Daily Archives: July 20, 2013

Welcome British Columbia!

English: Joseph Trutch, June 1870. Photo by Wi...

Joseph Trutch, June 1870. Photo by William James Topley. Online from Library and Archives Canada PA-025343 Category:British Columbia public domain photographs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canada from sea unto sea became a reality on July 20, 1871, when British Columbia entered Confederation.   The extension was not achieved easily and Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland were yet to come.  Alberta and Saskatchewan were in Confederation, but as Northwest Territories, they did not become separate provinces until 1905.

Between 1867 and 1871, there was a great deal of support in British Columbia for a movement to join the United States.  Nevertheless, in May 1870, three delegates left Victoria for Ottawa to discuss terms for joining Canada.  One of them was Dr. J. S. Helmcken who had been the leader of the movement for joining the United States!  He began to change his mind when the delegates were travelling through the United States to Ottawa by the Union Pacific Railway.  He saw how that railway had been put through the Sierra Mountains and realized that it might be possible to build a railway through the Rockies.  Surveyor Pallister disagreed.

When the delegates arrived in Ottawa, they were received by Sir George Etienne Cartier, because Sir John A. Macdonald was ill.  The negotiations were easy.  Some of the British Columbia delegates thought they might have to settle for a wagon road through the mountains, but Canada promised to begin building a transcontinental railway within two years and to have it completed within ten.  Canada also agreed to take over British Columbia’s debt.  The province would have the same form of government as the others and send three senators and six M.P.’s to Ottawa.

In recent years there has been a good deal of co-operation between British Columbia and Quebec.  After completing the Columbia river Power Agreement, the Government of British Columbia under Premier W.A.C. Bennett lent Quebec $100 million, saving the province $750,000 which would have been paid in legal fees and brokers’ commissions if the money had been raised through the usual channels.

This friendship may stem, in part, from Joseph Trutch of British Columbia said: “We must all remember in British Columbia that to Sir George Cartier and his followers in Lower Canada, we owe the position we are now in — and especially the Canadian Pacific Railway.”

There are many places to visit (virtually and physically) and books to read about this; but let me suggest a few sites. There’s Library and Archives Canada, and then Canadian History Project, as well as a new site I just found, at Multicultural History Society of Ontario. And finally, About Online for an amazing article written by Susan Munroe.


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