Category Archives: Alberta

private radio inspector

The black-leather-lined plasticized bilingual identity card wacked my arm as it fell from the shelf. Until then, I had never really noticed the card among the many items my grandmother left me.

Luckily, its heavy construction protected the words on the card, which remain as legible as they were when my grandfather received it on January 4, 1936.

The Canadian federal “Department of Marine” issued the card to give my grandfather credibility as a radio inspector. It says:

“The bearer G. Arial is hereby authorized to issue and inspect private radio receiving licences in Edmonton East. He is further authorized to require the production of private radio receiving licences for inspection.”

Turns out that this little artifact hints at a short-lived controversy in Canadian history. The card expired on March 31, 1937, but it would be defunct before then.

The Department of Marine seems like an odd overseer of radio licences until you realize that early broadcasting began in the 1890s when Morse Code was used to enable ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication. The idea of a public broadcaster begin in May, 1907, when the Marconi station in Camperdown, Nova Scotia began broadcasting regular time signals to the public.

The “wireless telegraphy” industry continued to develop with private individuals investing in ham radios with no regulation. By June 1913, the federal government decided to regulate the industry to protect military communication.

When World War I began in August 1914, private licenses were banned altogether. Only the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada, Ltd. kept operating during the war years, in part because it became a research arm of the military.i

After the war, the private industry blossomed, particularly in Western Canada. Many of the new broadcasters came from multiple religious communities, a situation the federal government tried to prevent by setting up a public broadcasting system through the Radio Broadcasting Act of 1932.

That act led to the establishment of a licensing commission called the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission under the leadership of Hector Charlesworth. Charlesworth’s group censored many religious groups and political groups, but none more than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Norman James Fennema described the controversy in his 2003 dissertation, Remote Control.

…in Canada we find a situation in which the original impetus for regulating radio broadcasting began with the specific aim of putting a rein on religious broadcasting. Originally directed at the radio activities of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, this expanded in the early 1930’s into a policy against the licensing of religious broadcasters, a policy initially justified on the basis of the scarcity of the broadcasting spectrum, but that survived the expansion of the system.ii

By 1935, Clarence Decateur Howe became both the Minister of Railways and Canals and the Minister of Marine,iii the ministry under which my grandfather’s job was created.

Howe favoured private broadcasting, and encouraged new private entities to flourish.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King preferred a public broadcast system however. In February, 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) came into being, and my grandfather’s job ended.

Sources

i https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_broadcasting_in_Canada, accessed May 26, 2020.

ii Fennema, Norman James. REMOTE CONTROL: A History of the Regulation of Religion in the Canadian Public Square, PhD thesis, 2003, https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/bitstream/handle/1828/10314/Fennema_Norman James_PhD_2003.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

iii https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_of_Transport_(Canada), accessed May 26, 2020.

Happy on the farm

When my aunt turned ninety-six a few years ago, I prepared a short bio of her life, including photos of the farm where she grew up, baptism`s, confirmations and a wonderful photo of four people working in a farm yard.

Handwriting on the photo says “maman a l’age de 20 ans” and “papa” to identify my great grandmother, Marie-Berthe Charette and my great grandfather,  with her two sisters “tante Eva” and “tante Ida.”

They are all on their knees, looking at the photographer. Jean is staring towards Marie-Berthe, who was also called Martha, with an extremely happy look on his face.

The shot is the only happy photo I have of the couple. In every other shot, they look solemn or downright miserable.

Martha was born on October 3, 1889, so if the note about her age is correct, the photo would have have been taken in 1909 or 1910, five years prior to their marriage. There’s no indication where the photo was taken. It could have been his parents’ farm, her parents’ farm, or given that they are also in the shot, perhaps even the farm where his brother Gustave and her sister Ida moved after they were married.[1]

Both Charette farms were in Clarence Creek, where their families had lived since at least 1891. His family farm was located in Sarsfield, a town right next door near the current Ottawa, Ontario.

The first Hurtubese/Charette couple was already married by the time of the happy photo in my grandmother’s photo album. Later, it would be Jean-Baptiste and Martha’s turn, then his younger brother Francois and her younger sister Dora.

All three couples would eventually follow middle Charette son Ernest, who began farming in Alberta.

My cousin says his mother used to talk about a horse and buggy ride after their family lost a farm due to a train expropriation. My aunt spoke to him about remembering her mom’s tears. I don’t know whether that trip precipitated their move to Alberta or took place afterwards.

All I know for sure is that after this photo was taken, the couple had two little girls, Donna and Marguerite. Then, sometime after their second daughters’ birth in 1917 and the 1921 Canadian Census, they bought a farm with a three-bedroom wooden house on it in Bow River, Alberta.[2]

After that, their life took a turn for the worse, and they lost everything. The dust bowl, the Depression, locusts…take your pick, they saw it all.

By 1941, the family was renting part of a house in Edmonton. He did odd jobs to get through the war years and beyond. They remained in Edmonton until her death in 1957 and his in 1959.

————————-

[1] Data from the 1911 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 21, Cumberland Township, Russell, Ontario, Sarsfield Village, Léonard Village, Bear Brook Village, page 7, line 48.

[2] Data from the 1921 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 2, Bow River, Alberta, section 7, township 22, range 21, Meridian 4, page 6, line 28.

The French Canadians in Western Canada

canewzz

 

The Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal on Viger Avenue are the repository of a wonderful and unique collection of books of marriages, baptisms, deaths of French Canadian families who left the Province of  Québec between 1840 and 1930 for destinations in Western Canada, especially in Alberta and Manitoba.

Monsieur Daniel Olivier,  former archivist at the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal on Sherbrooke Street East, the latter no longer in operation, referred to for years as Salle Gagnon was responsible with the assistance of his associates for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide.

Madame Estelle Brisson, former archivist at the Archives nationales du Québec on Viger Avenue East in Montréal with the assistance of her associates was also responsible for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide compiled by Jacques Gagné.

Click on the link            The French Canadians in Western Canada