Why did Canadian Provincial leaders take the path to Confederation (on July 1, 1867) instead of separate states?

Why did Canadian Provincial leaders take the path to Confederation (on July 1, 1867) instead of separate states?

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Though Canadian Provincial leaders had a lot of divisions Sir John A. MacDonald and Sir George Cartier and others came to an agreement and made it possible to form a confederation.

Canadian Confederation (French: Confédération canadienne) was the process by which the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into one Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. -

Can anybody tell me was it because of pure compromising and sacrificing mentality that it was possible to form a Confederation? Or Were there any other components to it? For example, building a trans-Pacific railway road. Or to avoid the civil war. Or giving special privilege.

9.12 The 1980s

Figure 9.50 Referenda notwithstanding, it was the story of Terry Fox that gripped Canadians in 1980, a drama that unfolded with a distinctive hopping gait and a tragic end. Fox is seen here ca. 1977 before his amputation.

The oil crises of the 1970s continued to damage the western economy, driving up government deficits in one country after the next (see Section 8.10). Economic stagnation combined with inflation — a rare occurrence — to produce what was called “stagflation.” The dominant economic theory of the time in Canada, a kind of modified Keynesianism, offered limited help in dealing with this new phenomenon. Trudeau’s 1975 to 1979 administration responded with wage and price controls and limited the ability of trade unions to bargain for improved incomes as a means of controlling inflation. This strategy undermined the postwar settlement and brought the Liberals into conflict with labour, thereby enhancing the NDP’s position.

At the same time, the most — and increasingly —popular economic theory on the right called for achieving growth through monetary policy. Monetarism (described in Section 8.16) was invoked as a way of adjusting incomes outside of wage settlements. Coupled to a belief in the efficacy of free markets and the necessity of reducing the role of the state, these approaches together constituted the neo-liberal (sometimes referred to as neo-conservative) agenda. Canadians were not in a hurry to embrace these policies, but the outside world — specifically, the United States and the United Kingdom — did so from the late 1970s on. Canada was inevitably caught up in this tide.


The cause of women's suffrage began in 1876, when Dr. Emily Stowe came to Toronto to practice medicine. [4] She was the first, and for many years the sole woman physician in Canada. Stowe, vitally interested in all matters relating to women, at once came before the public as a lecturer upon topics then somewhat new, "Woman's Sphere" and "Women in the Professions," being her subjects. She lectured not only in Toronto, but, under the auspices of various Mechanics' Institutes, in Ottawa, Whitby, and Bradford. After attending a meeting of the American Society for the Advancement of Women, in Cleveland in 1877, and meeting many women of the United States, Stowe, on returning home, felt that the time had arrived for some similar union among Canadian women. Talking it over with her friend, Helen Archibald, they decided that it would not be politic to attempt at once a suffrage association but, in November 1877, organized what was known as "The Toronto Woman's Literary Club". [5]

At the beginning suffragists were typically middle-class White women. These women advocated for suffrage for the sole purpose of boosting their social status resulting in a better society. However, Black abolitionists, unionists, socialists, and temperance activists supported them. [6]

During the next five years, this club had phenomenal growth, adding to its ranks such woman as Mary McDonell (WCTU), Mrs. W. B. Hamilton, Mrs. W. I. Mackenzie, Mrs. J. Austin Shaw, and others. It also elicited a surprising amount of attention from the press. Among the most capable assistants from its very inception was Sarah Anne Curzon, for several years associate editor of the Canada Citizen. It was the habit of the club to meet each Thursday at 3 p.m., at one of the members’ homes. Though not avowedly a suffrage society, no opportunity was lost of promoting this basic idea of the founders. One of the earliest efforts in this direction was a paper, by Archibald, entitled "Woman Under the Civil Law," which elicited discussion and served as educational material. During these years, too, mainly through the work of the Woman's Literary Club, the University of Toronto was opened to women. Eliza Balmer was the first female student. [5]

It was believed in 1883 that public sentiment had sufficiently progressed to warrant the formation of a regular Woman-Suffrage Society. On February 1, 1883, the club met and decided the following: ". that in view of the ultimate end for which the Toronto Woman's Literary Club was formed, having been attained, viz., to foster a general and living public sentiment in favor of women suffrage, this Club hereby disband, to form a Canadian Women's Suffrage Association." The following month, on March 5, at a meeting of the City Council, the Toronto Women's Literary and Social Progress Club requested the use of the Council Chambers on March 9. Their purpose was to hold a conversation to discuss the advisability of granting the franchise to those women who possessed the property qualification that entitled men to hold it and then to proceed to form a suffrage club. Accordingly, on that date, Jessie Turnbull McEwen, then President of the club, was present along with Mayor Arthur Radcliffe Boswell, ex-Alderman John Hallam, Alderman John Baxter, John Wilson Bengough, Thomas Bengough, Thomas Phillips Thompson, and Mr. Burgess, editor of Citizen. The Canadian Woman Suffrage Association was formally inaugurated, and 40 people enrolled themselves as members that evening. [5]

The first piece of work undertaken by the Association was the securing of the municipal franchise for the women of Ontario. On September 10, 1883, a committee was appointed to urge the City Council to petition the Local Government to pass a bill conferring the municipal franchise upon women. The committee consisted of Stowe, McEwen, Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Miller, Mrs. Mackenzie, and Mrs. Curzon, with the power to add others. The committee waited upon Hon. Oliver Mowat, who was then the Premier of the Province of Ontario. From the beginning, the members of the Association recognized that it would be manifestly unjust to exclude married women from the exercise of the franchise, bestowing it only on widows and single women. However, it was agreed that it was not politic to criticize the franchise bill before the House, on the principle of 'half a loaf being better than no bread'. Accordingly, objections were set aside, and every woman worked towards securing this partial reform, even though, if married, she would not directly benefit by it. [5]

In 1882, the Ontario Municipal Act was amended to give married women, widows and spinsters, if possessed of the necessary qualifications, the right to vote on by-laws and some other minor municipal matters. Again, in 1884, the act was further amended, extending the right to vote in municipal elections on all matters to widows and unmarried women. In the municipal elections in Toronto held on January 4, 1886, women's votes were extremely important and resulted in the election of a candidate pledged to reform, William Holmes Howland. [4] [7]

Another important work accomplished about this time, more or less directly through the influence of the Suffrage Association, was the opening of the Woman's Medical College in Toronto. Stowe (with her friend, Jennie Kidd Trout) had, in the 1870s, forced her way into a season's lectures on chemistry in the Toronto School of Medicine. About 1879, she intimated her intention of entering her daughter, Augusta Stowe, as a medical student. Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen was awarded her degree of M. D. C. M. in 1883, the first woman to be awarded such a degree under Canadian institutions. As a consequence of the persistence of Stowe and her daughter, other women became aware of the possibilities in the medical profession, and so numerous were the applications for admission that it was deemed expedient to open a Woman's Medical College in Toronto. Gullen was appointed Demonstrator in Anatomy. [5]

