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CANADA 150

A look back at The Globe’s March Moment in Times celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary

In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, Richard Blackwell takes a look back at some of the country’s most memorable moments in the month of March

Proposed ship canal gets bad reviews

March 6, 1867 – In early March, 1867, Toronto’s city council was asked to make an investment in a scheme that, even today, sounds audacious. The proposal was to build a $40-million ship canal connecting Lake Huron through Lake Simcoe to Lake Ontario, terminating in Toronto. The project would generate revenue of $4-million a year, its promoters vowed. Shipments of grain, timber and other goods from the west would take a much shorter route than going through Lake Erie and the Welland Canal. The Globe vehemently dismissed the plan in an editorial, declaring that “it is amazing that any intelligent man should think of recommending anything of the kind” based on the “wild calculations” from the proponents. The idea was eventually abandoned, along with another to build a canal connecting Georgian Bay to the Ottawa River along the old French River voyageur route. – Richard Blackwell


News of Macdonald’s wedding reaches Canada

March 13, 1867 Although the wedding took place on Feb. 16, details of the marriage of John A. Macdonald in England only made it to Canada in mid-March. Macdonald was in London to handle final negotiations on the British North America Act, but he took time out to marry Agnes Bernard, his second wife. They had met years earlier – when her brother was Macdonald’s private secretary – but became reacquainted in London. The Globe reported the “splendid affair” took place at St. George’s church on Hanover Square, and included 90 guests. “John A. made one of his best and happiest speeches,”declaring that he had been so preoccupied with the idea of union in the Confederation talks that he thought he should apply it to his own situation. Lady Macdonald became an avid diarist and writer, and famously rode a train through the Rockies sitting upfront on the cowcatcher. – Richard Blackwell


Toronto drunks face The Globe’s wrath

Mar. 20, 1867 – In 1867, Canadian newspapers took a moralistic approach to police and court activity – especially concerning charges of drunkenness – and sprinkled their reports with editorializing comments. A Globe police court file from Toronto in March said one of those charged, Sarah Norton, was “a very old offender indeed, out of gaol three weeks.” She “promised to behave herself, and was discharged with the moral certainty that she would soon be back.” Margaret Evans, another previous offender, “pleaded in an artistic whine to be let go, and was discharged, with a promise of six months if she appeared again.” James Larman, who was found drunk on Queen Street, “said he had come into the city to get some clothes [but] had apparently taken an internal instead of an external method of warming himself.” Like most of the others, he was let off by the judge. – Richard Blackwell


Confederation bill ready for Victoria’s assent



March 27, 1867 – By the last week of March, 1867, the British North America Act had made it through the House of Lords and the House of Commons in the British Parliament and was ready for Queen Victoria, who gave royal assent on March 29. The document contained 147 paragraphs, setting out in detail the structure of government, Ottawa’s responsibilities (trade, defence, banking, shipping, the post office) and those of the provinces (education, hospitals, liquor licensing). The act left the door open for British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and other regions to later join Canada.

And it specifically called for the speedy building of an intercolonial railway connecting the St. Lawrence River with Halifax. One huge gap: It made almost no mention of the Indigenous residents of the new country, except to say that they were under federal purview. – Richard Blackwell



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