[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Sunday Newsletter 2001-01Su
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Sunday Newsletter 2001-01Su.

January 7, 2001.

Welcome, everyone, to the first FactsCanada.ca newsletter of the third millennium. The three of us hope and wish that you and yours had a pleasant Christmas and wish you all the best for 2001 and beyond. I could not make up my mind as to whose biography to feature the week. My dilemma was this: I had two prime ministers of varying relevance to choose from. One, the first prime minister of Canada, born 186 years ago and an ocean away in Scotland, and secondly, our current leader, Jean Chretien. Both were born during this week, and only a day apart, although separated by 119 years. Finally, historic significance prevailed, so I present to you, as my choice, an overview of the foremost and pre-eminent founding father of our nation. As a postscript, Mr. Chretien was born January 11, 1934. Once again, thank-you for joining us. We hope you enjoy today's newsletter and find it informative.



= Question of the week
= Biography -- Sir John Alexander Macdonald
= Place names -- Onion Lake, Saskatchewan
= Not really that long ago
= Joke of the week
= Quote of the week
= Answer to this week's question
= Links and resources
= Legal and subscription information



Where was Canada's first newspaper published, and what was its name?



Sir John Alexander Macdonald.

Born in Brunswick Place, across the Clyde River from Glasgow, Scotland, on January 10, 1815, our first prime minister was originally primarily a lawyer and businessman. It was his actions, deals and strategy that made possible the creation of the Dominion of Canada. His schemes also led to our eventual expansion across the continent that lay to the west. He served two terms as prime minister: his first, from 1867 to 1873, ended in his resignation over what has been dubbed the "Pacific Scandal"; his second term, which began in 1878, allowed him to serve the nation in his role as prime minister for the next 13 years. It would have been more, had his death not occurred while in office in 1891.

His parents, Hugh and Helen Macdonald (ne Shaw), moved to Upper Canada (now Ontario) when Hugh Macdonald's Glasgow manufacturing business failed. John was only five when they moved, and he spent his formative years attending the Midland District Grammar School, followed by the John Cruickshank School in Kingston, Ontario. He was described as being a lively youth, a good scholar and an avid reader. By age 15 he had apprenticed to George Mackenzie, a Kingston lawyer. Within three years John's abilities had inspired such confidence from Mackenzie that he sent him to open a branch office in Napanee, southeast Upper Canada. John returned to Kingston in 1835 upon the death of Mackenzie and started his own legal practice. Macdonald's legal reputation grew, and by 1842 his law office had become one of the largest in Canada.

The governor general (the resident representative of the British Crown) in 1867, Lord Charles Stanley Monck, 4th Viscount, swore Macdonald into power as our first prime minister on July 1 of that year. He formed a coalition government drawn from the Conservative and Reformer parties (both of whom had supported Confederation) giving each party much the same weight in his new cabinet. George Brown was the major opposition at the time and headed up what was called the "Clear Grits Party", which was later to develop into the Liberal Party.

A month later (August 1867), during legislative elections (those among the politicians), Macdonald's government won overwhelmingly in Ontario and Quebec. The Conservative Party's performance in New Brunswick was equally impressive. Nova Scotia, however, was another story. A slate, led by Joseph Howe, took all of the seats but one. All of Howe's men were opposed to Confederation. Nova Scotia then threatened to withdraw from Canada. When Britain refused to allow this to happen, many advocated joining the United States. Macdonald then astutely settled this problem. He increased the federal subsidy to Nova Scotia by $140 000 and placed Howe into his cabinet. Although the opponents of Confederation protested that the province had been sold "for 80 cents per man", they won only one seat in the next election. Thus it was that Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia remained together, as the Dominion of Canada.

In 1868 the British Parliament authorized the transfer of the whole of the northwest, east of the Rocky Mountains, to the Dominion. Macdonald treated the newly-acquired territory as if it were a pristine and uncorrupted land. He appointed a lieutenant-governor without consulting the original settlers. This led the original habitants, mostly First Nations peoples and Mtis (the descendants of French and indigenous peoples), into years of strife and dispute with the federal government. In 1869 Louis Riel, a Mtis himself, led the "Red River Rebellion" that, although unsuccessful, eventually gained provincial status for the Red River area. This area then became the tiny province of Manitoba, which joined the Dominion on July 15, 1870. ("Tiny" at that time was 1.4 million acres, or 5670 square kilometres, compared to Manitoba's current expanse of 649 950 square kilometres.)

On the same day that Manitoba joined Confederation, Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory were acquired by Canada from the Hudson's Bay Company. This new territory, stretching west to British Columbia and north to the Arctic Ocean, would now be governed directly by the federal government and be known as the North-West Territories. In these early years, this vast land also included much of present-day north Ontario and Quebec. It also included all of the Prairies, except the Red River area which was now the province of Manitoba. (There's a map of Canada in 1873 on the FactsCanada.ca site at this link.)

One of Macdonald's greatest achievements was persuading British Columbia, which had an appointed lieutenant-governor but which was still not officially a part of the Dominion, to become a full member of the Dominion. In 1871 the colony was in severe debt -- one political faction wanted to join the United States, another wanted a return to British rule, and yet another campaigned for joining the Dominion. This third, small group, formed in 1867, nevertheless held sway, eventually emerging triumphant, partly because they were heavily favoured by the British government. As an inducement to British Columbians, Macdonald offered to build a railway connecting Quebec to the west coast. Moreover, he promised to complete it within ten years. Convinced, British Columbia joined the Dominion on July 20, 1871, and Canada finally spanned the continent, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Prince Edward Island joined two years later, leaving Newfoundland as the only holdout.