After the labour involved in securing the municipal suffrage in 1883, and later, in struggling for the opening of the Woman's Medical College, there was a lull until 1889, when Stowe made arrangements to bring Dr. Anna Howard Shaw to Toronto to lecture. Stowe sent out 4,000 invitations, to every member of Parliament, council, school Board and ministerial association, inviting each member to be present to hear about the Woman Question. The lecture was a success, creating so much interest in the matter that the old suffrage association, which had been practically non-existent for several seasons, was re-organized, with Stowe as president, and Mrs. Curzon as secretary. In December 1889, Susan B. Anthony was secured to lecture in the Woman's Medical College auditorium. She succeeded in increasing interest in suffrage work, until it spread from the women of Toronto to those of surrounding towns, with new groups organizing in many places. Next, the Association secured Mary Seymour Howell, of Albany, New York, to lecture. Mrs. McDonell, ever indefatigable in her zeal for women, accompanied Howell to many towns throughout Ontario, to stimulate suffrage clubs already in existence and to form others. [5]

In early 1890, it was believed that a Dominion Woman's Enfranchisement Convention might be assembled. This convention was duly announced to be held in Association Hall, Toronto, June 12–13, 1890. Delegates were received from the various Suffrage Clubs then existing. Also, there were representatives from American Clubs, including: Dr. Hannah A. Kimball, Chicago Rev. Anna Shaw Mrs. Isabella Hooker, (sister of Henry Ward Beecher), and Mrs. McLellan Brown, lawyer, and president of a Cincinnati college. The papers that elicited most attention were: "The Ballot, its Relation to Economics " "Woman as Wage-Earner," and "Woman in the Medical Profession." Yellow, the colour of gold, and the symbol of wisdom in the East, was the badge of equal suffragists all over the continent, and was used for decorations at all meetings of the hall. Some of the mottoes used were "Canada's Daughters Should be Free", "No Sex in Citizenship", "Women are half the People", and "Woman, Man's Equal". The Dominion Woman's Enfranchisement Association became duly incorporated. [5]

In 1890, in accordance with the desire of the Equal-Suffragists, Mayor Edward Frederick Clarke and the Toronto City Council determined to invite the Association for the Advancement of Women (A.A.W.), to hold its 18th annual Congress in Toronto. Some of the women who attended and contributed were: Julia Ward Howe, author and litterateur, the friend and associate of Emerson, Longfellow, and Holmes Mary F. Eastman, one of the leading New England educationists Alice Stone Blackwell, editor of the Woman's Journal, and daughter of the Rev. Lucy Stone Clara Berwick Colby, editor of the Woman's Tribune in Beatrice, Nebraska, in 1883 Rev. Florence E. Kalloch, of Chicago Mrs. Kate Tannatt Woods, journalist and writer. [5]

In 1895, the Equal Suffragists in Manitoba were under the leadership of Dr. Amelia Yeomans. She indicated that the women of the W.C.T.U. were the first to espouse equal suffrage in Manitoba, having twice brought largely signed petitions before the Provincial Legislature. As early as 1872, the statutes in British Columbia were written so as to give married women a vote in municipal matters. By 1895 in Quebec, women for many years had exercised the municipal franchise, although historically, when it was held that a woman would be polluted by entering a polling-booth, it was customary for a notary to call upon the Quebec women in their homes, where they would, in his presence, record their vote without leaving their chair. Prince Edward Island was the only province in Canada in which there was no legislation regarding woman suffrage. Not even the municipal franchise had been conferred for a supermajority of electoral districts. In 1892, amidst deliberations in the 31st General Assembly of Prince Edward Island over the "Bill respecting the Legislature" (popularly known as the "Amalgamation Bill"), Neil McLeod, Leader of the Opposition, attempted to extend provincial suffrage to unmarried women. He prefaced his motion for an amendment to Section 52 of the bill by asking whether "a femme sole [is] a British subject, who has any one of the qualifications contained in sub-sections c, g, h, i, j, k, and l." Frederick Peters, "Leader of the Government" and chair of the Liberal Party, conjectured that the amendment was "simply introduced to gain a little cheap popularity. He has failed to receive this from the male portion of the country and he now strikes out in another line and endeavors to get a little from the females." McLeod, instead of a rejoinder, concluded the doomed motion: "I contend that women are at least as sober, intelligent, and moral as men, and that unmarried women possessing property, and liable to perform statute labor and pay taxes, ought to have the right to vote." Limiting the vote to unmarried women also diminished the frequency of intersections between legitimate children, hyperdescent, and suffrage. [8] In New Brunswick, Sarah Manning, of St. John, was president of the W.E.A. In the Maritime Provinces, Edith Archibald was president of the Maritime W.C.T.U. and was perhaps, the pioneer suffragist of Nova Scotia. Mrs. Leon Owens was president of the Dominion Women's Enfranchisement Association (W.E.A.) of Halifax. [5]

The previously listed events regarding women’s suffrage were only in accordance with White women’s suffrage. Slavery in Canada meant that Black persons were legally deemed chattel property and not considered “people.” Black folks did not possess the rights and freedoms granted to citizens, such as democratic participation. Black persons were slowly being granted rights as British subjects as slavery was gradually being abolished, from 1793-1834. As British subjects, they were entitled to civil rights, but this was extended only to property-owning men, as a gender barrier still existed for all women. Manitoba became the first province to grant the right to vote to women, which extended to both White and Black women. The controversial Wartime Elections Act that passed on September 20, 1917, granted the federal vote to women associated with the armed forces. On May 24, 1918, female citizens over the age of 21 were granted the federal vote, regardless if their province had approved enfranchisement. While women then gained the right to run as Members of Parliament in 1919, Agnes McPhail was not elected to the House of Commons until 1921. The right to vote still had not been granted to Asian and Indigenous women. [9]

In the 19th and 20th century, Asian peoples began immigrating to Canada and were denied the right to vote in both provincial and federal elections. As well, Canadians with Asian heritage were denied the right to vote. In 1920, the Dominion Elections Act was passed through the federal government and it stated that provinces could not discriminate against people based on differences in ethnicity, but this still excluded Canadians of Asian heritage, meaning they were still denied the right to vote. The Dominion Elections Act was rescinded in 1948 and went into effect in 1949. The disenfranchisement of Asian Canadians was finally put to an end after World War II. [10]

