In 1873 Canada created the North-West Mounted Police, now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or Mounties, to help administer the territories and keep order there. Treaties were negotiated with the indigenous nations with the intention of opening the Great Plains to agriculture. Eleven numbered treaties were signed with the indigenous nations across Canada between 1850 and 1929, opening their lands to occupation. In general, the treaties provided some material compensation for transfer of lands to Euro-Canadians and provided for the establishment of reserves across the country. However, there were lapses in coverage: In British Columbia, treaties covered only a few small places, while in the Northwest and Yukon territories, treaties were not signed at all.
The once nomadic peoples of the plains were crowded into reserves. The reserve lands were allotted by headcount. The government typically was to provide schools, farm tools and agricultural assistance, and fishing and hunting rights as these had previously been enjoyed. Governments intent on assimilating the indigenous peoples honored few of these commitments. In some areas, for instance, the reserves were smaller than promised or were never provided at all. By 1901 Canada’s indigenous peoples numbered about 100,000, barely 2 percent of the country’s population, and they were confined to reserves everywhere outside the far north.
Building the transcontinental railroad became the great challenge of the Confederation. The first attempt collapsed in the Pacific Scandal of 1872 and 1873.
Macdonald was driven from office after he was found to have accepted campaign funds from Montréal financier Sir Hugh Allen in exchange for the railroad contract. The election that followed made Alexander Mackenzie, a Liberal from Ontario, the new prime minister. Mackenzie’s Liberals were lukewarm about the railroad commitment and its huge costs, particularly during the economic recession of the mid-1870s. Macdonald and the Conservatives returned to power in 1878, the economy improved, and the railroad advanced.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, a private company supported by generous federal land grants and other assistance, was incorporated in 1881 to complete the project and operate the railroad. A dynamic American general manager, William C. Van Horne, pushed the rails across the plains, through the Canadian Shield, and into the previously unsurveyed Rockies. Particularly in British Columbia, laborers imported from China dug the tunnels, built the trestles, and laid the track, enduring deadly hazards at low pay. The transcontinental line was completed in 1885. In 1886 the Canadian Pacific extended the line 32 km (20 mi) from Port Moody and founded the Pacific coast metropolis of Vancouver as a new western end point. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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