Canada A Yearly Journey: 1874

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Every year is an important year in the history of Canada but some are more important than others. Perhaps there is an important invention that is made in a given year, or an iconic institution is created, or a notable birth. 

For Canada, 1874 is a year with all of those things. 

On Jan. 15, James David Stewart is born in Prince Edward Island. He would go on to become the leader of the Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island from 1921 to 1933. During that time, he would serve as the premier of the province from 1923 to 1927 and from 1931 to 1933. 

On Jan. 16, Robert Service is born in England. He would go on to become known as the Bard of the Yukon for his poetry. His poems The Shooting Of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee were inspired by the Klondike Gold Rush, which he saw first hand after he was sent to the territory by the bank he worked for. Today, several schools are named for him and his poems have been recorded by musicians including Hank Snow. 

On January 22, Canada headed into another election. In 1873, the Conservate government would fall and Sir John A. Macdonald would resign as prime minister amid the Pacific Scandal. This would bring the Liberals to power for the first time and in the subsequent 1874 election, the first held on a single day, Jan. 22, they would retain that hold on power.

The House of Commons once again increased, this time by six seats to 206. Prince Edward Island had joined Canada by this point as well.

The biggest change to come from this election was the use of secret ballots, which were implemented to prevent parties from influencing voters to vote one way or another. Even with the decision to implement secret ballots, there was still opposition to it. Antoine Dorion, a Liberal MP would say of that opposition, quote:

“Those opposed are afraid that if the ballot was adopted they might not be sure of getting the votes after having bought them.”

The Liberals would pick up 34 seats, finishing with 129 seats. They were led, officially this time, by Alexander Mackenzie, who would now become the second prime minister of Canada. Sir John A. Macdonald and the Conservatives suffered a collapse, losing 35 seats, and becoming the Official Opposition for the first time. There were also 12 independents, many of which were from the Conservatives and had left the party after the scandal. Across the country, the Liberals tended to win each province, with Ontario being the biggest win. The Liberals picked up 61 seats, while the Conservatives only had 25. It was closer in Quebec with the Liberals having 34 seats to the 29 of the Conservatives. The new province of Prince Edward Island was overwhelmingly Liberal, as the party picked up five of six seats on the island province.

Many consider the 1874 election to be one of the most corrupt in Canadian history. Of the 206 MPs elected, 65 of the seats were contested on grounds of corruption. This may seem like it was just sour grapes for those who lost, but in fact only two petitions were dismissed and only 14 members were confirmed in their seats. A total of 30 Liberals and 19 Conservatives were unseated.

One note about this election is that it was the first election win for Wilfrid Laurier, who would go on to serve for 45 years in Parliament, longer than anyone else, and as prime minister from 1896 to 1911.

On Feb. 8, Joseph-Bruno Guigues passed away. He was the first bishop of the diocese of Bytown. During his life, it was said he was a simple man and as bishop, he would hear confession in his cathedral and visit the sick. He served as the bishop of Bytown from 1847 until his death. 

On February 11, George Walkem became premier of British Columbia. He would serve for two years until 1876, before coming back as premier in 1878 and serving from 1882. 

On March 9, Joseph Casavant passes away at the age of 67. He was a noted pipe organ manufacturer, who would build 17 organs that would be used in Catholic Cathedrals throughout Canada, including in Ottawa. 

On April 16, Louis Riel, who had been elected to the House of Commons despite being in exile after the Red River Rebellion, was barred from taking his seat in Ottawa. Wilfred Laurier, the future prime minister of Canada, would speak on behalf of Riel and against his expulsion from the House of Commons. 

His speech was long, but he would say quote:

“It has been said that Mr. Riel was only a rebel. How was it possible to use such language. What act of rebellion did he commit? Did he ever raise any other standard than the national flag. Did he ever proclaim any other authority than the sovereign authority of the Queen? No, never. His whole crime and the crime of his friends was they wanted to be treated like British subjects and not be bartered away like common cattle. If that be an act of rebellion, where is the one amongst us who, if he had happened to have been with them, would not have been rebels as they were?”

