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Further details on Canadiana Characters Series, 2009
Encaustic Wax and Pigment on Oak Panel [Framed in Maple] 169cm x 108cm (66.5" x 42.5")

Development and Background information of Characters used in the series

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Tom Thomson

Thomas John Thomson, painter (b at Claremont, Ont 5 Aug 1877; d at Canoe Lk, Ont 8 July 1917). By 1915, his innovative talent was relatively unknown but to his painting peers, Thomson was creating the oil paint sketches and canvases that have come to represent Canada as it is imagined by most Canadians. At 37 years of age, Thomson was living in Algonquin Park from spring to autumn, and in Toronto during the winter. He had at first shared Studio One of the Studio Building in Toronto with A.Y. Jackson (the Studio Building had opened its doors in 1914), and then, when Jackson left, with Franklin Carmicheal. By 1915, he had moved to a shack attached to the building. Here he painted his large canvases and entertained friends like Dr. James MacCallum, an ophthalmologist and his patron, and Lawren Harris. He was an intense, wry and gentle artist with a canny sensibility, one of the first painters to give acute visual form to the Canadian landscape as he discovered it in Algonquin Park, a section of northern Ontario that had been set aside as a conservation area in 1893. As well as anyone's, his paintings encapsulated a shifting moment in art, one that later became the basic premise of the Group of 7.

Thomson came from Scots Canadian stock. Born in the town of Claremont in Pickering Township, Ontario, the 6th of 10 children, he grew up in Leith on a farm near Owen Sound. His father was something of a naturalist; a cousin, Dr. William Brodie, 9 years older than his father, was one of the finest naturalists of the day (from 1903 until his death in 1909, he was director of the Biological Department of what is today the Royal Ontario Museum). Thomson collected specimens with Dr. Brodie, who gave him the rudiments of a naturalist's training. From Brodie, Thomson learned how to combine keen and enthusiastic observation of nature with a sense of reverence for its mystery.

Brought up in a creative family, Thomson learned to play several instruments, among them the mandolin. He also learned to draw and paint. As a young man, having missed high school through illness, he enrolled in the Canada Business College in Chatham, (he is listed in the city directory in 1902), then attended the Acme Business College in Seattle in 1903, a school run by his eldest brother George and a friend, F.R. McLaren. In both schools, he excelled in penmanship. In Seattle, Thomson got his first job with a commercial art company. It was as an engraver with a firm run by C.C. Maring, one of the graduates of the Chatham Business College. He worked briefly for Maring & Ladd (which became Maring & Blake soon after he arrived due to a change in ownership), then was hired by their strongest competitor, the Seattle Engraving Company, at an increase of 10 dollars a week. He doubtless looked forward to a career in Seattle, probably wanting to settle down, advance in his trade and marry as his brother Ralph did in 1906. That he did not was likely the result of an incident involving Alice Elinor Lambert, 8 or 9 years his junior, to whom he proposed. At the crucial moment the effervescent Miss Lambert nervously giggled, causing the very sensitive Thomson to abandon his matrimonial ambitions and leave for Toronto. It was on his return from Seattle that he decided to become an artist.

In terms of his development as a painter, Thomson's experience to this point was primarily of an amateur and traditional sort. In order to become a professional artist he had to overcome many obstacles, among them his lack of knowledge of the technical side of art. This situation began to change with his enrolment in 1906 in night school at the Central Ontario School of Art and Design (the future Ontario College of Art, in Toronto), as well as by 1908 through his contact with a lively group of comrades at Grip Limited, a well-known commercial art firm where he was employed.

When Thomson joined Grip the company was at an ambitious stage of its development. It had a good art director, A.H. Robson, and a painter, J.E.H. MacDonald, who was the anchor of the design team. Thomson worked with MacDonald, and it was under his tutelage and encouragement that Thomson's genius began to flower. He submitted his work at the firm to MacDonald for criticism, and brought the sketches that he painted on the weekends to MacDonald and others at the firm. MacDonald and men such as Robson, a member of the Toronto Art Students' League, praised the truth to nature in Thomson's work.

In 1911 Thomson embarked on a camping trip to the Mississagi Forest Reserve. Upon his return he was told by his friends at Grip that his sketches made during this trip expressed a real sense of the northern character. The next year he returned to Rous & Mann Limited (the firm to which Robson, and then all of them, had moved in 1912), bringing with him works that he had painted that year on a fishing trip to Algonquin Park. These sketches of 1912 showed a tremendous advance and marked his real start as an artist. The key to their interest lay in their vision of an area of wilderness expanse, a great world that seemed untrodden by the foot of man. They revealed a particular kind of sensibility, a way of portraying the natural world as a poetical synthesis informed by a direct experience of the landscape. To develop his first major painting, A Northern Lake (1913), today in the collection of the AGO, he selected one of the sketches he'd done on the trip and transformed it into a picture with greater depth in the foreground. This way of working from on-the-spot sketch to finished studio painting became his common practice. Within his oeuvre, these 2 modes of working reveal contrasting sides of his artistic personality: the sketch with its vivacity and on-the-spot reportage recalls the spontaneity of the lyric poem; the canvas created in the studio has evolved into an epic poem with effects selected from such styles of the day as Art Nouveau and Post- Impressionism.