The idea of a railway to the Pacific was a good one, but the government's plans for carrying it out were not. Macdonald wanted the railway built by a Canadian company and, in 1873, created one for that purpose. Sir Hugh Allan, a shipping magnate, was the chief promoter. However, it soon became clear that the money behind Allan was mainly derived from the United States and that this money was subsidizing the Conservatives. In July 1873 letters, stolen from Allan's lawyer, showed that Allan had provided $350 000 in campaign funds for the Conservative Party's previous election bid. Macdonald maintained his innocence, but a personal telegram made it clear that he was deeply involved. Although a Parliamentary commission later cleared him of blame, Macdonald resigned. This was the aforementioned "Pacific Scandal".

Macdonald was married twice: his first marriage was to Isabella Clark, who became an invalid after their son died at the age of 13 months; his second marriage, to Susan Agnes Bernard, was saddened by the chronic illness of his only daughter, Mary. Mary was affectionately known as "Baboo" by Macdonald. She had been born with brain damage and was unable to walk and could not speak clearly. (See the links page at this link for more information on this remarkable lady.)

Sir John Alexander Macdonald (he was knighted in 1867) died in office in Ottawa on June 6, 1891. It may well be appropriate that the life of this founding father, as part of his legacy to our nation, ended in this manner.



Onion Lake, Saskatchewan.

Onion Lake, an unincorporated area, sits within the Onion Lake Indian reserve. Its other names, Seekaskootch 119 and Makaoo 120, are also used to define it. It is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster, along the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. Although the small community of Onion Lake exists as a separate entity, it is actually a part of the Cree Nation Indian Reserve 119, which has a designation of IR 119. Directly to the west, and falling on both sides of the provincial border, is IR 120, also known as Makaoo 120. Both reserves partially straddle the boundary of Fort Pitt Provincial Historic Park. Together IR 119 and IR 120 form the Onion Lake Indian Reserve.

Combined, the reserves have a population of nearly 6000, 4000 of whom live in IR 119. The reserve, created by Saskatchewan Indian Treaty 6, was formed August 8, 1876. Most of the "IRs" are also known by their original Indian names (which, in most cases, was the name of the band chief) and by the English translation. Makaoo (Mahkayo) is translated as "big tail". Seekaskootch, or the actual Cree spelling of "oskaskosiwisakahikan", is translated as "wild onion lake", as that plant is plentiful in the area.

At the time of the signing of Treaty 6, Seekaskootch did not have a chief. It was, instead, signed by an Indian councillor by the name of Makaoo. Seekaskootch, the chief, had been shot to death the year before during a rebellion that sprang up from the attempted peace settlements.



It may be hard to fathom, but only 100 years ago:

- The average life expectancy was only forty-seven.
- Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub.
- Only eight percent of homes had a telephone.
- The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
- The average wage was $0.22 per hour. The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
- More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
- Sugar cost $0.04 per pound.
- Eggs were $0.14 per dozen.
- Coffee cost $0.15 per pound.
- Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
- Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason, either as travellers or immigrants.
- The five leading causes of death, in order, were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza,
2. Tuberculosis,
3. Diarrhoea,
4. Heart disease, and
5. Stroke.
- Plutonium, insulin, and antibiotics hadn't yet been discovered.
- Scotch tape, crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't yet been invented.
- There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
- Some medical authorities warned that professional seamstresses were apt to become sexually aroused by the steady rhythm, hour after hour, of the sewing machine's foot pedals. They recommended slipping bromide, which was thought to diminish sexual desire, into the women's drinking water.
- Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."
- Coca-Cola contained cocaine instead of caffeine.

My, how times have changed!



The Lumberjerk.

A lumberjack from abroad relocated to Canada and landed a job felling trees in the Interior of British Columbia. He wondered how his former experience would prepare him for the ordeal of cutting the mighty Douglas Fir alongside the Canadian lumberjacks.

His worst fears were realised. "I don't know what is wrong," he complained in broken English to his sympathetic foreman. "I work hard, I eat well, I sleep well, but all the time I am exhausted. I just can't seem to chop down as many trees as your other men."

The foreman looked at the man's equipment and, only needing to ponder the problem for a moment, replied, "It's easy enough to figure out. It's because you're using an ordinary handsaw. My men are using mechanized chainsaws." So he outfits the foreigner with the most modern, state-of-the-art rigging.

The next day there comes the same complaint. "I simply can not keep up. Must be that my muscles are not as strong as the muscles of BC-born men, or that the Douglas Fir are just too tough for me to conquer."

Taking into account the man's enormous size, the foreman scratched his head for a moment and then said, "It has got to be your chain saw. Let me see it." The foreman examined the machine. "Well, it looks all right to me, but let me start it up." Upon this action his insecure new employee jumped back in absolute fear. Turning off the engine the foreman asked him what was wrong. The lumberjack, still catching his breath, asked, "What the hell was that noise?!"



"I think Sir John, when interrupted once in the House, had said something favourable about a minister of the Mackenzie government, and the minister had replied, 'That is flattery.' Sir John said, 'No, it is a compliment.' The minister said, 'What is the difference?' Sir John replied, 'Flattery is an agreeable untruth.'" --As told by John G. Diefenbaker (a former prime minister himself) in the House of Commons in 1971.



Where was Canada's first newspaper published, and what was its name?

The "Halifax Gazette" was first issued on March 23, 1752, by John Bushnell.


Well, that's it for another week. Next up on the Sunday agenda will be a story on the town named Come By Chance, and a biography on Jim Carrey. Please use some of the links below to enhance your understanding of this newsletter. I will talk to you all again next Sunday.



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