The New Brunswick provincial election was held in June and July, but there were no party labels at this time. In the election, the issue of the Common Schools Act was the main topic among candidates. Roman Catholics and Acadians were opposed to the legislation since it banned religious instruction in public schools. A total of 35 candidates supported the government, five were in the opposition and one was neutral. George Edwin King would serve as premier from 1872 to 1878. 

On June 16, the first of two future prime ministers would be born in St. Mary’s, Ontario, Arthur Meighen.

Meighen would attend primary school in Anderson, Ontario and high school at North Ward Public School. He excelled in school, earning first class honours in mathematics, English and Latin. He also excelled at debating with the school debating society.

In 1908, at the age of 34, he was elected to the House of Commons, defeating John Crawford in the Portage la Prairie riding, where Crawford had represented for four years. This was especially impressive as Crawford was seen as a lock to win, riding on the coattails of Sir Wilfrid Laurier who was still very popular in the country. In the end, Meighen won by 250 votes.

At the time, the Conservative Party was still in the Opposition as Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberals led Canada. Meighen spent most of his time on the back bench and only made two speeches in his first term but they were enough to catch the notice of Conservative Leader Robert Borden.

In 1911, Meighen was re-elected by a margin of 675 votes and this time he was part of the governing party, under new prime minister Sir Robert Borden.

When the Laurier opposition held up the government’s Naval Aid Bill, Borden turned to Meighen to find a solution. Meighen would urge the adoption of a form of closure that was operating in the British Parliament and it was a way to implement the bill in the House of Commons without sparking a debate. Borden introduced the motion for closure on April 9, 1913, with the Liberals fighting it but they were unable to and it was passed two weeks later, only to be defeated in the Liberal controlled Senate. Meighen’s solution greatly impressed Borden and on June 26, Meighen was the new Solicitor General.

For the next four years, Meighen served in that position until he was appointed as the Minister of Mines and the Secretary of State in 1917.

Borden, becoming more impressed with Meighen and assigned him with negotiating a financial arrangement with the Canadian National Railway, which was about to go bankrupt and would have brought down a large bank and several provincial governments with it. Meighen would come up with a proposal that would provide a $45 million government guarantee of Canadian Northern bonds in return for a mortgage and a large share of common stock. The bill would pass and become law and Borden rewarded Meighen with an elevation to a cabinet rank.

The next task for Meighen would come in 1919 with the Winnipeg General Strike. At the time he was the Acting Minister of Justice and the senior member from Manitoba in the government of Borden. Meighen considered the strikers to be revolutionists looking to overthrow constituted authority. He would approve the arrest of strike leaders and urged all foreign-born among the leaders be deported. Once the strike had ended with force, Meighen enacted Section 98 amendments to the Criminal Code, which banned association with organizations deemed seditious.

By this point, the Conservative Party was disliked by unionists and labourers, farmers angry about tariffs and nearly everyone in Quebec. It was in this new atmosphere that Meighen found himself in a new role.

In 1920, Meighen would see himself become the leader of Canada after the retirement of Sir Robert Borden.

Meighen’s first term as prime minister would only last a year and a half before the 1921 election.

As the Leader of the Opposition, Meighen was often at odds with Prime Minister William Lyon King. Borden and Laurier had had a good relationship and mutual respect for each other. Laurier even ensured a Liberal candidate did not run in a byelection after Borden lost his seat, allowing Borden to be acclaimed. That sort of relationship was not seen at all with Meighen and King. Both men had a distrust to the other, with Meighen often looking down upon King and calling him “Rex”, which was the nickname of King at university. King saw Meighen as a High Tory who would destroy the social peace of the country. The rivalry and dislike between these two men is nearly unrivaled in Canadian history.

