[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca — Sunday Newsletter 2001-42Su
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Sunday Newsletter 2001-42Su.

October 21, 2001.

[John] One of the most visually stunning movies I have ever seen was director Steven Spielberg's 1987 film "Empire of the Sun". The young boy cast in the role of 13-year-old Jim was actor Christian Bale ("Shaft 2000" and "American Psycho"). During this movie he utters the words, "I saw it! I saw it! It was like a white light in the sky."

This must be the way pilots see the city of Calgary, Alberta, from the air. According to recent news reports, Calgary is one of the brightest night-time cities in North America (for a city its size), and even out shines the lights of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington, USA, according to American military satellites. Pilots have also mentioned that you can see the lights from Calgary all the way to Edmonton, Alberta, but you can't quite make them out from Winnipeg, Manitoba. For years the city has been considering a more moderate "night light" to plug in when the sun goes down. Now, enlightened by the concerns of a league of citizens lead by astronomer Bob King, the city is finally doing something about it. With half of the problem generated from the lights used by the city's street lamps, officials are now replacing all 49 000 of these fixtures. The new bulbs will be only half the wattage of the current ones. Although there has been a little bit of public backlash in regards to the decision, the city hopes these complaints will dim over time. The city itself will reap the benefit of an extra two million dollars annually from the decision. Now if they can only convince the owners of the office towers to follow the same economical route, Calgary has the opportunity to fade into the sunset, as goes one apropos western saying.

Another cinematic quote that comes to mind is from the 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott entitled "The Blade Runner". Eldon Tyrell of the futuristic Tyrell Corporation tells Roy (a kind of hybrid cyborg with a very short life span), "The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long — and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy."



\ Question of the week
\ Biography — Louis Riel
\ Also born this week
\ It happened this week in history
\ Place names — Farnham, Quebec
\ Internationally historic events this week
\ Quote of the week
\ Answer to this week's question
\ Preview
\ Links and resources
\ Legal and subscription information



Among the Canadian artists responsible for the most expensive paintings sold at auctions are Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Paul Kane, James Morris and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Incredibly, five of ten most expensive paintings are from the same artist, including the highest priced painting which sold for US$1 610 000 back on May 5, 1989. Who do you think it was?

As usual, the answer can be found near the bottom of this newsletter.



Louis Riel

Once again I will try and condense the biography of a very important person in the history of Canada down to a reasonable amount of readable text. The biography of Louis Riel, and the stories of a life that began at the Red River Settlement (later the small area known as Manitoba) 157 years ago on October 22, 1844, have been told in numerous volumes of books and encyclopedic entries. What I will attempt to do is give you the bare basics, and assume you already know some of the history that follows this gentleman or will learn more at the links below. Our Friday Feature is a perfect vehicle to provide you a more in-depth look at his short life and some of his accomplishments (though at the time I am sure he had no idea of his historical significance) — perhaps sometime soon I will find someone who wishes to contribute to this endeavour at some point in the future.

Riel was an instrumental figure in the North-West Rebellion and died on November 16, 1885, in Regina, Saskatchewan, at the young age of 41. He was a Metis (a person of mixed ancestry, usually descended from North American Indian and French lineage), a founder of Manitoba, and the historical central figure in the North-West Rebellion. Riel was initially educated in St. Boniface (also now in the province of Manitoba), but travelled to Montreal, Quebec, to further his education and find a vocation. He studied at the College de Montreal for the priesthood, but found this was not the route he wanted to take. He dropped out and studied law between 1865 and 1868, during which time he also studied in Chicago, Illinois, and St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. However, he did not complete his schooling and returned to St. Boniface in 1868.