In 1920, the Indian Act was amended to allow for “involuntary enfranchisement” for Indigenous men. Only certain Indigenous men were deemed worthy for enfranchisement, such as those with a university degree. There was a poor response to the amendment which resulted in objections from Indigenous communities, which led the amendment to be repealed. Voluntary enfranchisement was introduced after the amendment. In 1960, Parliament established the Canada Elections Act which granted all registered “Indians'' the right to vote. The intention behind the legislation was threefold. The first factor being that the Canadian government did not want to mirror the actions of the American government in denying African-Americans the right to vote. Secondly, the newly introduced Canadian Bill of Rights made reference to non-discrimination (prior to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). Finally, this was seen as a step towards decolonization and increased autonomy for Indigenous communities. [11] As well, until 1985, a First Nations woman marrying a non-First Nations man was automatically enfranchised, as were any children that she may bear. Prior to 1985 this also meant that she her children would lose their official "Indian" status, including the rights to live on a First Nations reserve, although a First Nations man did not lose his status in this way. Once Indigenous peoples became enfranchised, and removed from coverage of the Indian Act, they were granted rights identical to that of other Canadian citizens. [12]

Timeline: Women and the Right to Vote in Canada
Date Jurisdiction Statute Effect First Minister and Party
1916: January 28 Manitoba An Act to amend The Manitoba Election Act, Statutes of Manitoba 1916, c. 36 Full voting equality Tobias Norris: Liberal
1916: March 14 Saskatchewan An Act to amend the Statute Law, Statutes of Saskatchewan 1916, c. 37 Full voting equality Walter Scott: Liberal
1916: April 19 Alberta Equal Suffrage Statutory Law Amendment Act, Statutes of Alberta 1916, c. 5 Full voting equality Arthur Sifton: Liberal
1917: April 5 British Columbia Provincial Elections Act Amendment Act, 1917, Statutes of British Columbia 1917, c. 23 Full voting equality Harlan Carey Brewster: Liberal
1917: April 12 Ontario Election Law Amendment Act, 1917, Statutes of Ontario 1917, c. 6 Full voting equality Sir William Howard Hearst: Conservative
1917: September 20 Federal War-time Elections Act, Statutes of Canada 1917, c. 39 Vote given to women who were the wives, widows, mothers, sisters or daughters of men who were serving with the Canadian or British military, until the men were demobilised Sir Robert Borden: Unionist
1917: September 20 Federal Military Voters Act, Statutes of Canada 1917, c. 34 Vote given to women who were on active service for Canada or Britain, until demobilised Sir Robert Borden: Unionist
1918: April 26 Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Franchise Act, Statutes of Nova Scotia 1918, c. 2 Full voting equality with men, only property owners could vote George Henry Murray: Liberal
1918: May 24 Federal An Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women, Statutes of Canada 1918, c. 20 Full voting equality for men and women, in effect January 1, 1919 Sir Robert Borden: Unionist
1919: April 17 New Brunswick An Act to extend the electoral franchise to women, and to amend the New Brunswick Electors Act, Statutes of New Brunswick 1919, c. 63 Full voting equality, but women not eligible for election to the Legislative Assembly Walter Edward Foster: Liberal
1919: May 20 Yukon An Ordinance respecting Elections, Ordinances of the Yukon Territory 1919, c. 7 Full voting equality George P. MacKenzie: Commissioner of Yukon [note 1]
1922: May 3 Prince Edward Island Election Act, 1922, Statutes of Prince Edward Island 1922, c. 5 Full voting equality John Howatt Bell: Liberal
1925: April 3 Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly Amendment Act, Statutes of Newfoundland 1925, c. 7 Women age 25 and over given right to vote men age 21 and over had right to vote

Newfoundland was a dominion and crown colony separate from Canada until 1949

Prince Edward Island has a low population and, consequently, affordable housing is widely available in the province.The average price of a house in P.E.I . is around $200,000, making it one of the most affordable places to live in the country. In addition, the average percentage of household income taken up by ownership costs varies between 21–32%, depending on the type of home involved, which is among the lowest in Canada.

In Canada, all citizens and permanent residents under the age of 20 are entitled to free education through the end of high school through the public school system. Prince Edward Island offers a leading system of public education for its residents, beginning with Early Childhood Education programs and continuing right through to Grade 12. For those entering skilled trades after secondary school, the province has a comprehensive program of apprenticeships and training to help people learn a trade and find jobs as well.

Post-secondary education in Prince Edward Island is delivered through the province's one publicly funded university, the University of Prince Edward Island, Holland College, a publicly funded community college with eleven campuses throughout the province, the francophone Adult Learning Centre in Wellington, and a number of private career training schools.

The University of Prince Edward Island is home to the Atlantic Veterinary College, which serves all four Atlantic provinces: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.




Canada is often seen in a plaid button-up and either black pants or jeans. He wears a fur hat with a striped tail coming off the back of it also known as the coonskin cap, iconic of the fur-trade era early in his founding. His outfit reflects the lumberjack stereotype of Canadians (although, it is true that we wear a lot of plaids). It can also be represented with Canadian ranger clothing.

It can also be represented with the clothes that Nordic countries usually use (in fact, European countries consider Canada as one of them despite being in the Americas)

His body type is average, and he's seen as very weak. There are also representations with long incisive teeth (referring to beavers), but this is rare. There is a lesser known version in which Canada is represented with clothes of the North American Indians. This last representation is because Canada had adopted the way of life of the Indians. Most Canadians consider this offensive, however.


Female Canada is often seen with a green jacket, a red plaid button-up, and jeans just like her male counterpart. A less represented version wears a red dress, symbolic of the Red Dress movement.

Although, this version of Canada can be quite rare to find.


Canada is pretty shy, timid and innocent. Even though he’s friends with almost everyone, he prefers to stick beside his brother. He doesn’t like talking much, and sometimes doesn’t talk to anyone but America for so long that the other countries forget he exists. But that’s the way he likes it. Even if the things he’s done barely compare to other things the countries around him have done, he’s still very ashamed and guilt-ridden. Canada just wants to live in his log cabin in the woods, without anyone bothering him. When he gets depressed or stressed, he’ll go to Jamaica’s house and spend time there, smoking weed. Although it started as just something to calm him down, it’s become an addiction.

But, there are some things about him that aren’t as innocent. Since Canada is so close to America he sees the worst in his brother, and even if Canada has a very little obvious ego, he still has a complex that he’s the best sibling. Sometimes it gets the best of him and he does a 180, suddenly wanting to be the center of attention (but this is rare). Then of course, despite feeling sorry about it, he mistreats the First Nations for practically fun. This more psychopathic side of him only comes out if he’s drunk/high or really emotionally stressed.

