Next Episode of Canada: A People's History is
Canada: A People's History is a documentary series that tells Canada's story through the eyes of the people who lived it.
The Canadian west is opened by the great fur-trading empires of the Hudson's Bay and Northwest Companies, the native people who were their indispensable allies, and bold explorers and map makers who ventured from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean and long-sought-for Pacific. Pierre Esprit Radisson defies a governor to take New France's trade far into the continent's interior and later, founds an English trading empire; Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de la Vérendrye, spends a lifetime searching for the Western Sea and pays dearly for it. Tough Dene chief Matonabbee leads Samuel Hearne on a monumental trek into the Barren Lands; Alexander Mackenzie's dash to the Pacific makes him one of the most celebrated men of his age. And David Thompson comes to the forbidding shores of Hudson Bay as a 14-year-old apprentice and eventually unlocks the secrets of the West more than any other man. As the fur trader's day comes to an end, settlers on the prairies and gold miners in British Columbia begin to claim the west for themselves.
By 1830, the struggle for democratic government in the colonies of British North America has reached fever pitch. As the colonies grow in wealth and population, a generation of charismatic reformers -- Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia, Louis-Joseph Papineau in Lower Canada and William Lyon Mackenzie in Upper Canada - confront the appointed governors and their local favourites with one demand: let the citizens' elected representatives run their own affairs. In the Canadas, the struggle leads to bloody rebellion and disastrous defeat for the rebels. Yet within 10 years, the prize of self-government is won, thanks in part to an unexpected alliance between the French and English-speaking forces of reform.
In a few short years, a handful of small and separate British colonies are transformed into a new nation that controls half the North American continent. The story of Confederation, its supporters and its bitter foes, is told against a backdrop of U.S. Civil War and Britain's growing determination to be rid of its expensive, ungrateful colonies. The dawn of the photographic era provides a vivid portrait of the diverse people who make up the new Dominion of Canada: the railway magnates, the unwed mothers of Montreal, the nuns who provide refuge for the destitute, the prosperous merchants of Halifax, the brave fugitives of the Underground Railroad, and the tide of Irish immigrants who flood into the cities.
Confederation is barely accomplished when the new dominion must face an enormous challenge: extending its reach into the vast prairies and beyond, to the Pacific Ocean. But Canada blunders catastrophically in seeking to take over the west without the consent of its inhabitants, especially the Métis of Red River and their leader, the charismatic, troubled Louis Riel. The resistance of 1869-70 lays the groundwork for Manitoba to join Canada, but it also sets the stage for decades of conflict over the rights of French and English, Catholic and Protestant in the new territories. Thanks to an audacious promise of a transcontinental railway in 10 years, the settlers of British Columbia are more easily convinced of the merits of union; by 1873 Prince Edward Island has joined as well, and Canada can boast a dominion that extends from sea to sea.
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