A Brief History
of Canada

1900 to 1929


Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian-born inventor, made the first wireless radio broadcast on December 23 near Washington D.C. in the United States.


Marconi, who lost out on making the first radio broadcast, succeeded in receiving the first transatlantic radio message at St. John's, Newfoundland.


Peter Verigin, leader of the Doukhobours, arrived in Canada. (see 1908)


Construction of the second transcontinental railway began.

Canada lost when British tribunal representative, Lord Alverstone, sided with the United States on October 20 concerning the Alaska boundary dispute.

Meanwhile, silver was discovered in Northern Ontario and the first nude demonstrations of the Doukhobours took place near Yorkton, Saskatchewan, to protest government policy regarding individual ownership. (see also 1908 & 1932)

At 4:10 AM on April 29, the world's greatest natural landslide occurred when a huge wedge of limestone from Turtle Mountain near Frank, Alberta, slid down the mountain and buried at least 79 people alive. (Read my account of the Frank Slide)

Map of Canada 19051905

Two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, were formed.

Controversy began concerning the reliability of the Canadian-made Ross rifle in combat situations. (see 1916)

Lucy Maud Montgomery completed the manuscript for Anne of Green Gables.


The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario was created on May 7 by Sir Sam Beck. The Commission was the largest such company in Canada at that time.


Peter Verigin lead the extremist Sons of Freedom into British Columbia.

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, became an overnight best-seller.

Robert Stanley Weir wrote the English lyrics for 'O Canada'. (Detailed history of 'O Canada')


PM Wilfrid Laurier created the Department of External Affairs.

Meanwhile, the first Grey Cup (Canadian football) game was played and Canada's first powered air flight took place at Baddeck, Nova Scotia.


PM Laurier created the Canadian Navy with the passage of the Naval Service Bill.


Conservative Robert Borden won the federal election, beating out Liberal Wilfrid Laurier on the issue of unrestricted reciprocity with the United States. (read Borden's biography)

Map of Canada 19121912

White Star Liner, Titanic, sank off the coast of Newfoundland on April 12. Canadian ships hired out of Halifax were sent to recover bodies. Halifax became a temporary 'morgue' and many victims were buried in cemeteries created by White Star, who also set up a fund for future up-keep. (Read my account of Halifax's Role in the Titanic Tragedy)

Carrie Derrick, a botanist, became Canada's first female professor at McGill University.


The Canadian Pacific ship, the Empress of Ireland, sank in the St. Lawrence River with a loss of over 1,000 lives on May 29. Having been in collision with another ship during dense fog, the Empress sank within 15 minutes. Most casualties drowned in the frigid waters within swimming distance of shore. The tragedy was overshadowed by the sinking of the Titanic two years earlier and was virtually lost in history. (Read my account of The Empress of Ireland)

Britain declared war on Germany on August 4. Canada was automatically drawn into the conflict and the first Canadian troops left for England on October 3.

Parliament, under PM Robert Borden passed the War Measures Act which, when imposed, temporarily suspends civil rights during emergencies, allowing the military to take over. Borden imposed it immediately.


Canada enters the war in their first battle at Ypres, Belgium on April 22 and face the first recorded chlorine gas attack.

The Cunard liner Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7. Built by Canadian entrepreneur Sir Samuel Cunard, the Lusitania remains the only Cunard ship to be lost at sea.

PM Robert Borden travelled to Europe to speak with Canadian soldiers in hospitals and on the front lines.

Colonel John McCrae wrote "In Flanders' Fields". (Read my account of In Flander's Fields)

The eastern division of the Grand Trunk Railroad, the National Transcontinental, connected Moncton, New Brunswick, to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The conscription issue began to divide Canada and Borden's Cabinet. PM Borden convinced members of the Liberal and Conservative Parties to unite in a coalition Union Party for the duration of the war.

Former prime minister Charles Tupper died on October 30 in Bexley, Kent, England. (He is buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia.)


The centre block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, were completely destroyed by fire on February 3. Only the domed Library remained relatively unscathed. PM Robert Borden escaped with only minor burns, but his office and all its contents were completely destroyed.

The 1'st Canadian Division discovered the unreliability of the Ross rifle. The rifles were withdrawn from service and replaced by British-made Lee-Enfields.

Manitoba became the first province in Canada to grant women suffrage.

The National Research Council was established, promoting scientific and industrial research.


PM Borden introduced Income Tax as a temporary war-time measure. Also enacted was the Wartime Elections Act.

PM Borden became a member of the Imperial War Cabinet on February 23, giving Canada a voice in international war policy.

Meanwhile, the Military Service Bill was introduced into parliament which lead to a division of French and English Canada in what became known as the Conscription Crisis.

The Union Government under Robert Borden, a special coalition of Liberal and Tory governments during wartime, won the election in which all women of British origin were allowed to vote for the first time. However, the War Measures Act prevented anyone of German or other foreign background a vote.

During two of the worst battles of World War I, Canadian soldiers captured Vimy Ridge in France on April 9-12 and Passchendaele, Belgium, on November 6.

On December 6, a munitions ship in Halifax Harbour exploded, leveling 3.2 square kilometres (2 square miles) of Halifax and killing almost 2,000 people and injuring another 9,000 others. (Read my account of the Halifax Explosion)

Louise McKinney, in Alberta, became the first female elected to a legislature in the British Commonwealth.

PM Borden was the principal author of Resolution IX of the Imperial War Conference.

Former prime minister Mackenzie Bowell died on December 10.