When the 1925 election came along, Meighen and the Tories won 115 seats, an increase of 66, while king won 100, dropping 18. The Progressive Party collapsed losing 36 seats. The Liberals, having fewer seats than the Conservatives, looked to the Progressives for help as a coalition, giving them more seats and the ability to retain confidence in the House of Commons as the already sitting prime minister. Meighen was naturally livid over this and called King’s holding of office to be like a lobster with lockjaw.

Governor General Byng felt that the Liberal-Progressive alliance was a corrupt bargain and he felt that the Conservatives should have formed the next government but there were no valid legal grounds for refusing to allow King to remain as prime minister.

Soon after the election, the Customs Department was beset in a scandal and with a vote coming in the House of Commons that King thought he would lose, he asked the Lord Byng to dissolve the government and call an election. The previous election had been held on Oct. 29, 1925, not long previous and the Governor General felt that there was too short of a time between the elections, and also looking at the fact that Meighen had a larger seat account, he refused the request. The incident has become known as the King-Byng Affair and many debate who was in the right, King or Byng, in the matter. King in response resigned as prime minister, leaving Canada without a government, and with the support from the Progressives, Meighen was asked to form a government by Lord Byng.

Meighen was then advised by Byng to appoint Ministers of the Crown in an acting capacity only, which would not trigger automatic the by-elections ministers faced in accepting their appointments. The Progressives then shifted their support to King, and the government lost a vote regarding the ministers by one vote and Meighen was forced to call an election.

In the election, held on Sept. 14, 1926, the Liberals cruised to 116 seats, while Meighen saw his party fall by 24 seats to 91. Meighen also lost his seat in Portage la Prairie again. Meighen and the Conservatives did win the popular vote by 100,000 votes but that did not matter in the election. In all, Meighen’s second time as prime minister lasted only three months.

With the election and riding loss, Meighen resigned as Conservative Party leader on Oct. 11, 1926.

From 1931 to 1934, he would serve as a member of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.

In 1932, Conservative Prime Minister R.B. Bennett appointed Meighen to the Canadian Senate where he served as the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Minister without Portfolio from 1932 to 1935. From 1935 to 1942, he served as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

He died of heart failure on Aug. 5, 1960.

On June 19, the North West Mounted Police was assembled together for the first time as a single unit. The following day, they would experience a vicious storm that may have been a sign of things to come. 

The storm was described by Sam Steele as such:

“A thunderbolt fell in the midst of the horses. Terrified, they broke their fastening and made for the corral. The six men on guard were trampled underfoot as they tried to stop them. The maddened beasts overturned the huge wagons, dashed through a row of tents, scattered everything and made for the gate of the large field in which we were encamped.”

Over the subsequent weeks, final preparations were made to prepare for The March West. 

On July 8, 1874, the new North West Mounted Police Force left Fort Dufferin, located near Emerson, Manitoba. The force at the time was 275 strong, divided into six divisions labelled as A to F. Each Division was identified based on the colour of their horses. Division A had dark bays, B had dark browns, C had chestnuts, D had greys and buckskins, E had blacks and F had light bays. 

In addition, there were 310 horses, 143 oxen and 187 carts and wagons. In all, the force stretched for 2.4 kilometres as it marched. Beyond those items, there were also two field guns and two mortars, cattle and mowing machines to make hay. George French, the first Commissioner of the NWMP, had Henri Julien, a journalist with Canadian Illustrated News, come with the new force to write about it, in what he hoped would be a positive light. 

One interesting recruit was Inspector Francis Dickens, the son of Charles Dickens, who was described by his superiors as “a very poor officer of no promise, physically weak in constitution, his habits not affording a good example.”

There were many applicants to be part of this first force moving west, but mostly men with previous military or police experience were hired. Applicants could be any male between the age of 18 and 40, with good character and sound constitution. They had to be able to read and write in either French or English, and they would be paid 75 cents a day for sub-Constable and one dollar a day for Constable. 

Things did not begin well for the force. With so many moving pieces, and through arduous conditions, the force made only 15 miles a day, and that was on a good day. 

