How Well do You Know Your History?

Vande Meulin Group walking across lawn on The Hill
In Search of History…
I belong to a private facebook group where we are trying to reconnect to family members all over the world. As new members join, they share the bit of family history that they know. As other closer relatives respond to them, identifying their common bond through that branch of the family tree, there is a palpable joy and excitement to feel connected with one’s kin. There happens to be some on the European continent, some in central America, some in South America, but most in the Caribbean.
We hope you will feel similar excitement as you piece together snippets of history which might resonate with you because of your family connections.  As you become engaged with the information here, if you read anything which links your family’s history, or that of your village, your town, or your province to Canadian History, we would love to hear from you.
This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the founding of The Dominion of Canada. It was celebrated as Dominion Day for a long time until it became Canada Day. When did that practice end, and why?
If you were to search the internet with those questions, you will find these answers:

Continue reading “How Well do You Know Your History?”


Were you aware that the first European settlers and explorers of North America were not the French, English, Spanish, Dutch, or Basque, but were actually the Norse? Already some 500 years before Christopher Columbus discovered South America, the Vikings had built a settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in 1000 A.D. (present-day Newfoundland)

The Norse (Norwegians/Scandinavians) were primarily interested in fishing, whaling, sealing, and getting valuable commodities such as furs, ivory walrus tusks, and Narwhal horn. Internal controversy among the Norse and external attacks from natives seems to have been the major factors in them abandoning the settlement.

You can read more about the settlement here. 

And if you’re ever on the east coast be sure to visit L’Anse aux Meadows. It’s certainly a place I want to visit one of these years. 

Kind of disappointingly, because the Viking settlement was so short-lived, it plays little to no importance in Canadian history. However, it is super important when considering European history. An interesting question for the budding historian to pursue would be: Why were the Norse so interested in exploration (and able to explore without getting hopelessly lost), while the rest of Europe was content to stay at home? What social, political, and possibly even religious factors contributed to Norse exploration?

Halifax Explosion

What was the largest man-made explosion before nuclear warfare?

Tragically the largest and deadliest explosion prior to the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was the Halifax Explosion. December 6, 2017, commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the deadly explosion that killed 2000 men and injured 9000 others in 1917.

Check out the Canadian Encyclopedia’s excellent article on the explosion here!

Be sure to read the heroism of Vincent Coleman who sent out a quick warning to the Saint John train loaded with hundreds of people. His telegraph message read: “Munitions ship on fire. Making for Pier 6. Goodbye.”

This is a great interactive video produced by CBC on the explosion.

All in all, the Halifax Explosion is a sobering reminder of the brevity of life. Psalm 103 says, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” The Halifax Explosion is a reminder that none of us know the day that we will die and so we should choose this day (today!) who we will serve.

Will you serve the evil desires of your flesh resulting in everlasting damnation? Or will you serve the one true God trusting in Him for eternal salvation and life?

What’s useful about studying history?

History for many children and teenagers is considered, at the very least, a dull enterprise. At the most, it is the stuff of nightmares to teach and listen to. It is also one of the more forgotten courses to teach. A busy homeschooling mother may be inclined to just teach math, English, and science. Afterall history is not inherently useful for the education of a child. Or is it?

I understand this dilemma. History takes skill to teach well. It takes passion and ability to bring the collection of dates, facts, and people from the past to life. In my undergrad days, I myself was subjected to the endless drone of information from a dull history professor. It took copious amounts of coffee to stay awake for those classes, especially as finals approached.

But in the end, history is very useful to teach. Speaking from personal experience it has helped me learn to analyze facts and information. You see, history is not just about rote memorization. History is much more about interpreting the facts that letters, pictures, books, artifacts, paintings, etc. tell us. History is like being Sherlock Holmes. We are given certain facts and we have to derive the story, the interconnections, the networks, from all those facts. History is not simply saying that Canada became a country in 1867. History is interested in finding out: What is Canada? Why did it become a country? Why did that happen in 1867? How did that happen? Who was all involved? How did that affect the British Empire? How did Canada work to become one unified country? How was Canada planning to defend its vast territory?

And so history is really about learning to ask questions. It is learning to ask good questions. It is about learning to develop critical thinking skills. It is learning to make strong arguments about why events happen. It is learning to recognize that there is a vast array of networks in the world. Indeed, this was probably one of the most valuable lessons I have learned from studying history. An event doesn’t just happen because of one circumstance. For example, the exile of the Acadians in 1756 was not simply about the British having a grudge against the French. The Acadian Exile was about loyalty to the monarch, empire defense, and Roman Catholicism vs. Protestantism. Indeed, the Acadian exile was prompted by the French building up their Atlantic fortress at Louisbourg and encouraging the Acadians to rise up in rebellion to their “cruel” British oppressors.

