Thursday, July 28, 2011

Celebrating Canada {A Canadian Alphabet}

This is twice now that I've fallen asleep in the middle of a blog post! Oops! I think my body is telling me I'm past the age of pulling all-nighters or even just late nights.

A Canadian Alphabet
Written by Mike Ulmer
Adapted by Sue Fountin and Tracey Unger

J is for justice, brought by horse to the west by the mounted Police in their fiery red vests. They are known as the Mounties, and they are respected worldwide for the depths of their courage and their Musical Ride.


I am Sir Sam Steele of the Northwest Mounted Police. Yes, it is sir, because King George V knighted me for my service to the British Empire. My adventures are stranger than fiction. When Fenian raiders attacked Canada from the United States, I was there. When Louis Riel and the Metis rebelled in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, I was there. I protected the railroad workers in Alberta and British Columbia and kept order in the Klondike. I fought in the Boer War, and at the age of 65, I marched off to World War I. Wherever trouble appeared in Canada in my lifetime, I was there to uphold the law.

K is for Klondike and the hunger for gold that drew thousands of miners to the northerly cold. The men made the journey by mule, foot, and teams to pan for their fortunes in the cold river stream. The first bright flakes of gold turned up in sluices and pans along the Thompson and Fraser Rivers in the 1850's in what was to soon become the colony of British Columbia. Few struck it rich, buy many stayed to become farmers. Years later in the late 1890's, gold fever would strike again in the Klondike River Valley of the Yukon country. Gold was reportedly "lying think between the flaky slabs of rock like cheese in a sandwich". It took over half a year for news to get out, but then an estimated 100,000 people from the United States, Europe, and Australia headed for Rabbit Creek--now renamed Bonanza Creek. 

L is for Louisbourg and the garrison that stands as evidence of France's colonizing of the land. The first people arrived there in 1713 and soon a village appeared. The city itself had an excellent harbor and at one time it was the third busiest seaport in North America, after Boston and Philadelphia. To guard the St. Lawrence, the French planned a great fortress for Cape Breton Island at Louisbourg. The French were 25 years in building this fortress, the Gibraltar of New France and the largest fort ever built in the New World. The best military engineers of the time designed the huge stone fortifications, three kilometers of wall nine meters high. The Royal Navy cannons were able to fire from the low hills surrounding Louisbourg into the fort, but it took seven weeks of bombardment before the fortress surrendered in 1758.


Did you know that in 1759, one year after the defeat of Louisbourg, General James Wolfe defeated the Marquis de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham near Quebec City, both men dying in battle? The victorious English planned to make all of New France, or Quebec, British. In spite of the removal of the Acadians in 1755 and the defeat of the French forces four years later, the French population in Quebec continued to grow and the British were having problems with colonies south of Quebec so the Quebec Act of 1774 allowed the French to keep their language, customs, and laws.

M is for maple, our national leaf and the sugar and silver that thrive in the East. Canada produces 85% of the world's maple syrup. Quebec produces 93% of Canada's maple syrup. Maple syrup contains more nutrients--such as calcium, thiamine, and riboflavin--than refined sugar, but we eat it for the taste. Maple trees thrive out west too. The Manitoba Maple bears its home in its name. Canada has other famous trees too, like the big leaf Douglas Fir, west of the plains.

N is for Northern, the great Northern Lights. Those beautiful visions  that light up out night. Aurora Borealis is their scientific name, and the show they present is never the same.

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