On the fourth day of the March, the troop rested at a place called Grant’s Place, where they killed several ducks and feasted on them. This would have consequences soon after for those men, beyond the fact they killed several ducks without approval. The men who enjoyed those ducks and pond water, soon found themselves literally soiling themselves on the march. 

On the fifth day of the March, the troops were able to camp at the base of the Pembina Mountains. During the evening, swarms of grasshoppers descended on the canvas tents of the men, forcing them to pack up their tents to save their only shelter from hungry grasshoppers. 

On July 19, the 12th day of the March, the men rested in order to observe the Sabbath. Resting along the Souris River, the men had their first opportunity to bathe and wash their clothes.

On July 22, the 15th day of the march, the first of the horses began to die. The force was crossing the Souris River but due to the heat of the day and the weak condition of the horses, two were abandoned and two others died. The weak condition of the horses was because of the small supply of oats the horses were provided.

Within three weeks, A Division was in serious despair and men were suffering from dysentery. As a result, on July 29, several members of the division were left behind as the main force turned off the southerly trail and began the march across the drier and rougher plains of the north west area.

On Aug. 1, the 25th day of the expedition, the bad luck of its members was in full force. Henri Julien, the aforementioned journalist, went off to hunt ducks. After dismounting to get a duck he shot, his horse rode off and Julien would spend hours chasing after it on foot. Finally catching the horse, he returned to camp to find the force had left. He was forced to tether his horse and sleep under the stars for the night. The following day, a search party found Julien, whose hands and feet were ragged and bloody and his face had nearly been disfigured by mosquito bites.

Over the next two weeks, things would be relatively okay. The troop would come across the Sioux, who were happy to trade and spend time with the force. Various groups had gone out and picked up some supplies, although not enough to keep the force from being on a razor’s edge of despair at points. 

On Aug. 24, the force reached the Cypress Hills, which is on the border of present day Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Poor planning would result in another terrible mixup for the group. Commissioner French thought that that Fort Whoop-up was at the junction of the Bow River and South Saskatchewan River, but when the group arrived on Sept. 10, they found nothing in the area except for three old shacks. 

Commissioner French then abandoned the plan to move towards Fort Whoop-Up and chose to travel 70 miles south to Sweet Grass Hills, which was close to the border with the United States.

By the time the group arrived in that area on Sept. 21, many of the men were only wearing rags and were walking barefoot, while more horses had died from the cold and hunger. 

After getting new supplies, Divisions D and E went back to the east, and Divisions B, C and F began to travel to Fort Whoop-Up. 

On Sept. 19, several horses with the force died, enough that the troop would name the coulee there Dead Horse Valley. 

On Sept. 23, French and his small group of men arrived at Fort Benton and after a rest, would purchase supplies and take on the scout Jerry Potts. 

At this point, French rode east to join Troops D and E, while Macleod would be in charge of the majority of the force currently waiting at the Sweet Grass Hills. They would reach the party on Oct. 4. 

The force finally arrived at Fort Whoop-Up on Oct. 9.

On July 8, Marc-Amable Gerard becomes the premier of Manitoba, again. He had served as the second premier of the province from 1871 to 1872, and would serve again from July 8, 1874 to Dec. 2, 1874. 

One of the biggest moments from this year happened on July 26, when Alexander Graham Bell told his father in Branford about his new invention, which he called the telephone. 

One year after the Saulteaux signed Treaty 3, the government would begin negotiations with the Cree, Assiniboine and Saulteaux people.

Things did not get off to a good start for negotiations. The Assiniboine had trouble choosing a main spokesman, which caused problems for agreeing to the treaty. Another issue was that on Sept. 8, less than half of the expected Indigenous nations attended the negotiations. Morris decided to delay the negotiations until Sept. 11. When that day came, the Cree were ready to negotiate but the Saulteaux wanted to meet the commissioners at their camp, rather than the Hudson’s Bay Company post. The Saulteaux said that the company had stolen their land in the past, and they could not speak freely there.

