One of last week's guests brought Gateau La Reine Elizabeth* (story and recipe here) but rather than simply wrapping the tasty morsels of this quintessentially Canadian and terribly regal cake in saran wrap she conveyed it in two paper-doily lined tins. The larger of the two commemorated the Silver Jubilee in 1977 but the one that caught my fancy was issued to celebrate a very important Canadian event - the day in June of 1959 when Queen Elizabeth and Dwight D Eisenhower declared the St Lawrence Seaway well and truly open by sailing from St Lambert, Quebec to the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, New York on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The Seaway was both a source of pride and a major bone of contention for many Canadians. It was much needed as a means of opening the Great Lakes to sea going vessels and as a source of hydro electricity for both Ontario and Up-State New York but much reviled as an environmental and cultural evil. As early as the 1890s the need for a system of locks and canals to avoid the rapids of the St Lawrence were proposed but sovereignty issues, pressure from the governments of Quebec and Ontario and lobby groups for the railways and ports in the US kept things on the hob for over 75 years. It was not until 1954, when an uneasy agreement was reached and a joint venture agreed upon, that work started on the largest system (4000 kms - 2,500 miles) of locks, canals and channels in the world.
zebra mussels has some validity - but for a small group the building of the Seaway had a more immediate, personal and heartbreaking impact. The Canadian government expropriated land along the Ontario waterfront and 6500 people were relocated from their small villages, farms and family homesteads to allow the creation of Lake Lawrence and a deeper channel for the seaway. Ten communities disappeared under water while buildings in the towns of Morrisburg and Iroquois were relocated and the land inundated by the waters from the dam. The Lost Villages have been the subject of documentaries, books and to this day bitter controversy - but as one old timer was quoted as saying, in those days if the government said move you moved, there were no protest groups to hold things up.
07 August - 1679: The brigantine Le Griffon, commissioned by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, is towed to the south-eastern end of the Niagara River, to become the first ship to sail the upper Great Lakes of North America.