This Week in Western Canadian History
April 4 - April 10
April
8
1875

The political history of Alberta began with the North-West Territories Act, assented to on April 8, 1875. It defined the North-West Territories as the area formerly known as "Rupert's Land," and the "North-Western Territory" (with the exception of Manitoba). Under the Act, the Territories were governed by a Lieutenant-Governor who was appointed by the Governor General of Canada. The Lieutenant-Governor was assisted by an appointed Council of up to five members. Additional members could be elected to the Council as the population of the North-West increased.

April
6
1909

Attempts to reach the North Pole came later in the history of northern exploration. The physical geography of the polar region was almost entirely unknown (for many years it was believed that the Pole was surrounded by a temperate open sea). In 1827 the first attempt to reach the Pole by W.E. Parry failed partly because the expedition was unaware of the effects of polar ice, and, after spending several difficult days walking across the ice and snow, the group discovered to their horror that they were further south than when they started. Today it is generally accepted that American Robert E. Peary was the first to reach the North Pole, arriving there by dogsled on April 6, 1909.

April
6
1910

Illustration of a Woman's HatThe women's fashion trend for extremely large hats was causing difficulties for many churches. The brims were so large that, in some of the smaller churches clergy banned them because the women took up too much space in the pews and interfered with the worship of other parishioners.

April
9
1917

Canadians at Vimy RidgeVimy Ridge in northern France was the centre of heavy fighting between French and German forces during the First World War. In the spring of 1917 it was under German control, but since it was considered a crucial vantage point, it was the target of several assaults by the French and British. In April, the task of taking the Ridge was given to the four Canadian divisions. At 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917, the Canadians attacked. Despite heavy losses, they took the Ridge. The battle was an important military victory, and gave the Canadian forces a sense of unity and achievement.

April
6
1918

Under an order-in-council passed by Canada's federal government, idleness was made a crime by law, punishable by fines or imprisonment. The purpose of the action was to ensure that everyone capable of useful work was contributing at a time when their country needed them most. Calgary's Police Chief planned to raid the city's pool rooms and confront loafers on street corners to ascertain why the men weren't working.

April
10
1920

Calgarians were warned to be careful of letters bearing Spanish postmarks after police advised that the "Spanish letter" was actually a sophisticated swindle. Letters were addressed to wealthy Calgarians, explaining that the writer of the letter in Barcelona was unable to claim almost $500,000 of his own money that was deposited in Canada. The writer offered to give one-third of the money to the person who would pay an agent the legal and financial fees necessary to free the funds. Of course, the so-called "agent" was actually one of the swindlers and disappeared with any money as soon as he received it.

April
6
1926

During the early 1920s, the Banff Springs Hotel was attracting more and more visitors every summer. In 1925, the decision was made to add two wings to the original building. Construction began on an annex, to house hotel guests while the construction in the rest of the building was underway. Early in the morning of April 6, 1926, the hotel's assistant manager and Canadian Pacific Railway publicity agent Buffalo Child Long Lance noticed smoke coming from the old north wing of the hotel. Within hours the fire had taken a firm hold on the wooden structure, and by the afternoon, the last of the original 1888 building was just a pile of debris. Other parts of the building were damaged and extensive repairs were required before the hotel could open belatedly for the summer season on July 1. It was believed that the fire was accidentally caused by workers who built a small fire too close to the old wooden building.

April
6
1934

Pamphlet by C.H. DouglasMajor C.H. Douglas, founder of the theory of social credit, spoke to Alberta's legislature outlining his principles. Douglas was critical of present political structures, but saved his harshest words for the banks. He claimed they were monopolising wealth which they had no hand in creating. According to Douglas, "the citadel of wealth which the present financial system has erected through the practical monopoly it has established must be attacked and must fall." Within the year, the Social Credit Party swept to victory in Alberta's provincial election.

April
7
1945

Calgary veterans of the South African War protested plans that would see the province's liquor stores and beer parlours close on VE-Day. The intent of the proposal was to curb the more visible excesses of public drunkenness. But the Veterans' Association went on record as favouring British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's suggestion to celebrate the victory "in accordance with the best British tradition."

April
4
1949

Following the end of the Second World War, both the Canadian and American governments became concerned about the intentions of the Soviet Union. On April 4, 1949, Canada, the United States, Britain and the countries of western Europe signed the agreement to establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a peacetime defence alliance. The agreement was largely a paper one until the Korean War, when Canada contributed troops and funding.

April
6
1952

In a speech to the Calgary branch of the Canadian Women's Press Club, a senior newspaper editor said the spread of propaganda was one of the greatest problems of his age. It was the duty of reporters to provide a fair and accurate story, but as governments and organisations became more skilled in presenting selected aspects of information, it was more difficult for the reporter to determine where the truth lay, and to then communicate it to their readers.

April
6
1967

George Brinton McClellan was named Canada's first ombudsman on April 6, 1967. McClellan served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for over 35 years and was Commissioner of the Force at the time of his retirement. His responsibility as ombudsman was to protect Albertans from the bureaucracy of government by investigating complaints of injustice or discrimination by Alberta government departments or agencies. In the first few years of his work, McClellan received letters from people all across Canada asking for his help, since no other province offered the same service. McClellan served as Alberta's ombudsman until 1974, and died in 1982.



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