Canada 150

Red on White

Today Canada is celebrating 150 years of Confederation. Confederation was the political union of the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However, my ancestors have been in this land much longer than 150 years.

In Winnipeg, where I live, archeological digs at the Forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers confirm that it has been a meeting place for aboriginal peoples for 6,000 years (you can read about that here).   I have three Metis ancestors, Jane Taylor, Josephte Belisle, and Genevieve Beignet.  Lack of documentation means I can’t trace these aboriginal roots any further back than the late 1700s.

As I have written before, I have many ancestors who were involved in the fur trade, which was a major economic driver in the settlement of the country.

My ancestors are mostly French-Canadian and go back to the early 1600s and the settlement of New France. I’ve blogged extensively about their lives.  Like all countries ours is a country with a colonial history. One can find many instances of racism, wars, and injustices, especially dealing with the treaty promises that were not honoured.

We are an imperfect country, and we shouldn’t gloss over our failings. But today let’s look around the world, and realize how lucky we are to live in a wealthy, democratic country, with freedom of speech and a belief in human rights.

Happy Canada Day, eh?

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New Year’s Day Levée

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On New Year’s Day my husband and I attended the Lieutenant Governor’s New Year Levée, held at the Manitoba Legislative Building. I knew it was an annual event, one of those things I told myself that we should attend…someday.  Since 2017 is a special year, the celebration of 150 years since Confederation, I decided that this would be the year.

According to news reports, about 1300 people attended this year’s celebration, and judging by the number of cars parked in the area, that seems about right.

I stood in line to shake Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon’s hand, as well as other dignitaries. Fruitcake, cookies and punch were served.  Musical entertainment was provided. I came away with a Canada 150 flag and pin, as pictured above.

A levée is a reception held “to mark the advent of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects.” You can read more about the levée here.

The tradition of a New Year Levée has a long history in Canada. The first recorded one was hosted in 1646 by the Governor of New France, Charles Huault de Montmagny, in the Château St. Louis in Quebec City.

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Château St. Louis From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

 

We have many ancestors that were in the Quebec City area in 1646 and may have attended the Levée.  There is no way to know for sure, but perhaps these ancestors  paid their respects to the Governor: Abraham Martin, Olivier le Tardif, Jean Guyon , Zacharie Cloutier, Robert Drouin. You’ll notice that these are all men, as women were not ALLOWED to attend until World War II, when female members of the Armed Forces were permitted to join the event!

On the wonderful website Manitobia, I found a description of the Manitoba Levée of 1873.

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Again, we can’t know if any of our ancestors and relations were in attendance.  However, the Mr. Beauchemin, MPP (Member of the Provincial Parliament) who is mentioned, would have been Andre Beauchemin, uncle of Jean Baptiste Beauchemin who was married to my great-grandmother Philomene McMillan’s sister Marguerite.

During the time of the fur trade, a New Year’s celebration was the custom at the various forts. These seem to have been less subdued occasions. In the book Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade by Carolyn Podruchny, excerpts of which are available on Google Books here, we learn:

“Feasting, drinking, and levees, or paying courtesy calls on masters (particularly on New Year’s Day), were characteristic of celebrations in fur trade society.”

Undoubtedly James McMillan, John Warren Dease and Amable Hogue would have partaken in these festivities.

I seem to remember my Mother mentioning that in La Salle, it was the custom for families to visit the grandfathers on New Year’s Day.

I enjoyed attending the Lieutenant Governor’s New Year Levée of 2017, and it resulted in a brief moment of “fame”.  That evening on Global News as we watched their coverage of the event, my husband and I walked into the frame!

 

Happy New Year Canada!

2017 is a special year for Canadian history buffs, as it marks 150 years since Confederation.  All sorts of special celebrations are planned throughout the coming year.

You can read about some of the official planned festivities here.

Check here for a database of community and volunteer projects.

Library and Archives Canada will be informing us of a daily “today-in-history vignette highlighting a significant event that shaped our society” at http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/onthisday/Pages/introduction.aspx

As the title of blog suggests, and my posts confirm, I am fascinated with the historical and social events that surrounded the lives of our ancestors.  Whether blogging about the first Girardin ancestor, Olivier Le Tardif who was in New France by 1621 (read about him here), our Hogue ancestor James McMillan, Chief Factor with HBC, who traveled with the explorer David Thompson (read his story here), our Napoleonic soldier Jean Baptiste Bernardin, who arrived on our shores via the War of 1812 (his story is here), or the fascinating story of our Metis ancestor, Margaret/Marguerite Taylor, country wife of Sir George Simpson, and the person whose story ignited my passion for genealogy, I remain in awe of the fortitude and courage shown by our ancestors, as they built their lives in this country we call home.

As the festivities of Canada 150 unfold, I hope to share more stories that make up our history.

Happy New Year everyone!