June 7, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Alfred Thompson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. THOMPSON (Yukon Territory).

Mr. Speaker, before the House goes into Committee of Supply, I would like, with your permission, to draw their attention for a short time to the conditions which exist and the reforms that are needed in the Yukon Territory. Before, however, going into a discussion of this question. I may be permitted to state exactly the position I occupy politically in this House. I am here Mr. Speaker as an independent, and when I say that I mean it in the broadest sense of that term ; that is, I am independent of every political party, and if we had in this House, as they have in the House of Commons in England, cross benches, I would be sitting there. At heart I am a Conservative, but I, was elected by the united support of the Conservatives and the -most influential section of the Liberal party in the Yukon, banded together under the name of the Independent Yukon party. This party, representing a very large majority of the electors of the Yukon, was successful in electing me as their representative. I, therefore, hold myself in this parliament absolutely independent, and while it is perhaps a difficult role to fulfil, I intend to follow it consistently during my term of office here.
Having said this much, which I think it is necessary to do before I go into the discussion of this question, I will now ask the House to follow me very shortly in what I have to say about the Yukon. I find, Mr. Speaker, in discussing with private members and gentlemen in this House that there is an immense dearth of information in regard to the Territory which I have the honour to represent. So much is this so that I feel it necessary to go somewhat into details that otherwise might not be necessary to give the members of this House an understanding of that country and the conditions that 2231
exist there. In -the first place, let me say that this Territory Is bounded on the south by British Columbia, on the east by the Rocky mountains and the 136th meridian, on the north by the Arctic ocean and on the west by the Alaskan boundary line from Mount St. Elias to the Arctic ocean, which was determined by the treaty of St. Petersburg in 1825 as the 141st meridian. From Mount St. Elias to the sea the boundary line, as you know and as hon. members well know, has not altogether been settled yet, and was very recently the occasion of international dispute between the British Government and the United States. The area of this Territory is 197,000 square miles, of which 151,000 square miles are within the watershed of the Yukon river. To give you an idea by comparison how large the Territory of the Yukon is, \ will just mention- and I do not want to offend my hon. friends from Prince Edward Island when I do so- that it is sixty-six times the size of Prince Edward Island. It is nine times as large as Nova Scotia, it as seven times as large as New Brunswick, it is three times as large as the New England states, it is one-third larger than the United Kingdom and about the size of France. This Territory is watered by the great Yukon river, which has a total navigable length of 2,300 miles. The St. Lawrence river system from the west end of Lake Superior to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, is 2,384 miles in length, and remember, Mr. Speaker, that the St. Lawrence is not open for a very great deal longer period during the year than is our own Yukon. The St, Lawrence river itself is 755 miles long. The total length of the Peace and .Mackenzie rivers is 2,350 miles, but there are only 1,200 miles o,f that system that are navigable. The Mississippi river is 1,330 miles long. The point I am making by these observations is that this great river, which empties into the Behring sea and drains the Yukon Territory, has a navigable length that is equalled by very few rivers on the continent of America. Two thousand three hundred miles from its mouth to Teslin lake, steamers of greater or less draught can navigate that river for five months in the year. The Yukon river was named by an officer of the Hudson Bay Company who went in there from the interior of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories in 1843.
His name was Campbell. He simply-coined the name fro-m the Indian name of the Yukon river, giving it the English ac-i cent; and sin-ce that time the river hasi -had the name of the Yukon, and the terrH lory has taken the name of the river. In-1847, the Hudson Bay Company established Fort Yukon at the mouth oif the -Porcupine river now in Alaska. In 184S, the Hudson Bay Company established -Fort Selkirk at the mouth of the Pelly -river, now in the Y'ukon Territory. This fort was destroyed by fire in 1852, but was

