Canada A Yearly Journey – 1879

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On Jan. 4, Pierre Alexis Tremblay passes away. He was born in 1827 and had served as a Liberal Member of Parliament from 1867 to 1875 and from 1878 to 1879. At the time, he was also serving as an MLA with the Quebec Legislature.

On Jan. 15, Maise Louise Roche, who would become Mazo de la Roche, was born in Newmarket, Ontario. Roche would become a noted writer in her time, beginning with her first story at seven and her first published story at the age of 23. She would publish her first book in 1922 but is best known for her Jalna series that became incredibly popular throughout the world. The series tells the story over 100 years of the Whiteoak family from 1854 to 1954. In all, 16 novels were written and the series would sell 11 million copies in 193 English and 92 foreign editions.

On Jan. 17, Richard Reid is born in Scotland. He would go on to become a politician in Alberta and the sixth premier of Alberta from 1934 to 1935. He would be the last member of the United Farmers of Alberta to serve in office and he has the distinction of the shortest serving premier in history to that point.

On Feb. 4, William Wilfred Sullivan would begin term leading  the legislature of Prince Edward Island when the Conservatives won their third consecutive majority. Sullivan would help the party’s seat total go up from 15 to 24, while the seat total for the Liberals fell by one. As for Sullivan, he would have a long and illustrious career on the island. He would serve as the fourth premier of the province until 1889, then become the Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island from 1889 to 1917 and eventually find himself knighted.

On March 12, Sir John A. Macdonald introduced tariffs on manufactured goods being imported into Canada. Future prime minister Mackenzie Bowell was the Minister of Customs and his main task was the supervision of government revenue, and with the National Policy Tariff of 1879, new rules and new rates were established. A board of dominion customs appraisers was created in June 1879 and Bowell believed that it was essential to have common policies through the different ports in Halifax, Saint John, Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and London. The Customs Act was created as a result, which made the invoiced value of goods be based on fair market price in the country of origin

On March 20, Maud Menten is born in Port Lambton, Ontario. She would go on to become a bio-medical researcher who made massive contributions to the field of histochemistry and enzyme kinetics. From 1905 to 1921, she would work Leonor Michaelis and discover the reaction rate relationship with enzyme-substrate concentration, now known as the Michaelis-Menten equation.

That same day, Richard Hansen was born. From 1918 to 1920, he served as the mayor of Fredericton, when he was elected by acclamation.

After serving as mayor, Hanson would turn his attention to federal politics.

On May 29, 1921, he would be elected to the House of Commons for the York-Sudbury Riding, carrying the riding by over 1,000 votes ahead of his competitor. He would say quote:

“The result of the York-Sunbury polling unquestionably demonstrates that once the electors appreciate the true political issues now before the public, the verdict is bound to be in favor of a confirmation of the fiscal policy which has been in force in this country with the common consent of all shades of political thought.”

For the next 14 years, he would serve in the House of Commons, including in 1934 when he was appointed as the Minister of Trade and Commerce. During this same time, he also served as the city solicitor for Fredericton from 1920 to 1926, and the director of several companies including Fraser Companies and the New Brunswick Telephone Company. In 1930, when the R.B. Bennett government came to power, Hanson received the largest majority of votes in his riding of any federal candidate to that point in Canadian history.

Following his election defeat in 1935, he would stay away from politics for the remainder of the 1930s except in July of 1938 when he was the chairman of the resolutions committee at the National Conservative Convention. He would primarily work with his law firm in Fredericton during this time.

In the March 26, 1940, federal election, he was returned to the House of Commons despite the poor showing by the Conservatives in that election. In that election, Hanson was just one of two former ministers from the R.B. Bennett days to stay in the House of Commons.

With the defeat of Robert Manion in that election and his subsequent resignation as the leader of the party, speculation on who would be the new leader rose up and Hanson became the front runner.

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King did not think much of Hanson taking over as leader. He would write in his diary on March 28, 1940, quote:

“The feeling that Hanson would not be a fit leader of any party and is not in good health. All agreed with my view that Grote Stirling would be the first choice, particularly for the first session.”

Stirling of course would never become leader. King had good reason to wonder about the health of Hanson. Hanson had recently gone through heart trouble, and some believed that he had had a stroke prior to being elected to the House of Commons.

