Top 5 Canadian History News Stories of 2014

What’s a blog without a year-end wrap-up list?

5. Dinosaurs in Nunavut?!

Source: Heinrich Harder

Apparently dinosaurs were better at handling cold temperatures than I am! A fossilized vertebra, part of the backbone of a duck-billed dinosaur known as a hadrosaur, became the northernmost fossil discovery ever found. The fossil was found on Axel Heiberg Island in Nunavut. According to paleontologists, the hadrosaur was about 8m long, a herbivore, and lived during the late Cretaceous period (100 to 66 million years ago). At that time, the area that would become Nunavut was separated from Canada by sea so the hadrosaur would have been unable to migrate south for the winter. Now, Nunavut was 15 degrees warmer than it is today, but given that at the time that I am writing this it is -27C up there, it wasn’t exactly balmy. This one is particularly significant because it shows just how wide the geographical range of dinosaurs was. Due to expenses and logistical difficulties, the Canadian Arctic rarely has dinosaur digs, so there are definitely more up there!

Source: Matthew Vavrek

4. Thérèse Casgrain’s Vanishing Act

Excluding my introduction, this story was actually my first blog post back in August. Essentially, the Harper government did a one-two punch on Casgrain’s memory. In 2011 when our $50 bill was redone, the Famous Five and Thérèse Casgrain, six women who pioneered voting rights for Canadian women, were replaced with a boat. Then this year, the Therese Casgrain Volunteer Award was renamed the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award despite the government spending $51,000 on a study that told them not to do so.

The fact that our money bears no Canadian female representation did not go unnoticed. An online campaign called Women on Canadian Banknotes was created and to this date it has over 52,000 signatures. The website also has a fun feature where you can create your own $100 banknote. (Not sure why they picked the $100. I would have picked the $20…)

They took her off, so let’s put her back on!

3. British Columbia Apologizes to Chinese-Canadians

In May 2014, British Columbia’s Premier, Christy Clark, formally apologized for more than 100 racist laws against Chinese immigrants that were first enacted over 140 years ago.

“The legislative assembly’s apology today signifies our deepest regret for the hardship and suffering our past provincial governments imposed on Chinese Canadians,” Clark said in her statement, hoping that with the apology, “closure can be reached on this dark period in [the] province’s history.”

After joining Confederation in 1871, British Columbia asked the Canadian government to ban Chinese workers from building the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the Canadian government refused, the British Columbian legislature passed laws that barred the Chinese from voting and from being hired on other public works projects. Since then mobs attacking Chinese neighbourhoods, attempts to segregate Chinese students, and less government assistance during the Great Depression followed. BC’s legislature also continued to pass laws that the federal government (who, mind you, passed things like the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 which banned Chinese immigration to Canada) refused to pass. It was not until after World War II that the federal and provincial governments began to repeal some their racist laws.

2. Veterans and WW1 Commemorations

Given that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, this year is the start of four years of commemorating the battles won and the lives lost during the Great War across the globe. Here in Canada, while museums across the country created WW1-specific exhibits and events, no new money from the government was actually allocated for the anniversary. Despite a speech about how Canada was “forged in the fires of the First World War” and that for veterans we will “remember their stories,” government departments, agencies, and Crown corporations have been ordered to finance the commemoration costs out of their existing budgets. In addition, there were a number of controversies surrounding Veterans Canada including accusations of spending too much on advertising whilst closing regional offices, allegedly ignoring services for injured vets’ families, and a scathing auditor general report revealed that a $200-million fund for vets would be spread over 50 years, not five or six. Lest we forget? More like lest we actually help those who fought for our freedom.

1. Franklin Expedition Discovery

Given that the discovery of the HMS Erebus 11 meters below the surface in Queen Maud Gulf, Nunavut, marks the end of a 169 year old Canadian mystery, really, how could any other story be number one?

A remotely operated underwater vehicle was used by Parks Canada to successfully locate the wreckage of Sir Franklin’s doomed arctic expedition on September 7, 2014. The quest for the elusive Northwest Passage led to the largest tragedy in the history of Arctic exploration. In 1846, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror with Franklin, a British Arctic explorer, and his crew of 128 men on board, got trapped in ice in Victoria Strait near King William Island. Whether they decided to wait it out like their Captain or tried to journey towards safety, every single man involved in that expedition died. Since the Erebus was found largely intact, this was a major naval archeology find for Canada and may or may not some implications for the international mess that is Arctic Sovereignty.

Following the discovery, the government has teamed up with the Royal Ontario Museum to create the Franklin Outreach Project that will share the tale of the expedition and the unfolding discoveries across Canada over the next three years.  (Not gonna lie though, as cool as 3D printing is, I kind of wish they had the real bell on display). Oh well!


Agree? Disagree with my list? What do you think were the top Canadian history news stories of the year? Any predictions for 2015?

All the best in the new year!

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