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Handout 1.1
The Canada Gazette and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway

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The Canada Gazette allows us to trace the history of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) from its legal beginning to its end. The maze of notices and acts, as well as reports of the Board of Railway Commissioners, all help to trace some of the private company's history.

The GTPR was proposed and built in the early years of the 20th century, during a period of great change in Canada and a huge boom in railway construction. The Gazette describes the plan laid out in the National Transcontinental Railway Act of 1903 for the GTPR line to be built from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The federal government would build the eastern part of the line, from Winnipeg to Moncton, New Brunswick, and lease it to the GTPR. Various mentions in the Gazette of subsidies, bond issues, loans and land rights provided by the federal government reveal the struggles of the GTPR to build and maintain the railway line.

Although the acts, orders-in-council and notices in the Gazette attest to the flurry of activity surrounding the GTPR, there is no mention of the reaction of those with other railway interests or of the public to the government's position. If, for example, the federal government gave land to the GTPR for construction of the railway line and to sell lots to settlers, what about the original owners? What were the reactions of First Nations peoples, farmers in the West who would have the railway passing through their land, or even GTPR shareholders, many of whom were in England? The Canada Gazette is mute on such issues. That is because the Canada Gazette is, in fact, the official newspaper of the Government of Canada and, as such, it recorded only the official government position.

In many ways, the Gazette provides the framework of the GTPR's history, but it does not provide the full context. As is the case for many other research sources, it offers only glimpses of what might have been. However, unlike other sources, the Gazette has the unique role of specifically presenting the position of the government of the day.

Discussion Questions

1. What was the first act published in the Canada Gazette that affected the GTPR? Why is this act important?

2. What may be the challenge of only consulting the Canada Gazette for information on the GTPR?

3. Why is the Canada Gazette unique in its historical portrayal of the GTPR?

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