One man named O-ta-ka-o-nan, would say, quote:

“The Company have stolen our land. I heard that at first. I hear it is true. The Queen’s messengers never came here and now I see the soldiers and the settlers and the policemen. I know it is not the Queen’s work, only the Company has come, and they are the head, they are foremost. I do not hold it back. Let this be put to rights, when this is righted, I will answer the other.”

The commissioners, agreed to move the meeting place and negotiations resumed on Sept. 13.

Lt. Governor Morris would say to the gathered Indigenous, quote:

“I have asked you to meet us here today. We have been asking you for many days to meet us and this is the first time you have all met us. If it was not my duty and if the Queen did not wish it, I would not have taken so much trouble to speak to you.”

Morris would then speak regarding how he had come a long way to bring a message, and then would say, quote:

“You are the subjects of the Queen; you are her children, and you are only a little band to all her other children. She has children all over the world and she does right with them all. She cares as much for you as she cares for her white children and the proof of it is that whenever her name is spoken, her people whether they be red or white, love her name and are ready to die for it because she is always just and true.”

He would add, after speaking of what the Queen has done for the Indigenous, stating quote:

“I think I have told you all that the Queen is willing to do for you. It ought to show you that she has thought more about you than you thought about her.”

The Saulteaux did not believe that the federal government had purchased the Hudson’s Bay Company lands and they asked that the government limit the activities of the company. Morris told the Indigenous that the Company had rights that it had been left in possession of and that they could not be interfered with.  Negotiations soon broke down for the day but on Sept. 14, the chiefs came back together ready to negotiation. The Indigenous stated they would agree to the same terms as Treaty 3, but they asked for an annual payment of $15 per person and that their debts to the Hudson’s Bay Company be cleared. The commissioners refused both requests. Despite these refusals, the treaty was signed on Sept. 15, 1874. The area covered by Treaty 4 stretches from the extreme southeast of Alberta, through southern Saskatchewan, into the extreme west-central part of Manitoba. The largest communities in this area are Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw and Regina.

The Montreal Gazette would report, quote:

“No little credit is due to Lt. Governor Morris for the manner at once firm and kindly in which he overcame the obstinate, but not unnatural prejudices of some of the chiefs and other members of the tribes, especially the Salteaux.”

On Sept. 22, Sir Charles-Eugene de Boucherville becomes the premier of Quebec. He will serve until 1878.

On Oct. 10, Roland Fairbairn McWilliams is born. He would serve as Mayor of Peterborough from 1906 to 1910 and would lead the Young Men’s Christian Association from 1922 to 1929. In 1940, he was appointed as the Lt. Governor of Manitoba, a position he held until 1953. As a strict follower of temperance, he forbade alcohol being served in Government House. He was also a champion rugby player as a young man and won the Dominion title with the University of Toronto Juniors in 1893. 

On Nov. 30, Lucy Maud Montgomery is born in Prince Edward Island. She will begin writing a series of novels in 1908 beginning with Anne of Green Gables, which will make her world famous. For her work, she would be honoured by King George V, named a National Historic Person, have stamps issued in her name, and a park named after her in Toronto. Anne of Green Gables would become one of the best selling books in history. 

On Dec. 3, after only a few months in place, Marc-Amable Gerard is replaced by Robert Davis as the Manitoba premier. Gerard had been abandoned by his English ministers and was forced to resign. Davis would serve as premier for the next four years and would win the Dec. 30 election. 

On Dec. 17, Philip Carteret Hill and his Liberals won a second-consecutive majority in the Nova Scotia election. On this same day, William Lyon Mackenzie King was born in Kitchener.

The grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie, whom he was also named after. His grandfather was the first mayor of Toronto, a member of the Legislative Assembly and a leader in the Rebellions of 1837. His mother was born while Mackenzie was in exile because of the rebellion, and she would eventually teach her son that it was his destiny to vindicate his grandfather.

As a young man, King would play football, playing for the Berlin High School Boys, who won a championship in 1885.

King would attend the University of Toronto, along with Arthur Meighen, graduating in 1895. He then went on to study economics at Chicago and Harvard, excelling academically.