European countries usually consider Canada as one more country in Europe. Mainly, because Canada is the country that shares a culture, history, politics, economy, and society very similar to those of the European continent. Australia and New Zealand are also often seen in this way in Europe, especially in Euro vision, but not as much as Canada.

Note: British Canada and Nouvelle-France (New France) are like alters for Canada. Depending on the situation, they manifest in him (flag changes).


  • Hockey in general, he loves to play it a lot at times.
  • Hanging out with Ukraine
  • Ice-skating
  • Eating maple syrup
  • Playing video games

Flag Meaning

Canada's flag is two red vertical lines with an 11-pointed (red) maple leaf in the middle. It comes from the national plant (maple tree), national identity, to separate Canada from being a colony. The two red bars are said to symbolize the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on either side of Canada. (Although this may not be correct.)

Color, meaning HEX RGB
Red is the color of St. George's cross, symbolizes UK #FF0000 255, 0, 0
White symbolizes France #FFFFFF 255, 255, 255
Adopted: 15 February



  • Their brother (USA) protecting them.
  • Ukraine (depends on the person)
  • Maple syrup
  • Hockey
  • nanaimo bars
  • poutine


Canada does not dislike very much things, as he is quite a happy and innocent person. However, these things are exceptions:


Other symbols

  • Canada's motto is "A Mari Usque Ad Mare" (Latin), in English translations, it is "From Sea to Sea."
  • Their Anthem is "O Canada" Which is their national, but their Royal is "God Save the Queen"
  • Canada's largest city is Toronto and its Capital is Ottawa.
  • The National animal of Canada is the Beaver since it is a symbol of Sovereignty of Canada.


The name "Canada" came likely from Huron-Iroquois word "Kanata," which had meant "village" or "settlement". In 1535, two aboriginal youth's of Canada told the French explorer Jacques Cartier of the route to kanata. They were referring to the actual village of Stadacona, which is the site of the present-day city, Québec.

Why did Canadian Provincial leaders take the path to Confederation (on July 1, 1867) instead of separate states? - History

Confederation Chamber
"In the hearts and minds of the delegates in this room was born the Dominion of Canada."

Sir John A Macdonald (1815-1891) was born in Scotland and with his parents emigrated to Kingston, Upper Canada Canada in 1820 when he was five years old. He was an apt pupil, a bright student who liked school, did well and was told he had a promising future. He was intelligent, sensible and had a retentive memory. On leaving school he became a fifteen-year-old law student. His legal career was generally successful. As a courtroom lawyer he was noted for quickness of mind, for ingenuity in defence and a talent for persuasiveness. As the only son, he became the family's head at the age of twenty-six when his father died.

His first wife, Isabella and he had two sons: John Alexander who died in infancy and Hugh John. Sir Hugh John Macdonald was born on March 13, 1850 and was the only surviving son of the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was a politician in his own right, serving as a member of the Canadian House of Commons and a federal cabinet minister, and briefly as Premier of Manitoba. Macdonald was elected to the House of Commons in 1891, representing Winnipeg City for the Conservative Party. He was sworn into parliament at the side of his father, to the applause of members from both sides of the House.. After John A. died later that year, Hugh John showed little enthusiasm for life in Ottawa, resigned his seat in 1893 and returned to Winnipeg. He suffered from a protracted illness and died on March 29, 1929. After fourteen years of marriage, Isabella died. John remarried Agnes Bernard shortly before becoming Prime Minister.They had one daughter, Margaret Mary. Agnes survived John by 29 years and died in 1920.

John A's political career began when he was elected alderman of the city council. Having achieved local prominence as lawyer, business man and politician, he was seen as an obvious contender for the Kingston seat in the Legislative Assembly. He was an intelligent man with a cheerful, easy-going, optimistic disposition, a man of "intellect and general versatility."

Macdonald's style as a politician attracted widespread attention. From an early date he was one of the acknowledged leaders of his party and held various cabinet posts. In 1856 his fellow Upper Canadian conservatives chose him to be the head, and with Tache, the leader of the Reformers in Canada East, they formed the Tache-Macdonald administration. When Tache resigned in 1857 Macdonald formed the administration with George Etienne Cartier. Macdonald had a gift of potent charm "The old humbug" had any amount of small talk and his ability to amuse and persuade kept "the refractory members" in good humour and in line. Convinced that the country could be torn apart by political extremists, he succeeded in combining the moderate elements of both the Reformers and the Tories into one party - the Liberal-Conservatives.

Macdonald worked hard at politics and wanted any administration of which he was a leading member to be known as "a working government." He made the greatest demands on himself. When the attempt to govern Canada East and Canada West as united provinces was gradually breaking down, he cast about for a solution and jumped at the chance to join George Brown who was pressing for confederation of the British North America colonies. Macdonald's skill, patience and tact came into play when he steered the Confederation resolutions through the Legislature.

During the next three years of negotiations with opposing members of his party and with hesitating sister provinces and the mother country, Macdonald "displayed a skill that by comparison dwarfted the efforts of any of his colleagues." At Charlottetown John A. Macdonald and George-Etienne Cartier set out the arguments in favour of Confederation and the general terms of the Canadian proposal. Macdonald spoke first. He proposed the federal union earnestly and openly as the one salvation for Canada and the best hope of the Maritimes. Apart they were nothing together they would be strong.

Within four days the Canadians presented such a convincing case the Maritime delegates abandoned their talks of Maritime union and before the conference adjourned on Sept. 7 the delegates agreed to meet again on Oct. 10 at Quebec City to work out final details of British North American federation. The breathless hope must be hammered into fact.

A lawyer, business man, shrewd politician, the pragmatic visionary Macdonald drafted many of the resolutions presented to the Quebec Conference. At the Westminster conference in London in December 1866 the Quebec Resolutions were the basis for the new constitution. A British official wrote: "Macdonald was the ruling genius and spokesman and I was greatly struck with his powers of management and adroitness."

In 1867 John A. Macdonald became the first prime minister of the new Dominion of Canda. As prime minister from 1867-73 and again from 1878-91 he accomplished Canada's expansion to the Pacific and the building of the transcontinental railway.

George Etienne Cartier, a linear descendant of Jacques Cartier, was the leader of the French in Canada East. He was short, bristling and prematurely grey and alive with reckless vitality. His high, thin voice was often raised in song but oftener still in what was described as jangling speech. An English opponent once said his speech had the sound of someone "shaking a bag of nails." He had been 'Cartier the rebel' during the Rebellion of Lower Canada and with a price on his head he had fled for the border. Pardoned by the English Cartier came home and was elected to the legislature when Canada East and Canada West joined to form the union of Canada. While ever on guard to defend the rights of the French-speaking Canadians, he had no intention of "standing behind the crumbling walls of the past." He also had dreams for his country for he had helped to build it.

