Canada A Yearly Journey: 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, Georges 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.

In 1926, he would be part of the Canadian delegation to the Imperial Conference, where the influential Balfour Declaration was drafted that would lead to huge constitutional changes in Canada related to the role of governors general and the monarch.

He would serve in this role until 1930 when the Liberals lost the federal election to the Conservatives. New prime minister R.B. Bennett did not want Massey to continue as the government’s representative because he was a Liberal and did not have the confidence of the Conservative government.

For the next five years, Massey was out of the diplomatic world but after King returned to the role of Prime Minister in 1935, Massey was tapped to become the High Commissioner to Britain.

He would hold this position until 1946 and was highly successful at it. During that election, Massey also served as the campaign manager for King, helping to portray King as a steady and experienced leader, to offset the lack of charisma of King and his poor speaking ability in public.

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.

Only five days after Massey was announced as the new Governor General, King George VI would die and Massey became the first representative of Queen Elizabeth II. Since then, every Governor General has only represented Queen Elizabeth II.

For Massey, he looked to John Buchan, a commoner who became Lord Tweedsmuir so he could serve as Governor General, for inspiration in his role. Massey was both a friend and admirer of Buchan and he would state he learned a lot from him.

On Feb. 28, 1952, Massey was sworn in as Governor General. The same day he was sworn in, Parliament was opened, marking the first time that both events happened on the same day.

Massey would say in his speech in the House of Commons, highlighting the fact that the Cold War was beginning, with an air of concern for Communism. He stated quote:

“The situation throughout the world continues to cause concern and to require my ministers to devote a great deal of attention to our external affairs. The government remains convinced that the nations of the free world must continue to increase their combined strength in order to ensure lasting peace and security.”

Massey would journey across Canada by car, train and plane, but also by canoe and dog team when convenient modes of transportation were not available. During one trip in 1956, he would wear traditional Inuit clothing and attempted to catch fish through a hole dug in the ice. He would also suffer frostbite on his chin when he was out in temperatures that dipped below -30 Celsius. He would also fly over the North Pole, the first Governor General to do so, on his 10,000 mile, 17 day trip to visit the most isolated communities possible in the Canadian Arctic. At the North Pole, Massey would leave a canister that contained a square of silk from the Governor General’s standard.

He would pass away on Dec. 30, 1967, only one day before Canada’s Centennial year ended.

The Queen would say in a statement quote:

“His many services to his country and to his sovereign will long be remembered. My husband joins me in sending our sincere sympathy to you and the Canadian government and people in this great loss.”

On Feb. 22, Sir John A. MacDonald stayed in power as prime minister with a majority election win over Liberal opponent Edward Blake.

The Conservatives had a relatively easy time with this election campaign as Blake had been giving indications he would resign as leader of the Liberals for some time, including right before the election. The call of the election had caught Blake off guard as well, but with Mowat not wanting to lead the party, there was little choice for Blake but to lead the Liberals into another election.

While the Conservatives continued to ride the National Policy as their campaign, the Liberals focused on lowering tariffs, imposing taxes on luxuries and limited reciprocal trade with the United States.

Newspapers naturally made no secret of who they supported, once again displaying how to vote by showing a completed voting card with the candidate the newspaper supported highlighted with an X next to his name.

The Ottawa Daily Citizen wrote in detail on how to vote, in support of the candidates they agreed with, stating quote:

“The names of Messrs. Perley and Bobillard will occupy the centre position on the ballot paper. Each elector has two votes. Conservatives will of course mark the ballot paper for the candidate of the party.”

The Montreal Gazette would report, quote:

“Today brings to a close the most important electoral struggle since Confederation. The contest has been a short but intensely bitter one on the part of the Opposition who have based their campaign wholly upon slander, misrepresentation and appeals to passion and prejudice.”

The Gazette went a step further, stating that voting for the Liberals was a vote for Nova Scotia to secede, stating quote:

“A vote for a Liberal candidate is a vote for the friend of the men who, in Nova Scotia, declare that they hope to disrupt the Dominion by the aid of Mr. Blake, the leader of the Liberal party.”

The Liberals continued to grow their seat count, but once again it was not enough. They would finish with 79 seats, up six from the previous election, but it was far below the 123 seats the Conservatives won, which was ten fewer than they had in the 1882 election. The Conservatives may not have known it at the time, but the slow decline that would see them removed from power by the electorate in 1896 had begun. Voter turnout was again high, with 70.1 per cent of eligible voters coming out.

Despite the relatively high number of eligible voters coming out, the election was quiet by previous standards.

Of course it wouldn’t be a 19th century election without a few shady tactics. The Ottawa Journal would report that in Montreal Centre a card had been sent to supporters of Sir Donald Smith, stating that the poll location had changed. Several individuals went to the new location, only to find that there was no polling booth there. In response, the Conservatives offered $100 for the arrest of the individuals who facilitated the deceit.

Two men were also arrested in the riding of Quebec West and charged with bribery and corruption in the election. There were also arrests for perjury for individuals who voted in places of dead men, and other who received money for their vote.

Police were also called to some polling stations in Quebec City after scuffles were reported between Conservative and Liberal supporters.

