- Dec 2017
Canadian Pacific Railway
The Canadian Pacific Railway company was incorporated in 1881. Less than five years later the transcontinental line from Montreal to Port Moody, a distance of 2,893 miles, was completed (Eagle, 3). Its original purpose was in the construction of a transcontinental railway, to fulfill a promise made to British Columbia upon its entry into Confederation in 1871. On November 7th, 1885, company director Donald Smith drove the last spike among the mountains of British Columbia, marking the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Woodcock, 47). It was completed in less than half the time it was originally contracted for; and the feat of building this three-thousand-mile railroad over difficult terrain in less than five years can be largely attributed to William Cornelius Van Home, the first General Manager of the Canadian Pacific (Woodcock, 54). The creation of the CPR provided Canada with a transportation infrastructure necessary for its western ambitions and allowed the country to make use of the land it had acquired. Its completion in 1885 “marked an important stage in the process by which Canada changed from a loose group of scattered colonies, divided by a great waste of prairie and mountains inhabited only by Indians and fur traders, into the nation it is today” (Woodcock, 48). The CPR soon became the country’s most successful narrative and played an important role in the development of the nation by connecting the Canadian territory from east to west and unifying the dominion in its path.
In order for the railway to be profitable, the CPR needed more passengers and cargo, however few people inhabited the Canadian west at that time. The CPR operated mostly in the wilderness and the usefulness of the prairies was considered to have great potential for the newly formed Dominion of Canada. As early as 1881, Canadian Pacific got involved in land settlement and land sales. Under the initial contract with the Canadian Government to build the railway, the CPR was granted 25,000,000 acres of land and the Canadian Pacific began an intense campaign to bring immigrants to Canada. Canadian Pacific advertised land for settlers in Eastern Canada and the United States, and placed advertisements in European newspapers describing the fertile land of the Canadian Prairies. In 1909, Canadian Pacific spent more money promoting immigration than the Canadian government (Eagle).
The CPR represented the long-awaited liberation of the Canadian West; however, it was a privately-owned corporation as well as a national dream and its profits benefited the Canadian Pacific Railway company, not the nation as a whole (Friesen, 8). Its power in western Canada was immense and without competition, Canadian Pacific was a monopoly. However, as more people continued to head west, settlements sprang up overnight and there soon developed both a need for more transportation and a break in the monopoly and power of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (Lowe, 53). In 1904, the passage of the Transcontinental Railway Bill through the Parliament of Canada became one of the most significant legislative acts for the Dominion of Canada (MacKenzie King, 136). It represented the movement away from the privately owned Canadian Pacific Railway Corporation and the need for more security and independence in regard to the industrial and commercial expansion of Canada.
Photo Credit: The Last Spike
Friesen, Gerald, A. 1984. "Preparing for Western Settlement, 1870-1890." Journal of The West 23, no. 4: 5-10.
Lowe, Norman, J. 1978. "Canada's Third Transcontinental Railway: The Grand Trunk Pacific/National Transcontinental Railways." Journal of The West 17, no. 4: 52-61.
Regehr, T. D. The Canadian Northern Railway: Pioneer Road of the Northern Prairies, 1895–1918. Toronto: Macmillan. 1976.
W. L. MacKenzie King. "The National Transcontinental Railway of Canada." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 19, no. 1 (1904): 136-48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1884867.
Woodcock, George. 1958. "The Canadian Pacific Railway." History Today 8, no. 1: 47-55.
- Nov 2017
the Supreme Court of Canada
Those who drafted the British North America Act, 1867 identified a national court system as essential to the new country and its emerging democracy. And in 1875, the Supreme Court of Canada was established (Supreme Court of Canada, 5). The Supreme Court of Canada has played a pivotal role in revitalizing many Aboriginal and treaty rights in the late 20th century. Before 1982, many Aboriginal and treaty rights fared poorly in the courts, as the Supreme Court largely supported the federal governments’ interpretations regarding treaty rights. For example, of the 20 Aboriginal and treaty rights cases heard by the Supreme Court prior to 1982, the court recognized the claimed rights in only 25 percent of the cases (Carlson, 336). One significant early case known as White and Bob occurred in 1965 whereby two members of the Nanaimo Indian Band, Clifford White and David Bob, were arrested for hunting out of season on Vancouver Island. The Supreme Court relied on an 1854 agreement which gave the Nanaimo Nation the right to hunt over unoccupied lands (Borrow, 117-118).
The Canadian Supreme Court began to issue rulings in support of Aboriginal and treaty rights following the inclusion of language in the Constitution Act in 1982. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, “recognized and affirmed the ‘existing aboriginal and treaty rights,’ of Indian, Metis and Inuit peoples” (Carlson, 336). The Supreme Court also started to influence politics and legislation regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights. One example of this is the 1990 case R. v. Sparrow, in which the Supreme Court unanimously held that Aboriginal and treaty rights are “constitutionally protected rights that cannot be unilaterally extinguished by the federal and provincial governments” (Carlson, 337). The Sparrow case basically protected Musqueam rights to fish for food and for social and ceremonial purposes, and is seen as a pivotal case that effectively constrained the Canadian government’s sovereignty (Borrow, 119). Further, in 1990 the Supreme Court helped establish Aboriginal and treaty rights within section 35 (l) of the Constitution and curtailing governments’ ability to extinguish these rights (Carlson, 334). The Supreme Court had historically been viewed as the weakest of the branches of the Canadian government, but was emerging as having a more significant impact in Canadian politics. The Supreme Court effectively reinvigorated the policymaking process when insufficient action was taken by legislators, and was believed to effectively encourage politicians to revisit Aboriginal and treaty rights policies (Carlson, 337).
