Hard Travel: Alex MacKenzie from Canada by land, 22 July 1793

Friday, 26 February 2021 online via Zoom

Speaker: Dr. Richard Van Loon

Lecture title: Hard Travel: Alex MacKenzie from Canada by land, 22 July 1793

Lecture Summary

In this talk we will move much farther west and forward in time by nearly 100 years to travel with Alexander MacKenzie as he becomes the first European to reach the Pacific Ocean by land across North America, in 1793. MacKenzie’s epic travels depended on predecessor traders and explorers of the NorthWest Company and even more on the First Nations which inhabited, knew and understood all of the territory over which the Europeans travelled and traded as they moved west. We will meet both some earlier traders and the First Nation across whose land they travelled.

Bio: Richard Van Loon

Richard Van Loon is past president of Carleton University and past chair of the Council of Ontario Universities. He holds a BSc in chemistry and an MA in political science from Carleton and a PhD in political studies from Queen’s University.

He joined Carleton in 1970 as assistant professor of political science and has held faculty positions in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton where he is now professor emeritus and in the Faculty of Administration at the University of Ottawa. He was associate deputy minister of Health Canada and of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and held several assistant deputy minister positions in the Canadian federal government. He was the first Carleton alumnus to become president of the university.

Dr. Van Loon’s current research interests include federal-provincial relations, particularly related to post-secondary education, quality assurance and institutional structure in post-secondary education as well as the history of the Ottawa River and of First Nation/fur trader relations.


Click here to view a recording of this talk


Notes for further reading:

1) Peter Pond was a fascinating character but one who has elicited not much biography since his own journals were incomplete and obscure. There is one good source:Barry Gough, The Elusive Mr. Pond, Douglas and McIntyre, 2013. It is available at Amazon

2) Barry Gough also did a biography of MacKenzie: First Across the Continent, MacLellan and Stuart, 1997. Also available at Amazon. There is one copy in the Ottawa Library. This is probably the best, somewhat critical account of MacKenzie.

3) Derek Hayes, First Crossing, Douglas and McIntyre, 2001. It is harder to find but may, I hope be in the library. It features great pictures and Hayes followed much of MacKenzie’s trail. I got it from a used bookseller. 

4) MacKenzie’s own Voyages from Montreal on the River St Lawrence through the Continent of North America… is quite readable. There are two volumes. The first describes the fur trade in great detail. The second describes his voyages and is the source of the quotes I used. It is easily findable online free.

5) The best shorter general source for all the explorers and also the First Nation leaders who worked with them is The Dictionary of Candian Biography, a terrific online free resource. There may be enough there to satisfy many readers.

Hard Travel: 6000 years up the Ottawa River and into the West


Friday, 29 January 2021 online via Zoom

Speaker: Dr. Richard Van Loon

Lecture title: Hard Travel: 6000 years up the Ottawa River and into the West

Lecture Summary

For over 6000 years the St Lawrence and Ottawa valleys were the main highways leading to the interior of North America. This talk will focus on the travellers and traders who used the Ottawa River from the end of the last ice age to the end of the 17th century. Of course we will meet Samuel Champlain and his contemporaries including the Algonquin Chief Tessouat, but also the predecessor First Nations which have used the river for at least 6000 years. We will also meet Pierre Esprit Radisson, and his contemporary coureurs de bois as well as the voyageurs who powered so much of this travel.

Bio: Richard Van Loon

Richard Van Loon is past president of Carleton University and past chair of the Council of Ontario Universities. He holds a BSc in chemistry and an MA in political science from Carleton and a PhD in political studies from Queen’s University.

He joined Carleton in 1970 as assistant professor of political science and has held faculty positions in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton where he is now professor emeritus and in the Faculty of Administration at the University of Ottawa. He was associate deputy minister of Health Canada and of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and held several assistant deputy minister positions in the Canadian federal government. He was the first Carleton alumnus to become president of the university.

Dr. Van Loon’s current research interests include federal-provincial relations, particularly related to post-secondary education, quality assurance and institutional structure in post-secondary education as well as the history of the Ottawa River and of First Nation/fur trader relations.


Click here to access a recording of this lecture

Is it the End of the Road for Antiques in Canada?

Friday, 26 March 2021 via Zoom

Speaker: Janet Carlile

Lecture title: Is it the end of the Road for Antiques in Canada?

Lecture Summary

From television, to radio, to columns in magazines and newspapers and appraisals, antiques have been part of my life for over 40 years and it’s fair to say over that time things have changed. In this lecture I’ll chat about appraisals but also about the world of antique buying, selling, dealing, the black market and auctions. We’ll also talk about insurance, selling, downsizing, and investing and where the antiques trade is heading in Canada, how it has changed and what the future holds- knowing there is a distinct difference in attitude to antiques in most other parts of the world.

We may even answer that ever present question, “what am I going to do with all this old stuff?”

Bio: Janet Carlile

meetjanetcarlile2Janet Carlile is an independent, accredited antiques valuer and appraiser. She has thirty years of experience appraising, inventorying and advising on fine art and antiques for private, corporate and institutional clients in North America and Europe.

Janet’s qualifications include a first degree in Canadian History from the University of Waterloo in Canada and a Master’s Degree in Modern Social History from Lancaster University in England. She completed the Decorative Arts Course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art which included working in appraisals and research at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.