In addition, history helps develop imagination, creativity, and character.  I spent many days in my childhood running around in the backwoods pretending I was a British soldier squashing the American invasion of Canada in 1812. Other days, I was with David Thompson exploring and mapping the great plains of Rupert’s Land. Other days I was facing the difficulties of being a pioneer in a land hostile to European settlement. Aside from the fact that I almost had my eyes pocked out twice with sticks by two unnamed brothers, those adventures were very important in the development of character.

Continue reading “What’s useful about studying history?”

Why Study Canadian History?




That’s 150 years of Canadian history. To be clear, that’s 150 years of post-Confederation Canadian history. Canada has centuries, even millennia, of history prior to that. There’s the history of the native people of Canada. There’s archeological and manuscript evidence of a Norse settlement from 1000 A.D. In the Age of Exploration English, Dutch, Basque, Portuguese, and French explorers sailed and landed on Canadian shores. Eventually the French and the English would colonize North America. After centuries of exploration, settlement, wars, rebellions, invasions, and colonization the Northern part of North America would become a country in 1867.

Yet, hardly anybody knows Canadian history. When you mention Canadian history to most Canadians they let out a sigh and say “Canadian history is so boring and dull. What’s there to study?”

That’s a really sad thing.

We live in a culture and a nation that knows little of its history, its foundations, its battles, its wars, its adventures, its sins, and its triumphs. But the saddest thing is that we as a nation have turned our backs on our Christian heritage, our strikingly Christian heritage.

We also live in a post-Christian nation that is hostile to the moral principles of our past. We live in a culture that mocks the non-inclusive ethical principles of our forefathers. We live in a hypocritical nation that begs forgiveness for the transgressions of past sins, without examining the sins of the current generation.

So, to be honest, when July 1, 2017, rolled around, I was not in a very patriotic mood. From my perspective here in Edmonton, Alberta, there was very little emphasis on the part of the Canadian government to celebrate Canada’s history (a giant yellow rubber duck??!). Without a history what is there to celebrate?

But that wasn’t the real reason for my lack of patriotic spirit. The real reason was that Canada is a nation that deserves God’s severe and righteous judgment for sin. Canada is very sadly a nation that rejoices in depravity and vile wickedness. What kind of sins? Continue reading “Why Study Canadian History?”

Christianity and Public Education in Canada


By Michael Wagner

For much of Canada’s history, Christianity was a dominant cultural force. Roman Catholicism was extremely influential in French-speaking Canada and Protestantism was extremely influential in English-speaking Canada.

This phenomenon can be seen clearly in Canada’s education system. Until the final third of the twentieth century, Christianity had a strong presence in public schools across the country. Christianity’s role in education is solid evidence that historically Canada was a Christian country.

University of Ottawa Religious Studies professor Robert Choquette includes a chapter about the role of Christianity in education in his book Canada’s Religions: An Historical Introduction(University of Ottawa Press, 2004).

Provincial governments have jurisdiction over education in Canada and each provincial system has its own unique history and policies. Therefore it can be difficult to make generalizations about education policy in Canada. However, in most cases a close look at the educational system of any particular province will demonstrate the robust influence of Christianity, at least until the latter part of the twentieth century.

Ontario is a good example. The government of Upper Canada (as it was then known) adopted legislation in 1816 to create common schools (as public schools were then known). By 1838 about 50% of school-age children were enrolled in such schools. Continue reading “Christianity and Public Education in Canada”

I Did Not Know This… Did You?

The original French version of O Canada

A few years ago, I went to a convention where I sang the many verses of ‘O Canada’ that reflected a rich fervent prayer to God. I thought, ‘Why isn’t  the entire anthem sung publicly? These are words rich in faith and and prayer.’

I actually thought that a conspiracy prevented us from knowing the ‘true’ words. In doing this research, I now understand for the first time, the history of the national anthem or ‘Chant National’. I guess it would indeed take a bit of time to stand at attention and sing four verses of a song (unless it is set to rap for young people).

According to Wikipedia ( and The Canadian Encyclopedia (, the words for Canada’s National Anthem, ‘O Canada’ were written by a man who was a lawyer, author, judge and professor – Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier – in the Spring of 1880. He was born in Saint-Placide Quebec in 1839.

The music was written by the then popular pianist, composer, and music teacher, Calixa Lavallee who was born near Montreal Quebec in 1842.

O Canada was first performed jointly by three bands on June 24th, 1880 (thirteen years after Confederation) at a convention banquet as the patriotic song, Chant National, for the Saint Jean Baptiste Society in Quebec City.

It gained popularity and gradually spread across Canada with many English-language variations of the original. One version was even written by Sir George-Etienne Cartier for the Saint Jean Baptiste celebrations in 1884. Continue reading “I Did Not Know This… Did You?”