In the autumn of 1914 Thomson and his friends A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer and Frederick Varley camped in Algonquin Park. By now the artist was transposing, eliminating, and applying design to his work to evolve his conception of a particular kind of landscape art. Eventually it would become the basis for a style that would bring national prominence to the Group of Seven (the name designating the group thought up by Lismer in 1920), a movement that blended a growing Canadian consciousness with the theme of landscape in paint. Thomson had informally discussed his ideas about this new approach to landscape with MacDonald, and also with Lawren Harris, who by 1916 had become his mentor. Harris's contribution was later acknowledged by members of the Group of Seven; however, he has not been accorded the wider recognition that he deserves for the Group's conception.

Thomson died under mysterious circumstances, more than likely drowning in 1917, leaving behind about 50 canvases and over 300 sketches. The circumstances surrounding his death have become a staple of writers, amateur sleuths and serious scholars and far too large story, truly one of Canada's mysteries, to get into here.

An examination of Thomson's oeuvre reveals how quickly he came into his own: an amateur artist, he found his very distinctive path by 1914. Nature was clearly his touchstone, and throughout his career he turned to it as his muse. His method was to capture transient moments of light and atmosphere by sketching quickly in oil from nature, sometimes developing these sketches into full-blown encomiums to the land. His evolution was toward relaxed, brilliant handling of paint; at his best he disposed trees and bushes in his paintings like notes in a finely phrased tune, creating patterns that interlocked in intricate counterpoint. Music was a connection with paint (he told a friend that "Imperfect notes destroy the soul of music. So does imperfect colour destroy the soul of the canvas"), and it isn't a big leap to see in his design a correlation to musical intervals, contributing a sort of rhythm, touch and tone to his paintings. Most engaging for the viewer are his bold use of colour and his sense of spectacle channelled through an experience of northern nature. Although few people are shown, the views that he painted, which sometimes resemble shelters and shrines, suggest places where people can meditate in quiet.

His paintings,
The West Wind and Jack Pine, present a similar motif of a tree or trees on a rocky shore that conveys a sense of iconic grandeur. Thomson's pictures, with their rich colours, often have a sense of movement, of dynamism and drive. Executed in a palette of red, pink, brown, light and dark blue, with a finesse suited to a naturalist, Thomson's paintings embody a truly national vision. Thomson is most certainly one of Canada's most intriguing and great artists, as well as one Canada's most intriguing stories.

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John A. Macdonald

Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North American Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.

Macdonald's personal papers provide insight into his life, but his exact birth date remains a mystery. His father's journal lists 11 January 1815 as Macdonald's birth date but a certified extract from the registration of his birth cites 10 January. His family celebrated his birthday on 11 January. Macdonald was brought to Kingston, Upper Canada, by his parents, Hugh Macdonald and Helen Shaw, when he was 5 years old and he grew up and attended school there, in rural Lennox, Addington and Prince Edward counties. At age 15 he began to article with a prominent Kingston lawyer. Both at school and as an articling student, he showed promise. At 17 he managed a branch legal office in Napanee by himself, and at 19 opened his own office in Kingston, 2 years before being called to the Bar of Upper Canada. Macdonald's early professional career coincided with the rebellion in UC and subsequent border raids from the US. He was in Toronto in December 1837 where, as a militia private, he took part in the attack on the rebels at Montgomery's Tavern (which is still there in Etobicoke if you need a drink after reading all of this stuff). In 1838 he attracted public notice by defending accused rebels, including Nils von Schoultz, leader of an attack on Prescott.

He remained in the practice of law for the rest of his life with a series of partners, in Kingston until 1874 and then in Toronto. His firm engaged primarily in commercial law; his most valued clients were established businessmen or corporations. He was also personally involved in a variety of business concerns. He began to deal in real estate in the 1840s, acquired land in many parts of the province, including commercial rental property in downtown Toronto, and was appointed director of many companies, mainly in Kingston. For 25 years (mostly while he was Prime Minister), he was president of a Québec City firm, the St Lawrence Warehouse, Dock and Wharfage Co, and in 1887 became the first president of the Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. of Toronto.

Macdonald's personal life was marked by a number of misfortunes. His first wife, his cousin Isabella Clark, was an invalid during most of their married life. His first son died at the age of 13 months. His second marriage, to Susan Agnes Bernard, was saddened by the chronic illness of his only daughter, Mary. Which brought MacDonald to the bottle.

Macdonald entered politics at the municipal level, serving as alderman in Kingston 1843-46. He took an increasingly active part in Conservative politics and in 1844 at the age of 29 was elected for Kingston to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. Parties and government were in a state of transition, a modern departmental structure had begun to evolve, but Responsible Government had not yet been conceded, and the role of the governor was still prominent. In this context Macdonald's political views proved cautious; he defended the imperial prerogative and state support of denominational education, and opposed the abolition of primogeniture. Above all, he emerged as a shrewd political tactician who believed in the pursuit of practical goals by practical means. His obvious intelligence and ability brought him his first Cabinet post as Receiver General in 1847 in the administration of W.H. Draper, which was defeated in the general election that year.

