Canadian History for Kids!

Canadian History for Kids: Trans Canada Highway

July 30, 1962 – Prime Minister John Diefenbaker officially opens the Trans-Canada Highway to traffic.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the Trans Canada Highway..

Is July 30th, 1962 the anniversary of the opening of the longest national highway in the world? We aren’t sure! This Canadian History for Kids, Sketches of Canada, looks at the ever controversial Trans Canada Highway.

The great national highway goes back to 1912 when a group of early automobile enthusiasts gathered at Alberni on Vancouver Island to kick off a promotion in support of what they called a “Canadian Highway”. But it was not until the end of 1949 that the Trans-Canada Highway Act passed through Parliament.

This Canadian History for Kids article continues with hw the project had an expected completion date of 1956 but when the initial agreement expired less than half the highway was complete. After extended debate between Ottawa and the provinces, the agreement was renewed and finally, during the summer of 1962, the final section through Rogers Pass, British Columbia, was finished.

So, now the ribbon cutting!

This Canadian History for Kids article continues with how the federal government prepared to open the highway in Rogers Pass at a grand ceremony on September 3, 1962. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was going to be there to tamp down the last bit of asphalt being laid. Every province had been invited to send a representative, along with military bands and a caravan of automobiles.

But BC Premier W.A.C. Bennett wasn’t exactly thrilled. Bennett wasn’t about to allow the federal politicians take any credit in B.C. So on July 30 he upstaged Ottawa by holding his own ceremony down the road in Revelstoke. He snipped the ribbon and proudly declared “BC Highway No. 1” open, with absolutely no mention of Canada at all.

This Canadian History for Kids article continues eight years later, when the federal-provincial funding agreement expired, Bennett removed all the Trans-Canada Highway signs in the province and replaced them with signs that said “BC Highway.”

Of course BC was not the only province to have its grievances about the Trans-Canada. Quebec complained about the highway being an imposition into its area of constitutional responsibility. Newfoundland complained about the cost-sharing agreement. Nova Scotia and Ontario complained about the route. During his speech at Rogers Pass, Prime Minister Diefenbaker remarked that the new highway brought a “renewed sense of national unity” to the country. Really?

The 7821 km Trans-Canada Hwy was formally opened at ROGERS PASS on 30 July 1962. Canadians could now drive, using ferry services on both coasts, from St John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, BC.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

Other Canadian History for Kids Sketches of Canada