It’s Friday! TGIF! Did you know…
* 1969 – Commons passes Official Languages Act, declares French and English equal in federal institutions. (Following the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism established in 1964 to investigate the problems of Canadian unity, the government of Pierre E. Trudeau passed, in 1969, Bill C-120 – An Act Respecting the Status of Official Languages in Canada (17-19 Eliz II, c. 54). The law fitted well in the objective of the Trudeau government of recognizing the French and the English languages as equal in Canada and aimed at opposing the concept of a French Canada to that of a French Quebec (see Jean Lesage): all of Canada would be recognized as the home of French Canadians and not only Quebec. With increased identification of francophones with Canada and a greater role given to French Canadians and their language in the federal government, Trudeau hoped to re-channel Quebec nationalism and deliver a deadly blow to separatism in Quebec.
Although initially daring in its proposals, given the history of minority language rights in Canada and the resistance to bilingualism of segments of the population, the principle of the bill has increasingly received widespread support throughout Canada although its application has come sharply under attack from time to time. The bill was only accepted after the federal government agreed to shift from a policy of “biculturalism” to one of “multiculturalism”. In 1974, the constitutionality of the bill was challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada by a member of Parliament and the sitting Mayor of Moncton (Jones v. the Attorney-General of Canada, 45 DLR 1974). The Act was unanimously upheld by the court by virtue of the Peace, Order and good Government and Criminal Law and Procedures clauses (91-27).)
* 1930 Building of Hoover Dam begins. (On this day in 1930, construction of the Hoover Dam begins. Over the next five years, a total of 21,000 men would work ceaselessly to produce what would be the largest dam of its time, as well as one of the largest manmade structures in the world.
Although the dam would take only five years to build, its construction was nearly 30 years in the making. Arthur Powell Davis, an engineer from the Bureau of Reclamation, originally had his vision for the Hoover Dam back in 1902, and his engineering report on the topic became the guiding document when plans were finally made to begin the dam in 1922.
Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States and a committed conservationist, played a crucial role in making Davis’ vision a reality. As secretary of commerce in 1921, Hoover devoted himself to the erection of a high dam in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. The dam would provide essential flood control, which would prevent damage to downstream farming communities that suffered each year when snow from the Rocky Mountains melted and joined the Colorado River. Further, the dam would allow the expansion of irrigated farming in the desert and would provide a dependable supply of water for Los Angeles and other southern California communities.
Even with Hoover’s exuberant backing and a regional consensus around the need to build the dam, Congressional approval and individual state cooperation were slow in coming. For many years, water rights had been a source of contention among the western states that had claims on the Colorado River. To address this issue, Hoover negotiated the Colorado River Compact, which broke the river basin into two regions with the water divided between them. Hoover then had to introduce and re-introduce the bill to build the dam several times over the next few years before the House and Senate finally approved the bill in 1928.
In 1929, Hoover, now president, signed the Colorado River Compact into law, claiming it was “the most extensive action ever taken by a group of states under the provisions of the Constitution permitting compacts between states.”
Once preparations were made, the Hoover Dam’s construction sprinted forward: The contractors finished their work two years ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget. Today, the Hoover Dam is the second highest dam in the country and the 18th highest in the world. It generates enough energy each year to serve over a million people, and stands, in Hoover Dam artist Oskar Hansen’s words, as “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in community efforts around a common need or ideal.”)
* 1983 Samantha Smith leaves for visit to the USSR. (Samantha Smith, an 11-year-old American girl, begins a two-week visit to the Soviet Union at the invitation of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. Some American observers believed that Smith was merely being used by the Soviets for their own propaganda purposes, while others saw her visit as a positive step toward improving U.S.-Russian relations.
In April 1983, the Soviet government released a letter written by Smith to Andropov as part of a school project. In the letter, Smith asked Andropov about his country and whether he wanted peace with the United States. Surprisingly, Andropov answered the letter personally, assuring Smith that he had the greatest friendliness toward America and wished only for peace and mutual understanding. He ended by inviting Smith to come see the Soviet Union for herself. The fifth grader accepted Andropov’s offer and the trip was set for July 1983. Almost immediately, Smith’s family was flooded with letters from Americans, most of whom supported Samantha’s decision. Many, however, sharply criticized her upcoming visit, claiming that it was merely a propaganda ploy by the communists. To some extent, they were right: Andropov clearly saw the Smith visit as an opportunity to try to dispel some negative impressions of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, Andropov also was clear about wanting closer relations with the West, and his invitation to the small girl was one way of indicating this desire.
During her two weeks in Russia, Smith was treated as a VIP and given a carefully arranged tour of the Soviet Union. However, she also found time to speak to groups of Soviet citizens who made no attempt to hide some of the problems facing their nation, particularly food shortages. For her part, Smith absolutely charmed her hosts and became a famous figure almost overnight. Arriving back in the United States two weeks later, she indicated that she firmly believed that the Soviets “want no harm to the world, just like us.” When asked whether she would like to live in Russia, she praised her communist hosts but declared that she would “rather live in my own country.”)
* 1976 Female cadets enrolled at West Point. (For the first time in history, women are enrolled into the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. On May 28, 1980, 62 of these female cadets graduated and were commissioned as second lieutenants.
The United States Military Academy–the first military school in America–was founded by Congress in 1802 for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Established at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply known as West Point.
Located on the high west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. In 1780, Patriot General Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 6,000 English pounds. However, the plot was uncovered before it fell into British hands, and Arnold fled to the British for protection.
Ten years after the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy in 1802, the growing threat of another war with Great Britain resulted in Congressional action to expand the academy’s facilities and increase the West Point corps. Beginning in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer–later known as the “father of West Point”–and the school became one of the nation’s finest sources of civil engineers. During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the leading ranks of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their native states.
In 1870, the first African American cadet was admitted into the U.S. Military Academy, and in 1976, the first female cadets. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.)
* 2005 Terrorists attack London transit system at rush hour. (On the morning of July 7, 2005, bombs are detonated in three crowded London subways and one bus during the peak of the city’s rush hour. The synchronized suicide bombings, which were thought to be the work of al-Qaida, killed 56 people including the bombers and injured another 700. It was the largest attack on Great Britain since World War II. No warning was given.
The train bombings targeted the London Underground, the city’s subway system. Nearly simultaneous explosions, at about 8:50 a.m., occurred on trains in three locations: between the Aldgate and Liverpool Street stations on the Circle Line; between the Russell Square and King’s Cross stations on the Piccadilly Line; and at the Edgware Road station, also on the Circle Line. Almost an hour later, a double-decker bus on Upper Woburn Place near Tavistock Square was also hit; the bus’s roof was ripped off by the blast.
The attacks took place as world leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, were meeting at the G8 summit in nearby Scotland. In his remarks after learning of the blasts, Blair called the attacks barbaric and pointed out that their taking place at the same time as the G8 summit was most likely purposeful. Later, he vowed to see those responsible brought to justice and that Great Britain, a major partner with the U.S. in the war in Iraq, would not be intimidated by terrorists.
Of the four suicide bombers, three were born in Great Britain and one in Jamaica. Three lived in or near Leeds in West Yorkshire; one resided in Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. Al-Qaida officially claimed responsibility for the attacks on September 1, 2005, in a videotape released to the al-Jazeera television network.
Two weeks later, on July 21, 2005, a second set of four bombings was attempted, also targeting the city’s transit system, but failed when the explosives only partially detonated. The four men alleged to be responsible for the failed attacks were arrested in late July.
An estimated 3 million people ride the London Underground every day, with another 6.5 million using the city’s bus system.)
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/
* Marianapolis College http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/federal/ola.htm