"The Old Flag, The Old Policy, The Old Leader," was his motto. Macdonald remained in Opposition until the election of 1854, after which he was involved in the creation of a new political alliance - the Liberal-Conservative Party - in which the Conservatives were attached to the existing alliance of Upper Canadian Reformers and the French Canadian majority political bloc. Once returned to office, he assumed the prestigious post of Attorney General of UC. On the retirement, which he helped to engineer in 1856, of Conservative leader Sir Allan Macnab, Macdonald succeeded him as Joint-Premier of the Province of Canada, along with Étienne-Paschal Tache (and then with George- Étienne Cartier 1857-62, with the exception of the 2-day Brown-Dorion administration in 1858). During the years 1854-64 Macdonald faced growing opposition in his own section of the province to the political union of Upper and Lower Canada. The Reform view, voiced by George Brown of the Toronto Globe, complained that the legitimate needs and aspirations of UC were frustrated by the "domination" of French Canadian influence in the government of Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier. By 1864 the political and sectional forces in the province were deadlocked and Macdonald reluctantly accepted Brown's proposal for a new coalition, to include the Upper Canadian Reformers, designed to solve the constitutional difficulties through the adoption of a federal system, applied if possible to all the colonies of British North America.

While conceding the necessity of a federal arrangement to accommodate strong racial, religious and regional differences, Macdonald's preference was for a strong, highly centralized, unitary form of government. Macdonald took the leading part in the drafting of a federal system in which the central government held unmistakable dominance over the provincial governments. His great constitutional expertise, ability and knowledge received immediate recognition from the imperial government. Created Sir John A. Macdonald, Knight Commander of the Bath, he was chosen to take office as first Prime Minister of Canada on 1 July 1867.

During his first administration 1867-73, he became a "nation builder." To the original 4 provinces were added Manitoba, the North-West Territories (present-day Saskatchewan and Alberta), BC and PEI. The Intercolonial Rairoad between Québec City and Halifax was begun and plans were made for a transcontinental railway to the Pacific Coast. These undertakings involved unprecedented expenditures of public funds and did not proceed without incident. Manitoba entered the union following an insurrection led by Louis Riel against the takeover of the area by the Dominion government, thereby forcing Macdonald's government to grant provincial status much sooner than had been intended and to accept a system of separate schools and the equality of the French and English languages.

Macdonald's involvement in the negotiations for a contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway to BC involved him eventually in the Pacific Scandal. During the 1872 election large campaign contributions had been made to him and his colleagues by Sir Hugh Allan, who was to have headed the railway syndicate. Macdonald claimed that his "hands were clean" because he had not profited personally from his association with Allan, but his government was forced to resign in late 1873 and in the election of 1874 was defeated. Some of these political problems stemmed from the fact that he, like many of his contemporaries, was at times a heavy drinker. At the time of the election of 1872 and of the negotiations with Allan, it is clear that there were periods of time of which he later had no recollection. His drinking subsequently however did become more moderate after a series of public embarrassments.

Fortunately for Macdonald his defeat coincided with the onset of a business depression in Canada which gave the Liberal administration of Alexander Mackenzie a reputation for being ineffectual. In 1876, at the instigation of a group of Montréal manufacturers, Macdonald began to advocate a policy of "readjustment" of the tariff - a policy which helped him return triumphantly to power in 1878. He remained prime minister for the rest of his life.

The promised changes in tariff policy, introduced in 1879 and afterwards frequently revised in close collaboration with leading manufacturers, became Macdonald's National Policy, a system of protection of Canadian manufacturing through the imposition of high tariffs on foreign imports, especially from the US. Appealing to Canadian nationalist and anti-American sentiment, it became a permanent feature of Canadian economic and political life. However, the economy as a whole continued to suffer slow growth, and the effects of the policy were uneven.

The great national project of Macdonald's second administration was the completion of the transcontinental CPR, which proved an extremely difficult and expensive undertaking requiring extensive government subsidization. Macdonald played a central role in making the railway a reality. He was involved in awarding the contract to a new syndicate headed by George Stephen, which called for a government subsidy of $25 million and 25 million acres of land, and on 2 occasions, in 1884 and 1885, he agreed to introduce legislation for the further financial support of the railway. Its completion in November 1885 made feasible the future settlement of the West. The physical linking of the Canadian community was accompanied by the first steps towards eventual autonomy in world affairs. Macdonald did not foresee Canadian independence from Britain but rather a partnership with the mother country. He himself represented Canada on the British Commission which negotiated the Treaty of Washington of 1871; in 1880 the post of Canadian High Commissioner to Britain was created; and Finance Minister Charles Tupper represented Canada at the Joint High Commission in Washington in 1887.

The last stage of Macdonald's public career was plagued by difficulties. The North-West Rebellion, which occurred at a time when he himself was Superintendent General of Indian affairs, and the subsequent execution of Louis Riel in 1885 greatly increased animosity between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians and cost Macdonald political support in Québec, where Riel was regarded as a martyr to the forces of Anglo-Saxon imperialism. A series of successful legal challenges to the powers of the central government, mainly emanating from Ontario Premier Oliver Mowat, resulted in a federal system much less centralized than Macdonald had intended. The federal power of Disallowance, freely used at first, was virtually abandoned in the face of provincial opposition.

Macdonald's contribution to the development of the Canadian Nation far exceeded that of any of his contemporaries, yet he was not by nature an innovator. Confederation, the CPR and the protective tariff were not his ideas, but he was brilliant and tenacious in achieving his goals once convinced of their necessity. As a politician he early developed shrewdness and ingenuity. He kept a remarkable degree of personal control over the functioning of the party and was adept in using patronage for political advantage. He was a highly partisan politician, partly because he genuinely believed it essential to maintain certain political courses - especially the British connection and legal- parliamentary tradition in Canada against the threat of American political and economic influences.

