From humble beginnings to making history in Montreal

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Long before unforgettable Canadian baseball moments, such as Joe Carter’s World-Series-winning home run, the emotion and pride Canadians felt as our national anthem was performed for the first time at a Major League Baseball (MLB) game, and Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip, baseball already had a strong presence in Canada. While many of us consider baseball a North American sport, it actually has its origins in the European bat-and-ball game played by British schoolkids known as rounders. Variations of baseball were being played in Canada at least three decades before Confederation. The first documented account of the game, however, comes from Beachville, Ontario, on June 4, 1838. Southwestern Ontario was where the game was most prominent in these early days.

A black-and-white photograph of an outdoor baseball field with a game underway. The crowd watches from the packed stands. The background shows the buildings of the cityscape.

A baseball game at Tecumseh Park between the International League’s London Tecumsehs and the Stars of Syracuse in 1878. Now called Labatt Park, it is the world’s oldest continually operating baseball grounds, opening on May 3, 1877. It was designated a heritage site in 1944 (MIKAN 3261769)

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball game from behind home plate. A player is at the plate as a pitch comes in. The umpire stands behind him to make the call.

Hanlan’s Point Stadium on Toronto Island in 1917, the first home of the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club. It was also where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run while playing for the Providence Grays (MIKAN 3384487)

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball stadium, taken from the vantage point of the right field bleachers. The bleachers and the field, including the diamond and outfield, are visible.

View from the outfield stands at Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto. Built in 1927 for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, it was built to replace Hanlan’s Point Stadium (MIKAN 3327476)

The first official Canadian baseball team was formed as a result of efforts by William Shuttleworth, who was known as the father of Canadian baseball. The first pioneering team, comprised of various working class men from around Hamilton, was called the Young Canadians. For the next two decades, teams adhering to different rules sprouted up all over Canada. As the popularity of the sport soared, businessmen sponsored their favourite teams as a way to promote their products, and the Canadian Association of Baseball Players was founded. At this time, rather than competing nationally, many local baseball clubs competed cross-border with their closest American neighbours. By 1913, there were 24 minor league teams in Canada.

A black-and-white photograph of 10 children wearing baseball uniforms. The jerseys read "Pages" across the front. The boys are sitting and standing with bats, gloves and other baseball equipment. Behind the boys stands an adult man, wearing a suit and hat. The background is a studio backdrop showing trees.

House of Commons “Pages” baseball team, circa 1900. Baseball was enjoyed by people of all ages in Canada. It was seen as a great way to develop team skills and it was common for companies and their staff to form teams, such as these young men who worked on Parliament Hill (MIKAN 3549043)

First World War

Sports were an important part of everyday life in Europe for Canadian troops during the First World War. They served as a way to break the monotony of the troops’ duties and relieve stress. The leadership saw sports as a way of keeping the men out of trouble and boosting their morale while they stayed physically fit. Baseball became so beloved by soldiers that it was even sponsored by the government. In April 1916, the government held a fundraiser with the proceeds going towards baseball equipment.

A black-and-white photograph of a player sliding into home plate. The catcher is standing over the base while the umpire makes the call. A crowd of soldiers cheers them on.

member of the Canadian team slides into home as troops cheer him on in 1917. Baseball was immensely popular with troops and games were held regularly during down time (MIKAN 3384451)

Second World War

During the Second World War, baseball continued to be a favourite pastime of troops. With the Americans’ arrival in 1942, there were suddenly plenty of other teams against which to compete. As was the case in the early days of the game back at home, Canada-versus-the-US games were commonplace. One of the most memorable games occurred at Wembley Stadium on August 3, 1942, with 6,000 cheering fans in the stands. The Canadian troops defeated US Army Headquarters, 5 to 3.

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball game. A player stands with a bat and behind him are a catcher and an umpire. In the background are players watching the play and spectators in the stands.

A game between Canadian and US servicemen in August 1942 at Wembley Stadium in London, England, a venue that held many baseball games during the Second World War (MIKAN 3211157)

A black-and-white photograph of a woman in work clothes and a headscarf swinging a baseball bat at a ball. She stands in a vacant lot with industrial buildings and other structures in the background.

It wasn’t just those contributing to the war efforts overseas who enjoyed baseball during the war years. Here, a woman from an ammunition factory in Toronto joins a game on her break (MIKAN 3195852)

Upon returning to Canada, many soldiers spoke fondly of the baseball games and continued playing and watching back home. While Canadians played many sports during war times, none was played as often or to such an enthusiastic audience as baseball.

