9 October

Sifton Reaches Yukon

This is the law of the Yukon, that

only the Strong shall thrive;

That surely the Weak shall perish,

and only the Fit survive.

Dissolute, damned and despairful,

crippled and palsied and slain,

This is the Will of the Yukon;

Lo, how she makes it plain!

                        -ROBERT W. SERVICE, 1907

I am the land that listens, I am the

land that broods;

Steeped in eternal beauty, crystalline

waters and woods.

Long have I waited lonely, shunned as

a thing accurst,

Monstrous, moody, pathetic, the last

of the lands and the first.

                    -ROBERT W. SERVICE, 1907

Canada lost Pacific coast access to the Yukon in the boundary decision of 1905 (see March 25). Canada might have lost the entire Yukon during the 1897 gold rush if Minister of the Interior Sir Clifford Sifton and the Northwest Mounted Police had not taken prompt action.

During the gold rush the boundary question had not been decided, so Canadians were able to reach the Yukon through Skagway and Dyea. When the prospectors reached the Yukon they had to buy licences costing $10, and the annual renewal fee went as high as $100 for a time. They also had to pay royalties on the gold they obtained, and one man could stake only one claim in the Klondike. American prospectors had to pay 35 per cent import duty on goods they brought with them. They were very angry about the taxes and restrictions, but Canada pointed out that it was costing $390,000 a year to keep law and order in the Yukon. The Mounties did keep law and order in their usual remarkable manner. No one was allowed to carry a gun, gambling establishments were closed on Sundays, and criminals were sent out of the country.

The position of the Yukon boundary was so unsettled that Sir Clifford Sifton decided to look into it himself. He traveled from Ottawa with a group of officials and landed at Skagway on October 9, 1897. One of the members of the party was Major Walsh of the Northwest Mounted Police who had kept Chief Sitting Bull in check (see May 6). Major Walsh set up posts in the Lake Bennett Lake Tagish area, and Sifton ordered another detachment of Mounties under Major Steele to police the entrances at the summits of the passes. This was done in February 1898.

The police arrived just in time because the United States was planning to send troops into the Yukon. If the Americans had gone in to police the area, it is likely that they would have remained and the Yukon would have been lost to Canada.


9 October

-1682    Joseph le Febvre de la Barre and Jacques Demeulle were appointed Governor and Intendant of Canada, replacing Frontenac and Duchesneau who were recalled. Demeulle created "card money" (see April 18) .

-1811    The first Selkirk settlers for Red River landed at York Factory, Hudson Bay.

-1820    A proclamation rejoining Cape Breton to Nova Scotia was issued. They had been separated in 1784.

-1838    Lord Durham resigned as Governor of British North America.

-1899    The Soulanges Canal was opened. This completed a waterway from Quebec to Lake Superior.

-1909    The Grand Falls Paper Mill opened in Newfoundland.

-1918    Canadian troops were in action at Cambrai, leading to the end of World War I.

-1961    Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt opened Memorial University at St. John's, Newfoundland.

-1963    Canada and the United States agreed to store nuclear missiles in Newfoundland.