At Charlottetown following Macdonald, Cartier spoke. The French no less than the English wished to be part of a nation. They wished for a door on the sea, a way to the west, a shared greatness. They wished for a life to be lived by all in common. They were prepared to build, to sacrifice, to take enormous risks while always remaining themselves. "If the plan (Confederation) seems to us to safeguard Lower Canada's special interests, its religion and its nationality, we'll give it our support if not we'll fight it with all our strength."

The Life - and Tragic Death - of Canada's Most Colourful Father

McGee's life was from the start a combination of dramatic changes and close calls.

At the age of thirty-two McGee moved his family and himself to Montreal. That same fall the Irish vote elected him to Canada's legislature. Somewhere along the line he had fallen in love with his adopted country. Whatever he clasped he embraced with a consuming affection and he became converted to Confederation.

In the Legislative Assembly of Canada on February 9, 1865 McGee reminded those French Canadians opposed to the new federation of the following. "I will remind them that every one of the colonies we now propose to re-unite under one rule - in which that shall have a potential vote - were once before united as New France. Newfoundland the uttermost, was theirs Cape Breton was their tills the final fall of Louisbourg Prince Edward Island was their island of St. Jean and Charlottetown was their Port la Joie in the heart of Nova Scotia was the fair Acadian land. In New Brunswick there is more than one county, especially in the north where business and law and politics require a knowledge of both English and French. Well gentlemen of French origin, we propose to restore these long-lost compatriots to your protection in the federal union which will recognize equally both languages."

Best known of all to the Maritime hosts was the little, elfin Irishman, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, "the most gifted orator ever to sit in Canada's Parliament". McGee, the gifted poet-politician spoke in terms of the need for a national vision. "I see in the not remote distance one great nationality bound like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of ocean . I see within the ground of that shield the peaks of the western mountains and the crests of the eastern waves." He and his hundred friends had pleaded and preached and joked for a year before the cause of union. He would discover now if the seed had taken root.

McGee, an Irishman did not support the Fenian movement at a time when most Irishmen did. The movement's members thought he had "gone over" to the British cause which opposed their ultimate aim: the independence for Ireland. In fact, McGee was an ardent supporter of Irish nationalism, but he opposed the movement on two grounds. First, he objected to republican programme for Ireland and urged the Irish to adopt the Canadian model of self-government within the British Empire. Second, he opposed the call to violence advocated by the Fenians. McGee attacked the Fenian plan to invade British America and called on the Irish in Canada to "give the highest practical proof possible that an Irishman well governed becomes one of the best subjects of the law and the Sovereign." On a trip to Ireland, McGee gave a speech in which he described his behaviour during his earlier years when he "was an Irish rebel" as "the follies of one and twenty." To the fanatical Fenians McGee was accused of being a turncoat and a traitor to the Irish cause.

By 1866 McGee's political star was fading. He did not attend the London conference leading to confederation, but was elected to the country's first House of Commons in 1867 by a slim majority. He was not, however, included in Macdonald's first post-Confederation Cabinet. By 1868 McGee was planning to leave politics to spend more time on his writing and poetry. John A. Macdonald promised him a civil service post but McGee was dead before the appointment was made.

On April 7, 1868 McGee attended a late-night session in the House of Commons where he gave a speech in favour of national unity which was impassioned and showed much of his fiery forcefulness. Returning to his rooming house on Spark Street in the early hours of the morning he took out his key and put it into the latch keyhole to let himself in. At that instant there was a sudden flash and a sharp blast of a shot right behind him. He stumbled to his right, shuddered, threw his head back high and fell on his back as blood streamed onto the road from his upturned head. Several people came running to the scene. Learning of the assassination, John A. MacDonald raced to Mrs. Trotter's rooming house where he found McGee still lying in the road. He cradled his head while a friend lifted McGee's feet and together they carried him into the house. When he returned to his home, Macdonald, his face a ghastly white, turned to his wife, Agnes, and said, "McGee was murdered 'tis true" She had never seen her husband so distraught.

There was no sign of an assassin, no sign of a weapon. Nothing but the victim. McGee's assassin was Patrick James Whelan. He was caught and executed in what was the last public hanging in Canada. It is generally believed that McGee was the victim of a Fenian plot, however, Whelan was never proven to be a Fenian by the Crown prosecutor.

"Reasons for Confederation are as thick as blackberries."
D"Arcy McGee

"If we are a generation worthy to organize a nation, assuredly the materials are abundant and are at hand."
D'Arcy McGee

"The euphonious word, Canada, has three vowels, not an unpleasant incident for tongue or pen. It is as old and quite as historical as the name America. Like the ice-shove in the St. Lawrence before the magic breath of spring, so will cold sectional antagonism dissolve and disappear in the genial current of our great new State generously administered."
D'Arcy McGee

McGee was given a state funeral a week later on his 43rd birthday. He was well liked and his funeral in his hometown of Montreal was a massive affair that reflected the new nation's shock at losing one of its founding fathers so soon.

Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt

Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt was born in England and came to Sherbrooke Quebec in 1835. He entered politics in 1853 representing Sherbrooke and was re-elected continually until 1867. He became Minister of Finance in the union government of the Canadas. Portly, handsome and rich, a landowner and railway builder whose dreams transcended money. They transcended the quarrels of race, religion and tongue. These divided Canada. What joined them? There was common allegiance to the British Crown. There was common hope of prospering on a mighty continent. Galt had proposed a solution seven years before - a new federal union in which each province would be sovereign in its separate concerns yet commit its common concerns in a central government. Here was a plan that would promise them all freedom, diversity and a common will - partners in freedom and in purpose. The plan was older than Galt but he had given it life. It was slowly taking a grip on the minds of men. The tide of the times was stronger than them all.

Born in Gagetown New Brunswick of United Empire Loyalist stock, Tilley entered politics and 1854 became provincial secretary in New Brunswick's first responsible cabinet. The office included the Finance portfolio. From 1861 he was also premier. In 1865 he called an election in which the primary issue was Confederation. The anti-confederation forces defeated him, but that party had no positive policies and soon began to flounder. The British governemt was anxious for Confederation to succeed and instructed the governor to "further the cause of union by every means in his power." Because the anti-confederation party was in extreme difficulty the governor called a new election. Tilley's argument for union received a boost when Fenians raided various points on the New Brunswick border and his party swept back into office. His character and tenacity of purpose contributed greatly to convince the wavering province to commit itself finally to Confederation. Tilley attended both the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences.