The next year, in anticipation of the transfer of ownership of both the Red River Settlement and the North-West area (known as Rupertsland) from the Hudson's Bay Company to Canada in a complicated money and land deal, the newly-formed federal government of Canada appointed William McDougall as the first lieutenant-governor of the yet-to-be-created territory of Manitoba. McDougall began to organize "survey crews" to enter the Red River Valley to evaluate its benefits to Canada. However, the Metis living in the Red River area feared this potential transfer of their land and appointed Riel as secretary of the "National Committee" formed to protect the interests of the people. On October 30, 1869, Riel issued statements to McDougall and the Canadian government warning them not to venture into the area without formal negotiations. At the same time he began preparations for defence of the area by sending Metis troops into the areas most likely to be penetrated by McDougall's survey crews. Undaunted by these warnings, McDougall continued his own preparations until he hit the blockade set up by the Metis. On November 2, 1869, Riel ordered that Fort Garry (belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company) be occupied by his troops and be used for his headquarters. The stalemate was effectively in place, and Riel issued a statement requesting a meeting at Fort Garry between all parties to take place on November 23, 1869.

Over the period of the following months negotiations took place, mainly having to do with the "List of Rights" prepared by Riel and pertaining to the Metis people. After many months of talks and at least two attempts by groups opposed to Riel to seize his power, Riel and his delegates obtained an agreement in the passing of the Manitoba Act on May 12, 1870, with the actual transfer of power and land to take place July 15, 1870. Thus the new and tiny province of Manitoba was born.

During the negotiations Riel's associate, Ambroise Lepine, caught and brought to courts martial two of the leaders of the opposition to Riel's negotiations. One Canadian militia officer by the name of Charles Boulton had his sentence of death commuted by Riel, but Thomas Scott was not so lucky and was executed by firing squad on Lepine's orders on March 4, 1870. Although Lepine's decision and subsequent trial and its verdict remain for another article, the incident remained a thorn in the side of Riel's ambitions.

Although he was a hero to the Metis and a defender of the faith for the Roman Catholics and the French in Quebec, it was in Ottawa that Riel was remembered as the "murderer" of Thomas Scott. Many changes took place during the next five years and on February 12, 1875, Riel was banished for five years from "Her Majesty's dominions" (which includes Canada). Riel moved south again to wait out his banishment in America. It was there that he had a nervous breakdown, and Riel's Uncle John Lee brought him back from Keesville, New York, to Montreal, Quebec, on January 29, 1876, and committed him (under the alias of Louis R. David) first to a hospital at Longue Pointe, Quebec, and later to a mental asylum at Beauport, near Quebec City. At Beauport Riel developed his religious calling and began to write. He also began to call himself the "Prophet of the New World".

Upon his release in January 1878 he returned to New York then ventured west to the Upper Missouri region of the Montana territory. Here he became an American citizen and in 1881 married a Metis by the name of Marguerite Monet dit Bellehumeur. Together they had a son and a daughter.

In June 1884 he was asked by a group of Canadian Metis to help them obtain their legal rights in the Saskatchewan Valley. He accepted, and a new period of Canadian history known as the North-West Rebellion is begun. In the early months of 1885, Riel attempted to follow much the same course as he had 15 years earlier in 1870. However, this was no longer 1870. Riel encountered much opposition due to the bad memories of the "Scott affair", his new and unorthodox religious views, and his constant claims to the federal government that his actions were not politically motivated by self interest. Part of this opposition was within the newly-founded North-West Mounted Police, but there was more within the government itself who saw this "crazy" man's claims getting in the way of much progress, including that of the railway that was almost completed linking the west. Nevertheless, convinced that God was directing him and seeing himself as the "Prophet of the New World", Riel seized a parish church in Batoche, Saskatchewan, on March 19, 1885. Here, with armed men, he defended his claim of a provisional government and fought for two months until he surrendered.