Jackie Robinson

In 1945, the young Negro Leagues player Jackie Robinson was approached by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. Shortly after that initial, secret meeting it was announced that Robinson had signed a contract with the organization. The plan was to find the path of least resistance to his race to ease him into the Majors. The first step was to assign Robinson to spring training in Florida then ease him into professional baseball in Montreal with the team’s triple-A affiliate. Montreal was a deliberate selection, a city in which Rickey believed Robinson could get acclimated to baseball with less of a negative experience than he likely could in many American cities. However, during that first spring, in 1946, Robinson experienced unrelenting racism. In Sanford, Florida, the sheriff stepped onto the field and cancelled an exhibition game because African Americans were not allowed to compete with white players.

Montreal was a more welcoming city for Jackie and his wife Rachel. While still not without incident, the city and its fans embraced him. In his first and only season in Montreal, Jackie helped lead the team to an exceptional record of 100 wins and only 54 losses.

Learn more about Jackie Robinson’s groundbreaking career.

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball player rounding the bases as a player on the opposing team tries to catch up to him.

Jackie Robinson in Florida for spring training in 1946. Fans loved the way he sped around the diamond mesmerizing crowds, stealing a remarkable 40 bases during his first and only season in the minors, including many at home plate (MIKAN 3574533)

From humble beginnings in southwestern Ontario to a favourite wartime activity to the city of Montreal embracing Jackie Robinson, by the middle of the 20th century baseball had captured the heart of the nation. Still, Canada’s love of baseball was about to take on new heights. With Major League Baseball on its way, more Canadians than ever would soon fall in love with the game.

Other resources:

Kelly Anne Griffin is an archival technician in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of March 2018

As of today, 568,203 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 9700 and last name Timson.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Images of Cheese now on Flickr

Cheese making in Canada can trace its origins to the early 1600s with the introduction of European, milk-producing cattle at settlements like Quebec City. Over time, as more settlers arrived, so too did more cattle and family cheese recipes. Today Canadians benefit from two types of recipes introduced in the 17th century—the soft-ripened cheeses from France, and the harder types, such as Cheddar, from the United Kingdom.

A black-and-white photograph of a man using a hoist to lift cheese from a vat. Two other men, a girl and a boy watch from behind the vat.

Drawing cheese from vats at the Gruyer cheese factory, La Malbaie, Quebec (MIKAN 3518025)

The production of cheese stayed mainly on the family farm and saw only a few exports during the early 19th century. However, an American named Harvey Farrington convinced local farmers to sell their milk stocks to his factory, allowing him to open the first Canadian cheese factory in Norwich, Ontario, in 1864. Since Confederation, a number of small and large cheese producers and cheese-making schools have made their mark on Canadian food production.

A black-and-white photograph of two men checking the temperature of milk at a cheese factory.

Taking temperature in cheese factory, Prince Edward County, Ontario (MIKAN 3371580)

Visit the Flickr album now!

Images of Bird’s-Eye Views now on Flickr

 The expression “a bird’s-eye view” indicates the perspective of an area or object in relation to other things, such as a map, blueprint, or cityscape. Often depicted in drawings or photographs, a bird’s-eye view offers a reference point from high overhead.
A black-and-white photograph of Niagara Falls from a bird’s-eye perspective. There are various buildings on either side of the border and roads leading up to and alongside the riverbanks.

Bird’s-eye view of Niagara Falls with the various power plants on the Canadian side, Ontario (MIKAN 3318089)

A black-and-white photograph of Calgary, Alberta, from a bird’s-eye perspective. The Bow River and a bridge are in the foreground with a number of homes and larger buildings in the background.

Bird’s-eye view of Calgary, Alberta (MIKAN 3302621)

Some synonyms for bird’s-eye view include aerial view, aerial viewpoint, overhead view, bird’s-eye shot, and bird’s-flight view. There are slight differences in perspective, but all appear to depict the area from up above.

A black-and-white photograph of Cabri, Saskatchewan, from a bird’s-eye perspective. It shows a main dirt road with neighbouring houses and buildings. Some people, horses and wagons gather throughout the town.

Bird’s-eye view of Cabri, Saskatchewan (MIKAN 3259496)

A black-and-white map of Winnipeg, Manitoba, from a bird’s-eye perspective. The Red River is central, showing steamboats navigating it and settlements and main roads established along its banks.