He was also present at the Westminster conference whch resulted in the British North America Act. Canada was designated a 'dominion' as a result of Tilley, the New Brunswick premier. Most of the Fathers of Confederation wanted to call their new creation the Kingdom of Canada. The British government, always sensitive to the possibility of offending the Americans, insisted on a different title. The religious Tilley turned to the Bible and found Psalm 72:8 - "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea." The new country became the Dominion of Canada. Tilley served in Macdonald's federal cabinet as minister of finance. He was described as statesman of ability, a gentleman in the best sense of the term.

Tache declared his dedication to Confederation and to Canada's membership in the British Empire with the famous utterance, "The last cannon which is shot on this continent in defence of Great Britain will be fired by the hand of a French Canadian." Tache fought for Britain and his homeland in the War of 1812 then became a leader in his medical profession and a leading Patriote. He sympathized with the rebels of 1837 but did not take up arms. He was an MPP (Member of the Provincial Parliament) and a legislative councillor 1848-65. He was co-premier with Macdonald (1855-57) and joined the Great Coalition in 1864 to pursue federal union and Confederation.

Charles Tupper was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia. After graduating with an M.D., Tupper rode the roads day and night ministering to the medical needs of Nova Scotia. In 1855 he entered politics and in 1864 became Premier of Nova Scotia at the age of forty-three. The brash, blunt bulldog of a man had fought his way to power. He favoured a union of all the British in North America but faced strong opposition to the concept of Confederation. However, when Tilley, an avid advocate of confederation, was swept back into office in New Brunswick, Tupper took heart and issued a call to arms. He warned, "If we remain disunited, the time may come when we shall have the British flag lowered beneath the Stars and Stripes and the last gun will be fired from the Citadel as a British fort." Joseph Howe, a powerful politician in Nova Scotia, opposed confederation, fearing it would separate the colonies from Great Britain. He chose, he said, "London under the domination of John Bull, rather than Ottawa under the domination of Jack Frost." The Legislature listened to Charles Tupper and acted, authorizing Tupper and other delegates to attend the conference in London to discuss Confederation. Tupper was Prime Minister of Canada for ten weeks in 1896. "No braver man ever led a party into battle and no more gallant fight was ever made to save a field than his in 1896." Later the government was defeated, but it was no fault of Tupper's.

Westminster Conference

The last of the confederation conferences took place on December 4, 1866 in London's Westminster Palace Hotel. It was so grand, it had an elevator. On Tuesday morning, December 4, 1866 six delegates of the Canadas sat down in London with five men from New Brunswick and the five from Nova Scotia. There were sixteen in London where there had been twenty-three in Charlottetown and thirty-three in Quebec. Fewer were required because many details had been reached and it remained now to give shape to the great decision. It was two years and three months since that September morning at Charlottetown. Much had changed in the interval. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland had been lost. No longer visionaries they had now entered the stream of history of nation-building.

The fundamentals of Confederation: Continued loyalty to the British Crown through membership in the British Empire a strong central government within a federal union with representation in the lower house based on population and in the upper house based on regional representation. The provinces retained control over their own local affairs. A lawyer, business man, shrewd politician, the pragmatic visionary Macdonald drafted many of the resolutions presented to the Quebec Conference. which were various changes, the basis for the new constitution. A British official wrote: "Macdonald was the ruling genius and spokesman and I was greatly struck with his powers of management and adroitness."

Macdonald had intended that the new nation be called the Kingdom of Canada, but just before the final versiion - there were seven drafts in all - the new nation became the Dominion of Canada. The change was made by the British prime minister who feared that the Americans would be offended for they had no love for monachies. Debate began on the bill ntroduced into the HOuse of Lords on February 19, 1867. Lord Carnarvan began the debate by stating, " We are laying the foundation of a great State, perhaps one that at a future day may even overshadown this country." One February 26, it was introduced into the House of Commons and the British North America Act was approved without change on March 8. On March 29 it received Royal Assent and was signed by Queen Victoria. Canada emerged into the world as a confederation.

John A. and Agnes arrived back in Ottawa, the country's new capital, in May 1867. The Parliament Buildings situated on Parliament Hill had just been completed. Their final cost had risen from the projected $688,505 to $4.5 million. The date for the Confederation celebrations was to be July 1. As that date approached, disturnbing news came from south of the border. The United States had purchased Alaska from Russia, whose Panhandle cut off much of northern British Columbia's access to the sea. American politicians then looked hungrily at what was left of the separate colony. They declared that nature designed the whole continent to be theirs. Macdonald feared BC would soon be annexed by the Yanks. Macdonld saw only one remedy: confederation itself.

July 1st was celebrated in Toronto with the roasting on Church Street of an immense ox purchased by public subscription. In this city and elsewhere across the land, fireworks, bonfires, parades and pride predominated. Let joy be unconfined no sleep till morn when excited citizens happily heralded the existence of their new country - CANADA!

In 1867 Sir John A. Macdonald became the first prime minister of the new Dominion of Canada. As prime minister from 1867-73 and again from 1878-91, John A oversaw the building of our transcontinental railway. Canada would expand from sea to sea to sea.

Upper Canada 1850

In 1850, Ryerson passed a second Common School Act, which allowed school tax to be levied on all property. Prior to this, tax was collected only from families with children. This act also provided for the free admission of all children to schools. A series of acts passed in the 1850s created the foundation of the public provincial education system we see today in Ontario (Young and Bezeau 2003). Another act passed in 1871 made school attendance compulsory for children between the ages of 8 and 14, and “common schools” were renamed as “public schools.” Another major event of the 1850s was the creation of the University of Toronto as a non-denominational university. Prior to this, Kings College had been granted its royal charter by King George in 1827 and was run by the Church of England. In 1850, the school was secularized, which included the removal of religious exams.

Grammar schools existed along with common schools and functioned as a type of secondary education, where classics (i.e., Greek and Latin) were taught along with more advanced English (Gidney and Lawr 1979). Girls were also attending grammar schools in increasing numbers (although the schools had been originally created only for boys). Legislation passed in 1853 (the Grammar School Act) specified the subjects (e.g., English, Latin, arithmetic, history) that were required to be taught, and grammar school was considered to be a “preparatory” school for the university-bound and a “finishing school” for the much larger group of non-university-bound pupils (Gidney and Lawr 1979). Grammar schools also received government funding, although the fees associated with grammar schools compared to common schools would have been notably higher. People of all classes—upper, middle, and lower (when possible)—attended the grammar school. The grammar school, teaching much the same content as the common school, had much more status because it gave a classical education. Therefore,

the grammar school—even the most lowly country school with only a few pupils learning the rudiments of Latin while all the rest studied nothing but English and commercial subjects—had an ambience and bestowed a status that no common school could aspire to. The grammar school, by virtue of its identification with classical teaching, shared in an educational enterprise that conferred a liberal education and gave access not simply to “jobs” or ordinary occupations but to “professions.” (Gidney and Millar 1985:34)

In the mid-1850s, separate schools (Catholic) also gained status as permanent school boards in Upper Canada, after years of struggle by the Catholic minority in the province.

