Canada Year-By-Year: 1894

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Notable Events

On Jan. 1, the Town of Calgary becomes a city thanks to the influx of people moving to the community because of the railroad going through. The city will continue to be the largest city in Alberta for the entire 20th century, surpassing Edmonton even though the northern capital of Alberta is older and the political and academic centre of the province.

On Feb. 20, the Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal of the Manitoba francophones through the Manitoba Schools Question. This question was a political crisis for Manitoba during the latter-part of the 19th century and it involved separate schools, publicly funded, for Roman Catholics and Protestants. This issue was quite old dating back to nearly the founding of Manitoba itself in 1870. In 1890, Premier Thomas Greenway would pass the Public Schools Act, which removed funding for Catholic and Protestant schools and established tax-supported public schools. At the same time this was enacted, another act was passed removing French as an official language in Manitoba, despite it being very prominent among the Metis and others in the community. The two were not related politically but it would increase the controversy over the schools. Court cases would be conducted, with the first in 1892 when the Manitoba Queen’s Bench held that the Public School Act was valid. This would eventually go to the Supreme Court but even with the refusal to hear the appeal, this was not going to go away and it would spread into federal politics by 1896, and it would be heavily influential in the 1896 federal election that divided Conservatives in Quebec and Ontario. We will hear all about this issue as it progresses over the next two years to that election in coming episodes.

On March 22, the Montreal Hockey Club would defeat Ottawa in the first Stanley Cup challenge. Montreal had won the first Stanley Cup in 1893 and Ottawa would take them on to win the Cup for the first time, losing 3-1. Montreal would hold onto the Cup for another year until it was won by the Winnipeg Victorias in 1896.

On April 27, the largest known landslide in Canadian history would occur, when 185 million cubic metres of rock and dirt slid, leaving a 40 metre scar that covered 4.6 million square metres. Interestingly, it does not appear anyone died despite how large it was.

On May 17, the Pioneer’s Obelisk was officially opened in Montreal. It commemorates the founding of Fort Ville-Marie on May 17, 1642 near to where Montreal would eventually be located. Made of granite and rising 41 feet in the air, it took 40 horses to drag the shaft to the city the year before. Since then, it has been moved several times, the most recent being in 1999. Each side of the obelisk carries a plaque. The first plaque honours the founding of Montreal, the second the creation of the Montreal Historical Society, the third plaque lists the names of the colonists who came to the area between May and December 1642 and the fourth plaque lists the founders of Montreal.

On June14, Massey Hall was opened in Toronto. The idea for this hall came from Hart Massey, who wanted to build a music hall for people in Toronto to meet and enjoy choral music. He also wanted to honour his son who had passed and had loved music. It was his feeling that the hall should not be a place that made a lot of money and that it would allow for both the rich and poor to attend events. By the time it was completed, it had cost $152,000, nearly $4 million today. The hall has seen many notable performers and dignitaries. In 1901, the future King George V and Queen Mary attended an event with Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Many famous figures have given lectures and performances at the hall including the Dalai Lama, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Oscar Peterson, Winston Churchill, Glenn Gould, Neil Young, Bob Marley, The Band, Justin Bieber, Van Halen and Jerry Seinfeld. In 1981, the hall was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.

On June 26, Oliver Mowat, who had been premier of Ontario for the past 22 years, would cruise to another victory in the Ontario election, and would continue to serve as the third premier of Ontario until 1894. The main issue during the election was the growing schools issue related to French language schools, farmer interests, women’s suffrage, and the growing temperance movement. This was the seventh consecutive victory for Mowat and his Liberals in Ontario but his support was slipping with the party losing eight seats going from 53 to 45, while the Conservatives under William Meredith saw his support fall from 34 seats to 23. The Patrons of Industry, a farmers’ organization formed in 1890 was able to get 18 members elected to the Legislature.

