Category Archives: June

The Regina Cyclone

The “Regina Cyclone” hit the town of Regina, Canada, on June the 30th of 1912 and has since been seen as one of the most destructive tornadoes ever to hit Canada. Hitting an estimated wind speed of 800 kilometres an hour the tornado had quite an impact on people’s lives.

Here are some statistics on the impact caused by the tornado:

  • Wind speed of 800 km/h
  • Caused $1,200,000 in damage costs (today that would be around $485 million dollars)
  • More than 2,500 people’s homes were destroyed and were homeless afterwards
  • 28 people died due to the tornado
  • The tornado traveled over 12 kilometres before dissipating
  • It took nearly 40 years to repay all the debt that had built up from rebuilding costs

All of these show just the devastating impact that the tornado had on not only the people, but the financial status of the country!

Pictures taken after the cyclone had dissipated show that the downtown area of Regina had the worst damage compared to the rest of the city.


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Guess What Day Today Is???

Two Teddy Bears hugging


Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Entertainment, Fact of the Day, June, On This Day


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A Child Saved Because of Bishop’s Arthritis

François de Laval, first bishop of New France ...

François de Laval, first bishop of New France (1659-1684). François de Laval. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Visitors to Quebec City are always intrigued by the huge statue of Bishop Laval, standing with arms outstretched in welcome and blessing on top of the cliff.  He was officially named Bishop of Quebec on October 1, 1674, by Pope Clement X, although he had acted as such since June 1659.

François de Laval was a part of a great and wealthy family, but he gave his share of the family estate to his brother and joined an order that went through the country barefoot and lived on food supplied by the people.  He was in the thick of dispute from the beginning – when he was appointed there was a struggle for power between his order, the Jesuits, and the Sulpicians.  His appointment was a triumph for the Jesuits.

The Pope appointed Laval “vicar-apostolic” of Canada and not Bishop, because he would have come under the king if he had been bishop of Canada, while a vicar-apostolic came under the Pope.  So Laval was in the middle of another controversy between Church and State.

Laval insisted on absolute equality between the governor and himself.  On one occasion the governor and the bishop were present at a catechism in a school.  When the governor entered, resplendent in plumed hat, velvet doublet and jewelled sword, two boys stood up and saluted, which they did not do for Laval.  They were whipped the next morning.

However, on the other side of the ledger, when Laval was in his eighties he was suffering from arthritis and could not sleep.  One cold, winter night he hobbled out for a walk and found a small boy who had been turned out of his home.  The youngster was shivering, not being dressed for cold weather.  Laval took him back to his own quarters, gave him a warm bath, put him in his own bed and sat there watching him while he slept.  The next day he made arrangements for his permanent care.

During his career at Quebec, from 1659 to 1706, Laval was given crown lands that became very valuable.  He made arrangements secretly that when he died the revenue from them was to be used for education.  Laval University is one of the many memorials to his service.

For more details about Bishop Laval, I would recommend the Corporation du patrimoine et du tourisme religieux de Québec (English), and then the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, then the Val de l’Indre Brenne (here you will find many articles about different histories). You might want to extend your reading at the Francois de Laval where you will find a .pdf copy of a booklet about his life.


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Little Giant

English: 'Buffalo Hunt on the Southwestern Pra...

‘Buffalo Hunt on the Southwestern Prairies’, oil on canvas painting by John Mix Stanley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was not until 1926 that historians could be certain that Henry Kelsey really did reach as far west as Saskatchewan in 1691.  He was an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company and his career was distorted by witnesses who criticized the company during a parliamentary investigation in 1749.  The story of his journey to Western Canada came to light in 1926 when his diary was found in the library of Castle Dodds, at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.

The Hudson’s Bay Company was granted its charter in 1670 on the understanding that it would explore the enormous territory under its control, and try to find the Northwest Passage.  Kelsey, although only twenty years old, was working at the Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort Nelson, Hudson Bay.  He volunteered to go with a party of Stone Indians to their hunting grounds, and left with them on June 12, 1690.

Many of the great explorers, Cartier, Champlain, Mackenzie, Fraser, and Thompson kept diaries.  Fortunately Kelsey did too, but  much of his writing was in poor verse.  He described his departure:

Then up ye River I with heavy heart
Did Take my way & from all English part
To live among ye natives of this place
If God permits me for one two years space.

Kelsey’s writings are entertaining but do not give a clear account of where he went.  It is known now that he reached The Pas, which he named Deering’s Point after a director of the company.  He was the first white man to see the Prairies, musk oxen, and a buffalo hunt; he actually took part in a buffalo hunt on August 23, 1691.

