I really like historical maps. Especially the one that Fiona added to the resource library, where you can click on different dates to see the changes in state or country boundary lines.

Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps
Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps

 “After the war of 1812, immigration to British North America led to a more diversified economy, with lumbering, farming and shipbuilding growing in both the Maritimes and in the Canadas. But by the 1830s there was a great deal of unrest, partly because of economic distress, partly because of the cultural prejudice against the French-speaking Canadiens in Lower Canada, and partly due to the system of government, which gave relatively little power to the elected assembly. In November 1837, Louis-Joseph Papineau and his radical Parti Patriote led a rebellion against this unfair government structure, but the rebels were not well organized and were readily defeated by British forces. Similarly, in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie, a newspaper editor and member of the elected assembly, led a rebellion that was also quashed. But two uprisings made British officials realize they had to reform the government system.”

– Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps

I chose this map/timeline to blog about because it gives a great visual representation of what exactly is going in Canada from 1700 – 1999. We can see how our country changed from being basically two European colonies in the east to the structured provinces we have now. When viewing the Canadian geographical map/timeline, it’s amazing to see how young our country really is. Canada is still evolving and “growing up” so to speak. Our last edit to our geography was making Nunavut a territory, and happened in 1999. That’s sixteen years ago! Not long at all, compared to other places. For example, the United Kingdom’s last change in borders was in 1922, when Southern Ireland gained independence.

To me, it seems that as Europeans explored westward, they discovered all the different resources Canada had to offer. Growing, harvesting, and exporting wheat from the prairies gave Canada’s economy a boost, enabling people to explore further. When the government encouraged Canadians to explore further, offering “…free land to anyone who would clear and work it.” (Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps). In Alberta, BC, and the Yukon they  found precious minerals and oil. Remember the Klondike gold rush? Caused by the exploration of European settlers. The Aboriginals didn’t really need the gold for any reason other than decoration or ceremony – but I think they should have gotten a say in what happened (remember, it was their land) before a bunch of people bring up their pickaxes and gold pans to set up roads, supply routes, and buildings. Once the gold is gone, the deserted remains of the town make the land unsuitable for farming or animal life, so the land has to be left to be reclaimed by nature, which can take many years. Worse yet, mines that are no longer operating can still pollute the surrounding environment.

There are several differences in how Europeans mapped out this country in comparison to the indigenous people, the First Nations. The First Nations people had many different groups spread throughout Canada, with not much visual or text records of their land. Other than knowing where different language groups generally lived, most knowledge about the land was passed down through oral tradition. The whole idea of “your land” and “my land” didn’t really exist with the First Nations, which lead to problems when Europeans colonized Canada.

Map of First Nations populations and languages. Data used for this map is from 1996. Image taken from “Canada’s First Peoples” website.

The current 50 languages of Canada’s indigenous peoples belong to 11 major language families – ten First Nations and Inuktitut. Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. This map shows the major aboriginal language families by community in Canada for the year 1996.”

Canada’s First Peoples

My personal interests lie in First Nations rights and fairness, so it is eye-opening to see how the land originally inhabited by the First Nations people was signed away (or just outright taken, as is the case in the majority of BC) to the European settlers. “Because the Royal Proclamation of 1763 stated that the Crown must negotiate and sign treaties with the indigenous people before land could be ceded to a colony, the Numbered Treaties were negotiated in most parts of the Prairie Provinces. The Government of the Colony of British Columbia, however, failed to negotiate many treaties and as a result, most of the province’s land is not covered by treaties.” (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process). In BC, we currently have a six-step plan that First Nations groups can take to try to settle the issue of land rights.

  1. Statement of Intent to Negotiate: A First Nation submits a Statement Of Intent (SOI) stating among other things who is claiming, proof that the negotiating party is supported by the community and where the claim will be made.
  2. Readiness To Negotiate: Within 45 days of submitting the SOI the parties must sit down and show that all parties have the will and resources to negotiate a treaty.
  3. Negotiation Of a Framework Agreement: The “table of contents” of a comprehensive treaty. The three parties agree on the subjects to be negotiated and an estimated time frame for stage four agreement-in-principle negotiations.
  4. Negotiation Of An Agreement In Principle: The negotiating parties examine in detail the elements outlined in their framework agreement with the goal of solving the all problems and creating a working treaty.
  5. Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty: The treaty for all intents and purposes is finished at this stage the treaty has to be approved by all parties of the negotiating team.
  6. Implementation of the Treaty: Applying and running the First Nation as set out by the treaty.

However, I’m not entirely sure if this is fair to the First Nations peoples. For example, in July 2007, the Tsawwassen First Nation members voted in favour of their treaty. The treaty more than doubles the size of the Tsawwassen reserve, and has several financial compensations:  a one-time capital transfer of $13.9 million, $2 million for relinquishing mineral rights under English bluff, $13.5 million for startup and transition costs, $7.3 million for resource management and economic development, and $2.6 annually for ongoing programs and services. It also reserves a portion of the Fraser River salmon catch to the Tsawwassen. In return, the Tsawwassen will abandon other land claims and will eventually pay taxes. (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process)But can we really translate the First Nations way of thinking, where the people belong to the land, not the other way around, into numbers like area and money? It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Whichever way our treaty system works, the First nations will never end up being able to fully reclaim their land, because then the other 96% of Canadians would have nowhere else to live. In fact, when negotiating, only crown-owned land is even on the table for the First Nations to regain. Any land that is owned by private companies is unavailable unless the owners are willing to sell it. Instead, it’s a very tricky process of trying to re-compensate the First Nations for something we will never be able to give back to them. It makes it worse that in the past, signing a treaty was analogous to signing away the rest of your rights as an Aboriginal, and losing rights to your culture, land, and traditions except for what was explicitly stated in the treaty. Although now treaties try to modify and define Aboriginal rights instead of “cede, release, and surrender” your rights, some people think it still limits the rights of Aboriginals even more than not having a treaty. For more information, check out: http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/land-rights/aboriginal-rights.html

Some of the prescribed learning outcomes this covers are:

  • Interactions between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans
  • Canada’s physiographic regions
  • Geographical factors in the development of Canada
  • Resource development in BC and Canada
  • Western Expansion
  • Technological development and settlement
  • Contributions to the development of Canada

On a brighter note, Happy 1st of March!