In all, King earned five degrees, including a BA, LLB and MA at the University of Toronto between 1895 and 1897.

In 1901, King would suffer a tragedy when his roommate and best friend, Henry Albert Harper, died saving a woman who fell through the ice on the Ottawa River. King would lead the effort to raise a memorial to his friend, which would result in the Sir Galahad Statue on Parliament Hill in 1905. One year later, King published a memoir of his friend called The Secret of Heroism.

He was active in several matters including Japanese immigration, to railways, to the Industrial Disputes Investigations Act of 1907 that sought to avert strikes through prior conciliation. It was here he showed a good capacity for reconciling industrial disputes and it would gain him the attention of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the prime minister at the time.

During this time, King was known to be emotional in nature, quick to make life-altering decisions, although he had the appearance of prudence and modesty to those around him. It was that nature to make quick decisions that would result in him suddenly resigning from the civil service and running for election to the House of Commons. He did so in the riding of North Waterloo, which was a Conservative stronghold, and had been since 1896. Nonetheless, it was his home riding and that was where he ran.

Amazingly, he was elected and would serve in the House of Commons as a Liberal, eventually earning the post of Minister of Labour in 1911. He would serve as the first Minister of Labour and implemented two acts that would improve the financial situation for millions of Canadian workers. He also called for the implementation of an eight-hour day. That same year, he lost his seat in the 1911 election as the Conservatives came back into power.

For the next three years, King worked on Liberal Party publicity and continued to attempt to get back into Parliament.

In 1917, he ran for the House of Commons again in North York, and again lost due to the unpopularity of the Liberals at the time. In the 1911 election, he had lost by only 300 votes, but in 1917, he lost by 1,000. This loss was especially difficult as his mother was on her death bed during the campaign and she told him to stay on the campaign trail. He did, but she died before he returned. This would haunt him for the rest of his life.

King’s personal life was having difficulties by this point. He was an eligible bachelor, but he was focusing more and more on his family. His sister died in 1915, followed by his father in 1916. His mother became more demanding of his time and King was devoted to her. With her death, he felt deeply alone. It is no exaggeration to say that King cared deeply for his mother. On her 74th birthday, it was reported he gave her 74 kisses. In his diary, he would write, quote:

“I have met no woman so true and lovely a woman in every way as my mother.”

He was also devoted to his three dogs, all named Pat, which he had over the course of his life.

While many English-speaking Liberals defected to the Union Government over the conscription issue, King stayed by Laurier’s side. As a result, King was chosen to be the new leader of the Liberal Party after the death of Laurier.

King was not coming into the leader’s position at a time of strength for the party. The First World War and conscription had deeply divided the party with some members forming the Union Party with the Conservatives. In addition, the base of the party in the west was losing ground to the new party of The Progressives. He also embraced the prairies, which was growing quickly due to immigration.

In the 1921 election, King and the Liberals won a slim majority, making King the 10th Prime Minister of Canada. To put this in context, by this point he had served only six years in the House of Commons and now had the highest post in the land.

King immediately got down to work as the leader of the country, working to regain the confidence of farmers in Ontario and Western Canada who had been hurt by Conservative tariff policies and the conscription crisis.

He would of course serve until 1926 when the King Byng Affair erupted, Meighen came back into power, and then King came back after a few months. Since I already talked about that earlier in the episode, I won’t go into detail here.

In 1930, only a few months after the Persons Case was resolved, King would appoint Cairine Wilson as the first female senator in Canadian history. That same year, he would also increase the powers of provincial governments by transferring the ownership of crown lands to Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

The good times would not last for King, nor for many others. With the stock market crash of 1929, The Great Depression would soon begin. King, according to his diary, did not feel that the depression would impact Canada greatly. As a result, he refused to provide federal funds to provinces that were struggling with rising unemployment. In a quote that would sink him, he said he would not give a five-cent piece to Conservative provincial governments. The opposition quickly used this in the election campaign, which seriously hurt the Liberals nationwide. This would prove disastrous as the Conservatives under R.B. Bennett promised aggressive action. In the 1930 election, the Liberals lost 27 seats, falling into Official Opposition status while R.B. Bennett and the Conservatives roared back with 135 seats, 44 more than the last election.