Kelsey was given the name Mis Top Ashish by the Indians.  It meant Little Giant because he saved an Assiniboine Indian in a fight with two fierce grizzly bears.

Before any other white man penetrated the Prairies (La Vérendrye and his sons did so in 1738), Kelsey had spent nearly forty years on Hudson Bay, including the two years exploring the interior.  He was captured by Iberville in 1694 when the great French-Canadian military leader attacked York Factory.

For more about today’s post, I suggest going to Dictionary of Canadian Biography to learn about the man, and the Manitoba Historical History with more of his diary is revealed. And lastly, a site I just found, the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.



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Simon Fraser, Fur Trader, Explorer and Daddy

Upper Fountain Rapids of the Fraser River at F...

Upper Fountain Rapids of the Fraser River at Fountain, located 15 km upstream from Lillooet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 20, 1776, in Mapletown (near Bennington) New York, Simon Fraser was born.

In his life, he was a fur trader and explorer. As a matter of fact, he charted most of British Columbia!

Fraser worked for the Montreal-based North West Company. In 1805, he had been put in charge of all the company’s operations west of the Rocky Mountains. Fraser built that area’s first trading posts, and, in 1808, he explored what is now known as the Fraser River.  His exploratory efforts were partly responsible for Canada’s boundary later being established at the 49th parallel (after the War of 1812).  According to historian Alexander Begg, Fraser “was offered a knighthood but declined the title due to his limited wealth.”

Fraser settled on land near present day Cornwall, Ontario and married Catherine McDonnell on June 2, 1820.
They had 9 children, but one died in infancy. Fraser was one of the last surviving partners of the North West Company when he died on August 18, 1862. His wife died the next day, and they were buried in a single grave in the Roman Catholic cemetery at St. Andrew’s West. Begg quotes Sanford Fleming in an address to the Royal Society of Canada in 1889 as saying that Fraser died poor.

He did leave behind a legacy.
@ The Fraser River, named for him by the explorer David Thompson.
@ Fraser Lake, a lake in north-central British Columbia and a community on the lake’s western shore.
@ Fort Fraser, just east of Fraser Lake.
@ Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia
@ The Simon Fraser Bridge in Prince George over the Fraser River along Highway 97.
@ Numerous schools, neighbourhoods and roads
@ The Simon Fraser Rose, (explorer series) developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was named in his honour.

To learn more about this great man, Simon Fraser, I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.


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A Changing Landscape

English: Tom Thomson cabin at the McMichael Ga...

Tom Thomson cabin at the McMichael Gallery

To finish off my Group of Seven series, I have kept the best for last.  Ask anyone about Tom Thomson, and most of the time you will hear that he was one of the founders of the Group.  He wasn’t.  Most of the Group’s members will tell you that Thomson’s art inspired them, though.  And the only reason he wasn’t a part of it, is because he died before the Group of Seven came to be. And his death is mysterious.

Thomas John “Tom” Thomson was born on August 5, 1877 in Claremont, Ontario.  He grew up in Rose Hill, Ontario, which is near Owen Sound.

If you’ve read my posts about the Group’s members, you will notice that a good majority of them worked at Grip Ltd in Toronto; Thomson did as well, in 1907, as a graphic designer.

Thomson’s first exhibition was in 1913 with the Ontario Society of Artists. The following year he became a member of the National Gallery of Canada, when they purchased one of his paintings.

Thomson was mostly a self-taught artist.  He began drawing at a young age, but it was only in 1912, well in his thirties, that he began to paint seriously.

Another common fact, if you’ve followed this series, is the name Dr. James MacCallum.  Lawren Harris and MacCallum jointly built the Studio Building in 1914 in the Rosedale ravine to serve as a meeting and working place for the new Canadian art movement.  This studio enabled Thomson’s transition from graphic designer to professional painter.  And so you can see, Thomson had all the earmarks of becoming a co-founder of the Group of Seven.

English: The Jack Pine (1916–1917) by Tom Thom...

The Jack Pine by Tom Thomson

He died too soon, however.  Thomson died on July 8, 1917.  He disappeared  while out on the Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park.  His body was found eight days later. On the day his body was found, he was examined by Dr. Goldwin Howland, and buried in the Mowat Cemetery, near Canoe Lake.  At the request of Thomson’s brother, George Thomson, his body was exhumed and buried in the family plot next to the Leith Presyterian Church on July 21.