His overriding national preoccupations were unity and prosperity. An 1860 speech summed up his lifelong political creed and political goals: "one people, great in territory, great in resources, great in enterprise, great in credit, great in capital."

Sir John A. Macdonald died in his sleep in Ottawa, Ontario on the 6th of June 1891.

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Emily Carr

Emily Carr's parents were English people who had settled in the small provincial town of Victoria, where her father became a successful merchant and respected citizen. Emily grew up there with a brother and 4 older sisters in a disciplined and orderly household where English manners and values were maintained. Although British Columbia had ceased to be a colony of the British Empire in 1871 to become a Province of Canada, it was only in 1875 that the Canadian Pacific Railway pushed through to the West Coast to provide a link with the rest of the country. Cut off as it was from older and more sophisticated centres of learning and culture in eastern Canada, Victoria, British Columbia was an unlikely place to spawn an artist, let alone a woman artist, and certainly one of Emily's strength and commitment.

She had no serious role models to follow while growing up, but as a child Emily Carr had experienced the pleasures of drawing and sketching. When she was18 she moved to San Francisco to study art at the California School of Design, an art school where instruction followed conservative models of the time. There she learned the basic elements of the craft of painting as it was then taught. She returned home after 21
2 years, began painting competent little watercolours, and set up painting classes for children. A study trip to England in 1899 did little to advance her art and was extended by a lengthy illness into 1904, when she returned to Victoria. There she became aware, even in the isolation of her hometown, that the larger world of art encompassed more than the conventional art with which she was familiar and which she herself practised. In 1910, determined to find out what the new art was all about, she gathered up her savings and set out with her sister Alice for France. Two women travelling alone together was an unusual practice in that time. In Paris she entered classes at Studio Colarossi, but found private study with a British expatriate artist more helpful. Radical experiments in Cubism and other "isms" then being undertaken by Picasso, Braque and other artists in Paris escaped her, but she learned her own bold, colourful, post- impressionist style of painting, which she brought back to Victoria when she returned in 1912.

Even before 1908, when she had visited several southern,Kwakiutl Native villages, she had shown an interest in the native peoples, in their traditional culture and in their material works - houses, totem poles, masks. The culture was at that time thought to be dying under the waves of white cultural encroachment on native lands, language and practices, and despite her keen interest in native culture Emily Carr shared the prevailing attitude that this was an inevitable process. After her return from France in the summer of 1912, and having announced her intention of making a visual record of native totem poles in their village settings before they should disappear, she made an ambitious 6-week trip to native villages (which by that time had been largely abandoned) in coastal and central northern British Columbia. The drawings and watercolours she made on this and subsequent trips provided the source material for one of the 2 great themes of her painting career: the material presence of the aboriginal culture of the past. Her often adventurous trips in search of this material also led her more deeply into her second great theme - the distinctive landscape of west coast Canada. At times the 2 became so intertwined in her vision as to constitute a theme of their own.

Emily Carr continued to paint in her vivid, painterly "French style" for about 10 years, producing small paintings that would have been seen as advanced in any part of Canada. But it was not the approach that was to lead her into the fullness of her achievement. By 1913 she had produced a substantial body of distinguished work, but dispirited by the absence of effective encouragement and support - which in any case an artistically unsophisticated Victoria would not have been able to accord her - and unable to live by the sale of her art, she built a small apartment house in Victoria for income. She call it "The House of All Sorts". She spent most of the next 15 depressing years managing the apartment and painting only a little.

The period of mature, strong, original work on which Carr's reputation today largely rests commenced when Carr was already 57 years of age. It was triggered by the discovery of her early work on native subjects by an ethnologist carrying out his studies in BC. He drew her paintings of native themes to the attention of authorities at the Natinal Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, who were then in the process of organizing an exhibition of West Coast native art. Carr was invited to participate in the exhibition and was sent a railway pass to go to eastern Canada to attend the opening in November 1927. There she met Lawren Harris and other members of the Group of Seven painters, then the leading art group in English-speaking Canada, who welcomed her into their company as an artist of their own stature. Their paintings of the rugged landscape of northern Canada impressed her mightily, as did their avowed intention to produce a distinctly Canadian art. She quickly snapped out of her feeling of artistic isolation on the West Coast and returned to painting with renewed ambition, defined goals and a new sense of direction.

Following her success in eastern Canada and with Lawren Harris as mentor (along with some advice from the American artist Mark Tobey of Seattle, who visited Victoria from time to time and had taught briefly in Carr's Victoria studio), she began to paint the bold, formalized canvases with which many people identify her - paintings of native totem poles set in deep forest locations or sites of abandoned native villages. After a year or two, and with Harris's encouragement, she left the native subjects to devote herself to nature themes. From 1928 on, critical recognition and exposure in exhibitions of more than regional significance began to come her way. There was even the occasional sale, though never enough to improve her financial situation. In full mastery of her talents and with deepening vision, she continued to produce the great body of paintings freely expressive of the large rhythms of Western forests, driftwood-tossed beaches and expansive skies. There was a significant break in this continuity when in 1930 she made a trip to New York, where she met Georgia O'Keefe and saw Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase.