On June 28, the Colonial Conference would begin and run to July 9. It continued discussions begun three years earlier regarding laying a telegraph cable at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to create a link between Canada and Australiasia and the rest of the British Empire. Meetings were held in the Centre Block of Parliament and the Earl of Jersey was there to represent the United Kingdom. Many self-governing colonies were also invited including Newfoundland and Western Australia. The conference also looked at favouring preferential trade within the Empire.

On Sept. 3, the first Labour Day is celebrated in Canada, growing from labour movements over the previous decade and holidays celebrated locally around various provinces until it became a federal holiday.

On Dec. 12, Sir John Thompson would die as prime minister while in office. This continued a trend of prime ministers only serving for a few years after the death of Sir John A. Macdonald. He had died from a heart attack while at Windsor Castle where Queen Victoria was making him a member of her Privy Council. At the time of his death he was very overweight, and his health was described as terrible. Following his death, an elaborate funeral was held for him in the United Kingdom before his remains were transported back on the HMS Blenheim, painted black for the occasion. He would be buried on Jan. 3, 1895 in Halifax.

On Dec. 21, Mackenzie Bowell would become prime minister and like those before him since the death of Macdonald, he would serve only two years before he lost the 1896 election against Sir Wilfrid Laurier. We will get to more about Bowell in future episodes.

Also, this year, Rondeau Provincial Park would be established, becoming the second provincial park in Ontario after the founding of Algonquin Provincial Park the year before. Regulations at the park prohibited settlement, grazing, most logging but camping was allowed. These same regulations remain today but the park is one of only two in the province with private cottage leases on publicly owned land. Today, there are roughly 285 private cottages there.

Billy Bishop

On Feb. 8, one of the most famous pilots in Canadian history would be born. Billy Bishop was born in Owen Sound, Ontario where he attended Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute. It was there he gained a reputation as a fighter who could defend himself and others against bullies. While not playing in team sports, he would build an aircraft out of cardboard, wood crates and string at the age of 15. He tested his new plane by jumping off the third-storey roof of his home. He was soon dug out of his wreckage, unhurt, by his sister.

In 1911, he entered the Royal Military College and in 1914 joined The Mississauga Horse cavalry regiment at the outbreak of the First World War. While with the Seventh Canadian Mounted Rifles, Bishop proved his abilities with a gun by shooting targets so far away that they were only a dot. His eyesight was described as super-human. In France in 1915, he would transfer to the Royal Flying Corps, working as an observer until a spot opened for pilots. On Sept. 1, 1915 he was able to report for elementary air instruction and his first combat mission as an observer would be in January of 1916. In November 1916, he received his wings and joined the No. 37 Squadron RFC. Things were not going well by March 1917 for Canadian and British pilots with the average life expectancy being 11 days and the Germans shooting down British aircraft at a rate of five to one. On March 25, Bishop recorded his first air victory and by March 30 was a flight commander, then earned a temporary promotion to captain a few days later. Known for his n-holds-barred way of flying, he would lead pilots himself into battle over enemy territory. His run and gun method were not without danger and one mechanic counted 210 bullet holes in his plane after one patrol. In April 1917, he shot down 12 aircraft and participated in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, earning the Military Cross. The Germans began to take notice of Bishop and his blue-nosed aircraft and referred to him as Hell’s Handmaiden. On April 30, he survived a battle with The Red Baron and in May received a Distinguished Service Order for shooting down two aircraft in one day. On June 2, he flew a solo mission behind enemy lines to attack a German aerodrome, shooting down three aircraft in the process and destroying more on the ground. He would be awarded the Victoria Cross for this. By the end of the war, he would have 72 victories in the air, the most of any Canadian or British pilot and third among all pilots in the First World War.

After the war, he would spend his time running a passenger air service, lecturing on aerial warfare and by 1929 was the chairman of British Air Lines.

In 1936, he was appointed as the first Canadian air vice-marshal, becoming air marshal in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War. He would be instrumental in creating a system for training pilots across Canada with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This would result in 167,000 airmen in Canada being trained during the war.