On July 6, 1885, a formal charge of treason was laid against him. Two of three doctors who examined him said he was sane to stand trial (the third disagreed) and Riel was tried and convicted of treason. On November 16, 1885, Louis Riel's life ended at the end of a rope when he was hanged until he was dead in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Louis Riel Rebellion
Louis Riel: A Social Statement?
Louis Riel from the University of Saskatchewan
FactsCanada.ca map of Red River, Manitoba
FactsCanada.ca map of St. Boniface, Manitoba
FactsCanada.ca map of Fort Garry, Manitoba
FactsCanada.ca map of Batoche, Saskatchewan



Louis Joseph Robichaud, lawyer, senator and premier of New Brunswick (1960-1970), born in St. Antoine, New Brunswick, October 21, 1925.

Brian Vincent Tobin, premier of Newfoundland (1996-2001), born in Stephenville, Newfoundland, October 21, 1954.

Maryjane "Jane" Bunnett, jazz musician, born in Toronto, Ontario, October 22, 1955. (You can read Ms. Bunnett's biography in FactsCanada.ca issue 2000-17Su.)

Charles "Charlie" Grant, human-rights activist, born in Toronto, Ontario, October 22, 1902.

Norman Levine, short-story writer and novelist, born in Ottawa, Ontario, October 22, 1923.

George Ramsay Dalhousie, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, soldier, governor-in-chief of British North America (1820-1828) and founder of Dalhousie College (later Dalhousie University), born October 23, 1770, at Dalhousie Castle, Scotland.

Lawren Stewart Harris, painter and founding member of the Group of Seven painters, born in Brantford, Ontario, October 23, 1885.

Normie "The China Clipper" Kwong (n Lim Kwong Yew), CFL Hall of Fame member (November 28, 1969), born in Calgary, Alberta, October 24, 1929.

Sir Robert Frederic Stupart, pioneer of meteorology, knighted in 1916, born in Aurora, Canada West, October 24, 1857.

John Tuzo Wilson, geophysicist, Companion of the Order of Canada, born in Ottawa, Ontario, October 24, 1908.

Laurie Grant Skreslet, mountaineer, guide and outdoor-equipment designer, born in Calgary, Alberta, October 25, 1949. Skreslet was the first Canadian climber to conquer Mount Everest in Nepal.

Louis Jobin, sculptor, born in St. Raymond, Quebec, October 26, 1845.

Arthur Lewis Sifton, judge and second premier of Alberta (1910-1917), born in St. John's, Canada East, October 26, 1858.

Vere Brabazon Ponsonby Bessborough, 9th Earl of Bessborough and governor general of Canada (1931-1935), born in London, England, October 27, 1880.

Garth Howard Drabinsky, lawyer and entertainment entrepreneur, born in Toronto, Ontario, October 27, 1948.

Ivan Reitman, film producer and director, born in Komarno, Czechoslovakia (now located in the Republic of Slovakia), October 27, 1946. Came to Canada at the age of four.

Thomas Walter Scott, journalist, printer and first premier of Saskatchewan (1905-1916), born in London Township, Ontario, October 27, 1867.



October 21, 1882 — The Canadian Rugby Football Union was founded.

October 23, 1935 — William Lyon Mackenzie King begins his third separate and longest tenure as prime minister of Canada.

October 23, 1958 — A mining disaster in Springhill, Nova Scotia, claimed 74 lives — 18 people were rescued. The Springhill mines have been the site of over 167 separate accidents where miners have died. Since 1881, 424 lives have been lost.

October 25, 1854 — The first Canadian to win the Victoria Cross, Lieutenant Alexander Dunn of the 11th Hussars, gained this coveted honour for his participation in the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava on this date. The charge of the Light Brigade was certainly the most famous single action of the Crimean war.

October 25, 1863 — The tiny Balaklava Island, situated off the north coast of Vancouver Island near Port Hardy between Nigel and Hurst islands, is named after the Battle of Balaklava (of the Crimean War) by a Captain Pender of the ship the "Beaver". This was the ninth anniversary of the battle.

October 25, 1923 — The Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded jointly to Frederick Banting (of Alliston, Ontario) and J.J.R. Macleod (of Scotland) for the discovery of insulin.