In 1937 Carr suffered a first and severe heart attack, which marked the beginning of a decline in her health and a lessening of the energy required for painting. She began to devote more time to writing, an activity commenced many years before and encouraged by Ira Dilworth, an educator and CBC executive. Her first book, 'Klee Wyck', a collection of short stories of her earlier visits to native villages and her experiences with native people, was published in 1942, a year that also substantially marked the end of her painting career. The book won a Governor General's Award and was followed by the publication of 4 other books, 2 of them posthumously. Currently printed in more than 20 languages, they are today known in many parts of the world. All of them were essentially autobiographical in nature, portraying a girl and a woman of enormous spirit and individuality. Written in a simple and unpretentious style, they quickly won her the popular audience that her more difficult paintings never really brought her, though it is primarily as a painter that she has won critical acclaim.

More than 50 years after her death Carr has become a Canadian icon, known to many who are not readers or who know nothing of art. She has been and continues to be the subject of books, academic theses, poetry, film and theatre productions; she has survived the depredations of the deconstructionists with her reputation intact. Her long preoccupation with the indigenous culture of the Canadian west coast coincided with the beginnings of a rising tide of awareness and confident self-identification on the part of native people who had for some time been considered part of a moribund culture. At the same time, it coincided with a recognition by the dominant society that native issues must be addressed. Carr herself would be harshly criticized for her "appropriation" of native images when the demand for "political correctness" was rampant in the 1980s, though there is no question that her strong projection of those images has served to accentuate her social relevance. In the same way, her passionate involvement with nature and its portrayal coincided with a growing popular awareness of environmental issues and an accompanying sense of loss associated with the disappearance of "nature" in our own day.

The two main themes of her work, native and nature, were side doors through which ordinary people could access her presence, but other factors have contributed to her fame. The fact that she was a woman fighting the overwhelming obstacles that faced women of her day and place to become an artist of stunning originality and strength has made her a darling of the Women's Movement in Canada. As well, the pattern of her career with its delayed start (really not until the age of 57) and late fulfillment projects a personal drama that is humanly very appealing. Notably, a strange character, she was rarely without her pet monkey, who she named " Woo", and her pension for living in a silver trailer, she called "The Elephant" instead of a proper house".

It was Emily Carr's qualities as a painter, qualities of painterly skill and vision, that enabled her to give form to a Pacific mythos that was so carefully distilled in her imagination. Even though we may never have visited the West Coast, we feel that we know it through her art. These are also qualities that have carried her forward with admiration and respect through the fading days of modernism into an open and undecided artistic present. Fortunately she came into the full play of her talents and personality at a time when a passionate search for romantic self-expression was critically permitted in art production. In that, too, her timing was strategic.

Emily Carr died in Victoria, BC in March 1945 without really ever realizing what her art would come to represent and the effect her work would have on her country.

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Louis Riel

Louis Riel, Métis leader, founder of Manitoba, central figure in the North-West Rebellion was born on the Red River Settlement, Manitoba. A Young Riel was educated at St Boniface and studied for the priesthood at the Collège de Montréal. In 1865 he studied law with Rodolphe Laflamme, and he is believed to have worked briefly in Chicago, Ill, and St Paul, Minn, returning to St Boniface in 1868.

In 1869, the federal government, anticipating the transfer of Red River and the North- West from the HBC to Canadian jurisdiction, appointed William McDougall as Lieutenant-Governor of the new territory and sent survey crews to Red River. The Métis, fearful of the implications of the transfer, wary of the aggressive Anglo-Protestant immigrants from Ontario, and still suffering economically from the grasshopper plague of 1867-68, organized a "National Committee" of which Riel was secretary. Riel's education and his father's history marked him out as an obvious leader. The committee halted the surveys and prevented McDougall from entering Red River. On November 2nd, Ft Garry was seized, with the Hudson's Bay Company officials offering no resistance. The committee then invited the people of Red River, both English and French speaking, to send delegates to Ft Garry. While they were discussing a "List of Rights" prepared by Riel, a group of Canadians, led by John Christian Schultz and John Stoughton Dennis, organized an armed resistance. Meanwhile, the federal government postponed the transfer, planned for December 1st, and Dennis and McDougall returned to Canada. When Schultz and his men surrendered to Riel, he imprisoned them in Ft Garry, issued a "Declaration of the People of Rupert's Land and the Northwest," and on December 23rd became head of the "provisional government" of Red River. The Canadian government sent special commissioners "of goodwill" to Red River: Abbé J.B. Thibault, Col Charles de Salaberry and Donald A. Smith, Chief Representative of the HBC in Canada. Smith persuaded Riel to summon a general meeting, at which it was decided to hold a convention of 40 representatives of the settlement, equally divided between English and French speakers. Its first meeting was January 26th. The delegates debated a new "List of Rights" and endorsed Riel's provisional government. The Canadian prisoners taken in December were released (some had escaped earlier) and plans were made to send 3 delegates to Ottawa to negotiate the entry of Red River into Confederation.

Meanwhile a force of some of the Canadians who had escaped, mustered by Schultz and surveyor Thomas Scott and led by Canadian militia officer Charles Boulton, gathered at Portage la Prairie, hoping to enlist support in the Scottish parishes of Red River. The appearance of this armed force alarmed the Métis who promptly rounded them up and imprisoned them again in Ft Garry. The Métis convened a court-martial at which Boulton was condemned to death. Smith intervened, however, and the sentence was remitted. But, at a court-martial presided over by Riel's associate, Ambroise Lépine, the obstreperous Scott was sentenced to death. This time Smith's appeals were rejected and Scott was executed by firing squad on the 4th March 1870.

