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Ross, James Hamilton (1856–1932)

Ross was born in London, Canada West, on May 12, 1856, and moved with his family to Manitoba in the early 1870s. In 1882 he moved to what is now Saskatchewan and established the first mixed farming operation in the Moose Jaw district. He married Barbara Elizabeth McKay in 1886. He was elected to the North-West Council in 1883, then to the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories in 1888. His colleagues selected him as Speaker in 1891, the highest office available to an MLA at the time. Ross resigned the speakership in a budget controversy over responsible government. He joined the original Executive Council led by Frederick Haultain and guided the Territories’ first labour legislation through the Assembly. Although a Liberal, he was a supporter of Premier Haultain’s plan to obtain provincial status for the Territories. When responsible government was granted to the North-West Territories in 1897, Ross entered the first Cabinet as Commissioner (Minister) of Agriculture, Commissioner of Public Works, and Territorial Secretary. He relinquished these positions in 1899 to become Territorial Treasurer. He showed tremendous administrative and political skill in keeping the North-West Territories solvent. In 1899 Ross was appointed a treaty commissioner. Ross led the negotiations with the First Nation bands from Athabasca, in what is now Alberta. He assisted David Laird in negotiating Treaty 8 and traveled throughout the North-West. Appointed commissioner of the Yukon Territory in 1901, he was the first commissioner to reside in Government House in Dawson City. Despite suffering a paralytic stroke in 1902, he became the first member of Parliament to represent the Yukon Territory in a by-election in 1902. Summoned to the Senate of Canada in1904, he served there until his death in Victoria on December 14, 1932.

Michael Thome

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Further Reading

Lingard, C. Cecil. 1946. Territorial Government in Canada: The Autonomy Question in the Old North-West Territories. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; Thomas, Lewis Herbert. 1956. The Struggle for Responsible Government in the North-West Territories, 1870–97. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
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