Western Canada: the Making of a Region

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Western Canada: the Making of a Region
1) Prehistory to 1821: rule by commerce and custom
2) 1821 to 1873: early and tentative imposition of law
3) 1873 to 1911: making of a settler society
Rule by Commerce:
Early to mid 18th century French voyageurs fan out from Montreal
while the HBC “slumbers by the Bay”
Transformations of indigenous communities and customs across the
o Ex. Cree move westward, become traders rather than trappers
o Devastation of smallpox and other epidemics
o Traders and native communities intermingle, often with
women as the go-between
o Emergence of Metis as distinct people
After conquest, HBC traders compete with Montreal-based traders
across the continental interior
Violent, cut-throat competition, dominated by Montrealers, despite
formal monopoly of HBC
Red River in 1816: only the most violent and notorious such
o Metis attack HBC settlers planted squarely in the trading route
of Montrealers and seeking to drive them away
o Murder trials in Canada, where opinion leans to
Montreal/Metis cause
HBC cannot get much sympathy; its charter looks old-fashioned and
autocratic; its intolerance for settlement and political institutions are
themselves intolerable.
British government says “enough” and forces HBC and Montreal
traders to amalgamate in 1821. Prices paid for furs drop.
HBC remains the owner and ruler of Rupert’s Land but is unable to
defend its monopoly on trade. Louis Riel Senior wins “freedom of the
trade” in 1849.
HBC does not own British Columbia (to which Britain and United States lay
claim) but it has trading posts all around and it begins to govern for the
British there.
James Douglas, chief factor for HBC from 1834, governor from 1851. (He is
the son of a creole and he marries a “half-breed” (daughter of HBC factor and
Cree mother, Amelia Connolly)
Found Fort Victoria in 1843.
Indigenous peoples may prefer HBC “club law” and custom to courts and
police, but settlers demand British laws including local political assemblies.
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