Canada: 150 Years… or is it?

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between!

By Sarah C., Visitor Host

This year is Canada’s 150th birthday!  It has been 150 years since Canada became a Dominion. But oddly enough, we have only been celebrating Canada Day for the last 35 years. It is interesting the changes Canada has gone through over the last 150 years.

The progression from British colony to independent nation of the Commonwealth was not as simple as turning on a light. In 1867 the British North America Act created Canada with its first four provinces and it allowed for some level of autonomy. Canada as we know it has been developing ever since then.

It was not until 1947 that people were ‘citizen of Canada’ previously they had been British citizens. Changes such as this, the introduction of our own flag and anthem were all steps in creating an independent Canadian identity.

Provinces and territories have been added to create the physical layout of Canada that we know today. The last change occurring in 1999 with the creation of Nunavut.  That is 132 years of changes to get to the country we recognize today!

This year is the 86th anniversary of the Statute of Westminster. Though 64 years after Dominion Day, it also had significant impact on the Canadian government’s ability to act independently from the British government. It provided clarification to the Dominion’s legislative independence, particularly in regard to foreign policy. More changes would follow to allow Canada to further act independently of Britain. I always think of it as a significant action in Canada’s independence, but really it was another action in a gradual progression to the country that we see today.

As I was writing this I was shown this CBC video which helps to ask the question of how old Canada really is. It is really cool and it highlights more notable changes that have occurred in Canada over the last 150 years.


References & Resources:

http://www.pier21.ca/research/immigration-history/canadian-citizenship-act-1947

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/constitution-act-1867/

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/statute-of-westminster/

Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. I, The Indigenous People

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Post, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.

In telling this story, we’ll start at the beginning, before European contact.

The place we know as Canada has been inhabited by people for thousands of years. There is not one narrative to tell the story, as different regions were settled by different diverse and distinct groups, each with their own names, languages, traditions and cultures.  In the 16th and 17th century, Europeans began their exploration and settlement of the ‘New World;’ the fishing banks off the coast of Newfoundland were of great interest to these explorers, and relations were established with the First Nations of the Atlantic.  The British and French not long after established settlements such as New France and the 13 Colonies; alliances and partnerships with the First Nations were critical for survival.  As the years continued, settlements grew, and tensions between the French and English came to a head in the mid 1750s, resulting in the fall of New France, the Treaty of Paris and the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is seen as an important landmark moment for relations between First Nations and Europeans.  As described by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in First Nations in Canada:

The original intent of the Royal Proclamation was to slow the uncontrolled western expansion of the colonies and tightly control the relationship between First Nations and colonists. But crucially, the Proclamation also became the first public recognition of First Nations rights to lands and title.

The Royal Proclamation can also be seen as one of the first of many pieces of legislation that would dictate Indigenous rights, as many treaties and Acts would be passed as the years went on.  What also would follow was a systematic attempt to decimate Aboriginal cultures, languages, and traditions with the creation of Residential Schools, a horribly ugly chapter in our nation’s history; treaties were ignored and rights overlooked.  In the last few decades, an importance has been placed on trying to make amends for what took place; the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report has brought new attention and importance to these issues.

The 2011 census reported that Aboriginal peoples in Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) totaled 1,400,685 people, or 4.3% of the national population.

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Archaeological artefacts recovered from the Grandview excavation, 1992.

Looking locally, we have artefacts in our collection which tells us that ancestral Wendat lived in Oshawa from 1400-1470CE.  Currently undergoing an expansion, we will open our new First Nations Gallery in the summer of 2017, entitled A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story.

Around Taunton and Simcoe, you can find streets named after Indigenous groups or famous individuals, such as Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), Seneca, Brant (after Joseph Brant) and Sarcee (Tsuut’ina [Tsuu T’ina]).

The name Oshawa is also an Aboriginal word, which translates to: “that point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.”

 


I do not claim to be an expert in Canada’s Indigenous History, but I would highly recommend reading further about this topic.  Here are a few resources I consulted when preparing this post

Canadian Museum of History’s First Peoples of Canada virtual exhibit
http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/aborig/fp/fpint01e.shtml

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, First Nations in Canada e-book
https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1307460755710/1307460872523

Truth and Reconsiliation Report
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 

Archives Awareness Week: 1867/1967

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

This article originally appeared on the Durham Region Area Archives Group website to celebrate Archives Awareness Week. This annual event, held across Ontario from April 3-9, 2017, is designed to raise awareness of the many resources that can be found in archival collections around the province.


This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. The year will be filled with celebrations, retrospection and imagining where this country will be in another 150 years. To begin the celebration, member institutions of DRAAG have looked through their holdings to find the most interesting item from 1867 and 1967 in their collections!

On August 26, 1867 an Oshawa resident by the name of T.N. Gibbs received a telegram from John A. Macdonald.  The telegram is rather significant, not only because it was sent by Canada’s first Prime Minister, but it talks about the first election after Confederation.

Gibbs was not new to politics but this election would be his most notable. He ran against Reformer backed George Brown and Liberal John Sandfield Macdonald.  While Gibbs won, it was widely accepted that he do so by corrupt practices.

Gibbs was the only successful Conservative candidate in this area.  This meant that he acted as the local confidante for Sir John A. Macdonald. So much so, that we have another little note sent to Gibbs by Macdonald in our collection.

