Archive for April, 2010

1959Stephen Joseph Harper is born in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto. He is the first of three sons born to Joseph Harper and Margaret Johnston.

He attends school first in Leaside, then in Etobicoke after the family moves to the west end of Toronto. A whiz in school, Harper becomes a member of the Richview Collegiate team on the television quiz show Reach For The Top. Question: Who was the first PM born in Toronto? Answer: Lester B. Pearson.


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1901 — To mark the death of Queen Victoria, the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier designates May 24 as Victoria Day — a statutory holiday.  However, if the former Queen’s actual birthday falls on a Sunday, it is to be celebrated on May 25.

Celebrated informally in Canada for over a half-century, the day is more typically called Empire Day. Fifty-one years later, the government will revise the holiday to reflect the times, moving it to the Monday preceding May 25 to give Canadians a long weekend each spring.

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1960Pierre Trudeau and two friends set off in a canoe from Key West, Florida, for Cuba. They’re doing the work in shifts, with one person paddling conventionally while the second person paddles with his feet while lying on his back. The third person rests until the team rotates positions.

A few days later they are swamped about 50 kilometres from shore and are towed back to Florida by a shrimp boat.

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1896 — Having called an election — and having no choice since the 7th Parliament has run a full five years — Sir Mackenzie Bowell steps down as Prime Minister and is replaced by his recently appointed Secretary of State, Sir Charles Tupper.

One of Tupper’s first tasks as leader is to get in touch with Nova Scotia colleague Robert Borden and ask him to consider running in the election. Both men are elected, but the Conservatives are defeated. Tupper’s term as PM lasts two months, one week.

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1881Alexander Mackenzie does not want a ‘Sir’ in front of his name, having now rejected a knighthood for the third time. He also turned down the honour in 1877 and 1879.

Mackenzie is the only Prime Minister in the first half century after Confederation not to be knighted.

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1945 — Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King attends the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco. With him are his External Affairs minister, Louis St, Laurent, and Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S., Lester B. Pearson.

Fifty countries take part in the meetings to draft the UN Charter. Six months later, King puts forward Pearson’s name to be the first Secretary-General of the UN, but the choice is vetoed by the USSR.

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1928 — Last year, women’s rights activists known as the Famous Five appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to clarify whether or not the word persons in the British North America Act included females. Today, the Court said “no”.

With some help from Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, the women — Emily Murphy, Henrietta Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby — take their appeal to the Imperial Privy Council in Britain. It’s answer is “yes”, making it possible for women to sit in the Senate.

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