The British Constitution and the American Constitution, which are very different, are blended in Canada. Like the United States Canada has a federal form of government. It was copied from the American example, with variations inspired by American experience and Canadian needs.

The division of authority between the Canadian Parliament and the provincial legislatures is much the same as that between Congress and the state legislatures. But instead of leaving the provinces all the power that was not specifically conferred upon the Dominion, in accordance with the American principle, the Canadians adopted the opposite principle. They gave the residue of authority to the federal government. This seemed to be the great lesson taught by our war between the North and the South, during which the framers of the Canadian constitution did most of their work. Thus the Canadian constitution bears the indelible stamp of the American Civil War. In practice, however, the provinces have gained in power through judicial interpretation of the constitution.

Another difference is that no province can legislate on banking or criminal law. These are subjects wholly within the federal field. The criminal law is therefore uniform throughout the country, and so is the banking system.

Our duplicate system of courts, federal and state, was also rejected in Canada. There the same courts, with permanently appointed judges, administer both federal and provincial law. Yet another difference is that the constitution bound the federal government to subsidize the provincial governments.

Canada resembles the United States rather than Britain in having a written constitution. This is the British North America Act (commonly referred to as the BNA Act) of 1867 and its amendments. But if you take it literally it will give you very false notions of how the country is actually governed, as we shall see presently. The reason is that Canada also has an unwritten constitution&mdashlike the British&mdashand this governs the operation of the written one.

The most vital part of the Canadian system of government is wholly British and totally un-American. It is the fusion of the executive and the legislative branches of government in the cabinet, which is chosen from the leaders of the majority party in the Parliament at Ottawa. When the Canadians formed their federal union in 1867, they already had this British system in the provinces. They were so convinced by experience and observation that it was better than the American, with its separation of powers and its checks and balances, that they would not consider adopting ours.

The real boss

Americans are sometimes misled by the fact that government in Canada is conducted in the name of the king. By the letter of the BNA Act, the king rules Canada through the governor general, whom he appoints. In turn, the governor general supposedly rules the provinces through lieutenant governors, whom he appoints. But in reality the Dominion government chooses the governor general and the lieutenant governors&mdashwho, like the king himself, are only figureheads.

The real head of the federal government, legislative as well as executive, is the prime minister, in whom all power is concentrated and all responsibility focused. He does not run for election to this high position, nor does he hold it for any fixed period. Moreover there is no law defining it.

The requirements are political rather than legal. The prime minister must be a member of the House of Commons and, more than that, he has to be the leader of the majority party in the House. If he fills the bill, the governor general has no other choice than to appoint him. As prime minister, or real head of the executive, he picks and controls the cabinet. These heads of the various executive departments he selects from his own followers in the House, where he and they remain. There they are answerable to the other members for any and every administrative act.

With the help of his cabinet, the prime minister leads the debates in the House and directs the legislative program. The Senate, unlike ours, is not elected but appointed, has no special powers, and is politically, though not legally, subordinate to the House of Commons. Thus the prime minister runs Parliament as well as the administration. And he can continue in power indefinitely&mdashas long as he remains the acknowledged leader of the House of Commons. But the moment he loses this leadership he has to resign, unless by calling an election he can get a new house that will follow him.

Here is the internal balance of the Canadian constitution, which is quite different from the balance in ours. On the one hand, the members of the House of Commons can turn the prime minister out of office at any time, which enforces his responsibility to them and through them to the people. On the other hand, he can turn the House out to face an election at any time, which gives him a disciplinary control over irresponsible members. As soon as a deadlock appears, it forces a general election, thus ending the deadlock by an appeal to the people.

There is no fixed period for general elections, either federal or provincial. One can be held at any time the government wishes. But there is a limit of five years to the life of the Canadian federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures.

Loosening the reins of empire

Canada got independence without having to fight to it. The American Revolution taught Britain never to tax a colony again. But it also persuaded the British that they should not let the remaining colonies get out of hand or they would break away too. This meant trying to hold them by controlling their governments, and the result was a growing strain in each colony. A little over a century ago two miniature rebellions in Canada startled London into sending out a leading statesman to find what was wrong and how to put it right.

This man was Lord Durham, whose report is a milestone in the history of Canada and of the whole British Empire. He insisted that the only way to keep the colonies was to let them govern themselves as they wished. The magic power of liberty, he proclaimed, would hold the colonial empire together. Soon the British government put his formula to the test, and at once it began to work. That was almost a hundred years ago.

Though mistress in its own house, Canada was a subordinate partner in the Empire. The British government had the legal right to veto any act of the Canadian Parliament, a right that was used once in the early days of the Dominion and never again. Canadian legislation was liable to be overridden by acts of the British Parliament arid could not touch the subject of merchant shipping, which Britain regulated for the whole Empire. Canadian foreign relations had to be conducted, at least formally, through the channel of the British Foreign Office. And Canada was bound by the actions of Britain in declaring war and making peace.

These remains of imperial control were all removed after World War I, in which Canada played an important part and earned the right to equality. Along with the other self-governing dominions, Canada got the right to have its own diplomatic service, inaugurated in 1927 by exchanging ministers with the United States, and later extended by exchanges with many other countries. In the imperial conference of 1926, the following important declaration was unanimously adopted: &ldquoThe group of self-governing communities composed of Great Britain and the Dominions &hellip are autonomous communities within the Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another.&rdquo After much further consultation between the governments of the Empire, this principle was translated into law by the Statute of Westminster, which the Briitish Parliament passed in 1931.

The last remnants of subordination

Only two limitations upon full Canadian autonomy remain, and these only by Canadian consent. One is in the administration of justice. The highest court of appeals is the Privy Council in London. Canada has stopped all criminal appeals to the Privy Council, and some civil appeals. In all probability Canada will stop the others too when a good solution is found for the problem raised by the second limitation.

The second limitation is that for important amendments of the written part of the constitution Canada has to go to the British Parliament. This may seem strange in light of the fact that the other dominions can amend their constitutions themselves. The explanation lies in Canada&rsquos dual nationality. A formula has yet to be found that would protect the rights of French Canada, the minority, without making amendment too difficult to be practical. Some of the best minds in Canada have been working hard on this problem, and they may soon solve it.

We should also notice another question that worried many Canadians during the years between the two World Wars. They argued that as long as the Dominion retained the British connection the country might he plunged into war by a decision of the mother country over which Canada had no control&mdashas in 1914.

