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When the Province of Manitoba Was Born

by Alice Brown

Manitoba Pageant, January 1957

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

The Dominion of Canada was only three years old when the Manitoba Act was passed by the Parliament at Ottawa. This Act became law on July 15, 1870 and Manitoba, the first new province, was added to the very young Nation - Canada.

What was Manitoba like when it became Canadian? Well - we were certainly small in size for those first eleven years. Our eastern boundary ran close to Lac du Bonnet. The western boundary was a little west of the present town of Gladstone, while the northern line ran through Boundary Park on the southwestern tip of Lake Winnipeg. This tiny province was centered around the old settlement of Red River, which was the only settlement of any size in the whole area.

And how many people lived here? W. J. Healy in Women of Red River says:

"The total population of Red River in 1870 was 11,405, of whom the white people without admixture of Indian blood numbered 1,565, the people of mixed blood who spoke French, 5,757, and the English-speaking people of mixed blood, 4,083."

The little village near the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, which had only just begun to be called Winnipeg had a population of only 215 persons at that time.

Was it easy to keep in touch with the rest of Canada? Just think of this! It would take a traveller setting out from Montreal in 1870 approximately the same length of time to reach Manitoba as it would take him to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and dock at Liverpool, England.

Think of how we've grown in eighty-six years. We are at the centre of Canada now - the Keystone Province; and we can travel to Montreal, or Vancouver, in a matter of hours. We've come a long way since 1870 haven't we?

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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