Bird’s-eye view of Winnipeg, Manitoba (MIKAN 4146329)

Visit the Flickr album now!

Images of Canada’s 1948 Olympic Hockey Team now on Flickr

This collective passport includes the photographs of, and information about, 19 men from the Royal Canadian Air Force Flyers who were on Canada’s 1948 Olympic Hockey Team. They departed on January 8, 1948, for the United States of America, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and returned to Canada as gold medalists on April 8, 1948.

An image of Page 2 of the collective passport for Canada’s 1948 Olympic Hockey Team, issued by the Department of External Affairs. This page displays the photographs of, and information about (names, place of birth, date of birth, citizenship), Frank George Boucher, Hubert Brooks, Bernard Francis Dunster and Roy Austin Lowe Forbes.

Collective Passport Certificate of the 19 members of the Olympic Hockey Team: Boucher to Watson. Page 2, 1948 (MIKAN 4842034)

An image of Page 6 of the collective passport for Canada’s 1948 Olympic Hockey Team, issued by the Department of External Affairs. This page displays visas, and entry and exit stamps, from France, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States of America.

Collective Passport Certificate of the 19 members of the Olympic Hockey Team: Boucher to Watson. Page 6, 1948 (MIKAN 4842034)

Visit the Flickr album now!

Tracing history through books

By Meaghan Scanlon

When you’re browsing in a used book store, you might not want to buy something if its pages are covered in marks left by previous readers. For researchers looking to learn more about where a book came from and how it was used, though, such traces are rich sources. Annotations, inscriptions, bookplates, and stamps are evidence of the history of a book’s ownership. This history, referred to as provenance, tells a story about the book and its owners.

Most of the items in the Rare Book Collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) passed through the hands of one or more owners before arriving here, and many of them bear physical signs of their former lives. LAC’s second copy of The Polar Regions, or, A Search after Sir John Franklin’s Expedition by Sherard Osborn is an interesting example. LAC acquired this book only a short time ago, in 2015, as a transfer from the department known at the time as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. But the marks on the book’s pages indicate that it has actually been the property of the Government of Canada for about a century.

A colour photograph of two pages of an open book showing a stamp and a signature on the right-hand page.

Pages from copy 2 of The Polar Regions, or, A Search after Sir John Franklin’s Expedition by Sherard Osborn. A stamp at the top-right corner of the right-hand page reads “Commission on Conservation”; a handwritten signature in ink reads “W.A. Malcolm [?] / Jan’y [January] 1864 / Yokohama.” (AMICUS 6359969)

The book was printed in 1854. The oldest evidence of its provenance comes in the form of a signature on one of the pages that tells us the book spent some time in Yokohama, Japan, in 1864. Above the signature is an oval-shaped stamp reading “Commission on Conservation.” This likely means the book was part of the library of the Canadian Commission of Conservation. This commission was an advisory body established by the government to make recommendations on the stewardship of Canada’s national resources. It existed from 1909 to 1921; we can therefore guess that the book joined the public service during that period. In 1921, when the Senate was debating the Commission’s dissolution, one senator asked whether its “valuable library” would become part of the Library of Parliament’s collection. It seems that the books were instead distributed among the libraries of the various government departments that absorbed the Commission’s functions.

A colour photograph of the front endpapers of an open book showing a bookplate on the left-hand page and four stamps on the right-hand page.

Front endpapers of copy 2 of The Polar Regions, or, A Search after Sir John Franklin’s Expedition by Sherard Osborn, showing marks of past owners. Left: Bookplate from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Right: Stamps from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (top right), the Lands, Parks and Forests Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources (blue stamps at middle and bottom left), and the Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch of the Department of the Interior (bottom right). (AMICUS 6359969)

This particular item’s Arctic subject matter made it a resource for the people responsible for the Canadian government’s administration of its northern territories. Over the years, this responsibility has landed with various federal bodies. The book apparently travelled with the staff who needed it, staying with them through several changes in bureaucratic structure. Much like the stamps on a passport, the jumbled departmental stamps on the book’s front free endpaper provide an illustration of its journey. After the closure of the Commission of Conservation in 1921, the book went to the Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch of the Department of the Interior (green stamp at bottom right), where it remained from 1922 to 1936. From 1937 to 1953, the Department of Mines and Resources took over northern administration, and got the book as part of the deal (blue stamps at middle and bottom left). Ownership marks from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (black stamp at top right, and bookplate on facing page) and the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources (stamp behind Indian and Northern Affairs Canada bookplate; not visible in photograph) depict the volume’s continuing odyssey through the government.

