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Canadian Pacific Railway

The Canadian Pacific Railway company was incorporated in 1881. Its original purpose was the construction of a transcontinental railway, a promise to British Columbia upon its entry into Confederation. The railway — completed in 1885 — connected Eastern Canada to BC and played an important role in the development of the nation. Built in dangerous conditions by thousands of labourers (including 15,000 Chinese temporary workers), the railway facilitated communications and transportation across the country. Over its long history, CPR diversified, establishing hotels, shipping lines and airlines, and developed mining and telecommunications industries. In 2001, Canadian Pacific separated into five separate and independent companies, with Canadian Pacific Railway returning to its origins as a railway company. CP, as it is branded today, has over 22,500 km of track across Canada and the United States. It is a public company and trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CP. In 2016, CP had $6.2 billion in revenue and $1.6 billion in profit and held assets valued at $19.2 billion.

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Sir John Abbott

John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, PC, QC, KCMG, lawyer, professor, businessman, politician and prime minister (born 12 March 1821 in St. Andrews East, Lower Canada [now Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, QC]; died 30 October 1893 in Montreal). Abbott was a leading authority on commercial law, a strong advocate of English Quebec’s business elite and an influential figure in many corporate and social organizations. He was the first Canadian-born prime minister, as well as the first to hold the position from the Senate rather than the House of Commons. He served as prime minister from 16 June 1891 to 24 November 1892.

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Canadian Senate Expenses Scandal

The Canadian Senate Expenses Scandal (2012–16) involved investigations into the housing and travel allowances claimed by dozens of Conservative and Liberal senators. Conservative senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were suspended during the investigations. Duffy, Brazeau and Liberal senator Mac Harb were also charged with fraud and breach of trust but were either acquitted or the charges dropped. A 2015 audit of senate expenses revealed that 30 senators had been improperly reimbursed for expenses. The scandal dominated public discourse and put pressure on the Senate to establish clearer rules for travel, residency and living expenses.

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BC Legislature Resumes After Spending Scandal

Speaker Daryl Plekas delivered the throne speech that reopened the BC Legislature following a spending scandal that rocked all three parties. After declaring in November 2018 that he had “established processes in the legislative assembly that are essentially bulletproof,” Legislative Clerk Craig James, along with sergeant-at-arms Gary Lens, were found to have approved thousands of dollars of inapporpriate spending on items ranging from liquor to a wood-chipper. James and Lens were suspended amid a police investigation and an impeding report by Plekas.

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CPR Crew Dies in BC Train Derailment

Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer were killed when their 112-car freight train derailed at around 1:00 a.m. east of Field, BC, falling about 60 m into the Kicking Horse River. The train was reportedly travelling at more than twice the speed limit. It’s believed that cold weather or a mechanical failure may have been a factor. The accident followed a 16-car derailment in the same area on 3 January 2019 (see also: Railway Disasters; Railway Safety).

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Jody Wilson-Raybould Resigns from Cabinet Amid SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had been Justice Minister until a Cabinet shuffle on 14 January, resigned from Cabinet days after news broke that the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly pressured her to help Quebec construction firm SNC-Lavalin avoid facing criminal prosecution. In the wake of the news, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts resigned on 18 February and a federal hearing on the issue was held beginning on 20 February. In her testimony to the hearing on 27 February, Wilson-Raybould claimed that almost a dozen senior government officials made a “sustained effort” to convince her to drop charges against SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau disagreed with her recollection of events and claimed that he and his staff “always acted appropriately and professionally” on the matter.

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Bill Miner

Ezra Allen (Bill) Miner, outlaw (born circa 1847 in Bowling Green, KY; died 2 September 1913 in Covington, GA). Bill Miner was reputed to be the first train robber in Canada, although bandits had robbed a train of the Great Western Railway in Ontario on 13 November 1874, 30 years before Miner arrived in Canada. Miner was the first to rob the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and thus became an outlaw hero in Canadian folklore. Miner was known as “The Grey Fox” and the “Gentleman Bandit” because of his polite manners during holdups. Miner was also credited with being the outlaw who coined the phrase “Hands up!”