rebuilt by the- Hudson Bay Company in -the same year; and from that time until the -sale of Alaska to the United States the Hudson Bay Company divided with the 'Russians the whole fur trade of that country west to Behring sea. The district now 'known as Alaska, then owned by the Russians, was sold to the United States for $7,200,000 in 1867, at which time the Hudson Bay Company retired from the region, -and they have not entered it since. Gold was discovered or first mentioned in the 'English writings of the time in 1868 by a *man named Whymper, writing from Fort Yukon. In 1873, Harper and McQuesten *went into the country to trade. In 1878, the Chilcoot Pass was first crossed from the Pacific ocean by a white man going into the interior. Up to that time communication was always obtained by means of the interior river routes with British Columbia and the North-west Territories. In 1881, gold was found in small quantities in the Big Salmon river, a tributary of the Yukon. In 18S3. the United States government sent an exploratory expedition there headed by Lieutenant Schwatka. He camped where Dawson city is now situated, and photographed the slide and the mountain behind "the city. In 1885. some mining was done on the bars of the Stewart river, a tributary of the Yukon. In 1S8S. coarse gold *was first struck on Forty Mile river. In *18S7, the Canadian government sent Dr. [DOT]Dawson in with a survey party, and lie *surveyed and reported upon the Felly and Lewe* rivers. Mr. William Ogilvie, who *afterwards became the commissioner of the *Yukon, went in the same year to define the *141st meridian, which is the boundary line [DOT]between the Yukon Territory and Alaska ; and in 1888, Mr. It S. McConnell went in on an exploring expedition. For the next few years, until 1894, reports evidently reached our government that a considerable trade was growing up in the territory, and that the trading companies all belonged to the United States. In 1894, the Dominion government sent to the territory to report on its trade and other conditions Inspector Constantine, a member of the Northwest Mounted Police. Constantine found that there was a considerable trade done, estimated the value of the gold output of that year at $300,000, collected $3,248 in duties from the trading companies, and returned to Ottawa. The report of Inspector Constantine to the government was such that tliev considered it necessary to organize the territory and to send him back in the following year with a squad of twenty men of the Northwest Mounted Police, and the report says that he was to represent the Canadian government in all its functions. Mr. William1 Ogilvie went in with Inspector Constantine at that time, again to further define the 141st meridian. Hon. gentlemen will understand Mr. THOMPSON.
what a difficult task was assigned to In-f spector Constantine, and I wish here to pay a tribute to him. I do not know him, I never saw him, but he w [DOT]"'*'[DOT] indelibly on the history of that country the impress of his manhood, in giving to the miners of those early days a sample of Canadian jusn tice. They harbour nothing but the very kindliest feelings for this man Constantine.; They say that in those early days, when) he had practically the government of the whole territory in his hands, he did what everybody acknowledged to be right. This was in 1895. Everything went on as usual for another year, when something happened which electrified the world. In .Tuly on August, 1896, gold was discovered in richi quantities in a hitherto unknown and um prospected portion of that territory. Up to this time no gold had been found on the stream which has since become famous the world over, and which by the way has done its share in advertising Canada andi Canadian institutions throughout the world; *I mean the Klondike. In 1895, an intre-j [DOT]pid Nova Scotian named Robert Hender-i [DOT]son was prospecting on a stream tributary [DOT]to the Yukon, about twenty miles above *the Klondike, and found some prospects.! In the following year he crossed a small divide into the Klondike basin, and made some further discoveries, which were fairly good pay. but still not very rich. His supplies running out, he went to Forty Mila to buy more. On his way, he crossed the mouth of the Klondike river and there met an Englishman named Cormack fishing with some Indian associates. He told Cori mack of his discovery on the stream which is now known as Gold Bottom. Cormack was interested, and went with two Indians to see what Henderson had in the way ofi prospects. He was not very well satis-i fied. and came back, thinking that Hem derson had not enough gold there to make it worth his while to work it. On his way back Cormack and his two associates! stopped for lunch at midday, at a creek now know as Bonanza ; and while there,! the story is that Cormack was lying down after lunch, when one of the Indians took a frying pan. which every prospector in that country carries, and strolled down to the bench of the small stream running past them and panned some of the gravel, and) to his intense surprise discovered r nch! prospect. They dug further and found more gold. They realized that they had made a good discovery and they staked a claim in each. They immediately put off to Forty Mile, where Inspector Constantine was, recorded their claims, came back, sunk a hole to the bed rock, and found the rich pay of discovery claim on Bonanza creek, which has yielded since that time close on $2,000,000. that is. on the 1.500 feet which Cormack and his two associates) took up under the law at that time. The

miiiers of the district, when they heard of the discovery and saw the gold, rushed to the new find. They staked claims on Eldorado, Hunker and other creeks, and prospected1 during that fall and winter. They took out; some gold during the winter. Of course,' at that time they could not market it in the Yukon : they had to go to the Pacific coast they went down the Yukon river to its mouth where they took ship and went to Seattle or San Francisco, where the press agents saw the gold and heard their story.. The nress spread the report, and the world went mad. In 1897 and 1898, we had in the Klondike region one of the greatest gold rushes of modern times. People came from all over the civilized world ; Dawson citv was built in a few months ; fortunes were made and lost quickly; and from that *time to the present a steady stream of gold has come out of that country, and it will continue to come out for years to come ill we get a little help from this government *to encourage this great industry. Since 189i>. we have produced in the Yukon over $120,000,000 of gold. It is hardly possible *for the ordinary mind to grasp that fact; *but when I convert that amount into pounds or tons avoirdupois, the average mind will realize what it means when I say that it amounts to over 242 tons avoirdupois. sufficient to load twelve freight cars carrying twenty tons each, you will have *some idea of the quantity. Just now ini the library I saw in a book on metals that *gold may be drawn into a wire so fine that 500' feet of it will only weight one [DOT]grain. Well, I made a calculation, and I found that following one grain to every foot of wire, the Yrukon has produced since 1896 gold enough to encircle the globe twenty-i *nine times.

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