How do you get from Carly Rae Jepsen to the last spike?In this round of six degrees of Canadian history, we start with a pop singer-songwriter who captured the world’s attention and end with the ceremonial link that unified a growing nation. The “last spike” of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven into the ground at Craigellachie, British Columbia, on 7 November 1885. One hundred years later and some 500 km away, pop star Carly Rae Jepsen was born in Mission, BC. That’s a lot of time and distance to traverse.
Here’s how we did it.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Bubbly pop singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen first came to public attention in 2007 as a contestant on Canadian Idol. Her debut album, Tug of War (2008), yielded two gold-certified singles and earned two Juno Award nominations. Jepsen is best known for her song “Call Me Maybe,” which features the irresistibly hooky chorus: "Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe." The song went viral on YouTube after Justin Bieber tweeted its praise in January 2012; within a year, it had more than 430 million views. Not only was it the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history, it went on to become the world’s top-selling song of 2012, with more than 12.5 million copies sold worldwide.
Call us crazy, but Jepsen’s success may have been put on hold were it not for the inventor of the telephone.
Alexander Graham Bell
During his summer visit to Brantford, Ontario, in 1874, Alexander Graham Bell reflected on sound waves moving through the air while watching the currents in the Grand River . He realized that with electricity, "it would be possible to transmit sounds of any sort" by controlling the intensity of the current. Based on his new insight, he sketched a primitive telephone. Two years later, on 10 March 1876, he spoke into the first telephone, uttering the now-famous instruction to his assistant: "Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you."
Incredibly wealthy by age 35, Bell went on to invest in other pursuits. He worked on the photoelectric cell, the iron lung, the desalination of seawater and the phonograph. He even attempted to breed a "super race" of sheep. He was also a founding member of the National Geographic Society, which inspired the creation of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) in 1929.
In mid-2014, the RCGS joined the search for the remnants of Sir John Franklin’s tragic 1845 Arctic expedition to find the Northwest Passage — a northern water route linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The search, conducted by Parks Canada , the Government of Nunavut, the Canadian Hydrographic Service, the Canadian Coast Guard and private interests, had been underway since 2008. On 2 September 2014, a remotely-operated underwater vehicle discovered the wreck of the HMS Erebus, one of two ships lost for some 170 years.
One of the most important lessons of this find was that the ship’s location was almost precisely where Inuit had been saying it was for generations — a place that European explorers named Victoria Strait, after Queen Victoria.
The British North America Act was drafted at the London Conference of 1866, where Sir John A. Macdonald’s proposal for the country’s name, Kingdom of Canada, was rejected as too provocative to the United States. Instead, Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley suggested the term dominion to represent Canada as a whole. The act was officially ratified by Queen Victoria on 29 March 1867 and came into effect on 1 July.
In this fashion, Confederation was finalized.
The union of the British North American colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada in 1867 was the first step in a slow but steady nation-building exercise that would come to encompass other territories, and eventually fulfill the dream of a country spanning from sea to sea. As the Dominion moved westward, the Hudson's Bay Company sold Rupert's Land to Canada in 1869. That same year, Manitoba and the North-West Territories joined Confederation.
With Canada now stretching westward from the Atlantic to the Pacific, all that remained was to provide the means to cross that vast expanse — hence, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The Last Spike
The British Columbia legislature debated Confederation in the spring of 1870 and then sent a three-man delegation to Ottawa to negotiate the terms of entry. Federal leaders agreed to take on BC’s debt, build a rail link to the Pacific coast, and give BC the right to send three Senators and six Members of Parliament to Ottawa. The terms were passed by both the BC assembly and the federal Parliament in 1871, and the colony joined Canada as the country's sixth province in July 1871. Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a central condition of the deal, was only begun in 1881 after many delays and finished in 1885. The ceremonial last spike in the railway was driven into the ground on 7 November 1885.