Canada – Travels and Some History

On our travels to Canada we are only visiting the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Their provincial border was designated as the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains, where the watershed changes from westward to the Pacific to eastward to the Atlantic or Arctic Oceans.

We arrived in Canada during their 150 year celebrations for becoming an independent nation. As you might imagine we have learned quite bit about the history of this country along the way.

Wikipedia tells us that “According to archaeological and genetic evidence North and South America were the last continents in the world with human habitation.” and “Around 16,500 years ago, the glaciers began melting, allowing people to move south and east into Canada and beyond.”

The “European” history of Canada started in the east generally with French settlement way back in the 1500s. The British rule started in 1763 and settlement of the west from the late 1700s.

Our Rocky Mountaineer Commemorative badge

Our Rocky Mountaineer Commemorative badge

The current 150 anniversary celebrations are quite prominent although they probably don’t have quite the same significance in British Columbia. When the Dominion of Canada became an independent country on July 1, 1867, British Columbia (BC) was not one of the four provinces in that union and was still a separate territory. However Canada became concerned about the lack of access to the Pacific Ocean and after Russia sold Alaska to the United States, and the possibility of their further expansion, there was even more reason to have BC join Canada. The deal was sealed when BC was offered relief from its significant debts and the promise of the construction of a trans-continental railway to connect BC with the eastern provinces. So in 1871 British Columbia became part of Canada. Of course, the railway was not completed until 1885 but having seen some of the terrain through which it had to pass it is a wonder that it was constructed at all. You have to give it to those civil engineers…

We also picked up some history of western Canada including about the fur trading, the gold rushes and the contact with the First Nations peoples. We learned about how some of these peoples lived and specifically the Blackfoot nation. How they adapted to changes such as the coming of horses to North America after the Spanish introduced them in Mexico. We learned how the bison herds were slaughtered from an estimated 30 million in the 1600s to just 345 animals in 1872 (before exerted efforts were made to ensure their survival).

Some additional facts:

  • Canada is the second largest country in area in the world after Russia.

  • The name “Canada” likely comes from the native word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement” and was used generally from the mid-1500s and started to be used officially in the late 1700s.

  • The maple flag was adopted in its current form in 1965.

Looking at Canada there are many similarities with Australia but also many differences resulting from their longer history and their harsher climate.

Captain James Cook – Christ Church Cathedral

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