As the Leader of the Opposition, King continually attacked Bennett for not fulfilling his promises, and for the rising unemployment problem.

Thanks to the dislike of Bennett among the unemployed throughout Canada, the 1935 election was an overwhelming victory for the Liberals, who picked up 83 seats to finish with 171 seats, while the Conservatives collapsed losing 95 seats, falling to 39.

With a strong majority, King would negotiate a new trade agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom. The Great Depression still raged on, causing a rising amount of relief costs and no clear plan to clear up the economy. Luckily for King, the worst of the Depression happened prior to the Liberals returning to power. During this term, he would bring in several Canadian institutions that would change Canada forever. In 1936, his government established the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1937, Trans-Canada Airlines, what would become Air Canada, was established, followed by the National Film Board of Canada in 1939.

In 1939, Britain declared war on Germany and the Canadian Parliament was recalled in an emergency session and voted to go to war.

On Sept. 8, 1939, two days before Canada declared war on Germany, King would say to the House of Commons, quote:

“I never dreamed that the day would come when, after spending a lifetime in a continuous effort to promote and to preserve peace and goodwill, in international as well as in industrial relations, it should fall to my lot to be the one to lead this Dominion of Canada into a great war. But that responsibility I assume with a sense of being true to the very blood that is in my veins. I assume it in the defence of freedom, the freedom of my fellow-countrymen, the freedom of those whose lives is unprotected in other countries, the freedom of mankind itself.”

In 1940, another election was held, and King enjoyed an even larger majority, seeing his Liberals rise six seats to 179, while the National Government Party, a new party, formed the Official Opposition with 39 seats. In August of that year, King and Roosevelt signed an agreement that provided for the close cooperation of Canadian and American forces.

With Canada now at war, and with co-operation between government leaders, business leaders and labour leaders, the Canadian economy and industrial production shifted to war. Unemployment fell extremely fast and through industrial expansion and financial arrangements with the United States, Canada’s economy began to boom.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese Canadian internment process would begin under the government of King.

Japanese Canadians were viewed as enemy aliens and they would have their property and business confiscated, and then moved to the interior of British Columbia to internment camps or given the choice of going back to Japan. The Japanese Canadians would not become enfranchised citizens again until 1947 and would be barred from entering Canada as new immigrants until 1967. In all, 27,000 Japanese Canadians were detained without charge or trial.

During the war, King rebuilt the Royal Canadian Air Force as its own separate entity from the Royal Air Force. He also obtained the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Agreement in December of 1939, which eventually trained half the airmen of Canada, Britain, New Zealand, and Australia during the war.

In 1946, King would introduce the Canadian Citizenship Act, which created Canadian citizens and not British subjects. On Jan. 3, 1947, King became the first Canadian citizen with the certificate number 0001.

On Jan. 20, 1948, King resigned as prime minister and was succeeded by Louis St. Laurent, who would serve for eight years as prime minister. Laurent was chosen at the first national convention of the Liberal Party to be held since 1919.

King died on July 22, 1950.

Upon his death, the Globe and Mail wrote, quote:

“Next to Confederation itself, no single factor has been more significant in the shaping of national affairs than the career of Mackenzie King.”

Looking back on his life before his death, King would write in his diary, quote:

“The path to success lies along lines of being true to certain teachings and right activities. Integrity, good will, initiative, disinterestedness vs self-seeking.”

On the same day that a future prime minister was born and a new premier was elected in Nova Scotia, Hiram Blanchard would pass away. He had served as the first premier of Nova Scotia, serving from July 4, 1867 to Sept. 30, 1867. At the time of his death, he was serving as the leader of the opposition. 

Also this year, the Northwest Territories banned the sale of alcohol, the same year that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was formed. The Northwest Territories would keep the ban in place until 1891.

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