It is not always possible to glean so much from the traces of a book’s past. Still, next time you find a ratty old tome on a shelf, take a moment to look at what other readers have left behind. Maybe you’ll find more than you expect!

Additional resources

Meaghan Scanlon is a Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Rosemary Gilliat’s Arctic Diary

By Katie Kendall

In June 1960, photographer Rosemary Gilliat (later known as Rosemary Gilliat Eaton), along with journalist Barbara Hinds, travelled across the Arctic. Northern Affairs Canada and the National Film Board of Canada sponsored her journey. Her assignment in Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay, Nunavut), Kuujjuag (formerly Fort Chimo, Quebec), Kangiqsualujjuag (formerly George River, Quebec), Killiniq (formerly Port Burwell, Nunavut), and Cape Dorset (Nunavut), was to take photographs of life in the north. During this period, Gilliat kept an extensive diary of her travels, describing the people, places, ways of life, events, and even the flora and fauna she encountered.

A colour photograph of two women fishing on the banks of a water body. They are standing on rocks and there are ice floes in the water.

Rosemary Gilliat (L) and Barbara Hinds (R) fishing (MIKAN 4731485)

As a practicum student at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) this term, I read the diary in full, taking note of important dates, people, places, and events. This will help improve the archival descriptions of Gilliat’s photographs in LAC’s collection. Many of the photos taken by Gilliat during this trip have been included as part of Project Naming, a LAC initiative that enables Indigenous peoples to engage in identifying the people, places, and activities in historical photos. Gilliat’s 455-page diary and many of her photos from the Arctic will be available for the public to help transcribe, tag and describe in our new and upcoming tool Co-Lab!

A colour photograph of two Inuit children wearing traditional coats in front of a white tent in a rocky landscape.

Two children wearing white parkas in the Arctic (MIKAN 4324336)

Gilliat’s diary describes many fascinating aspects of the Arctic in the summer of 1960, reflected in the almost-daily entries. Gilliat describes the landscape of the north in spectacular detail, and particularly focuses on the Arctic flowers at the start of her travels, when she had not yet made many acquaintances. Her occasional frustration with friend and travel companion Hinds is relatable, and her frequent photographic mishaps (for example, forgetting to carry film) are amusing. The snippets of news from the outside world provide the reader with a glimpse of life at that time. For example, Gilliat receives news about the ongoing space race—Russian dogs Belka and Strelka successfully orbit the Earth and return from space in August 1960—prompting Gilliat to muse on when the world will see the first human in space, which would happen less than a year later in April 1961. Gilliat also takes note of women’s roles in the north, referencing the second wave women’s movement of the 1960s.

A colour photograph of a community of wooden houses on the shores of a water body. There are flowers in the foreground.

Landscape view of wooden houses by the water (MIKAN 4731543)

Most importantly, Gilliat shares experiences with the Inuit of the communities she visits, accompanying members of the community while they fish for char, hunt for seals, and travel from one location to the next by boat or plane. Gilliat had a couple of near-death experiences travelling by boat through storms and ice, and was stranded a couple of times (once on an island for several days). In late August, she witnessed a beautiful polar bear swimming, only to realize that Eetuk, Isa, Sarpinak and Moshah, her Inuit companions, were going to kill it to provide food for their people. Gilliat’s expressive writing vividly explains her conflicting feelings on the event.

A colour photograph of a man seen in profile aiming a gun. He’s wearing a traditional fur-trimmed parka with alternating green and red stripes on the sleeves.

Oshaneetuk, a sculptor and hunter, on a seal hunt, Cape Dorset, Nunavut (MIKAN 4731420)

The hunting expeditions and tumultuous sailing events are thrilling, but the quiet moments between Gilliat and Inuit friends stand out. For example, in Cape Dorset, she meets Kingwatsiak, one of the oldest and most respected members of the community. Kingwatsiak invites Gilliat into his home and asks her to take a photograph of him. He also asks her to write a request on his behalf to Queen Elizabeth II. Kingwatsiak wishes for a photograph of her younger son, Prince Andrew, as his name (in English) is also Andrew. The letter is included in the diaries, and explains that he received a medal at the Queen’s coronation and travelled to Scotland as a young man and attended Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. He asks the Queen to deliver the photograph soon, as “I am now a very old man” and therefore may not have much time left.

