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Let’s Talk about Confederation

28 Feb

Confederation:
The coming together of the colonies in British North America. Three colonies were made into four provinces. These were Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They became the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. The other provinces and territories joined later.

For all of the reasons the Province of Canada began to plan for Confederation, as outlined in yesterday’s post, the leaders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had already considered joining together in a Maritime union and were planning a conference. They accepted the politicians from the Province of Canada to join them in the upcoming conference on the subject.

The Charlottetown Conference, September 1st through 9th 1864:The politicians from the Province of Canada convinced the politicians from the Maritime colonies at New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to think about an even larger union. There was no one working at the public wharf at the foot of Great George Street when the Canadian delegates arrived on the steamship SS Victoria, so Prince Edward Island representative William Henry Pope had to handle receptions by himself, including rowing out to greet the new arrivals. The Canadian delegates stayed each night on board the SS Queen Victoria, as circus-goers and the Maritime delegates had taken up the lodgings in town.

The Quebec Conference, October 10 – 27, 1864: The Conference began on October 10, 1864, on the site of present-day Montmorency Park. The Conference elected Étienne-Paschal Taché as its chairman, but it was dominated by Macdonald. Despite differences in the positions of a few of the delegates on some issues, the Quebec Conference, following so swiftly on the success of the Charlottetown Conference, was infused with a determined sense of purpose and nationalism.

The delegates from the Maritimes also raised an issue with respect to the level of government– provincial or federal– that would be given the powers not otherwise defined. Macdonald, who was aiming for the strongest central government possible, insisted that this was to be the central government, and in this he was supported by, among others, Tupper.

Prince Edward Island emerged disappointed from the Quebec Conference. It did not receive support for a guarantee of six members in the proposed House of Commons, and was denied an appropriation of $200,000 that it felt had been offered at Charlottetown to aid in buying out the holdings of absentee landlords.

On the issue of the Senate, the Maritime Provinces pressed for as much equality as possible. With the addition of Newfoundland to the Conference, the other three Maritime colonies did not wish to see the strength of their provinces in the upper chamber diluted by simply adding Newfoundland to the Atlantic category. It was Macdonald who came up with the acceptable compromise of giving Newfoundland four senators of its own when it joined.

The London Conference, December 1866 – January 1867: This was the last conference, and it took place in London, England. Leaders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada had to take the rough draft of the Quebec Resolutions and come up with a final agreement. The document they created was called the British North America Act. Once British Parliament approved it, Confederation could go ahead.

They all agreed that the brand-new nation needs to be called Canada, and that Canada East must be relabeled Quebec and that Canada West need to be relabeled Ontario. Inevitably, the delegates chosen to call the brand-new nation the Dominance of Canada, after “kingdom” as well as “confederation”, among many other choices, were denied for different reasons.

After the Quebec Conference, the Province of Canada’s legislature passed a bill authorizing the union. The union proved much more questionable in the Maritime districts, Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1866 that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia passed union resolutions, while Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland continued to opt against joining.

The Act was presented to Queen Victoria on February 11, 1867. The bill was introduced in the House of Lords the next day. The bill was quickly approved by the House of Lords, and then also quickly approved by the British House of Commons. The Act received royal assent on March 29, 1867, and set July 1, 1867, as the date for union

Confederation, July 1, 1867

On this date Canada became a country with four provinces. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia hardly changed, but the Province of Canada was split into two new provinces: Ontario and Quebec. A look at the map of Canada in 1867 will show a very different Canada from that of today.

It would take more than a century to add the other six provinces and three territories that today make up Canada.

 

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