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Canada 150

A look back at The Globe's April 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 April

Russian-American telegraph line is abandoned

April 3, 1867 The ambitious plan to build an overland telegraph line from San Francisco to Moscow (with one marine stretch under the Bering Strait) was conceived as an alternative to the problem-plagued efforts to link North America to Europe via cable under the Atlantic Ocean. The colony of British Columbia – which the Russian-American line would pass through – was agreeable, and construction went on there for two years. But the completion of a transatlantic cable rendered the Pacific project moot, and it was killed in 1867. In an editorial, The Globe noted the telegraph faced a business reality others should keep in mind: It cost too much with little prospect of generating revenue. "We would suggest that the best thing will be to wind up the affairs of this exhausted company, and hold up the scheme itself as a warning for the future." – Richard Blackwell

Alaska purchase finalized

April 10, 1867 – After fighting Britain in the Crimean War, Russia worried that it might lose Alaska to its European rival if there was another war. To cut potential losses, Russia sold the territory to the Americans. The $7.2-million (U.S.) deal was signed at the end of March, and was approved by Congress about a week later. The Globe was unconcerned over the U.S. takeover of another big chunk of the continent: "To us the cession of Russian America to the United States is a matter of perfect indifference, and practically will remain so forever," it said, calling Alaska a "frozen region" that "can never be utilized … to the detriment of any country." Moreover, the Americans probably "paid too dearly" for "an expanse of ice." The United States hoped the purchase might eventually lead to its takeover of British Columbia, a prospect that provided some impetus for British Columbia to join Canada in 1871. – Richard Blackwell

Stirrings of dissent in the Red River Colony

April 17, 1867 – It would be two years before the Red River Rebellion broke out in what is now Manitoba, but in the spring of 1867 there were already stirrings of dissent in the colony. The Globe, in a reprint of an article from the Nor'Wester newspaper, noted that citizens were considering taking over the local government from the Hudson's Bay Co., which was still in charge and heartily disliked. Indeed, the report said "that a fur-trading monopoly can have any interest in common with a farming, grazing and mining community is felt to be impossible … The political condition of the country is simply this: 10,000 people are ruled by the committee of a fur-trading company; they are allowed no voice whatever in the government." The situation boiled over in 1869, when the Métis under Louis Riel, pictured above, at centre, declared a provisional government to negotiate Manitoba's entry into Confederation. – Richard Blackwell

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Toronto addresses underweight bread scandal

April 24, 1867 In a consumer-friendly crackdown, Toronto's inspector of weights and measures raided shops, bakeries and delivery trucks and confiscated 564 loaves of bread that were below the standard weight. The Globe declared that the seizure made it obvious "the habit of giving light weight is of common occurrence" with some bakers in the city. "The widow and orphan whose utmost energies are scarcely able to sustain life with bread at its present rate, have a right to demand that they at least receive the equivalent of their money. The mechanic and labourer have equal reason to complain at such robbery." Even a rich man who can afford to pay "has equal right to honest dealing," the paper said, "though in his case the act may not look quite so mean." The underweight bread was taken to a police station, and most was later distributed to charitable institutions. – Richard Blackwell


Canada 150: More from The Globe and Mail

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