Bishop A.A. Taché of St Boniface, summoned from the 1870 Ecumenical Council in Rome, reached Red River 4 days after Scott's death, bringing a copy of the federal proclamation of amnesty which he believed included any actions up to that date. Taché persuaded Riel's council to free all prisoners and send the delegates to Ottawa. Despite opposition from the Orange Lodges of Ontario, of which Thomas Scott had been a member, Riel's delegates obtained an agreement, embodied in the Manitoba Act passed 12th May 1870, and the transfer was set for July 15. In addition, the federal government agreed to a land grant of 1 400 000 acres (566 580 ha) for the Métis and to bilingual services for the new province. Other than verbal assurances, there was no specific mention of the amnesty, however.

To reassure Ontario and support the administration of the new Lieutenant-Governor A.G. Archibald, the federal government sent a military force to Red River under Col Garnet Wolsely in the summer of 1870. Though the Red River Expedition was supposed to be "a mission of peace," Riel had reason to fear its arrival and fled to the US. Later he returned quietly to his home at St-Vital and, when the province was threatened with a Fenian raid from the US in the autumn of 1871, offered a force of Métis cavalry to Archibald.

In Ontario, however, Riel was widely denounced as Thomas Scott's "murderer" and a reward of $5000 was offered for his arrest. In Québec he was regarded as a hero, a defender of the Roman Catholic faith and French culture in Manitoba. Anxious to avoid a political confrontation with the 2 principal provinces of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald tried to persuade Riel to remain in voluntary exile in the US, even providing him with funds. But, encouraged by his friends, Riel entered federal politics. Successful in a by-election in 1873 and in the general election of 1874, Riel went to Ottawa and signed the register but was expelled from the House on a motion introduced by the Ontario Orange leader Mackenzie Bowell. Although re-elected, Riel did not attempt to take his seat again. Meanwhile Ambroise Lépine was arrested, tried and condemned to death for the "murder" of Thomas Scott. Subsequently, his sentence was commuted to 2 years' imprisonment and loss of political rights. In Febuary 1875 the federal government finally adopted a motion granting amnesty to Riel and Lépine, conditional on 5 years' banishment from "Her Majesty's dominions."

Shortly after, Riel suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to hospital at Longue Pointe, Montréal as "Louis R. David," and later transferred to the mental asylum at Beauport, Qué, as "Louis La Rochelle." Always introspective by nature and strongly religious, Riel became obsessed with the idea that his was a righteous mission.

Released in January 1878, he spent some time in Keeseville, NY, and then set out for the Upper Missouri region of Montana territory where he engaged in trade, joined the Republican Party, became an American citizen, and married a Métis, Marguerite Monet, dit Bellehumeur. In 1883 he became a schoolteacher at St Peter's mission on the Sun River and in June 1884 was asked by a group of Canadian Métis to help them obtain their legal rights in the Saskatchewan Valley. In July Riel and his family reached Batoche, the main centre of Métis settlement in Saskatchewan. He conducted a peaceful agitation, speaking throughout the district and preparing a petition. Sent to Ottawa in Dec, Riel's petition was acknowledged and the federal government promised to appoint a commission to investigate and report on western problems. Early in 1885, however, Riel encountered opposition in Saskatchewan because of his unorthodox views, old memories of Thomas Scott's execution, and his reiteration of his personal claims against the federal government (which he estimated at $35 000) which suggested self-interest as the motive behind his political activity. His exasperation mounted and he began to contemplate direct action. But 1885 was not 1870 when Wolseley had taken several months to lead a military force to Ft Garry. By 1885 the North-West Mounted Police (Mounties) had been established and a railway to the West almost completed. Nevertheless, convinced that God was directing him, and seeing himself as the "Prophet of the New World," on March 19 Riel seized the parish church at Batoche, armed his men, formed a provisional government and demanded the surrender of Ft Carlton. The ensuing fighting lasted scarcely 2 months before Riel surrendered. On 6 July 1885, a formal charge of treason was laid against him and on 20 July his trial began at Regina. His counsel proposed to defend him on the grounds of insanity, but Riel repudiated that defence and, in the face of damning statements by his cousin, Charles Nolin, who had opposed him in 1870 and deserted him in 1885, the jury found him guilty. However, they recommended clemency. The verdict was appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba and to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Both appeals were dismissed, but public pressure, particularly from Québec, delayed execution pending an examination of Riel's mental state. The 3 examining physicians found Riel excitable, but only one considered him insane. Owing to questionable excisions, the official version of the report did not reveal any difference of opinion and the federal Cabinet decided in favour of hanging. Riel was executed at Regina 16 Nov 1885. His body was sent to St Boniface and interred in the cemetery in front of the cathedral.

Politically and philosophically, Riel's execution has had a lasting effect on Canadian history. In the West, the immediate result was to depress the lot of the Métis. In central Canada, French Canadian Nationalism was strengthened and Honoré Mercier came to power in Québec in 1886. In the longer term Québec voters moved from their traditional support of the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party led by Wilfrid Laurier. Even after a century, Riel and his fate excite political debate, particularly in Québec and Manitoba. Riel's execution has remained a contentious issue even today and demands have been made for a retroactive pardon.

