The Dominion of Canada turned zero years old on July 1st, 1867 and let’s be honest, not much has happened since. We haven’t even won a Stanley Cup since 1993. Every once in a while, however, something takes place that tickles the history books. For example …
In 1871, Canada flexed its new nation muscles by signing the Treaty of Washington with the United States. The treaty allowed Americans to fish in Canadian waters and use the St. Lawrence River which is a reasonably significant waterway with a commercial value of about seventeen quadrajillion dollars. In return, Canadians gained access for their canoes to Lake Michigan and anywhere in Alaska which, if you think it’s empty now, you should have seen it in 1871.
After this experience, Canadian prime ministers stopped sending beavers to negotiate our international treaties.
Eighteen eighty-five was a big year in Canadian history. Louis Riel was hanged in Regina in November which is when I would have wanted to be hanged in Regina because at least then, I would avoid the prairie winter. The hanging happened a mere nine days after Donald Smith, who looked kind of like Santa Claus in a top hat, drove the “last spike” in Craigellachie, B.C., thus completing the coast-to-coast rail link across our great nation. Within a week, Americans were using the rail line, claiming “It looks like the St. Lawrence River to us.”
The Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896 when Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie discovered gold on Bonanza Creek. Now, if dudes named Skookum and Tagish staggered out of the wilderness claiming to have found gold, wouldn’t you just go back to drinking your mug of grain alcohol or whatever it was you were doing? This just goes to show how trusting Canadians are and why countries all over the world were lining up to sign treaties with Canada.
On July 1, 1909, Canada claimed sovereignty over the Arctic, from the Canadian mainland to the North Pole, including Santa’s Workshop and the house with four walls all facing south from the mind teaser about the white bear.
During the First World War, Canadian soldiers lived in mire and rot, suffered the worst battles of any troops to fight a modern war, and ultimately distinguished themselves for levels of heroism that positively defy contemporary understanding. In recognition of this great sacrifice, Europe went and screwed itself up all over again twenty years later and we had to go bail their asses one more time. Just for the record, if Canada ever gets invaded, and I mean by anything more dangerous than a bunch of zebra mussels, France, Belgium and Holland better have troops locked, loaded and marching up Yonge Street by the next morning.
In October 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Less than three years later, the federal government created the CBC and miraculously, that didn’t help. In 1939, however, the government created the National Film Board and immediately our country was overrun by those cute little cartoons with the squiggly hand-drawn lines. Everyone thought that was some pretty funny stuff, so the Depression was over.
On October 16, 1961, the Saskatchewan Medical Insurance Bill created the first North American jurisdiction with universal health care. Immediately, Canadians became both smugly self-righteous when dealing with privately-medicated Americans and personally terrified that they would die in an emergency room while awaiting treatment. Finally, Canada had achieved its true national identity.
In 1980, Québec had a referendum on whether or not it would separate from Canada while still maintaining all the good stuff that being part of Canada can offer … things like military protection, recognized currency, use of inter-provincial highways and a holiday on the first day of July. For some reason, they voted not to leave. This was like turning down an offer of living in your parents’ house forever with all the bills paid, the fridge stocked, your laundry done and your meals cooked, but not actually having your parents living there with you.
Finally, in 1982, the Canada Act came into effect, thus freeing the nation from the oppressive yoke of British Parliament which was becoming, let’s be honest, a real pain in the ass with all their meddling.
So that brings you up to date. You now know everything there is to know about Canadian history.