In 1996, however, the Supreme Court affected Aboriginal and treaty rights in a way that limited their application. Known as the Vanderpeet case, it was decided that Aboriginal rights only protected practices, customs and traditions that were “integral to the distinctive culture” of indigenous groups prior to European contact. One of the concerns this case created was the need to provide historical evidence about the lives and cultures of Aboriginal peoples (Borrow, 120).
Despite the Supreme Court’s decisions and subsequent impact on policymaking and legislation that have provided support for Aboriginal and treaty rights, both the Supreme Court and Parliament have largely not recognized indigenous peoples’ rights to self-government. Most Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples are severely restricted in any decision making authority, and what little powers they have are highly scrutinized and critiqued by the government (Borrow, 121).
At the Supreme Court, the Powley case affirmed that Métis are a distinct Aboriginal people with harvesting rights protected within Canada’s Constitution
Borrows, John. 2017. "Challenging Historical Frameworks: Aboriginal Rights, The Trickster, and Originalism." Canadian Historical Review 98, no. 1: 114-135. America: History and Life with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2017).
Carlson, Kirsten Matoy. 2014. "Political Failure, Judicial Opportunity: The Supreme Court of Canada and Aboriginal and Treaty Rights." American Review of Canadian Studies 44, no. 3: 334-346. America: History and Life with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2017).
"Métis Historic Timeline." Métis Nation of Ontario. Accessed November 28, 2017.
The Supreme Court of Canada and Its Justices, 1875-2000: A Commemorative Book. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2000.
The native people of the North claim the right to educate their children.
In “The Claim to Native Control of Education", Berger refers to the fundamental ideological differences between Aboriginal people and Euro-Canadian settlers. For Aboriginal peoples, learning was seen as a lived experience best absorbed through storytelling, group discussions, role modeling, personal reflection, peer tutoring, learning/talking circles, and hands-on experiences (Preston et al., 8). Family members taught children everything they needed to know within the context of purposeful, daily activities and adults expected the very best from each child. Adults knew each child’s unique strengths, interests, and learning needs and tailored that to all aspects of their development. This child-centered education, ensured that native people created “able human beings” who could survive and thrive in their environment (McGregor, 58).
From the late 1800s until the 1950s, Euro-Canadian settler missionaries drastically disrupted these Aboriginal ways of learning. The two primary objectives of residential school systems were to “remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture” (Paquette and Gérald, 3). Residential schools intentionally discounted for Aboriginal culture and values based on the assumption that aboriginal cultures and beliefs were inferior. All instruction was taught in English and children were punished for speaking their native languages (McGregor, 58). Aboriginal pedagogy endorsed student control over the pace of classroom conversations, and allowed for student opportunities for self-determination. However, typical assessment mechanisms employed within Euro-Canadian public education included formative test-taking measures, standardized tests, written evaluations, teacher-centered feedback and the provision of formal grades/percentages. This type of curricular approach to assessment is ill-matched with Aboriginal ways of knowing and learning and Aboriginal children suffered as a result.
Those who designed residential school education did so with the unquestioning acceptance that its rightful goal was to ‘re-educate’ Aboriginal students to ‘encapsulate hierarchically’ First Nation people to not think or reach beyond the lowest position in the social system (Paquette and Gérald, 5). Aboriginal peoples were regarded as “intellectually inferior” and therefore “needed to be inducted into the knowledge base and lifestyle appropriate for the ‘working farmer’ or ‘mechanic’” (Paquette and Gérald, 5). This left Aboriginal people in a difficult position. On the one hand, native people have been told that education is the key to their future, and that such programs will better the social and environmental conditions in their communities. Yet on the other hand, the vast majority of these programs focused on the learning needs of Euro-Canadian students, ultimately leaving Aboriginal students with little understanding of how to apply what they have learned to the situations they face in their communities.
In the early 1970s, the emerging Northwest Territory government issued new curricular expectations for Aboriginal students (McGregor, 60). The purpose of this culturally responsive educational reform was to create education based approaches that resonated with the type of learning students received from their families and in their communities. Fundamental elements of this educational approach came from culturally relevant learning, which is described by Ladson Billings as helping “students accept and affirm their cultural identity, while developing critical perspectives that [enable them] to challenge inequities that schools…perpetuate” (McGregor, 60). It clearly departed from assimilationist federal schooling practices by expecting culturally responsive approaches that emphasized Aboriginal students’ languages and cultures and each student’s personal strengths (McGregor, 62).
Photo Credit: Culturally responsive schooling: students and community members prepare to leave for spring camp, Kugluktuk, NWT, circa 1975. (McGregor, 59).
McGregor, Catherine A. 2015. "Creating Able Human Beings: Social Studies Curriculum in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, 1969 to the Present." Historical Studies in Education 27, no. 1: 57-79.
Paquette, Jerald E., and Gérald, Fallon. 2010. First Nations Education Policy in Canada: Progress or Gridlock? Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed November 27, 2017).
Preston, Jane P., Michael Cottrell, Terrance R. Pelletier, and Joseph V. Pearce. 2012. "Aboriginal early childhood education in Canada: Issues of context." Journal of Early Childhood Research 10, no. 1: 3-1.