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The Last Spike

The Last Spike was the final and ceremonial railway spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) track by company director Donald Smith on the morning of 7 November 1885. The ceremony marked the completion of the transcontinental CPR and was a muted affair at which a group of company officials and labourers gathered at Craigellachie near Eagle Pass in the interior of British Columbia. One of about 30 million iron spikes used in the construction of the line, the Last Spike came to symbolize more than the completion of a railway. Contemporaries and historians have viewed the Last Spike — as well as the iconic photographs of the event — as a moment when national unity was realized.

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Abbotsford

Abbotsford, British Columbia, incorporated as a city in 1995, population 141,397 (2016 census), 133,497 (2011 census). The amalgamation of the district municipalities of Matsqui and Abbotsford formed the city of Abbotsford. Abbotsford is located on the south bank of the Fraser River, 76 km east of Vancouver. The city is named after Harry Braithwaite Abbott, the general superintendent for the British Columbia division of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Abbotsford is BC's fifth most populous municipality.

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Pacific Scandal

The Pacific Scandal (1872–73) was the first major political scandal in Canada after Confederation. In April 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald and senior members of his Conservative government were accused of accepting election funds from shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan in exchange for the contract to build the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. The affair stung Macdonald and forced the resignation of his government in November 1873, but it didn’t destroy him politically. Five years later, Macdonald led his Conservatives back to power and served as prime minister for another 18 years.

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Vancouver Basketball Court Named After Steve Nash

The Nash Family Court on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in East Vancouver was officially opened by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. “Steve had an incredible impact on the game,” he said. “We hope that this court will serve as a reminder of Steve’s hard work, of his humility and his dedication to the game and will inspire generations of Canadians and kids to come.”

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Chinese Canadians

Chinese Canadians are one of the largest ethnic groups in the country. In the 2016 census, 1.8 million people reported being of Chinese origin. Despite their importance to the Canadian economy, including the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), many European Canadians were historically hostile to Chinese immigration. A prohibitive head tax restricted Chinese immigration to Canada from 1885 to 1923. From 1923 to 1947, the Chinese were excluded altogether from immigrating to Canada.

Since 1900, Chinese Canadians have settled primarily in urban areas, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto. They have contributed to every aspect of Canadian society, from literature to sports, politics to civil rights, film to music, business to philanthropy, and education to religion.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney Fires Commissioner Investigating His Party

Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and newly elected premier of Alberta, fired Lorne Gibson, the provincial election commissioner amid an investigation by that commissioner into multiple alleged offences by the UCP. The commissioner had already fined the UCP tens of thousands of dollars for multiple infractions, including accepting illicit campaign donations and obstructing an investigation. Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley denounced the firing as “an attack on Alberta’s democracy.” The watchdog organization Democracy Watch later called on the RCMP to investigate the firing.

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Hunter Harrison

Ewing Hunter Harrison III, president and CEO of Canadian National Railway Company 2003–09, CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited 2012–17 (born 7 November 1944 in Memphis, Tennessee; died 16 December 2017 in Wellington, Florida). Best known as the leading proponent of Precision Scheduled Railroading, Hunter Harrison ran four publicly traded, Class 1 railroads during his more than half century in the industry. His leadership of Canada’s two largest railway companies greatly improved the efficiency and profitability of both businesses.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster

In the early morning of 6 July 2013, a runaway train hauling 72 tankers filled with crude oil derailed as it approached the centre of the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The tanker cars exploded and the oil caught fire, killing 47 people and destroying many buildings and other infrastructure in the town centre. The fourth deadliest railway disaster in Canadian history, the derailment led to changes in rail transport safety rules as well as legal action against the company and employees involved in the incident. Years after the derailment, re-building was still ongoing and many of the town’s residents continued to suffer from post-traumatic stress.

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Railway History in Canada

The development of steam-powered railways in the 19th century revolutionized transportation in Canada and was integral to the very act of nation building. Railways played an integral role in the process of industrialization, opening up new markets and tying regions together, while at the same time creating a demand for resources and technology. The construction of transcontinental railways such as the Canadian Pacific Railway opened up settlement in the West, and played an important role in the expansion of Confederation. However, railways had a divisive effect as well, as the public alternately praised and criticized the involvement of governments in railway construction and the extent of government subsidies to railway companies.