Named after Queen Victoria’s middle name, Regina is a tree-lined oasis of culture, activity and shade in an otherwise flat and unpopulated province. As the capital city of the province of Saskatchewan, and the second largest city in the province after Saskatoon, Regina is home to a vibrant cultural scene which includes Canada’s oldest continuous symphony orchestra, Canada’s biggest multi-cultural festival and one of the most turbulent and interesting histories of any city in the west! All of this despite -40 centigrade winter temperatures!
Regina was founded in 1882 and named by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter and wife of the Canadian Governor-General at the time. The site had been loosely settled near Pile-O-Bones, the only landmark in a treeless expanse consisting of a massive pile of buffalo bones assembled there by First Nations hunters over the centuries. The new Canadian Pacific railway being forged through the territory chose what few landmarks it could to create temporary worker’s towns. The town around Pile-o-Bones stayed, however, and began to grow.
At the time of Regina’s founding as a real city, Saskatchewan was part of the massive Northwest Territories. Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney, then governor of the territory, decided to move the capital of the territories from Battleford to Regina, centrally located as it was on the new rail line. In 1885 the Northwest Rebellion broke out and following the defeat of the rebels by the new Canadian Army and the hanging of rebel leader Louis Riel, Regina grew in importance. The government established the headquarters and training depot of the Northwest Mounted Police (later to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in Regina as a show of federal force for anyone else who might think of rebelling. The RCMP training depot has remained in Regina since, and is a major tourist stop in the prairies.
Between 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War, the Saskatchewan region and Regina boomed economically as new technologies gave agriculture economic primacy. A flood of immigrants to the region, particularly from Scotland and the Ukraine, settled the land and Saskatchewan became the third richest area in North America! In 1905 Parliament granted Saskatchewan provincial status and invited her to join Confederation. Regina, the historic capital of the territories, remained as capital of the new province.
The boom years Regina experienced came to a crashing halt in 1929 with the start of the Great Depression and the “dust bowl” drought of the continental mid-west. Farms dried up the same time factories were closing, and Regina was hit particularly hard. The economic hardship of the “Dirty Thirties” resulted in a growing socialist and union movement in Canada which originated in Regina. The CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation), the forerunner of today’s left-leaning New Democratic Party, was founded in 1935 in Regina following a riot by protesting labourers on their way to Ottawa. Police charged into the crowd and the first union-busting riot in Canada ensued, going down in labour history as the Regina Riots.
Following the Second World War, when all social and political differences were put aside (and in which the local regiment, the Regina Rifles, landed in the first wave on D-Day), Regina’s local economy stagnated. The War Years had largely benefited eastern Canada’s manufacturing industry, and the discovery of oil in Alberta in the 1940’s saw provinces to the west of Saskatchewan boom. Agriculture, it seemed, would take a back seat in the new post-war world.
In 1982 Regina celebrated its centennial, with Princess Anne presiding over the ceremonies.Since then, Regina has remained fairly stable. The city has grown to 193,000 inhabitants and is the home to various festivals, the University of Regina, the Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL team and the government of Saskatchewan. Enjoy this picture tour of the “Paris of the Prairies”!
RCMP Training Depot