This week in Canadian History – February Week 1

02 Feb
Francois de Laval

Francois de Laval

You know the expression, “it would take an earthquake to move him,” to describe someone who is stubborn? Well, it took an earthquake on February 5, 1663 to move people to stop selling liquor to the Natives … even then the effect didn’t last very long.

One of the worst problems in early Canada was caused by people who plied the natives with liquor and then stole their furs. Even in the late 1800’s, unscrupulous traders persuaded many Indians and Metis in western Canada, to give up their allotments of land in exchange for bottles of whiskey.

Francois de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec, waged a continual battle against the liquor trade. When his own appeals did not have an effect, he urged King Louis XIV and his minister, Colbert, to take action. There was much discussion, but no effective action was taken. Finally Bishop Laval decreed that people selling liquor to the Natives would be excommunicated from the Church. Even this was unsuccessful, and Laval persuaded Governor d’Avaugour to impose the death penalty on people who were guilty!

People were hanged until the day a woman was caught. She was a widow with a family to support, and Father Lalemont appealed to Governor d’Avaugour for clemency. The Governor, who did not want to impose the death penalty in the first place, took this opportunity to end it. He said, “Since this is not a crime for this woman, it shall not be a crime for anybody.”

On the night of February 5, 1663 there was an earthquake. It was so severe that great fissures were opened in the snow; streams were diverted from their courses; new waterfalls appeared; homes rocked, and church bells rang widely.

People were terrified. They flocked into the churches, believing that the world was coming to an end. Many of those guilty of selling liquor to the Natives felt that they were being punished for their sins and resolved to “go straight.”

The city of Laval, in southern Quebec, is named in honour of Bishop Francois de Laval.


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13 responses to “This week in Canadian History – February Week 1

  1. Gypsy Bev

    February 3, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    In the US, the American Indians were bought with liquor many times in the early history. Thank goodness no one came up with the death penalty. That earthquake would have certainly put the fear of God into those who were doing wrong. You have the most interesting posts!

    • tkmorin

      February 3, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      Thank you, Gypsy. I’m happy you enjoy the posts. 🙂

  2. L. Marie

    February 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Wow! Exciting! It’s horrible that people tried to take advantage by selling liquor. But the death penalty seems extreme.

    • tkmorin

      February 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Very extreme!

  3. David Stewart

    February 3, 2014 at 9:10 am

    That’s really interesting. I studied French at Universite Laval in Quebec City for a semester, also named for the bishop, I’m sure.

    • tkmorin

      February 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      That’s what I would guess as well. Funny how we hear a place name often, and won’t trigger question the name’s origin, eh? 🙂

  4. Shelli@howsitgoingeh?

    February 2, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Wow! Another super interesting post! Thank you!

    • tkmorin

      February 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm

      Ah, Shelling, thank you. I’m glad I can keep writing them, and interesting enough, that you keep coming over! Thank you! 🙂

  5. seeker

    February 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    What a history of the Bishop as well as drug pushers to the natives. And here we are, we think high and mighty condemning the natives. Great post.

    • tkmorin

      February 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Thank you, P! Time, among other things, help change perspectives, eh? 🙂

  6. First Night Design

    February 2, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Great bit of history!


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