Reflecting his life as a political leader, Louis Riel's written work has been relegated to the great exiles of New World literature. Notably, throughout his life Riel was a prolithic writer. He experimented with many genres, compiling a considerable oeuvre. As a student Riel was drawn to poetry. He was influenced by the great French classics, and his works reveal a passionate nature. His biographers Gilles Martel, Glen Campbell and Thomas Flanagan collected his poetry under the title Poésies de Jeunesse (1977). With his official entry into politics (1869), Riel used verse to defend the interests of his people and give expression to his bitterness, disillusionment and anger. With the growing hostility of the political climate, Riel's tone became sardonic, mocking, increasingly vehement and virulent. His remarks were aimed primarily at his mortal enemy Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, as well as all the representatives of Imperial Britain. Riel advanced his concerns in his essay L'Amnestie. Mémoire sur les causes des troubles du Nord-Ouest (1874), in which he denounced the Canadian authorities' abuse of power and the destitution of which his people were victim. Les Métis du Nord- Ouest (1885) reaffirmed Native Rights, and condemned the government's oppression. After 1875 his writings attained a religious fervour, breaking out into hymns, prayers, litanies, prophesies, meditations and apologies from members of the clergy. This zeal overflowed in the Journal de Batoche (1885), a kind of testament, teeming with images, symbols, visions, biblical allusions and dreams. But Riel never appeared so shattered by humanity as in the Journal de Régina (1885), written in prison, revealing his daily struggle with his fear of death and imploring heaven to his aid. The Manitoba writer Rossel Vien (1929-92) brought it to public attention in 1962 (Journal de Prison).
On 16 November 1885 Riel's execution left his novel unfinished. Massinahican (1880-81), a word of Cree origin meaning "the book," was something of a mixture of "Métis bible" and native mythology. Claiming "divine inspiration," Riel brought together his beliefs and his religious, political and philosophical thoughts, and proposed a new cosmology that provoked the wrath of the church. sadly only a few fragments of it remain.

Louis Riel was one of the most central figures in the development and History of Canada. His actions, courage and uniques of passion and spirit propelled him to the top of politics, religion and culture. he shared a fighting spirit and similar visual appearance and voice as another rebellious 20th century historical figure. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who was commonly known as el Che or simply Che, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia within popular culture. Well Louis' is just as cool.

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Josiah Henson
Born a slave, Josiah Henson escaped to Canada in 1830. Four years later he founded the Dawn community near Dresden, UC, for American fugitive slaves. He was key in the developed the Underground Railroad, and maps to help other escpaed slaves travelling from the US.

Later aided by a white American missionary, Hiram Wilson, he and his associates organized a manual-labour school in Dawn, Ontario (near Dresden)called the British- American Institute. He was active on the executive committee until the institute closed in 1868. Henson served as Dawn's spiritual leader and patriarchal Reverand and made numerous fundraising trips in the US and England to speak on the subject of Slavery.

He published his autobiography in 1849 to minor success and it and his life was allegedly Harriet Beecher Stowe's model for the leading character in Novel 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'.

Josiah Henson, fugitive slave, Methodist preacher, author, conductor on the Underground Railroad and founder of the settlement at Dawn (near Dresden) died in Dresden, Ontario in October of 1883.

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Sam Steele
Samuel Benfield Steele joined the militia in 1866 during the Fenian troubles, was a private in the Red River Expedition by1870, joined the Permanent Force Artillery in 1871 and, in 1873, became a Sergeant Major in the newly created North West Mounted Police. A man of enormous physical size, strength and endurance, Steele it seems always managed to be where the action was hottest. He achieved commissioned rank in 1878, acquired his first command at Fort Qu'Appelle in 1879, where he was in charge of police detachments supervising the building of the CPR, and was promoted superintendent in 1885. In 1898 he helped establish the authority of the Canadian Government during the Klondike Gold Rush, in Dawson's City. Including creating laws which prevented people from entering to mine without, at least, a ton of goods and a wife, which was designed to stop the flow of American settlers searching for gold without claim north of the border.

After the rush had ended, Steele was given command of Lord Strathcona's Horse in the South African War, and then in 1915 he commanded the second Canadian contingent to be sent overseas during WWI. In 1916 he was appointed General Officer, Commander of the Shorncliffe area in England, a post he held until the end of the war and his retirement in 1918.

Sam Steele passed away, a highly honoured and famous man in London England, on a speaking tour in 1919 having been involved in many of the most important moments in the first decades of Canada and into the first part of the 20th century.

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Laura Secord
Laura Ingersoll was the daughter of Thomas Ingersoll, an American who had sided with the Patriots during the American Revolution (1775-83). Ingersoll moved his family to the Niagara Peninsula in 1795 and ran a tavern at Queenston. The site of his farm is today the town of Ingersoll. In 1797, Laura married James Secord, a Queenston merchant. Early in the War of 1812, James was a sergeant with the 1st Lincoln Militia. He was wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights; Laura rescued him from the battlefield and took him home to nurse him through his recuperation. In June 1813, with Queenston occupied by American troops and James still recuperating, the Secords were forced to billet some American officers in their home. In some way, Laura heard that the Americans were planning an attack on British forces at Beaver Dams. Since James was unable to make the journey to warn FitzGibbon, Laura set out on her own, taking a circuitous route through inhospitable terrain to avoid American sentries and being helped by a group of First Nations men she encountered along the way. She reached FitzGibbon at his headquarters in the house of John De Cou, probably on 22 or 23 June. On 24 June 1813, American troops under Colonel Charles Boerstler were ambushed near Beaver Dams by 300 Caughnawaga who were joined by 100 Mohawk warriors led by Capt.William Kerr. FitzGibbon arrived with 50 soldiers from the 49th Regiment and persuaded Boerstler to surrender.