Legal and Official Christian Provinces… The Maritime Provinces.

Map showing Nova Scotia. The first Maritime Province (which included New Brunswick and PEI)

By Michael Wagner

What does it mean to say that a particular country is a “Christian country”? There may be different legitimate answers to that question, but one very reasonable answer would be a country where a Christian church is established by law. If a Christian church is given special rights by law, to the exclusion of all other religions, there can be no dispute that such a community is Christian in some sense. The political establishment of a church makes the country “officially” Christian at least.

Three of Canada’s earliest provinces had established Christian churches. Robert Choquette, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, writes about this in his book Canada’s Religions: An Historical Introduction(University of Ottawa Press, 2004).

Nova Scotia’s first legislative assembly was formed in 1758. At that time, Nova Scotia included the territories of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Choquette writes, “During its first session in 1758, that legislature declared the Church of England to be the state religion of the colony, but that ‘free liberty of conscience’ would be the rule for Protestant dissenters, a promise that was reiterated the following year by Governor Lawrence. The same legislation of 1758 made perpetual imprisonment the penalty for Catholic priests found exercising their ministry in Nova Scotia” (p. 163).

PEI became a separate jurisdiction in 1769. As Choquette notes, “After becoming a distinct province in 1769, the legislative assembly of Prince Edward Island restricted the rights of Catholics much as Nova Scotia had done, and also made the Church of England into its state religion (1802)” (p. 163). Continue reading “Legal and Official Christian Provinces… The Maritime Provinces.”

History Research Is So Much Fun


This is the first installment of a series of blogs which will start with: Could you Believe this???

I have completed the Lesson Outlines for Module 1 of our online program. To view our Lesson Plans, Click Here 

In preparation for teaching about Our Fathers of Confederation, I am doing some of my research online using links to the Archives of Canada, Wikipedia and The Dictionary of Canadian Biography. I also have many old history books on my desk to which I refer.

All of the sites listed above give links to original source documents, which I will explore further for veracity. Some sites give an assessment of the biography of the characters from one perspective, while others give a different perspective. (Like the old poem – The Six Blind Men of Hindustan)

With these points of view, it is fairly easy to form a more objective perspective of our characters. It is my sincere hope that other students will take up the challenge to join in this research and do their own original source digging. Feel free to send me corrections. I will definitely add them to our blog pages.

Could you Believe this???

Continue reading “History Research Is So Much Fun”

Of Fishermen and Navigators

Whaling Ship

This is a self- consciously Christian blog written for a Christian audience. Our hope at ChristianRoots Canada, is for you to be inspired to dig deeper into the material you read here. We hope you will become like the Bereans (See Acts 17:11), by being diligent to check any information against your own research.

In our first post, you were challenged to think about why we celebrate Canada Day and not Dominion Day.  July 1st, 1867, was the day that Canada was founded as the Dominion of Canada. Our primary mission is to show you through historical research, how God sovereignly used world events to bring Canada to this point in history in 2017. It is He who sets up nations and rules over all the earth, whether people believe it or not. (Daniel 2: 21 – He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings… )

Next, you saw how the Reformation in Europe (mainly France) brought explorers to our shores. Do you wonder HOW they knew that this land even existed? Well, we will explore the part that seafarers played in God’s plan, which led to the settling of New France by French Reformers (Huguenots) .

You will notice how God orchestrates many players on the world stage at the same time, weaving an intricate series of plots and subplots. 

One such plot line was the desire people had for lighting their homes with oil, and fishermen (whalers) discovering that they could use whale oil to light their lamps AND have an abundance of meat for the winter months. We, then, get a whaling industry which peaks at or around the time that the explorers were setting out across the oceans to discover new lands and search for a passage to the Orient.

Continue reading “Of Fishermen and Navigators”

Follow The Rivers


This is a self- consciously Christian blog written for a Christian audience. Our hope at ChristianRoots Canada, is for you to be inspired to dig deeper and verify any information you read here. We hope you will become like the Bereans (See Acts 17:11), by being diligent to check any information here against accurate historical research.

Have you ever thought about the important part that the oceans and rivers played in the exploration and discovery of Canadian lands? From the fishermen who discovered the fishing banks off Newfoundland, to the discovery of Hudson Bay and James Bay, to the exploration of the St. Lawrence, these waterways played key roles in establishing the Dominion of Canada.

Recently, I wanted to understand how Samuel de Champlain was able to claim so much land for New France. I pulled up Google maps and followed the rivers and lakes. It is a time consuming venture on which to embark, even with modern technology.  But Champlain patiently traversed the land and mapped out rivers and lakes with the help of the Native Indian tribes.

Continue reading “Follow The Rivers”