Canadian soldiers broke through German lines at Amiens, France, on August 8, beginning "Canada's Hundred Days"

World War I ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11. (Currently celebrated as Remembrance Day.)

Hutterites, who had been imprisoned in South Dakota during the war for their pacificism, were released and fled north into the Canadian prairie provinces.


Former prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier died in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 17.

The Grand Trunk Pacific, the western division of the Grand Trunk Railway, completed a line to connect Winnipeg and Prince Rupert. Meanwhile, the Canadian National Railway was created as a crown corporation which would buy out and consolidate all of the smaller railway lines into a single transcontinental railway.

The first successful transatlantic flight lifted off from St. John's, Newfoundland, on June 14.

In order to force the government to recognize unions, the metal and building trades in Winnipeg called a general strike on May 19. The strike expanded with other trades joining the strike, virtually paralyzing Winnipeg, until and armed charged by the RCMP on Bloody Saturday (June 21) killed one worker and injured 30 others. The strike ended on June 26. James Shaver Woodsworth and several others were charged with 'seditious conspiracy'. (see 1921)

A Technical Education Act was passed by the federal government.

PM Robert Borden lead the Canadian delegation in the Paris Peace Conference and lead the delegation in the creation of the League of Nations.

Future prime minister Mackenzie King became Leader of the Liberal Party in Canada's first party leadership convention. The Liberal Party was still divided between the Union Party and the Opposition, but King's abilities as a conciliator allowed him to rebuild and reunite the Liberal Party.

Future prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was born on October 18 in Montréal, Québec. (see 1968 & 1980)


The first exhibit of the Group of Seven appeared in the Art Gallery of Toronto on May 7

The League of Nations was created and Canada was one of the first countries to join.

T. A. Crerar created the Progressive Party in order to obtain low tariffs for western farmers.

PM Robert Borden resigned due to failing health. The war had taken its toll on him.

Unionist Arthur Meighen succeeded Borden as prime minister on Borden's resignation. (read Meighen's biography)


Red and white were approved by proclamation to be Canada's official colours.

Liberal William Lyon Mackenzie King, won the federal election as prime minister. King immediately lowered tariffs for western farmers, but apparently not enough. Western support went to the new Progressive Party. (read King's biography)

Agnes Macphail became the first female elected to Parliament under the Progressive Party. (The Progressive Party, which had come in second in the election, held the balance of power despite its refusal to form an official opposition.) Meanwhile, James Woodsworth became the first socialist elected to the House of Commons.

The Bluenose was launched on March 26 at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It would become the fastest racing yacht in the world.

The Canadian became the first Canadian-manufactured automobile, built by Colonial Motors of Walkerton, Ontario.

PM Arthur Meighen signed trade agreements with France and the West Indies and created the Armistice Day Act.


The Canadian Northern Railway and the Canadian Transcontinental Railway merged to form the Canadian National Railway.

Canada declined to help Britain during the Chanak crisis in Turkey, showing Britain that Canada was growing increasingly independent.

Banting, Best, MacLeod and Collip shared the Nobel Prize for their discovery of insulin.

Foster Hewitt made the first hockey broadcast.

A Provincial Franchise Committee was formed in Québec, working toward female suffrage in the province.


The Halibut Treaty was signed between Canada and the United States without the traditional British signature, showing continued independence.

Mackenzie King lead the opposition to a common imperial policy at the Imperial Conference in London.

The Grand Trunk Railway, which had always been heavily subsidized, was finally taken over by the government.

The federal government forbade Chinese immigration on Dominion Day. The day would come to be called 'Humiliation Day' by Chinese-Canadians.


Liberal Mackenzie King was re-elected as prime minister after forming an alliance with the Progressive Party.

Newfoundland finally gave women the right to vote.

Early Canadian environmentalist Grey Owl met and married an Iroquois woman named Gertrude 'Anahareo' Bernard and began a life-long environmental crusade to save the beaver. Little did anyone know that Grey Owl was actually none other than Englishman Archie Stansfield Belaney


The Liberal Party under Mackenzie King was in serious trouble and the Liberals lost a vote of non-confidence. King asked Governor General Viscount Byng to dissolve parliament and to call a new election.

Governor General Viscount Byng refused King's request to call a new election. Instead, he asked Opposition Leader Arthur Meighen to form a government.

Conservative Arthur Meighen became prime minister by decree of the Governor General. However, 4 days later, King called a vote claiming Meighen's right to govern was unconstitutional. The Conservatives lost the vote and Byng had no choice but to dissolve parliament and call a new election.

Mackenzie King was re-elected prime minister.

Old Age Pension was created.

The Balfour Report defined British dominions as autonomous and equal in status on November 18. (see 1931)

Following the death of his son (who died because Bombardier couldn't get his son to a doctor through a snow storm), Joseph-Armand Bombardier, of Valcourt, Québec, began working on his vision of a snow vehicle. (see 1937 & 1959)


After years of dispute, British Privy Council granted Labrador to Newfoundland instead of Québec on March 1.

Meanwhile, the first coast-to-coast radio network broadcast celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation on July 1.


The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the British North America Act did not define women as 'persons'. This ruling made women ineligible to hold public office. (see 1929)


Future prime minister John Turner was born on June 7 in Richmond, Surrey, England. (see 1984)

The British Privy Council reversed the Supreme Court decision of 1928 and legally declared women as 'persons under the law' on October 18.

The Workers' Unity League was formed.

The Great Depression began.

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