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A960.19.5 (60-D-19); from the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

Canada celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Confederation on a large scale. Locally, Oshawa joined in on the celebrations as well. Between beard growing contests, NHL exhibition games and special performances, the City marked the anniversary in a prominent way. Students in Oshawa schools spent a good part of the school year preparing for a Centennial Celebration held at the Civic Auditorium. The program included songs and dances, art work and projects that highlighted the differences between life in Oshawa in 1867 and 1967. The grade 7 and 8 students from E.A. Lovell School actually put on a performance showing the differences in physical training in 1867 and 1967. In the archives, we have the binder that was developed to outline all of the activities Oshawa schools engaged in related to the Centennial.

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Be sure to visit the Durham Region Area Archives Group website to see what gems are in archives from around our Region and to learn more about local archives!

Where The Streets Get Their Name – Ontario Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In case you haven’t heard, 2017 is a big milestone year for Canada, as this year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the British North America Act, or to put it very simply, it’s Canada’s 150th birthday. The BNA Act (today known as the Constitution Act) created the Dominion of Canada which today has grown to ten provinces and three territories.  In 1867, our modest country was comprised of only four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Our province is also celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Before officially becoming named the Province of Ontario in 1867, Quebec and Ontario were united as the Province of Canada, comprised of Canada West (today Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec).

Why am I rehashing a Canadian History 101 course in this post? Today, we’re looking at the story behind Ontario Street, a street found in the heart of our downtown core.

The name Ontario and its usage is much older than the province itself.  Let’s go back to pre-historical times, pre-history meaning the period of time before written records. Before European arrival, the Indigenous people called this land home for thousands of years.  Prior to 1700, the area was inhabited by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) First Nations, and their name for the lake they lived by was skanadario, meaning ‘beautiful water.’  Another possible root for the word may be from the Wendat (Huron) word Ontarí:io, meaning ‘great lake.’  When the Province of Ontario was created in 1867, it was named after Lake Ontario.

Usage of the name Ontario in this area pre-dates Confederation.  The County of Ontario was created in 1852 and it was the ‘upper-tier municipality’ in which Oshawa was located.  It was in existence until the mid-1970s when county lines were redrawn and the Regional Municipality of Durham was created.  The County of Ontario was comprised of the following townships:

  • Brock, with communities including Cannington, Vroomanton, Pinedale, Sunderland, Wick.
  • Mara, community centres were: Gamebridge, Brechin, Atherley, Udney and Rathburn.
  • Pickering; Community centres: Pickering, Dunbarton, Green River, Balsam, Claremont, Brougham, Altona.
  • Rama; Community centres: Floral Park, Longford Mills, Cooper’s Falls, Washago.
  • Reach; Community centres: Port Perry, Manchester, Saintfield, Utica.
  • Scott, whose communities included Zephyr, Sandford, Leaskdale, Udora.
  • Thorah, community centers: Beaverton.
  • Uxbridge; Community Centres: Uxbridge, Goodwood.
  • Whitby and East Whitby; Community centres: Oshawa, Whitby, Brooklin, Ashburn and Myrtle.
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Detail of Tackabury Map showing Ontario County, on display in Henry House.

On display in Henry House is a map from 1862.  I’ll often encourage visitors to find Oshawa on this map, and instinctively, they start looking within the limits marked as Durham, because that’s where we are today.  Instead, we can be found on the eastern edge of the County of Ontario. For several reasons, that map may be one of my favourite artifacts in the Museum, but I digress.

To discover the history of Oshawa’s Ontario Street, we turn to documents in our archival holdings, like maps and directories.  The earliest such document in the archival holdings is the 1869-70 County of Ontario Directory, and it lists a number of people who made their home on Ontario Street.  It is safe to say that this street is older than 1869, but how much older is hard to say without the historical evidence.

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Corner of King and Ontario Streets in 1920 (left) and 1995 (right)

Where Were You In ’67?

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

As Canada heads into the 2017 celebrations of the 150th Anniversary of Confederation we felt it would be interesting to look back and learn more about how we in Oshawa celebrated 50 years ago.  We have launched a new memory book project to collect the stories about Oshawa’s Centennial celebrations and how the citizens of Oshawa marked this occasion. These reminiscences and memories will become a part of the archival record and help to preserve what Oshawa looked like during the Centennial celebrations in 1967.

The year 1967 marked a yearlong celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Confederation. Celebrations were held across Canada and included a military tattoo featuring over 1700 men and women from the armed services; Gordon Lightfoot wrote the song “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”; and Centennial Voyageur Pageant saw canoes travelling across Canada and finished their travels at Expo’67 held in Montreal.

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Locally, Oshawa joined in on the celebrations as well.  The Oshawa Builders Association undertook design and construction of the most modern of family homes.  This home actually had a second bathroom!  The Folk Arts Council dedicated Fiesta as a part of Centennial Week.  Eastdale Collegiate hosted a show called 100 Years of Musical Comedy. Oshawa citizens got into  the  beard  growing  contests  and  held  the  final  judging on September 1 at  Civic Auditorium.  For hockey fans, the Civic   Auditorium hosted exhibition games featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota North Stars (in their first season in the NHL),   Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburg Penguins.

If you are interested in participating in the Oshawa Museum’s Where Were You in ’67 project, contact the museum at 905-436-7624 ext. 100.

You can also view and download the Memory Book by CLICKING HERE.