This Week in Western Canadian History
June 13 - June 19
June
15
1811

In September, 1810, John Jacob Astor, American fur merchant and entrepreneur, sent his ship the Tonquin to the mouth of the Columbia River (in today's Oregon), where he intended to build a post and set up trade in opposition to Montreal's North West Company. On June 15, 1811, as the ship sailed the channels around Vancouver Island, she was seized by the local Nootka and most of the sailors were killed. The next day, the Tonquin was completely destroyed either by the Nootka or by the remaining crew. The incident brought a violent end to Astor's hopes for the northwest coast trade.

June
15
1815

The settlers of the Red River settlement [see This Week in Western Canadian History, May 30, 1811] found the first few years difficult, as floods, hail, drought and early frosts contributed to successive years of crop failures. As agriculture faltered, the settlers became increasingly dependent on the buffalo for their survival, and this put them into conflict with the Metis who also hunted the buffalo. At the same time, traders from the rival North West Company, in an attempt to challenge the authority of the Hudson's Bay Company, began promoting the idea of Metis nationalism. After repeated harassment of the settlers by the Metis, on June 15, 1815, most of the Selkirk settlers left the colony for Upper Canada (Ontario).

June
19
1816

Although many of the Selkirk settlers fled the Red River colony in June of 1815, the settlement was re-established by August. On his arrival, the new governor of the colony, Robert Semple, immediately demanded the surrender of the North West Company and the forfeiture of their stores of pemmican. The following spring, two of the Nor'Westers posts were seized. On June 19, 1816, a party of Metis, under the leadership of Cuthbert Grant, met Semple and his party of colonists at a ravine known as Seven Oaks. Grant demanded that Governor Semple surrender, Semple reached for a gun, shots rang out, and the battle began. Fifteen minutes later 20 settlers and Semple were dead, while the Metis, experienced hunters and marksmen, lost only one. The Massacre or Skirmish at Seven Oaks, as it was known (possibly depending on whose side you favoured), was the low point of the relationship between the two rival trading companies. By 1821, with both facing bankruptcy, they had merged into one company.

June
15
1846

The Oregon Boundary treaty, signed by American President James Polk on June 15, 1846 and by Queen Victoria two days later, established the boundary between British North America and the United States at 49 degrees north latitude west from the Rocky Mountains to the middle of the channel between Vancouver Island and the mainland. The treaty was a compromise, as the British had claimed the Oregon Territory and the Americans wanted all of the west coast up to 54/40, or the southern limit of the Russian territory of Alaska. The slogan "Fifty-four forty or fight" was part of the Democratic Party platform in the 1844 election.

June
13
1886

Vancouver City Council In June of 1886, arrangements were underway to extend the Canadian Pacific Railway line from Port Moody, British Columbia, the western terminus, to the weeks-old city of Vancouver. In preparation for the construction, a young worker was ordered to clear some land along the waterfront, to create space for a camp for the construction workers. The land was covered with large trees, and it seemed that the easiest way to clear them was to burn them. Unfortunately, a sudden wind blew up and, by the time the smoke cleared, only a few ramshackle buildings remained -- the residential district of the city, and most of the commercial area, had been destroyed and several lives lost. Within two days teams of horses were bringing in lumber and a dozen new buildings were under construction. In one of its first official acts after the fire, the city aldermen also voted for Vancouver's first loan, to purchase a fire engine.

June
13
1898

In the spring of 1898, the territorial government of the Northwest Territories sent an official to the gold regions of the Yukon to enforce liquor regulations and to collect liquor taxes. At the same time, Canada's federal government was showing interest in this lucrative source of revenue. On June 13, 1898, the Yukon was made a separate territory with a Commissioner and a Legislative Council, partly elected, partly nominated by Canada's Governor General, and responsible to Ottawa not Regina.

June
17
1909

Fire Dept. HorseIn a public vote, Calgary's ratepayers narrowly approved the purchase of the first motorised fire wagon in Canada. The issue was hotly contested: those in favour of the motorised fire apparatus claimed quicker response times and cheaper accommodation costs,Calgary Fire Dept. Car while those who wished to maintain the horse-drawn equipment suggested that automotive technology was still largely unproven and the costs of failure, in terms of life and property, too high.

June
19
1914

Hillcrest Mining Disaster On the morning of June 19, 1914, a devastating explosion ripped through the tunnels of the Hillcrest Collieries mine in Alberta's Crowsnest Pass. The mine was considered one of the safest, but by the end of the day, 189 miners were confirmed dead in Canada's worst mining disaster. The accident investigation showed that the dust in the mines was of an unusually high explosive type and that a spark of unknown origin had triggered a massive coal dust explosion.

June
13
1921

Many Canadians were alarmed by a federal census question concerning their place of origin. A Russian man in Calgary (the father of several Canadian-born children) insisted that his children were Canadians and should be identified as Canadian, not Russian. The census takers admitted they were also confused by the government's definition of a "real Canadian."

June
15
1925

Hundreds of plains buffalo from Buffalo National Park at Wainwright, Alberta, began a long journey to their new home in Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta. Buffalo National Park was established in 1908 to provide a home for approximately 700 animals; by 1923 the population had increased to more than 6,500. With an area of only 200 square miles, the Park couldn't sustain the animals and a controlled slaughter programme was begun. This project was so unpopular with the public that it was abandoned, and a search began for a new home for the excess animals.

Despite some concern about mixing species, thousands of plains buffalo were sent to Wood Buffalo National Park, which had an area of 10,500 square miles (since increased to over 17,000 square miles). The Wainwright buffalo were loaded into cattle cars and shipped by railway to Waterways, on the Athabasca River. From that point they were transported by scow down the Athabasca and Slave Rivers to Wood Buffalo, where they were released to enjoy their new range and where their descendants continue to thrive.

June
16
1936

In a clear indication that Canada's economy had finally turned around, the federal government announced that work camps in western Canada would be closed by the end of the month. The camps were established in 1932 to house and provide work for thousands of single and unemployed men during the Great Depression. In return for a bed, three meals a day, work clothes, and a daily allowance of 20 cents, the men cleared bush and built roads in national parks, and worked on construction crews for public buildings. By the time they closed, the camps had been home to over 170,000 men.

June
13
1945

A group of business owners, with premises along the north side of 8th Avenue in downtown Calgary, appeared in court to protest their assessments, which were higher than those on the south side of the avenue. According to the city's assessment department, traffic counts had shown that more Calgarians preferred to walk along the sunny north side of the street, so the increased traffic explained the higher rates.

June
16
1945

According to a number of public opinion surveys, employment and economic security were the primary concerns of Canadians. Many of those interviewed expressed doubts that a peace-time economy would be able to provide jobs for the returning troops, while others were determined that salaries should increase after years of war-time wage control.

June
16
1952

Delegates to the Canadian Welfare Council convention were told that too many public appeals for contributions were resulting in less money being raised from fewer people. The problem was acute in the health field since so many societies had been formed to try to raise funds for different diseases. Charities were also experiencing difficulties in recruiting volunteers to solicit donations. In the past, married women conducted most of the door-to-door campaigns, but many of them were no longer available for volunteer work since they were now working at paid jobs they began during the war years.



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