Canadas Road to Confederation
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Canadas Road to Confederation


In this lecture you are going to learn about causes of … confederation and the British North America Act In 1860, what we now as Canada … today was still part of the British empire. The area was divided into seven British colonies that … stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In the east were: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Canada. They were divided by Rupert’s Land and the … Northwest Territory from British Columbia in the far west. However, by this time military, economic and political forces pushed colonial political … leaders to propose uniting some, if not all of the colonies The idea of uniting the British North American colonies into … a single country was fueled by several key factors: Including fears of American aggression and expansion … and Britain’s increasing reluctance to pay for the … defense of British North America and a protectionist … US trade policy. Confederation had been a long-simmering idea. But by the 1860s Confederation was inspired in … part by fears that British North America would be … dominated and even annexed by the United States. These fears grew following the American Civil War (1861–65). The violence and chaos of the Civil War shocked many … in British North America. They saw the war as partly the result of a weak central … government in the US. This inspired ideas about the need for a strong central … government among the British North American colonies. Many in the British North American colonies also … believed that Britain was increasingly reluctant to … defend them against possible American aggression. After winning the war, the American North was left … with a large and powerful army. There was talk in US newspapers of invading and … annexing Canada. This would be done to avenge Britain’s collaboration … with the American South during the war. Several US politicians also favored annexing Rupert’s Land. The vast northwestern territory represented a third of … what would become Canada. Fears of American … expansionism only increased after the US purchased … Alaska in 1867. Canadian expansionism was considered by some as a … pre-emptive action to reduce the chances that territories to … the west and north of the Canadas would be annexed … by the United States. Confederation could offer the colonies strength through … unity, an idea that gained steady … support, especially in the wake of the … US repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty in 1866. This treaty allowed the British Colonies to sell goods in the … U.S. market without taxes or tariffs. In return the U.S. was allowed fishing rights off … Nova Scotia. Which allowed the Canadian … and Maritime colonies access for their fish, lumber, coal and grain to the lucrative … American market. This was a good deal for Canada and gave economic stability. The treaty was due to be renewed in 1865 but the … tensions caused by the U.S. Civil War made it almost … certain the Americans would allow it to lapse instead, ending free trade between the British colonies and the United States. In the face of dwindling external markets, Confederation could provide the colonies with the ability to … sell goods to each other more easily. Many colonists began to ask why not create a union of our … own, one that would allow … cross-colonial access to Maritime fisheries, New Brunswick timber, Canadian factories, and perhaps even the land and natural resources of the … vast Northwest? In Canada, rail transportation had … revolutionized the very concept of time and distance. Trains could run year-round, winter to fall, and they accelerated the pace of expansion. The railway made Confederation viable, steel tracks would bring the far-flung region together. It will unite them and expand them. In fact, many of the leading … proponents of Confederation were also railway promoters. But the railways were about more than just business. With the military threat form the U.S. growing daily, it was clear that a separate, internally connected colonial railway was needed. Railways offered a new and infinitely faster way to … transport goods and resources as well as troops … and weaponry, which would help boost … economies and strengthen borders. So after much debate and resistance the Charlottetown … Conference of September 1864 set Confederation in motion. The meeting brought together delegates from New … Brunswick , Nova Scotia and Prince … Edward Island to discuss the union of their three provinces. However, they were persuaded by the … Great Coalition from the Province of Canada — not … originally on the guest list — to work for the union of all the … British North American colonies. Then the delegates gathered in Québec City to continue … discussions started the previous month in Charlottetown. The broad decisions of Charlottetown were refined … and focused into 72 resolutions, which became the basis of Confederation. Among the most important issues decided in Québec … were the composition of Parliament and the … distribution of powers between the federal and … provincial governments. Finally, the London Conference, became the final stage of translating the 72 Resolutions … of 1864 into legislation. The result was the British North America Act of 1867 … (now called the Constitution Act, 1867), which passed through the … British Parliament and was signed by Queen Victoria on March 29 1867. It was proclaimed into law on 1 July 1867, which Canadians now celebrate as Canada Day The colonies will now be a British dominion of united … provinces consisting of 3.5 million people and four providences. Nova Scotia New Brunswick Quebec (formerly the Canada East region) Ontario ( formerly the Canada west region) As a British dominion, the united provinces were no … longer a colony, and Canada was free to act … like its own country with its own laws and parliament. It also gained financial independence and the … responsibility to defend itself. A British governor-general represented British interests … within Canada, essentially filling the shoes of the sovereign. Over time, the Dominion added more … provinces and expanded into a confederation that extended … from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. However, it was still under British rule … and did not have full legal autonomy. Thus, it is important to note that the … British North America Act of 1867 did not grant Canada … full independence. Far from it. Canada was still a part of the British Empire. Canadians were still British citizens. The Queen was still the head of state, and in matters of diplomacy and international defense, Britain still called the shots. Even then the British North America Act was a giant step forward. The subject of who should be included among the Fathers … of Confederation has been a matter of some debate. The 36 men traditionally regarded as the Fathers of … Confederation were those who represented British North … American colonies at one or more of the conferences that … led to Confederation. The definition can be expanded to include those … who were instrumental in the creation of Confederation The wives and daughters of the original 36 men have also … been described as the Mothers of Confederation for … their role in the social gatherings that were a vital … part of the Charlottetown, Québec and London Conferences. Official records of the 1864 Charlottetown and Québec … Conferences are sparse. But historians have been able to flesh out the social and … political dynamics at play in these conferences by … consulting the letters and journals of the Mothers of Confederation. They not only provide a view into the experiences of … privileged women of the era, but draw attention to the … contributions those women made to the historic record … and political landscape. Another important note about the creation of the dominion … is that Indigenous peoples were not invited to or … represented at the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences, even though they had established what they … believed to be bilateral (nation-to-nation) … relationships and commitments with the Crown … through historic treaties. Paternalistic views about Indigenous peoples … effectively left Canada’s first peoples out of the formal … discussions about unifying the nation. Despite their exclusion, Confederation had a … significant impact on Indigenous communities. In 1867, the federal government … assumed responsibility over Indigenous affairs from the … colonies. With the purchase of … Rupert’s Land in 1869, the Dominion of Canada … extended its influence over the Indigenous peoples living … in that region. Seeking to develop, settle and claim these lands, as well as those in the surrounding area, the Dominion signed a series of 11 treaties from 1871 to … 1921 with various Indigenous peoples, promising them money, certain rights to the land and … other concessions in exchange for their traditional territories. Most of these promises went unfulfilled or were … misunderstood by the signatories. The years following Confederation saw increased … government systems of assimilation, including reserves, the Indian Act and residential schools. That is all for now please stay tuned for the next video lecture.

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