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Category Archives: Confederation

Let’s Talk about Confederation

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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Building Canada, Why Confederation?

In the 1860s, the British colonies were facing various issues. One resolution for each one of these was that the colonies come together to form one country. These are the problems that brought about Confederation:

The Province of Canada was made of a lot of people and was later made into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The government of the Province of Canada did not run smoothly because the English-speaking and French-speaking halves each had different ideas about how things should be run. Leaders from both areas of the province decided that joining other colonies might help solve their own political problems.

In order for their economies to do well, the colonies needed to be able to sell their goods to other markets. One solution was to bring all the colonies together.

Since America had fought Britain to gain its independence, the relationship between British North America and the United States had never been stable. Many Americans wanted to take over all of what is now Canada.

Britain didn’t want to have to pay for the cost of defending its colonies. Hence, it decided to encourage the colonies to amalgamate, because the United States would be less likely to attack Canada if it were a self-governing country in lieu of separate colonies of Britain. This fear of the U.S. helped to strengthen the decision for Confederation.

Leaders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had actually already begun discussing the idea of signing up for a Marine union and had also planned for a meeting.  The political leaders from the Province of Canada asked if they could come to their conference to recommend a bigger union of all the British North American colonies.  The Maritime colonies were given invitations and so started the quest of Confederation.

 
 

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Happy (Belated) Birthday, John!

Yesterday, January 11, 2015, was Sir John A. Macdonald’s 200th Birthday.  I believe that such a date must be recognized.  And so, today, I will tell you a few things to know about him.

Canadian election campaign poster from 1891

Figure 1: English: “The Old Flag – The Old Policy – The Old Leader”. 1891 Canadian election campaign poster for Sir John A. Macdonald. Français : “Le vieux drapeau, les vieux principes, le vieux chef”. Campagne électorale de 1891.

Basic details of his life are:

  • He was born John Alexander Macdonald, on January 11, 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland, (UK)
  • He died June 6, 1891 at the age of 76 in Ottawa, Ontario
  • His final resting place is at the Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston, Ontario
  • He was a Conservative
  • He married twice, first with Isabella Clark until her death (1843-1857) and Agnes Bernard until the day he died (1867-1891)
  • He had 3 children
  • He was a Lawyer
  • Though he was brought up a Presbyterian, he converted to Anglican
  • He was the first Prime Minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891)
  • The dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, he had a political career which spanned almost half a century
  • Macdonald served 19 years as Canadian Prime Minister (only William Lyon Mackenzie King served longer)
Animation of the changes to the borders of Canada

Figure 2: Animation of the changes to the borders of Canada. Date: 15 July 2009. Source Author: Golbez (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Golbez)

Macdonald was designated as the first Prime Minister of the new nation, and served in that capacity for most of the rest of his life, losing office for five years in the 1870s over the Pacific Scandal (corruption in the financing of the Canadian Pacific Railway). After regaining his place in the government, he saw the railroad through to completion in 1885, and it helped unite Canada as one nation. Macdonald is credited with creating a Canadian Confederation despite many obstacles, and expanding what was a relatively small country to cover the northern half of North America. By the time of his death in 1891, Canada had secured most of the territory it occupies today.  Figure 2 shows how the boundaries in Canada have changed since Confederation.

John initially attended local schools. When he was aged 10, his family scraped together the money to send him to Midland District Grammar School in Kingston. Macdonald’s formal schooling ended at 15, a common school-leaving age at a time when only children from the most prosperous families were able to attend university.  Nevertheless, Macdonald later regretted leaving school when he did, remarking to his private secretary Joseph Pope that if he had attended university, he might have embarked on a literary career. I wonder how different our history would be if hadn’t persued politics.

In March 1844, Macdonald was asked by local businessmen to stand as Conservative candidate for Kingston in the upcoming legislative election.  Macdonald followed the contemporary custom of supplying the voters with large quantities of alcohol.  In the era preceding the secret ballot when votes were publicly declared, Macdonald defeated his opponent, Anthony Manahan, by 275 “shouts” to 42 when the two-day election concluded on 15 October 1844.

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal believes that Macdonald’s true monument is Canada itself:

“Without Macdonald we’d be a country that begins somewhere at the Manitoba-Ontario border that probably goes throughout the east. Newfoundland would be like Alaska and I think that would also go for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. We’d be buying our oil from the United States. It would diminish our quality of life and range of careers, and our role in the world would have been substantially reduced.”

Macdonald’s biographers note his contribution to establishing Canada as a nation. Swainson suggests that Macdonald’s wish for a free and tolerant Canada became part of its national outlook:

“He not only helped to create Canada, but contributed immeasurably to its character.”

Gwyn said of Macdonald, his accomplishments were staggering: Confederation above all, but almost as important, if not more so, extending the country across the continent by a railway that was, objectively, a fiscal and economic insanity … On the ledger’s other side, he was responsible for the CPR scandal, the execution of Louis Riel, and for the head tax on Chinese workers. He’s thus not easy to scan. His private life was mostly barren. Yet few other Canadian leaders — Pierre Trudeau, John Diefenbaker for a time, Wilfrid Laurier — had the same capacity to inspire love.