In 1944, he resigned due to ill health to return to private enterprise, eventually retiring in 1952. He offered to serve in a recruitment role during the Korean War but was turned down due to ill health. He would die on Sept. 11, 1956. Beyond his military awards, Bishop has been honoured in many ways around Canada. In 1967, he was inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame, his home was repurposed into the Billy Bishop Home and Museum, and several movies and documentaries have been made about him. Both an airport in Owen Sound and in Toronto are named for him. Numerous roads and parks, as well as schools are named for him. Mount Bishop is also named for him.

In 1978, Billy Bishop Goes to War would premiere in Vancouver, with Eric Peterson playing Bishop and 12 other characters. It has become one of the most iconic plays in Canadian history.

Other Notable Births

On May 7, George Drew was born in Guelph, Ontario. Attending the Osgoode Hall Law School, he would serve in the First World War, becoming a Lt. Colonel during the war. In 1920, he was called to the bar and in 1925 was elected as mayor of Guelph, serving until 1929. In 1939, he would be elected to the Ontario Legislature, serving until 1948. In 1943, he would be elected as the Premier of Ontario, winning a minority government. In 1948, he would be elected to the House of Commons, serving until 1957. During that time, he was the Leader of the Opposition from 1948 to 1956. In 1957, he would become the Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, serving until 1964. In 1965, he served as the first Chancellor of the University of Guelph until 1971. In 1967, he was awarded the Order of Canada. In 1973, he would die from heart failure.

On May 13, William Rowe was born in Hull, Iowa to Canadian parents. The family would move to Ontario at the age of two. From 1919 to 1923, he served as reeve of his township and was elected to the Ontario Legislature from 1923 to 1925. He was then elected to the House of Commons, serving until 1963, serving as the Leader of the Opposition twice, for only a few months each time in 1954 and 1956 when George Drew was too ill to do his duties as leader. In 1963, he would become the Lt. Governor of Ontario, serving until 1968. He would die on Feb. 9, 1984.

On June 4, Mary Rose-Anne Bolduc, known as Madame Bolduc, is born in Newport, Quebec to an Irish father and a French-Canadian Mi’kmaq mother. As a young woman she would begin performing Quebec folk songs, becoming one of the most popular singers in Quebec in the 1920s and into the 1930s and is called Quebec’s first singer-songwriter. During the peak of her popularity in the 1930s, she was known as the Queen of Canadian Folk Singers with her style of blending folk music of Ireland and Quebec, with upbeat and comedic songs. Following her death on Feb. 20, 1941, she would be issued a stamp in her honour in 1994 and a park in her hometown was named for her.

On June 5, Roy Thomson was born in Toronto to a telegraphist turned barber. He would rise to prominence selling radios in Ontario, while also launching his own radio station at the same time. With his wealth growing, he would move into newspapers and became an important press baron in both the United Kingdom and Canada. He would buy several British newspapers including The Times. In 1964, he would receive the peerage as a Baron for his public services, becoming Baron Thomson of Fleet. To do this, he had to gain British citizenship, losing his Canadian citizenship in the process. He would die on Aug. 4, 1976.

On Sept. 10, Humphrey Wrong was born in Toronto, the grandson of Edward Blake and the son of historian George Wrong. He would lose his eye in an accident ate the age of five and despite this would still enlist and serve in the British Expeditionary Force where he was sent to the front. After the war he attended Oxford and in 1921 became a history professor at the University of Toronto. In 1927, he became first secretary to Vincent Massey, head of the Canadian Embassy in Washington. In 1946, he would be appointed the Ambassador for Canada to the United States, remaining in the post until 1953. He was one of the key creators of the North Atlantic Treaty that would create NATO. He would die On Jan. 24, 1954 in Ottawa.

On Oct. 7, Del Lord was born in Grimsby, Ontario. He would begin to act in theatres as a young man before going to the United States and working in Keystone Studios with fellow Canadian Mack Sennett. He would transition into directing and from 1935 to 1945, he directed over three dozen Three Stooges film. Ove the course of his entire career, he would direct or produce more than 200 motion pictures. He would die in Riverside, California on March 23, 1970.