A colour photograph of an elder wearing a traditional coat with green and red stripes on the sleeves. He is also wearing a medal with an image of Queen Victoria engraved on it.

Kingwatsiak in a tent, Cape Dorset, Nunavut (MIKAN 4324230)

Although much of the terminology and ways of thinking are outdated, Gilliat’s descriptive anecdotes and direct observations makes the diary a joy to read. She remains objective but eternally optimistic, describing what she sees but never letting it dampen her outlook on the beauty of the Arctic and the kindness and resolve of its people.

Katie Kendall was a practicum student (MA Art History, Carleton University) in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.


Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Mackenzie King: Against his Will”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, Mackenzie King: Against his Will.

Black-and-white image of William Lyon Mackenzie King sitting on his front porch.William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He is also increasingly viewed as one of the greatest. However, King’s accomplishments are not restricted to the realm of politics. He was also a prolific correspondent and kept an ongoing, almost daily diary from 1893, until a few days before his death in 1950. In it, King not only wrote down meticulous accounts of his life in politics, but also included fascinating details from his private life.

On today’s episode, we talk with professor and author Christopher Dummitt, whose latest book details the history behind the diaries and how they became available for the world to read.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at

Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life

By Annie Wolfe

Library and Archives Canada’s newspaper collection is full of stories, both large and small! These true stories make up Canada’s fabric, from politics to the economy, and from the arts to sports, not to mention the obituaries, known to be a gold mine for genealogists.

Local newspapers, in particular, are the voices of regions, cities, villages and neighbourhoods. The information they provide is especially important because it comes straight from those involved in building Canada’s communities. Local newspapers open a window on debates and events that directly affect citizens’ lives. Thanks to local newspapers, communities discover news that affects them directly. Local newspapers are outstanding sources of historical fact.

Here are two examples of local newspapers with valuable information for researchers or the merely curious.

Fort McMurray Today

The daily Fort McMurray Today, founded in 1974, covers the communities of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo, in Alberta. In spring 2016, a huge wildfire raged, forcing the evacuation of the area. The damage was extensive, with devastating effects on the Canadian economy, including reduced oil production.

Fort McMurray Today won the Breaking News award, shared with the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, in 2016 for coverage of the wildfire. (Source:

Microfilms of newspapers from 2015 to 2017 were acquired for the national collection to document the history of the community before, during and after the wildfire tragedy.

L’Écho de Frontenac

The weekly L’Écho de Frontenac, founded in 1929, covers the region of Lac-Mégantic, in Quebec. In summer 2013, a railway accident caused an explosion and fire that destroyed part of the town. This tragedy had significant economic, environmental and, particularly, human consequences for the community, which will take years to recover. Even today, in 2018, the courts are still trying to establish what exactly happened.

As a side note, the public library was rebuilt after the fire and renamed for Nelly Arcan, the famous Lac-Mégantic author.

Microfilms of newspapers from 2012 to 2016 were acquired for the national collection to document events related to the tragedy, but especially to show the community’s great resilience.

Local newspapers, being at the heart of Canadian life, are an extraordinary source of information on what is really happening in communities across Canada. They relate and confirm both tragic and happy events. Canada’s history is written in newspapers.

The two newspapers mentioned in this article, Fort McMurray Today and L’Écho de Frontenac, are just a few examples of the newspaper microfilm acquisitions in the national collection. These microfilms are available through interlibrary loan. For more information, please visit Library and Archives Canada’s Loans to Other Institutions page or your public library.

Black-and-white photo of a large church in a small village. Railway tracks can be seen in the foreground.

The Lac-Mégantic church before the railway accident that created a major explosion in the village in 2013. The photograph is dated 1925 (MIKAN 3323453)

Annie Wolfe is an acquisitions librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The beginning of the Conclusions: documenting the exercise of power

By Michael Dufresne

The recent addition of records to the Cabinet Conclusions database offers access to the attendance records, agenda and the minutes of Cabinet from 1977 to 1979. The minutes are not verbatim accounts of Cabinet meetings but provide excellent summaries of the discussions and various positions taken by Cabinet members. These newest records straddle both governments of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the short-lived government of Joe Clark. They cap off the long preamble to the repatriation of the constitution and the advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are an important part of the corporate memory of the federal government and reveal a range of subjects, preoccupations, concerns and opportunities confronting the most powerful institutions in our parliamentary system.