To read more about Sir John A, I suggest CBC Archives where you can find a host of multimedia content; another impressive site would be the Dictionary of Canadian Biography article by J. K. Johnson and P. B. Waite; if you enjoy looking at archived documents, the best place would be the Library and Archives Canada: gallery of papers; another great place is the The Canadian Encyclopedia.

 

 

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Thanks to the Celts!

In thе bеgіnnіng, Canada wаѕ a vаѕt piece оf land that had bаrеlу bееn examined. Mаnу of the first explorers wеrе Scots like Dаvіd Mасkеnzіе or Sіmоn Frаѕеr, whо both mарреd оut a large раrt оf our country. A Welshman nаmеd Sіr Thomas Button lеd thе first expedition fоr thе Nоrthwеѕt Pаѕѕаgе in 1612, whіlе Welsh саrtоgrарhеr Dаvіd Thоmрѕоn is rеfеrrеd tо аѕ Cаnаdа’ѕ Greatest Gеоgrарhеr. Aѕ more аnd mоrе ѕеttlеrѕ саmе, іt brought аbоut the Hudson Bау Cоmраnу and thе Nоrth Wеѕt Cоmраnу, both сruсіаl іn mapping оut thе bоundаrіеѕ of Cаnаdа.

Thomas Button

Admiral Sir Thomas Button, after an original oil in possession of G. M. Traheren, Glamorganshire, Wales. Source http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/pageant/15/buttonsymposium.shtml

Whіlе ѕоmе voluntarily саmе to Cаnаdа fоr a new life аnd орроrtunіtіеѕ, others had lіttlе сhоісе in leaving their homeland and coming here.  Mаnу Irіѕh lеft tо ѕаvе themselves frоm starvation duе to роtаtо famine. Fоr others, rеlіgіоuѕ dіѕрutеѕ wеrе the саuѕе for dераrturе. Whаtеvеr thе rеаѕоn, thousands left hоmе fоr a nеw wоrld. Many ships were оvеrсrоwdеd аnd unѕаnіtаrу, causing mаnу dеаthѕ. Hіt hаrdеѕt bу this were thе Irish; many dіdn’t survive thе journey. Fоr those lucky еnоugh tо аrrіvе ѕаfеlу, their nеw lіvеѕ wеrеn’t еаѕу. Thе fіrѕt settlers had to clear the lаnd аnd рrераrе іt tо grоw fооd аnd tо buіld ѕhеltеr. It was not еаѕу аnd many rеturnеd hоmе. Those соurаgеоuѕ еnоugh to ѕtау mаnаgеd tо buіld a new lіfе. Mаnу new tоwnѕ were сrеаtеd, оftеn nаmеd аftеr thоѕе whо founded them оr in rеflесtіоn оf whеrе thеу came frоm.

Canada bеgаn tо tаkе shape аnd Confederation саmе аbоut іn 1867, wіth Sіr Jоhn A. MасDоnаld, a Scotsman, bесоmіng оur fіrѕt Prime Minister. Irishman Thomas D’Arсу MсGее wаѕ аlѕо a Fаthеr of Cоnfеdеrаtіоn. Aѕ the соuntrу grеw, nеw dеvеlорmеntѕ аnd іnvеntіоnѕ came to lіght. Thе Sсоtѕ gave uѕ standard tіmе (Sir Sandford Fleming), аnd thе RCMP (Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald).  They gаvе us the modern trасtоr (James G. Cockshutt).

Thanks tо thеіr hаrd work and dеtеrmіnаtіоn, thе Scottish, Irish, and Wеlѕh people played a large part of making thіѕ соuntrу whаt іt іѕ tоdау.

 

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British Columbia: Two Capitals?

British Columbia has a fascinating history, as do all of Canada’s Provinces and Territories.  For today’s post, however, please let me acquaint you with some of B.C.’s history.

Photo of Songish village, Brithish Columbia, prior 18634

Songish village opposite Victoria, B.C., before 1863. from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-3030-e.html

There are two parts that make up British Columbia: the mainland and the island, until they both united in 1866.

For a while there wasn’t agreement between the ex-colonies about which of their capital cities would serve as the seat of government.  Islanders wanted Victoria, and the mainland argued for New Westminster.  For years, the cities alternated.  Eventually, Victoria became the permanent capital of the colony.

Have you heard of Bill Smith?  He was a newspaper editor and politician, If you haven’t, you may have heard of what he called himself: Amor de Cosmos (<–  you can read my earlier post about him by clicking on his name). One of his greatest achievements was his hard work to get British Columbia to join Confederation, and later became Premier of the province.

Vancouver acquired the nickname “Terminal City,” because the terminus of the transcontinental railway was there.  A chief financier of the railway, William Van Horne, had chosen the site  and he also insisted that the new city be named after the explorer George Vancouver.