On Nov. 26, James McGuigan was born in Hunter River, Prince Edward Island. He would become ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1918 and would study at various Catholic universities across Canada and the United States. In 1930, he was appointed Archbishop of Regina by Pope Pius XI, making him the youngest archbishop in the Church. Four years later, he was named the Archbishop of Toronto and was created Cardinal-Priest, becoming the first English-speaking cardinal from Canada. He would serve as archbishop of the city until 1971. He would die in 1974 from a heart attack. James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School in Toronto is named for him. 

On Dec. 13, Chester Ronning was born in China. He would come to Canada with his family as a young man and graduated from the University of Alberta in 1916. From 1922 to 1927, he would serve as a missionary in China and then came back to Canada to serve as the principal of Camrose Lutheran College, where he remained for 15 years. He would then serve from 1932 to 1935 in the Alberta Legislature and was the leader of the Alberta CCF from 1940 to 1942. Beginning after the Second World War, he would begin serving diplomatic posts around the world. He served in China from 1945 to 1951, Norway from 1954 to 1957, India from 1957 to 1964 and at the United Nations. He would take special missions to Hanoi in 1965 and 1966 to mediate the Vietnam War and in 1972 was awarded the Order of Canada. In 1983 he was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence. He died on Dec. 31, 1984.

Deaths

On May 27, Sir Francis Godschall Johnson would die in Quebec City. He was born on Jan. 1, 1817 in Bedfordshire and would move to Montreal in the 1830s where he studied law. He was called to the bar in 1839 and became a well-known criminal lawyer, thanks in large part to being able to speak both English and French. In 1870, he was appointed as a Legislative Councilor in Rupert’s Land and in 1872 he was appointed to Lt. Governor of Manitoba briefly but was never sworn into office. He would then be appointed a judge of the Superior Court and was appointed chief justice in 1889.

On July 23, Alexandre-Antonin Tache would die in St. Boniface, Manitoba. He had been born in Lower Canada in 1823 and would attend junior seminary in 1833 feeling a religious calling. This would eventually lead him to becoming the first Archbishop of Saint Boniface, Manitoba in 1853, a position he served in until his death.

On Sept. 25, Lt. Col. James Macleod would die. He was born in Scotland in 1836 and came to Canada with his family in 1845 when his father purchased a farm at Richmond Hill, Ontario. He would attend Upper Canada College, before gaining a law degree and practicing law from 1860 to 1870 in Bowmanville, Ontario. In 1862, he transferred to the Bowmanville Volunteer Militia Rifle Company and was promoted to captain in 1863 and major in 1866. He would be appointed to the Legislative Assembly of Northwest Territories in 1876, serving until 1881. From 1876 to 1880, he would become the Commissioner of the North-West Mounted Police, serving until 1880. Fort MacLeod and MacLeod Trail are named for him.

On Oct. 10, Charles Monck died in Ireland. Born in Ireland in 1819, he would become the Governor General of British North America in 1861 and the Governor of the Province of Canada. Under his governorship, Canada would begin to organize towards Confederation. When Canada became a country in 1867, he became the first Governor General of Canada, serving until 1868.

On Oct. 30, Honore Mercier would die. He was born in 1840 in Montreal and would be elected to the House of Commons for the first time in 1872, serving until 1874. He would then be elected to the Quebec Legislature in 1879, serving until 1894 when he died. During that time, he would serve as the ninth premier of Quebec from 1887 to 1891. He was able to rise to power by mobilizing Francophone opposition to the execution of Louis Riel and what he saw as a betrayal by John A. Macdonald’s Conservative government. He was the first Quebec premier to defend provincial autonomy in Quebec within Confederation. His strong national stance would be something later nationalist premiers of Quebec would latch onto. Several bridges, schools and roads are named for him. Mercier, Quebec is named for him, as is the provincial district of Mercier.

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