October 26, 1813 — The Battle of Chateauguay was fought between the leading elements of an American army of invasion and a smaller Canadian force consisting principally of the Voltigeurs, a French-Canadian fencible corps under Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry. The field of battle was along the Chateauguay River about 50 kilometres south of Montreal, Quebec. ("Fencible" corps were raised only during war, were full-time regular troops, and were generally limited only to home defence [unless all members volunteered to serve overseas, as some units did].)

October 27, 1854 — The worst rail disaster in North America at that time occurred at Baptiste Creek, 24 kilometres west of Chatham, Ontario. A gravel train sent out to shore up rail beds was hit by an express that was running seven hours late. The accident killed 52 and injured 48 others.

October 27, 1951 — Doctors in London, Ontario, gave the first treatment in the world for cancer using cobalt therapy.

FactsCanada.ca map of Balaklava Island, British Columbia



Farnham, Quebec

This city of about 6500 is located around 65 kilometres southeast of Montreal, Quebec, on the banks of the Yamaska River. The original township of Farnham goes back to this week in history and October 22, 1798, when it was settled by New Englanders, mostly from Vermont. Later Francophones migrated into areas surrounding the township on the banks of the Richelieu and Yamaska rivers. Once known as the town of West Farnham, it became simply Farnham in 1876. Today over 80 percent of the population is of French background. The name of Farnham was chosen, no doubt, by a New Englander to pay homage to the town of Farnham, in Surrey, England, southeast of London.

FactsCanada.ca map of Farnham, Quebec



The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 22, 1962, following intelligence reports that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was installing missiles in Cuba capable of hitting American and Canadian targets. American President John Kennedy announced an American naval blockade of the island, threatening further action if preparation of the sites continued.

Informed of Kennedy's intentions only 90 minutes in advance, the issue for the Canadian government was whether or not to comply with an American request to move Canadian forces to an alert status known as "Defcon 3" ("Defcon" being a contraction of "defence condition"). With the approval of Minister of National Defence Douglas Harkness, Canadian units quietly did so, but formal authorization was delayed while Cabinet debated on October 23 and 24. Harkness argued that the nature of the crisis, combined with existing arrangements for defence co-operation, made the alert necessary.

Fearing a Canadian alert would provoke the USSR, believing the American policy on Cuba to be generally unbalanced, angered by the lack of advance consultation, and concerned about implications for Canadian policy on nuclear weapons, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Secretary of State for External Affairs Howard Green were reluctant to acquiesce to Kennedy. About half of Canada's ministers remained undecided, but as Soviet ships approached the quarantine zone later in the week the Harkness position gained support and, on October 24, the Diefenbaker government formally authorized the Defcon 3 alert.

The crisis ended over the period of two days (October 27 and 28) when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and remove the USSR missiles in Cuba.

Cuban Missile Crisis
Federation of American Scientists on Defence Conditions



"If one asks me how long that it takes me to make (do) a cloth (canvas), I wouldn't know. Often I enter the workshop (studio), in fact I go there almost every day, I open the door and I close it, I can do nothing, or something. But when it works the time doesn't count any more, I can go out into the studio and ten hours later, twenty hours later, I don't know, how long, because I am in another state." —Jean-Paul Riopelle.



Above I asked: "Among the Canadian artists responsible for the most expensive paintings sold at auctions are Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Paul Kane, James Morris and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Incredibly, five of ten most expensive paintings are from the same artist, including the highest priced painting which sold for US$1 610 000 back on May 5, 1989. Who do you think it was?"

Answer: Jean-Paul Riopelle and his untitled 1955 offering.

I can't locate a picture of this particular work as it is probably in a private collection.

Jean-Paul Riopelle biography
Jean-Paul Riopelle's "Seoul 88"



We have a surprise in store for you next week, the details of which have not yet been finalized. Stay tuned.


[Craig] Welcome to our new subscribers who found out about us from Cathie Walker's SillyGirl.com newsletter. It's great to have you on board.



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