This Week in Western Canadian History
May 16 - May 22
May
19
1845

In an attempt to find the Northwest Passage, John Franklin sailed from England with his two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, on what was to be his last voyage. His expedition was sighted in Baffin Bay in late July of 1845, and was never seen again. Over the next 15 years, over 30 expeditions were launched to search for Franklin or for clues to his fate. Finally, in 1859, the discovery of human remains and two brief written reports indicated that the ships had become icebound in September of 1846, and that Franklin had died in June of 1847. The remaining survivors of the expedition abandoned ship in 1848 and died attempting to reach the mainland.

May
17
1849

Although the Hudson's Bay Company technically had exclusive rights to the fur trade in the Canadian Northwest, a number of smaller, independent traders conducted business through American outlets. On May 17, 1849, Pierre Guillaume Sayer and three other Metis from the Red River Colony were brought to trial on the charge of violating the Hudson's Bay Company charter by illegally trafficking in furs. The four were found guilty, but the jury recommended clemency on the grounds that the Metis genuinely believed that they had the right of free trade. Satisfied that the rights of the Company had been upheld, the Chief Factor requested that Sayer not be punished and withdrew charges against the other men. When the four emerged "free" from the courthouse, the Metis, and the Hudson's Bay Company, accepted this as recognition of the principle of free trade. From that point, the Hudson's Bay Company abandoned its claim to a monopoly and began open competition with other traders.

May
18
1910

Local astronomers advised that there would be no ill effects from the earth travelling through the tail of Halley's comet. Experts doubted that the gases, fumes, and sparks from the tail would cause any significant health problems. Most experts anticipated that because of Calgary's long twilight, people wouldn't even know when the comet passed overhead. Many people were not reassured; headlines from local newspapers the next day read "Hurrah! We dodged it," and "Old earth is still on the job!"

May
18
1917

Although Canada's military services originally relied on voluntary enlistment, by late 1916 casualties at the front and the reduction of volunteers meant that Canada was having difficulty in meeting her commitments to her First World War allies. On May 18, 1917, Prime Minister Robert Borden rose in the House of Commons and announced that compulsory service, or conscription, had become a necessity. When the issue came to a vote it divided the country. Almost every English- speaking Member of Parliament voted in favour of the bill, and almost every French-speaking MP voted against it.

May
21
1926

Representatives of the Alberta Teachers' Alliance informed student teachers at Calgary's Normal School that they should refuse any position paying less than $1,000 per year. According to the ATA, school boards across the province claimed there were far more new teachers than there were positions, and used this to negotiate a lower salary level. In fact, both the ATA and the provincial Department of Education confirmed that Alberta had to recruit outside the province to secure qualified teachers for available positions.

May
20
1935

Weary of what he described as years of religious persecution, and concerned about what he believed to be Canada's acceptance of Fascism, Doukhobor leader Peter Verigrin announced that he was ready to lead his people out of Canada, possibly to a community to be founded in Paraguay. In fact, most of his people stayed in Canada. Today, although there are still some 25,000 Doukhobors living primarily in British Columbia, thousands more have been assimilated, so that many of the Doukhobor community's traditions have disappeared.

May
18
1942

Local doctors were finding it difficult to make house calls because of war-time shortages of medical personnel and the rationing of gasoline and tires. Physicians urged their patients to phone ahead for an appointment at the doctor's office instead of requesting immediate and sometimes unnecessary home visits.

May
21
1943

City fireworks dealers reported that the war was taking the "bang" out of the traditional Victoria Day fireworks displays. Most of the crackers and cannons were manufactured in China, and because of wartime restrictions couldn't be imported. Other favourites, such as sparklers, weren't available because the chemicals and wire used to make them were being used in the manufacture of munitions.

May
17
1952

If Calgarians wanted good, long-lasting roads, warned the city engineer, they should be prepared to pay for them. During the war and post-war years, the city's population grew steadily, but few improvements were made to the city's infrastructure. New subdivisions required new (and expensive) street facilities, while old subdivisions required constant maintenance and repair. Under the previous municipal structure, taxpayers had to petition for and then vote on requested improvements. The new City Act allowed city administrators to approve necessary expenditures on such things as the municipal road system without a city-wide vote. This permitted a regular programme of road repair and construction. (Road construction was a major capital expense the City could pass on to the taxpayer.)

May
18
1980

After several small warning rumbles, Mount St. Helens in Washington State, erupted in a blast that was felt 200 miles north in Vancouver, British Columbia. The sun was dimmed by the ash that fell across the western provinces in some areas as much as five inches settled on the ground. Across the prairies people with respiratory problems were advised to remain indoors or to wear protective masks. Several airlines refused to fly in the area until the cloud of ash dissipated.

May
20
1986

Sharon Wood, of Canmore, Alberta, became the first North American woman to climb Mount Everest.



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