On May 14, 1940, Hanson took over as leader of the Conservative Party. There was no formal voting in a convention, but 31 members of the party in the House of Commons did vote for a new leader.

In November 1941, Arthur Meighen was appointed the new leader of the party, a position he once held as prime minister. Unfortunately for Meighen, he did not win a seat in a by-election. At the time, it was customary for the leader of a party without a seat to run uncontested in a riding. While Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King did not run a Liberal candidate as per custom, he did put Liberal resources behind the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation opponent, who defeated Meighen in the riding. With that defeat, Hanson stayed on as the leader of the party.

Hanson would never actually be elected as leader, but instead would simply serve as leader.

For the remainder of his Parliamentary career, even though he had taken a less prominent position, he was known for jumping to his feet ahead of party leaders to protest or argue when he felt that an attack should be made on legislation being debated by the government.

The Montreal Gazette would write, quote:

“In 1943, when the leadership of the party in the House was given to Gordon Graydon, Hanson continued to serve his party with undiminished keenness of interest.”

He would choose not the run in the 1945 election, choosing instead to support Lt. General Ernest Samson, who himself would be defeated in his election bid.

On July 14, 1948, Hanson would pass away.

On April 4, Jean-Baptist’s Thibault passed away. Born on Dec. 14, 1810 he was a Roman Catholic priest and missionary who negotiated on the behalf of the Government of Canada during the Red River Rebellion of 1870 because he was widely respected by the Métis. It was said he was a “a reserved and prudent man, Thibault was content to remain in the background.”. He would also establish the first Roman Catholic mission in what would one day be Alberta, at Lac Sainte Anne in 1842. The mission would exist until 1898.

In May, future prime minister Charles Tupper announced a new Pacific Railway policy that would provide 10 million acres of land for the purpose of constructing the new railroad across the country.

On June 5, Sir Oliver’s Mowat’s Liberals would earn their third majority in a row in the Ontario election. While the Liberals were still led by Mowat, the Conservatives had a new man in charge, William Ralph Meredith. Meredith had been elected into the Legislature in 1872 and was seen as a radical by many members of his party. While he was against women’s rights, he had a progressive political policy when it came to the Indigenous and he was considered one of the best speakers in the country.

Even with his views, which were unusual for the time, he rose through the party to become deputy leader in 1878. When John Cameron retired in 1879, and with no formal ballot, he was given the leadership of the party.

For Mowat, he had a great deal of respect for Meredith, writing of him quote:

“There was no man in the ranks of the Opposition upon whom the choice could be more worthily have fallen. Always ready in debate and judicial in the tone of his arguments, he was a generous and formidable opponent.”

While Mowat had respect for Meredith, that didn’t stop him from doing everything he could to defeat him in the elections. The two men would face off in four elections, with 1879 being the first. One thing Mowat did was to steal many of the proposals put forward by Meredith. Journalist Hector Charlesworth would write quote:

“Mowat frequently rode to victory on policies that had originated with his brilliant opponent.”

When Meredith called for a reduction of salaries of reliable and efficient officials in the government, Mowat leapt on this and reduced the indemnity to $600.

Leading into the election, Mowat also formed an alliance with the Catholics in the province through consulting with the archbishop of Toronto, recruiting the Roman Catholic Christopher Fraser to his cabinet, and listening to the Catholic organization of The Orangemen. When the election came along, those Catholic voters would flock to Mowat and the Liberals.

The election came quite late, something for which Mowat was criticized. The Montreal Gazette would write quote:

“By a wrenching of the constitution from its legitimate meaning, Mr. Mowat succeeding in postponing the electoral trial until now, although the Legislature really expired in the month of February last.”

Usually, the election should have been taking place in January, but this time it came in June.

On June 5, 1879, Mowat would continue his domination of Ontario politics with a decisive win for his Liberal Party. The party would pick up 57 seats, an increase of seven, while the Conservatives finished with 29.

The Brantford newspaper would write quote:

“The victory is gratifying, as showing that men can appreciate and reward those who serve them faithfully and well, and it gives assurance that our future destinies are to be controlled by those who have shown their fitness for the important trust by years of patient toil and vigilance in our service.”

On June 12, Charles Dow Richards would be born in New Brunswick. He would go on to become a lawyer, judge and politician, serving as the 20th premier of New Brunswick from 1931 to 1933. He would serve as an MLA from 1920 to 1933 and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick from 1946 to 1955.