Photo of Mount Elbert

Mount Elbert from Turquoise Lake, the highest summit in the Rocky Mountains

I cannot write of British Columbia without mentioning the Rocky Mountains. It is Canada’s largest mountain range as well as the largest in the western hemisphere. While it runs nearly the entire length of British Columbia, it also forms part of the border with Alberta.  The economic resources of the Rocky Mountains are varied and abundant. Minerals found in the Rocky Mountains include significant deposits of copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, tungsten, and zinc.

Every year the scenic areas and recreational opportunities of the Rocky Mountains draw millions of tourists and it’s easy to see why.

Map of the Rocky Mountains

Map outlining the Rocky Mountains, in both Canada and the United States.

 

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Happy Canada Day!

canadian crowd Last year, I wrote a post about Canada Day, and you can see it HERE.

Canada Day on July 1, and the U.S. Independence Day on July 4 bring Canadians and Americans together to celebrate.  For example, Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, have, since the 1950s, celebrated both Dominion or Canada Day and the United States’ Independence Day with the International Freedom Festival; a massive fireworks display over the Detroit River, the strait separating the two cities, is held annually with hundreds of thousands of spectators attending. A similar event occurs at the Friendship Festival, a joint celebration between Fort Erie, Ontario, and neighbouring Buffalo, New York, and towns and villages throughout Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec come together to celebrate both anniversaries together.

This year, I’d like to talk a little about Canadian expatriates.  While Canada is celebrating this big day, so are Canadians around the globe!

In Hong Kong, the celebrations are called “Canada De’h” and about 12,000 people attend every year on June 30 at Lan Kwai Fong.

Since 2006, annual Canada Day celebrations have been held at Trafalgar Square—the location of Canada House—in London, England; originally initiated by the Canadian community, endorsed by the Canadian High Commission, and now produced by Canada Day International, the event features Canadian performers, visual artists, a street hockey tournament, among other activities.

In 2013, Canada Day International expanded to New York City with a similar program of food, music, and street hockey in Central Park. They also announced that they planned to expand to more cities before Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017. They are currently exploring expanding to cities such as; Hong Kong, Mumbai, Paris and Rio de Janeiro among others.

In Afghanistan, members of the Canadian Forces mark the holiday at their base.  And in Mexico, at the Royal Canadian Legion in Chapala, and at the Canadian Club in Ajijic. In Shanghai, China, Canada Day celebrations are held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai at the Bund Beach.

Our government has created a Canada Day page, and it’s a good page. There’s even a link there from CBC that allows you to watch the celebrations from the capital live!

The Creation of Canada Day
July 1, 1867: The British North America Act (today known as the Constitution Act, 1867) created Canada.

June 20, 1868: Governor General Lord Monck signs a proclamation that requests all Her Majesty’s subjects across Canada to celebrate July 1.

1879: A federal law makes July 1 a statutory holiday as the “anniversary of Confederation,” which is later called “Dominion Day.”

October 27, 1982: July 1, “Dominion Day” officially becomes Canada Day.

 

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Canada’s Prime Ministers

The following list of Canadian Prime Ministers can be found in so many places, but I thought that since my blog is about Canada, Canadians, history, trivia and facts, that I would include this post.

Prime Minister                              Political Party                  Year in Office

Sir John A. Macdonald                   Conservative                   1867—73

Alexander Mackenzie                     Liberal                           1873—78

Sir John A. Macdonald                   Conservative                   1878—91

Sir John J. C. Abbott                      Conservative                   1891—92

Sir John S. D. Thompson                Conservative                   1892—94

Sir Mackenzie Bowell                     Conservative                   1894—96

Sir Charles Tupper                          Conservative                   1896

Sir Wilfred Laurier                           Liberal                            1896—1911

Sir Robert L. Borden                       Conservative/Unionist       1911—20

Arthur Meighen                               Conservative                   1920—21

William Lyon Mackenzie King          Liberal                            1921—26

Arthur Meighen                               Conservative                    1926

William Lyon Mackenzie King          Liberal                             1926—30

Richard B. Bennett                          Conservative                    1930—35

William Lyon Mackenzie King           Liberal                            1935—48

Louis St. Laurent                             Liberal                             1948—57

John G. Diefenbaker                        Progressive Conservative   1957—63

Lester B. Pearson                           Liberal                             1963—68

Pierre Elliott Trudeau                       Liberal                             1968—79

Joseph (Joe) Clark                           Progressive Conservative   1979—80

Pierre Elliott Trudeau                       Liberal                              1980—84

John Turner                                     Liberal                              1984

Brian Mulroney                                Progressive Conservative    1984—93

Kim Campbell                                  Progressive Conservative    1993

Jean Chrétien                                  Liberal                               1993-2003

Paul Martin                                     Liberal                                2003-06

Stephen Harper                              Conservative                         2006-

 

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