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,

Born in Kutkivtsi, in what is now the Ukraine, right on the border with Austria-Hungary on March 25, 1887, Filip Knowal would work alongside his father as a mason. After marrying his wife Hanna and having a daughter, Marichka, Filip decided to join the Imperial Russian Army, where he served as an instructor in hand-to-hand combat. After his time in the army was done, he worked as a timberman in Siberia, and then took a job with a Canadian company in 1913. Gradually making his way east from Vancouver working as a timberman, he would lose his job in 1914 and spent the next year working odd jobs. On July 12, 1915, he enlisted with the 77th Canadian Infantry Battalion and left for Europe in June of 1916. In England, Filip was transferred to the 47th British Columbia Battalion, and promoted to acting corporal. In April 1917, he would take part in Vimy Ridge, and from Aug. 22 to 24, 1917, he fought at the Battle of Hill 70. It was there he would be awarded the Victoria Cross, personally presented to him by King George V. Due to his actions, he was also promoted to sergeant.

According to the London Gazette, which published a story on Nov. 23, 1917, Filip’s section had to mop up cellars, craters, and machine-gun emplacements. There was too much resistance and in one cellar he would bayonet three Germans, and then attack seven more in a crater by himself, killing them all. He then rushed a machine-gun nest, killing the crew and taking the gun. The following day, he then killed men in another machine gun nest, and destroyed the gun. In all, by himself, he killed 16 men in two days and was severely wounded in the process.

After the war, on July 19, 1919, he was out with a friend in Hull, Quebec for dinner. They left early to look at some bicycles owned by William Artich, an Astro-Hungarian bootlegger and salesman. An argument between his friend and Artich erupted, and his friend was severely beaten. Artich then turned to Filip but using his hand-to-hand combat training, he was able to defend himself and he killed Artich with a single stab wound to the chest. He did not flee the scene and reportedly when police arrived, he said “I’ve killed 52 of them, this makes the 53rd.”

Veterans soon rallied behind him and paid for his bail in October. The trial would be delayed three times until it went forward in 1921. At the trial, medical experts stated that Filip was suffering from several medical problems due to his war injuries. A gunshot wound to his head was increasing pressure on his brain and experts stated that it was making him mentally unstable. The jury agreed and he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He then spent the next seven years in an institution. When he was released in 1928, his condition was much better.

He would eventually work at the House of Commons as a caretaker. One day Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King saw the colours of his Victoria Cross ribbon while Filip was working. King then arranged to have Filip gain al lifetime job in King’s personal office.

Filip would pass away in Hull, Quebec in 1959 at the age of 70.

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 say years later quote:

“I wasn’t officially adopted into the Blood Tribe until 1920. Oh, I’d lived with the Bloods all my life. I’d gone to school with them, and I’d married one of them. I was in effect one of them.”

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.

One of the major issues that he tackled were proposed changes to the Indian Act that would have only given Indian Status to those born full-blooded Indigenous, rather than anyone who had mixed ancestry like Gladstone. The Calgary Herald reported quote:

“The meeting also agreed that there should be no change in defining Indian Status in relation to membership in bands which as presently constituted permits admission by birth and by vote of the band. Some felt that the proposed act would restrict membership to pure blooded Indians of the most primitive type.”

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.

Gladstone would say of his accomplishment quote:

“My accomplishment is not exceptional. The men I grew up with who have worked hard and made full use of their opportunities have done as well as I.”

He would also speak of the task ahead, stating quote:

“You must learn to treat every Indian individually according to his ability and interests. The Indian can’t be driven and only an understanding and interested leadership can aid him in the realization of his potential.”

Gladstone would state that while he was from Alberta, he would speak for all the Indigenous.

He would serve until the Senate until March 1971 and he would pass away on Sept. 4, 1971.

On June 2, 1887, Edward Blake, after losing yet another election, chose to have Wilfrid Laurier succeed him as the Leader of the Liberal Party. Many eminent Liberals were against this as they felt that Laurier was too physically weak to be an effective leader due to chronic bronchitis. They also feared that having Laurier as leader would result in many in Ontario not voting for the Liberals because of his support of Riel. Even the Catholic clergy in Quebec saw Laurier as a radical.

Laurier would actually refuse to become leader, writing his friend and saying quote:

“I do not want to be leader. That is not my aspiration but there remain two objections. I am not a wealthy man and my health is poor. My friends are imposing too heavy a burden on me.”

Blake did not give up, seeing Laurier as the only person who could lead the party. Finally, on June 18, 1887, he accepted the promotion to leader of the party but stated he would only do so until Blake was healthier. In the end, Laurier would remain leader longer than anyone else in Canadian history, until his death in 1919.

As leader, he would devote himself to building up the Liberal Party again. He did this in two phases. The first was from 1887 to 1891 where he advocated a policy of positive actions with the United States but this was seen as anti-British and it would cost Liberals votes outside of Quebec. From 1891 to 1896, he began the second phase of building a national Liberal Party, while the Conservatives were falling apart following the death of Sir John A. Macdonald. This included participating in 200 to 300 meetings between 1895 and 1896 alone, and reaching out personally to 200,000 voters.

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. 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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