On this date, May 16, in history:
In 587, Irish monk St. Bredan died. He’s known for setting out in the Atlantic with two other monks in a skin boat and possibly travelling as far as North America. (Scholars debate whether the journey was factual or fabled.)
In 1770, Austrian princess Marie Antoinette, aged 14, married French King Louis XVI, who was 15.
In 1855, the Reciprocity Treaty between Canada and the U.S. took effect.
In 1871, British Columbia was authorized to become Canada’s sixth province.
In 1875, an earthquake in Venezuela and Colombia killed 16,000 people.
In 1881, the first electric streetcar went into service in Germany.
In 1920, Joan of Arc was canonized in Rome.
In 1929, the first Academy Awards were handed out. Wings was named Best Picture, Emil Jannings won Best Actor and Janet Gaynor won the Best Actress Oscar.
In 1930, uranium was discovered in a mine in Ontario. The mine was to produce the fuel for the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War. The province’s uranium mines were closed by the late 1990s, mainly for economic reasons. By then, thousands of miners had been exposed to excessive amounts of radiation.
In 1930, Canadian prospector Gilbert Labine discovered a valuable deposit of pitchblende, the chief source of uranium and radium, at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.
In 1943, German troops destroyed the main synagogue in Warsaw, the Polish capital, and the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto collapsed after 30 days of fighting during the Second World War.
In 1960, an American-Soviet summit in Paris collapsed on its opening day when the Soviets levelled spy charges against the U.S. in the wake of the downing of the American U2 spy plane.
In 1975, Japan’s Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
In 1988, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report declaring nicotine addictive in ways similar to heroin and cocaine.
In 1990, Muppets creator Jim Henson died of a bacterial infection at age 53.
In 1990, fire broke out at Quebec’s largest tire dump, at St-Amable near Montreal. The dump held more than three million tires and the fire raged for four days before it was put out.
In 1991, Queen Elizabeth became the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress.
In 1997, NATO’s 16 member states ratified a historic agreement with Russia. It gave Moscow a voice, but not a vote, in NATO business and decisions. Russian President Boris Yeltsin said the agreement answered his government’s concerns about NATO expansion into eastern Europe.
In 1997, Zaire’s longtime dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, gave up power and left his country’s capital as rebels closed in.
In 2001, the federal government ended its involvement in the mining business when the Prince mine closed in Sydney, N.S. It was the last operating mine owned by Devco, a federal Crown corporation.
In 2001, Gordon Campbell led British Columbia’s Liberals to the largest electoral landslide in the province’s history. The Liberals won 77 seats, compared to just two for the NDP under Premier Ujjal Dosanjh.
In 2003, a series of car bomb explosions ripped through Casablanca, killing 41 people, including 13 bombers. The bombs were all directed at Western targets. A top Moroccan official later said the suicide bombers had direct al-Qaida ties.
In 2006, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to send a UN peacekeeping force to the Darfur region of Sudan to end the slaughter of civilians.
In 2008, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled Canada’s own version of the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a Canadian.
In 2009, the ruling Congress Party-led coalition won a resounding victory in India’s month-long national elections, securing a second term in power.
In 2009, Kuwaitis elected female parliament members for the first time.
In 2011, space shuttle Endeavour took off on its final voyage and the penultimate flight of NASA’s 30-year-old shuttle program. The mission commander was Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who watched the launch in private from the Kennedy Space Center (In January, Giffords was shot in the head at a constituent meet-and-greet in Tucson).
In 2012, a report by Ontario’s independent police watchdog found the police violated civil rights, detained people illegally, and used excessive force during the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto. The report made 42 recommendations, including changes to the police code of conduct. Dozens of Toronto police officers faced a tribunal after being levelled with misconduct charges.
In 2013, U.S. gossip website Gawker and The Toronto Star reported they had seen a cellphone video that appeared to show Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
In 2018, Michigan State University announced its US$500 million settlement with 332 women and girls who were sexually assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history. He pleaded guilty to molesting the victims under the guise that it was treatment. (Lawsuits still are pending against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and an elite gymnastics club in the Lansing-area.)
In 2020, comedian Fred Willard died at the age of 86. Willard rarely played leading roles over his 50-year career, instead making scene-stealing appearances in films including This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and Wall-E. He was also a four-time Emmy nominee.
In 2020, Phyllis George, the former Miss America who became a female sportscasting pioneer, died at 70. George got into television in 1974 at CBS on Candid Camera and joined Brent Musburger and Irv Cross in 1975 on The NFL Today.