On Oct. 6, James Bowman was born in Dauphin, Manitoba. He would find himself an MP in Parliament, serving from 1930 to 1935 under Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. After George Black suffered a nervous breakdown, Bowman was made Speaker of the House of Commons, becoming the first person from Manitoba to have the role in Ottawa.

On Oct. 7, William Henry Pope would pass away. Born in 1825, he was a lawyer, journalist and politician who is considered a Father of Confederation. Born in Prince Edward Island, he was the editor of the Prince Edward Island newspaper The Islander from 1859 to 1872. During that time he entered into politics in 1863. He was a major supporter of Canadian Confederation and he pressed for union even after it was rejected by the island government in 1864. When PEI joined in 1873, Pope was appointed as the county court judge and his son, Joseph Pope, became the private secretary to Sir John A. Macdonald, and would write a biography about him.

On Oct. 9, William Warren was born and would make his way to the Newfoundland House of Assembly in 1903 as a Liberal, serving as the Speaker of the House from 1909 to 1913. On July 24, 1923, he would become the next Prime Minister of Newfoundland and the leader of the party. A formal inquiry was launched into the corruption charges that resulted in the arrest of Squires but Warren’s supporters soon turned against him and moved a Motion of No Confidence to bring down his government in 1924.

On Oct. 31, Sir Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau becomes the new premier of Quebec. He will serve premier until 1882.

On Dec. 20, the Alberta Cannibal, also known as Swift Runner, is executed for murder and the eating of eight members of his own family the previous winter. He was executed in front of 60 people, and his body was cut down and buried outside the walls of Fort Saskatchewan.

Swift Runner was considered by locals in the area to be a smart and trustworthy man, and he had served as a guide for the NWMP in the area. Sadly, due to alcoholism, he would be expelled from Fort Saskatchewan and from his Indigenous tribe. He would leave with his family for the winter to hunt, a practice that was quite common.

In the spring, he would arrive back in the Fort Saskatchewan area, but he was alone, rather than with his wife and six children, although some reports say five children, or his brother and mother. Accounts differ, some state that he arrived at the Catholic mission, other accounts say he walked into his tribe of Indigenous. Either way, suspicions were raised and those he met soon alerted the NWMP, who asked Swift Runner to take them to his family and campsite. Some say he took them straight to the spot, other accounts say he led them around until they gave him whiskey. When they did reach the campsite, it was discovered that he had allegedly killed and murdered his wife, children, mother and brother. Bones were around the ground, many broken into pieces, raising the belief that he had consumed his family. There was no true explanation for why Swift Runner did this, but one possible motive was being forced to eat a deceased hunting partner out of necessity.

In the investigation, Swift Runner allegedly stated that the evil spirit of a Wendigo was tormenting him in his dreams.

In August of 1879, he was charged with murder and cannibalism. A jury, consisting of three Metis residents, four residents who spoke Cree, and a Cree translator, sentenced him to death. In December, scaffolding was built and Indigenous chiefs were invited to observe the erection in an effort to prevent rumours of unnecessary cruelty being inflicted on Swift Runner. A priest would spend the night speaking with Swift Runner, and also had breakfast with him the next morning. The hanging would be delayed as locals used the trap of the scaffolding to make a fire, and the hangman forget straps to bind the arms of Swift Runner.

As he walked onto the platform, it is stated that he admitted his guilt and thanked those who had charge of him during his incarceration.

On Dec. 24, Emile Nelligan was born in Montreal and he would go on to become a noted Francophone poet. In 1903, his poems were collected and published to acclaim in Canada and he was considered to be one of the greatest poets in French Canada.

Also this year we would see the first Toronto Industrial Exhibition. This would eventually become the Canadian National Exhibition, which today is the largest annual fair in Canada and the sixth largest in North America. The original was created to promote agriculture and technology in the country.

In 1879, Crowfoot and his people would move south into Montana following the disappearing bison and they were faced with not only threats from the Americans, but the Lakota as well. In 1881, they returned to their reserve near Blackfoot Crossing and by this point, Crowfoot was disillusioned with the Canadian government that seemed to continually break promises.

Poundmaker would also settle on the reserve that day has his name in Saskatchewan. He had become disillusioned with the government’s failure to fulfill treaty promises and he would become active in Indigenous politics and became a spokesman for the Cree with the government.

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