Up to the 1880s, municipalities used their own local mean solar time. For example, at a latitude of 49°, 2 municipalities would have differed in time by one min for each 18 kilometres of east-west separation, with the easternmost municipality having the later time. This arrangement was acceptable to all when an 18 kilometre journey was considered long, arduous, unpredictable or rare. With the advent of railways, the multitude of municipal times became a significant aggravation for the traveller. Before he became chief engineer for the CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY, Sir Sandford FLEMING spent one uncomfortable night in a railway station due to the time confusion when changing trains. Although many other travellers had likely had similar experiences, Fleming's personal experience seemed to inspire his search for a way of reducing confusion about time.
In England, both Dr William Hyde Wollaston and Abraham Follett Osler promoted a system of universal time. England was the first country to adopt standardized time, with the railways forcing the issue. North American railways experimented with operating each line on uniform time. To reduce the remaining confusion at a union station, the American Charles Ferdinand Dowd advocated geographic time zones for the railways. Fleming became a strong advocate of time zones to be used for all purposes. In 1883, the North American railways adopted hour-wide time zones. Fleming's advocacy of time zones had its greatest effect in 1884 at an international conference in Washington, DC, called to select a prime meridian to be used for NAVIGATION. The conference agreed upon Greenwich as the common reference for longitude and time, and attending countries rapidly implemented Fleming's plan of 24 time zones around the world, each 15° of longitude wide, with the first centered on the Greenwich meridian. Today, the implementation of Greenwich time is officially referred to as Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. Time zones in Canada are referred to as UTC-xh. Eg, British Columbia time in the winter months is described as UTC-8 hours; Newfoundland time is referred to as UTC - 3h30.
Canada, like the rest of the world, now uses a modified version of Fleming's time zones. The boundaries conform to more convenient geographical or political boundaries. In a few places such as NEWFOUNDLAND, the time zone differs by 30 minutes from the expected time zone, and in other places the difference is one or even 2 hours.
Daylight Saving Time
In Canada, as in most middle latitudes countries, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is now commonly used. A pre-breakfast daylight hour can be "saved" for use after supper by the practice of turning the clocks ahead by one hour in the spring and setting them back by one hour in the autumn. It was introduced into Canada by the federal government in 1918 as a measure for increasing war production, emulating legislation in Germany and Britain.
Federal government regulation of DST lapsed with the end of WWI. It had been a popular innovation that was appreciated beyond the benefits of increased productivity and reduced energy consumption, and municipalities in Canada came to regulate DST practice to reduce the confusion present when different businesses on the same street used different times. The provinces became involved, passing different sorts of time legislation, and since 1987 official time zones and DST have been regulated by the provinces and territories. Most provinces use DST except for most of Saskatchewan, pockets of Ontario, parts of BC and areas of Québec east of 63°W.
Most provincial time acts regulate official time only to the extent that they define a legal default for the time zone. If a time zone is not specified in a legal document, it is to be interpreted according to the time act. Only 2 provincial time acts could be construed as regulating the time to be used and observed by everyone, and in many parts of Canada the official and observed time zones differ, coexisting peacefully. For determining the time zone that was in use for a given municipality on some date in the past and whether or not DST was in use, eg, on birth records, a local newspaper's published time of sunrise and sunset for the year and day in question is generally most useful. It can be used by an amateur or professional astronomer or navigator to resolve DST ambiguities in historical records.
From 1988 until 2006, for the parts of Canada that use DST, clocks followed the North American pattern of "spring forward" on the first Sunday in April and "fall back" on the last Sunday of Oct. Since March 2007, the standard North American period for Daylight Saving Time has been from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November, a change introduced by the US in 2005 when President George W. Bush signed legislation calling for a change to the annual beginning and end of DST. The new schedule was introduced to save energy, with a resultant beneficial effect on the environment, the rationale being that people would not need to have their lights on as early in the evening. Despite predictions of reduced consumption, data to support evidence of energy savings has been elusive.
Canadian provinces and territories, like nations around the world, followed the American plan to alter the scope of DST. It was essential to do so for trade, travel and communications, particularly in light of the US being Canada's chief trading partner.
See TIME ZONES: TABLE.
Author ROBERT DOUGLAS
Links to Other Sites
A profile of Sir Sanford Fleming from the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.
Sir Sandford Fleming
An illustrated history of the life and times of Sir Sandford Fleming. A Virtual Museum of Canada website.
Sir Sandford Fleming
Watch the Heritage Minute about Sir Sandford Fleming from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
The Canadian Clock Museum
Spend some time on a virtual tour of antique Canadian clocks at the website for the Canadian Clock Museum.
Time Zones & Daylight Saving Time
Check out the precise time in each of Canada’s many time zones. From the National Research Council.
Annual cycle of light in the Northern Arctic
A graphical representation of the annual cycle of light in the Northern Arctic. From the GRID-Arendal website. From the UNEP/GRID-Arendal website.
A Scientific and Historical Background Regarding the Time System in Saskatchewan
A report on the history of local and regional time zone policies in the Province of Saskatchewan. From the website for the City of Saskatoon.
Of leap seconds, metaphorical rivers, and the enigma of time
An examination of past and present concepts of "time" and timekeeping. From thestar.com website.
Sunrise/Sunset/Sun Angle Calculator
Access an online program that calculates sunrise and sunset times for a full year or a selected date. It can also calculate sun angles for a full year. From the National Research Council.
A Handbook of Dates For Students of British History
A detailed description of the various systems used to calculate the time and dates of important documents and events (such as religious commemorations and festivals) from ancient times to the modern era.
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