Calgary was settled quite differently than many communities
to its north as its foundation was not dependent on the fur
trade or the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, the North-West
Mounted Police (NWMP) fort that ultimately became Calgary was
created expressly to circumvent the illegal whiskey trade that
was decimating an already suffering Blackfoot culture.
When Éphrem A. Brisebois led his "F-troop" to the confluence
of the Elbow and Bow rivers, he found Sam Livingston already in
the area. An Irish adventurer credited with being the first
permanent settler in the Calgary region, Livingston was quite a
fixture in early Calgary. Brisebois went on to lead the creation
of Fort Brisebois, which was renamed Fort Calgary by Colonel
James Macleod after Brisebois fell out of favour with his
superiors. The name originally comes from Calgary Bay of the
isle of Mull, Scotland.
In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) arrived at the
fort, and Calgary’s population was boosted immediately. The
following year Calgary was incorporated as a town, and in 1894,
the town became a city.
By the turn of the 20th century, Calgary boasted a population
of 4,000 people. The burgeoning city was rather advanced and
while only the wealthiest could afford various services,
waterworks, telephone service, and electricity were all
available by 1889. Calgary continued its remarkable growth, and
was narrowly defeated by Edmonton as the capital city of
In 2003, Calgary’s metropolitan population was estimated at
just fewer than 1,000,000 people, making it the largest city in
Alberta. Calgary is also Canada’s richest city based on income
per capita, and has survived some very sudden booms and busts,
such as the population explosion between 1974 and the early
1980s resulting from the Arab oil boycott and the thriving
Calgary-based oil patch.
In 1988, under Mayor Ralph Klein, Calgary hosted the Olympic
Winter Games. The city continues to put on the annual Calgary
Stampede, often called "the greatest outdoor show on Earth." The
yearly event was conceived in 1912.
Calgary has been primarily British (English speaking) since
its inception, but French language and culture still played an
important, if quieter, role in its development. There have been
many francophone figures that have been significant to the
Calgary community. Father Doucet selected a spot for a mission
just up the Elbow River. This spot became the centre of
Calgary’s Roman Catholic community, and the Holy Cross Hospital,
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Convent, and High School were all built in
Doucet’s mission district. The Rouleau brothers (Charles and
Édouard) were also important proponents of French language,
culture and education in the city. Through their work with the
Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (which became the Association
canadienne-française de l’Alberta—ACFA), the Knights of
Columbus, local school boards, and Alberta’s law courts, they
made such a contribution that the area of Calgary in which they
lived was named Rouleauville. Calgarian Dr. Louis Beauchemin,
long-time president of the ACFA, was instrumental in founding
the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission
Today, French immersion programs are offered at 22 schools in
Calgary, which include 12 elementary schools, six junior high
schools, and four high schools.
Byfield, Ted. The Great West Before 1900. United
Western Communications Limited. Edmonton, Alberta. 1991.
Smith, Donald B. A History of French-Speaking Albertans.
In Howard Palmer & Tamara Palmer (Eds.), Peoples of Alberta,
Portraits of Cultural Diversity (pp. 84-108). Western
Producer Prairie Books. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 1985.
Stenson, Fred. The Story of Calgary. Fifth House
Publishers. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 1994.