 1933, serving until 1937. In 1945, he would be elected once again to the Legislature and after the resignation of Premier John Hart in 1947, he would succeed him as Liberal leader, which made him premier. He was the first premier of British Columbia to be born after Confederation in the province. He would serve as premier until Aug. 1, 1952. As premier, he introduced compulsory health insurance, and a three per cent sales tax to pay for it. He expanded the highway system and the railway, while also getting the Kenney Dam built. The dam was the first major hydroelectric project in the province. He would also appoint Nancy Hodges as the second female speaker in the British Commonwealth, while also disbanding the British Columbia Provincial Police and replacing the force with the RCMP. He would pass away in 1964 in Victoria at the age of 73.

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