The official cause of death was drowning, but many argue that there remains unanswered questions.  This caused rumours and theories to fly about.  One theory is that he committed suicide over a woman who vacationed at Canoe Lake, where she probably got pregnant with his child, plus he might have been despondent because of a lack of recognition for his art.  Another theory was that he was murdered by poachers, or that he was in a fatal fight with some other man in Canoe Lake.

In September 1917, artists and area residents, erected a memorial cairn at Hayhurst Point on Canoe Lake, where Thomson died.  It can only be accessed by boat.

In 2002, the National Gallery of Canada presented a major exhibition of his work.  His work has so increased in value that there is an increase of discovered forgeries on the market.

Since his death, Tom Thomson’s work has blossomed and grown in popularity.  A few other places to see his work is the Art Gallery of Ontario, and at the McMicheal Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario.

It is my hope that you have enjoyed my bite sized posts on the Group of Seven and its members.

Because Canadians are proud to have had them share their work with us, you can imagine the sheer number of books and sites that pay tribute to them.  I can’t possibly name them all, but I can give you a few starting points.

Always a good place to go for great Canadian content is CBC Archives, and another great place for art collections is the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and another great place to look for everything and everyone Canada and Canadian is the Canadian And if you’d prefer to hold a book, I suggest The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, as well as The Best of the Group of Seven.

If you are intrigued and would like to learn more specifics about Thomson’s death, I know a great place: Canadian There is also the Tom Thomson Memorial Gallery. To read more about Thomson, there are a few books I recommend: Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him, as well as Tom Thomson: Artist of the North (Quest Biography), and if you just want to admire his work, you might consider the Tom Thomson 2014 Wall Calendar.

Group of Seven … or is that ten? (

“A Little Pretty” Carmichael (Franklin Carmichael)

We’d Be Healthier To Forget The War (Frederick Varley)

Help Finish the Job (A.J. Casson)

8th in Group of Seven (Edwin Holgate)

Camouflaged Ships (Arthur Lismer)

The Solemn Land  (J.E.H. MacDonald)

A Painter’s Country  (Alexander Young (A.J.) Jackson

Look What I Found!  (Lawren Stewart Harris)

Fire-Swept, Algoma (Frank Jonston)


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Some Of Our Fellows Lost Their Heads!

English: Proclamation of Canadian Confederation

English: Proclamation of Canadian Confederation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the early, important steps towards Confederation took place at Kingston, Ontario, on July 26, 1849.  It followed the rioting in Montreal over the Rebellion Losses Bill (see my April 25 post The Last Governor of Canada).

The Tories, who had opposed the Rebellion Losses Bill so violently, arranged to hold a convention at Kingston to discuss the ills of the country.  The heavy losses caused by the rebellions in 1837 and 1838 now had to be paid for.  Adding to the country’s financial difficulties was Britain’s adoption of free trade in 1846.  Before free trade, Canadian wheat had paid a lower duty on entering Britain than wheat from the United States.  As a result, the Americans were sending their wheat to Canada to be ground into flour, and then exporting it to Britain under the Canadian preference.  This led to the creation of many flour mills in Canada and increased business for the shipping industry, transportation and longshoremen.

When Britain adopted free trade, the Canadian preference ended.  The milling and shipping business was ruined and there was a depression with unemployment.  Canadians were moving to the United States where conditions were better.

There were many dismal speeches at the Kingston convention.  The Kingston Whig, correspondent reported a Scottish woman as saying:  “I couldna hae conceived I had been sae truly miserable hadna I been telled it.”

It was at this meeting that the Tories drew up a manifesto urging annexation to the States.  It was probably the strangest document ever signed by responsible people in Canada, including J. J. Abbott, who later became prime minister.  He dismissed his action later by saying that it was “the outburst of a moment of petulance.”  John A. Macdonald, then a young member of Parliament, refused to sign the document and said later:  “Some of our fellows lost their heads.”

Sir John always minimized the negative side of the Kingston meeting and emphasized the positive.  One of its achievements was the creation of the British American League, which reaffirmed the connection with Britain and advocated the confederation of all the British North American provinces.  Even so, Sir John voted against Confederation at the meeting in Quebec in 1864 (see my June 22 post The Corruptionists You Say?)

The streams of politics are difficult to fathom!

If you would like to read more about this, I suggest a few sites.  For instance, “Felix” put together an impressive site about Canada – take the time to look around there, you won’t be sorry. And you can never go wrong, really, when you go to the Canadian Encyclopedia. Finally, I will send you to Canada in the Making.


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