A pen-and-brush drawing depicting a man standing in a circus ring holding a whip and reading a book while a lion sitting on a raised platform looks over his shoulder.

Editorial cartoon by John Collins depicts Joe Clark as a lion tamer reading the book “How to Control Gov’t Spending,” published in The Gazette, Montreal, 1979. Copyright held by Library and Archives Canada (MIKAN 2863264)

We might take it for granted that a democratic state provides some measure of transparency for those wishing to know why and how a decision is made. Our democratic sensibilities might be offended to know that, while we could probably trace our democratic heritage to well before the 1940s, it was not until then that Cabinet kept an agenda and minutes of its deliberations. The lack of records documenting Cabinet deliberations can encourage an exaggerated sense of the power of the Prime Minister. “The story went around,” writes historian Michael Bliss in his book, Right Honourable Men: The Descent of Canadian Politics from Macdonald to Mulroney, “that when Bennett was seen mumbling to himself, he was holding a Cabinet meeting.” When there are no official records to document Cabinet’s discussions, who is going to contradict the memory of the Prime Minister?

From 1867 to 1940, a succession of six men served as Clerk of the Privy Council; their duties reflected the comparatively modest role of the state in Canadian society before the Second World War. But with the appointment in 1940 of Arnold Danforth Patrick Heeney, things were clearly changing. Heeney became the seventh Clerk of the Privy Council since Confederation and the country’s first Secretary to the Cabinet.

Upon his arrival in Ottawa, he was surprised by the informal ways in which important business was conducted. “I found it shattering to discover,” Heeney writes in his autobiography, The Things that are Caesar’s, “that the highest committee in the land conducted its business in such a disorderly fashion that it employed no agenda and no minutes were taken. The more I learned about Cabinet practices, the more difficult it was for me to understand how such a regime could function at all.”

Changes to the Privy Council Office (PCO) were inspired by reforms to the United Kingdom’s Privy Council in 1916 by Sir Maurice Hankey. The changes were, in part, an acknowledgment of the growing demands on modern government. Possible changes had been discussed for several years, but nothing had been done. Why then did they occur in 1940? The challenges of governing while prosecuting the Second World War demanded changes to how government organized and documented its deliberations and actions. Order-in-Council PC 1121 of March 25, 1940 heralded the beginning of the modern PCO. It read, in part:

“The great increase in the work of the Cabinet … has rendered it necessary to make provision for the performance of additional duties of a secretarial nature relating principally to the collecting and putting into shape of agenda of Cabinet meetings, providing of information and material necessary for the deliberations of the Cabinet and the drawing up of records of the results, for communication to the departments concerned … ”

Order-in-Council PC 1940-1121 ushered in a significant change in the universe of government information, but it was not until 1944 that the formal Cabinet Conclusions were created and preserved. In the absence of these official records, researchers have to look to Prime Ministers’ personal papers to perhaps discover some form of documentation of Cabinet meetings.

The Cabinet Conclusions have practical value for the administration of the state and democratic significance for the insight and transparency they make possible. More than mere instruments of modern bureaucracy, they offer an inside look at the deliberations, discussions, debates and decision making of the federal government’s most powerful politicians and, to a degree, the high-ranking bureaucrats who serve them. Library and Archives Canada’s acquisition and preservation of these records along with the access it helps facilitate, provide a revealing window into the workings of our democratic state.

The latest additions to the database close out the 1970s, and will inspire new insights into the history of Canada, and about the federal government, particularly those entrusted with its leadership. Researchers can search the Cabinet Conclusions by keyword (one of their own choosing or one from a list of keywords capturing a handful of major issues confronting the government in each year), dates, agenda and records of attendance. The Conclusions offer more than documentary evidence of government deliberations and decision making; they are a means of discovering other Cabinet documents. In other words, the Conclusions can offer you the answers to complete your search, but they can also act as the beginning of your search for more and better answers. In addition, the Conclusions are a means of discovering related Cabinet documents, which may include backgrounders and Cabinet memoranda that informed discussions around the Cabinet table. Those records are not digitized and are not available in the database. However, researchers will find references to those Cabinet documents in the Conclusions—and once the number of a document is known, it can be searched using the year it was created and the finding aid 2-15 to locate it.

See the Cabinet Conclusions database for more detailed instructions on search options.

Related resources

Michael Dufresne is an archivist in the Government Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.