This Week in Western Canadian History
April 11 - April 17
April
14
1826

Boy Settlement in CanadaIn the early part of the 19th century, thousands of children in London, England, were victims of chronic poverty, living on the streets and begging and stealing to support themselves. On April 14, 1826, Robert Chambers, a police magistrate who was greatly troubled by the situation, suggested that some of the homeless youth be sent to Canada to work on farms. Forty years later, several child emigration programmes run by churches and private charities existed. The intention was to take unwanted children from the streets of England and place them in caring homes in Canada, where they would have plenty of fresh air, good food, the opportunity of an education, and a chance to work hard. The reality was sometimes very different, and there were many cases of physical and emotional abuse. There was always concern about the actual operation of some of the programmes, and, by the 1920s, social activists in Britain and Canada were concerned about the effects on the children involved. The labour movement in Canada also campaigned against the principle of the cheap labour provided by children. With the coming of the Depression, the practice of child emigration came to a halt.

April
12
1871

Canadian Township PlanOn April 12, 1871, the House of Commons approved the survey system that would be used throughout Canada's western territories prior to settlement. The prairies were divided into square townships, each comprising 36 sections of 640 acres each. The basic homestead was a quarter-section of 160 acres. Townships were numbered from base lines established at the 49th Parallel and the Fort Garry (Winnipeg, Manitoba) meridian. Within six years, meridians and base lines were established from Winnipeg to the Rocky Mountains, and from the international boundary to the North Saskatchewan River.

April
16
1874

After the failure of the Red River Rebellion in 1870, Louis Riel fled to the United States. In 1873, he returned to Canada and won election to the House of Commons. In 1874, he went to Ottawa and signed the register of the House but was expelled on April 16, 1874. Although re-elected in the election that was called to replace him, he never again attempted to take his seat.

April
14
1912

Although initial reports indicated that all the passengers were safe, by the end of the day it was apparent that many lives had been lost in the sinking of the Titanic. The luxury liner, thought to be unsinkable, struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage. Mr. and Mrs. Albert Dick, a young Calgary couple on their honeymoon, survived the ordeal. Later, Mr. Dick told local newspaper reporters that the passengers didn't panic, perhaps because many of them simply could not believe the ship could sink. Mrs. Dick refused a place in three lifeboats because she wouldn't leave her husband, but finally took a seat when Mr. Dick was pushed into the boat to make up a crew. They had rowed only a short distance away before they saw the Titanic slip under the water.

April
14
1918

For the first time, everyone in the country moved their clocks forward with the introduction of Daylight Savings Time. Calgary had experimented with the measure in 1916, but at the end of the summer the public rejected it in a plebiscite -- in part because the change was not universal, and confusion resulted as to which communities had adopted it and which had not. The decision to introduce the time change nationally was an effort to take advantage of natural light and reduce energy consumption. Calgary clergy reported some parishioners were late for morning services, but by Monday morning, schools and businesses were running much as usual.

April
13
1926

Canada’s high taxes were blamed for a dramatic rise in the numbers of cigarettes smuggled into Canada from the United States. Excise and sales taxes in Canada were more than double those in the United States and it was estimated that over one billion cigarettes were illegally imported in order to avoid those taxes.

April
14
1934

As a cost-cutting measure in the midst of the Depression, Alberta's Provincial Legislature voted to abolish the office of Lieutenant Governor and convert Government House in Edmonton into a sanitarium for the treatment of tuberculosis. (Government House was formally opened in October 1913, and used for state receptions, garden parties, and hosting visiting royalty and other dignitaries.) Although this motion was rescinded, Government House was permanently closed in 1938 following a bitter confrontation between then Premier William Aberhart, and the Lieutenant Governor, John Campbell Bowen. Since 1938, the building has been used as a residence, a convalescent hospital, and as a home for disabled veterans. In 1942, an auction of the furnishings of the House fetched less than $20,000 -- a fraction of the $300,000 they cost in 1912. In 1967, the building was returned to the provincial government, and is once again used to host special events. Today, members of the Government House Foundation are attempting to locate and acquire some of the furniture and decorations that were disposed of more than 50 years ago.

April
13
1938

Grey OwlIn the 1930s, Grey Owl ostensibly of Apache and Scottish parentage wrote voluminously and persuasively of the need for conservation of Canada's natural resources. His writings were very popular, especially in England, and he was greatly in demand as a lecturer. After his death on April 13, 1938, the press discovered that Grey Owl was, in fact, Archibald Belaney, born in Hastings, England, and raised by two maiden aunts and his grandmother. As a boy, Belaney was fascinated by stories of North American native peoples, and at age 17 came to northern Ontario where he spent several years in the bush, learning about wildlife and the wilderness. When the truth about Belaney's life was revealed, his work was largely disparaged, and it is only in recent years that his contributions to conservation in Canada have again been recognised.

April
12
1955

It was announced that Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was proven to be safe, effective, and potent against bulbar polio, the most dangerous type of the disease to which young people were particularly susceptible. Every year thousands of children caught the disease. Hundreds died and still others were permanently paralysed from its effects. It was expected that licensing the vaccine would take less then 48 hours so an effective inoculation programme could begin immediately. Alberta Health officials announced that the inoculation of over 40,000 Alberta schoolchildren would begin within the week.

April
15
1976

Despite the opposition of native groups and environmentalists, Dome Petroleum was given federal Cabinet approval to drill for oil in the Beaufort Sea. In response to concerns about the effects of a blowout on the fragile Arctic ecosystem, the exploration period was shortened by six weeks and the cleanup bond increased from $10 million to $50 million.

April
14
1982

In a territorial plebiscite voters in Canada’s Northwest Territories approved the division of the Territories. The vote to divide the huge area into two recognised the geographic and cultural diversity that existed within the district. The federal government was prepared to endorse the partition if agreement could be reached between east and west on the boundary between them and if disputed land claims could be resolved.

April
17
1982

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect on April 17, 1982. The Charter is central to Canada's Constitution, and guarantees certain fundamental rights to the individual, including legal, equality and linguistic rights. Interpretation of the Charter is still evolving, and the Supreme Court of Canada regularly hears cases that render landmark decisions.



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