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Archive for December, 2009

1966 — Centennial celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the Dominion of Canada are officially underway as Prime Minister Lester Pearson lights the Centennial Flame at midnight.

The Flame, in front of the the Centre Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, is surrounded by the coats of arms of the ten provinces and two territories. It is to burn perpetually. The ceremony experiences a slight glitch when Queen Elizabeth’s Centennial greeting is seen but not heard on the Hill because someone forgot to pipe her voice though the speakers.

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1941 — British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addresses Canada’s Houses of Parliament in the midst of the Second World War. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King introduces him as the “personification of British greatness.”

Churchill goes on to give a galvanizing speech in which he chastizes those French leaders who thought England would have its neck “wrung like a chicken” by the Germans. After a pause, Churchill observes: “Some chicken”, bringing laughter to the House. “Some neck,” he concludes.

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1921 — Having lost the election earlier this month — and his seat in Portage La Prairie — Arthur Meighen steps down as as Prime Minister. Liberal leader William Lyon Mackenzie King becomes Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, as well as the third Secretary of External Affairs and 24th President of the Privy Council.

One of Meighen’s last acts as PM was to appoint A.C. Casselman, MP for Grenville, to a minor position in the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment. That opens up the Grenville seat, which Meighen hopes to win in a by-election next month.

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1857 — Isabella Macdonald, the long-suffering wife of Canada West politician John A. Macdonald, dies in Kingston. Her death is likely the result of consumption (later called tuberculosis), but the exact cause is never resolved.

Her health problems began a year or two after marrying her cousin John. He spent many hours by her bedside for more than a decade, a pressure that grew tougher to balance with his new duties last month as Premier of the United Canadas.

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1823 — Elizabeth Marshall of Rickinghall, Suffolk, England has a son she names Mackenzie. He is baptized two and a half months later, presumably as Mackenzie Marshall.

A week later, Elizabeth marries John Bowell  a farmer and builder in Rickinghall. Elizabeth’s son subsequently becomes known as Mackenzie Bowell.

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1869 — Dr. Charles Tupper, the man who brought Nova Scotia into Confederation, is now trying to bring his daughter back from the Red River settlement. His trip to Pembina in Dakota Territory required riding nine railways and enduring a 10-day wagon ride.

This morning he crosses the border in a dog-carriole he describes as “a large canvas shoe on a toboggan”. He and his 17-year-old driver get lost in a frozen fog. The temperature is -30F as Tupper gets out and guides their horse, attempting to follow the North Star. Finally, at 10:30 p.m., they see some tracks and find a Métis shack. Within days, Tupper meets with Louis Riel and is able to retrieve his daughter and her belongings.

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1971 — Justin Pierre James, the first child of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret is born on Christmas day in Ottawa. Exactly two years later on Christmas day 1973, their second son, Alexandre Emmanuel or ‘Sacha’, is born in Ottawa.

Justin is elected to the House of Commons in 2008, representing Papineau, while Sacha is a journalist and filmaker. His Jujufilm company most recently released the documentary Refuge about Darfur.

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