The exact details of Laura Secord's efforts to reach FitzGibbon and sound the alarm are uncertain, but have been made part of Canadian mythology and employed to foster Canadian nationalism. Secord has been memorialized in books, plays, music and even a postage stamp. Historian Pierre Berton asserted that her story would be "used to underline the growing myth that the War of 1812 was won by true-blue Canadians." The story of Laura Secord has been told in several renditions, with dramatic embellishments, including a cow that she supposedly took with her and milked in front of American sentries before releasing it into the woods, and having made the walk through dense underbrush in her bare feet.

Secord herself never revealed how she came to know of the American plan, and while she did take a message to FitzGibbon, it is uncertain if she arrived ahead of Aboriginal scouts who also brought the news. FitzGibbon's report on the battle noted: "At [John] De Cou's this morning, about seven o'clock, I received information that . . . the Enemy . . . was advancing towards me . . . ." However, FitzGibbon did provide written testimony in support of the Secords' later petition to the government for a pension, in 1820 and 1827. In the latter testimonial, he wrote that Secord had come to him "on the 22nd day of June 1813," and "in consequence of this information" he had positioned the Aboriginal warriors to intercept the Americans. In 1837, he testified that Laura Secord had warned him of an American attack but he provided no specific date though stated it was "in a moment of much hurry and from memory."

Laura Secord's petition for a military pension was refused. The only recognition she gained in her lifetime for her arduous journey came late in her life. In 1860, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII), learned of her long walk while on a visit to Canada. Secord had prepared a memorial describing her service and placed her signature among those of War of 1812 veterans who had prepared an address to him. After his return to England, Albert sent her a reward of £100. Canadians are familiar with the Laura Secord candy company, but are uncertain of its association with her. In 1913, Frank P. O'Connor, the founder of a small candy business in Toronto selling hand- made chocolates, chose Laura Secord as the name for his company because she "was an icon of courage, devotion and loyalty."

Laura Secord died at 93 years old in Niagara Falls, Ontario in October 1868.

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Sandford Fleming
Sir Sandford Fleming was Canada's foremost railway surveyors, inventors, scientists and construction engineers of the 19th century. He came to Canada in 1845 from Scotland and, after studying science and engineering and serving a professional apprenticeship in Scotland, he joined the engineering staff of the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway, becoming engineer in chief of the successor Northern Railway in 1857. In 1863 the Canadian Government appointed him chief surveyor of the first portion of a proposed railway from Québec City to Halifax and Saint John. Subsequently built as the Intercolonial Railway, Fleming was its chief engineer. Fleming was an ardent advocate of an all-British railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, and in 1863 presented to the Imperial authorities in London, England, a petition from the settlers at Red River, urging construction of a railway that would link that community with the BNA colonies further east. Nothing could be done immediately because Rupert's Land was then governed by the Hudson's Bay Co, but in 1871, very shortly after control of the western territories passed from the HBC to the newly established Canadian Government, Fleming was appointed engineer of the proposed new Canadian railway from Montréal to the Pacific coast. He was in charge of the major surveys across the prairies and through the Rocky Mountains, reporting on numerous possible routes for the new railway. He recommended construction across the parklands of the northern prairies - referred to in some exploration reports as "the fertile belt" - and via the Yellowhead Pass across the Rockies and from there south to Burrard Inlet on the Pacific. The Canadian Pacific Railway did not build along the route recommended by Fleming, who had, however, also surveyed alternative routes and was consulted when the railway was built through the Kicking Horse Pass, which had been discovered by Major A.B. Rogers. The 2 transcontinental railways built in the first 2 decades of the 20th century followed the route through the Yellowhead Pass recommended by Fleming, but the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was then built to the northern BC coastal harbour at Prince Rupert, while the Canadian Northern Railway followed the route across the interior of BC recommended by Fleming.

Fleming retired from the CPR when the Canadian government turned the project over to a private syndicate in 1880, but he continued to do consultative railway work. He was also, throughout his life, interested in numerous other projects. He became a strong advocate of a telecommunications cable from Canada to Australia, which he believed would become a vital communications link of the British Empire and This Pacific Cable was indeed successfully laid in 1902.

Sir Sandford Fleming notably designed the first Canadian specific postage stamp, the threepenny beaver, issued in 1851 which included an image of a beaver, likely the first use of the image a symbol for the country.

Fleming also played a key role in the development of a satisfactory worldwide system of keeping time. Calling it Standard Time, the railway had made obsolete the old system where every major centre set its clocks according to local astronomical conditions. Fleming advocated the adoption of a standard or mean time and hourly variations from that according to established time zones. He was instrumental in convening an International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington in 1884 at which the system of international standard time - still in use today - was adopted.

Fleming passed on, in Halifax, Nova Scotia in July 1915 as one Canada's foremost inventors. His ideas have arguably, had more influence on the planet than any other Canadian before or since.

All images Copyright © Andrew R. Hutchison 2000 - 2014