This question, upon which the Statute of Westminster was silent, was finally answered in 1939. When Britain then went to war, Eire declared its neutrality, South Africa wavered on the brink before plunging in, and Canada asserted its independence in this most important decision of all by making its own declaration of war.

Even today many otherwise well-informed Americans cannot quite grasp the fact that Britain no longer exercises any control over Canadian policy. Canadians are more than a little sensitive on this point. There is much truth in the shrewd Canadian jest that the only way Britain might persuade Canada to do anything is to suggest the opposite.

What about imperial teamwork?

Occasional talk that Canada might combine with the other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations so that all might speak with one voice in international affairs need not be taken seriously. The idea of drawing the Empire together again is an old one that still finds many supporters in Britain and some in Canada. But it is now further from realization than it has been in the past. If there were no obstacles in other parts of the British world&mdashand there are many&mdashCanada alone would block it. On occasion Canada has vigorously asserted its freedom from the mother country&rsquos apron strings.

Look at the peculiar position of Canada and you will see why. This oldest and biggest of the dominions is the only one that is bound up with any power outside the Empire. And Canada is in the shadow of one of the greatest powers on earth.

Primarily because Canada is American as well as British, Canadians have steadily and successfully resisted pressure from Britain and from other dominions to establish in London any new Empire government in which they would all share. Because Canada is American as well as British, it felt&mdashlong before President Roosevelt said so in 1938&mdashthat the Monroe Doctrine gave a security to match that of the British navy. Every peacetime proposal for cooperative imperial defense, therefore, foundered in Canada.

Also, Canada&rsquos economic life is much too closely knit with that of the United States to be torn away and tied up tight in an imperial customs union. The nearest Canada ever came to that was in the Ottawa agreements of 1932. But that was when our Smoot-Hawley tariff had dealt Canada a staggering blow. And see what happened afterward. When Canadians found that we too were willing to negotiate for freer trade, they eagerly sought an agreement with us. They even went to London to pry open the imperial agreements of 1932 so that the Dominion might get still freer trade with us as part of an arrangement for freer Anglo-American trade.


Many a man leaves his mark on history. Few can take pride in having helped build a nation. George-Étienne Cartier was one such man.

Cartier was born in 1814 into a family of shopkeepers, in the village of Saint-Antoine, on the shore of the Richelieu River, northeast of Montreal. He was likely named George-Étienne—with the English spelling, instead of Georges-Étienne—in honour of King George III. His parents, of course, could never have known that, decades later, his political adversaries would see that missing s as proof of his “betrayal” of French Canadians.

Cartier left the family home when he was just ten to attend the Collège de Montréal boarding school, known for its rigorous curriculum. After completing his secondary education, he studied law under Édouard-Étienne Rodier, who would become his mentor. Rodier, a nationalist and an anticlerical who was sympathetic to the ideas of the Patriotes, considerably influenced the young Cartier’s political thinking, and probably his decision to join the Rebellion of 1837. The Patriotes’ principal demand was the institution of responsible government that is, full sovereignty for the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. At the time, power rested in the hands of the governor, appointed by the Crown in London: he controlled the purse strings, and wielded the power to revoke any bill passed by the Assembly.

Cartier took part in the Battle of Saint-Denis, the Patriotes’ only military victory. When the rebellion was eventually crushed, he went into hiding in the countryside, and then into exile across the border in the United States. He was granted amnesty after petitioning Lord Durham’s secretary, and returned to Montreal in the fall of 1838. At that moment, the young man did an about-face: he said he had joined the rebellion to combat the local Tory minority, and not the British Crown, to which he now swore his loyalty. From then on, Cartier advocated compromise with the governing authorities, a point of view opposed to that which Louis-Joseph Papineau, the leader of the Patriote movement, continued to defend. The key point here, though, is the transition from the idealistic, militant young lawyer to the man who would become Sir George-Étienne Cartier: a pragmatic lawyer, baronet, businessman, and, eventually, statesman.

View from Notre-Dame Church, looking north-west, Montreal, QC, 1872. (McCord Museum)

Cartier was short in stature and elegant in bearing. His clothing, hair, and manners projected the air of a gentleman, which is perhaps explained by the fact that he was unapologetically anglophile. Like many other people of the time, he was fascinated by the English lifestyle and, in particular, by the city of London, which he visited often. He openly described himself as a “French-speaking Englishman.”

Behind the gentlemanly image, though, was a man who felt equally at home in the countryside of the St. Lawrence River Valley as at fashionable society evenings in Montreal. The Cartier men, merchants from father to son, were known to enjoy entertainment and the company of women. George-Étienne would not hesitate to argue with prominent public figures, even engaging in at least one duel. He never completely abandoned the irreverence of his youth. He was sociable, enjoyed singing and dancing, and, like many men of his day, was known to raise a glass or two. Luckily for him, his love of drink never approached the legendary intensity of that of his later colleague and political ally Sir John A. Macdonald.

His marriage to Hortense Fabre, the daughter of a well-to-do family of the time, was not a particularly happy one. The Cartiers would spend a good part of their conjugal life, if not the majority of it, separated from one another. Hortense lived with their two daughters in their Montreal home, while George-Étienne went wherever politics took him. Their failed relationship was due, at least in part, to Cartier’s chronic womanizing. After her husband’s death in London, Lady Cartier never again set foot in Canada.

Cartier’s political philosophy is best described as healthy pragmatism: his approach to politics always considered the practical consequences, be they political, social, or economic. That philosophy aimed at achievement of concrete results with an impact on the lives of all citizens. But there was more to “Cartierism” than that. Though he was not an intellectual, and even professed to a certain form of anti-intellectualism, Cartier had his convictions. They were inextricably linked to the context of the time in which he lived, that of a French-Canadian society in the midst of significant economic and industrial change, and of an emerging country, Canada. This context, naturally, must be borne in mind in any analysis of Cartier’s political career.

His convictions included adherence to the principles of responsible government and the parliamentary system. In Cartier’s view, the premier or prime minister and his cabinet had to bear collective responsibility to the legislative assembly for decisions made by the executive. Furthermore, ministers were individually responsible for the affairs of their departments, or ministries. Lastly, members of Parliament were answerable to their constituents for their actions. These principles remain at the core of our political system Cartier was one of the first politicians to defend them and put them into practice.

Cartier belonged to a group of politicians who were dubbed “Reformers.” Their leader was Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, from whom Cartier drew much inspiration—for example, in engaging in patronage. The practice, which was common at the time, consisted of appointing people close to the governing party to governmental positions. In La Fontaine’s view, this was not only about rewarding supporters it was also “one means of entrenching the francophone bourgeoisie.”

The Reformers differed from the other political factions of the day by their constant quest for a moderate middle ground. They rejected the theses of both the Rouges and the Ultramontanists: the former hewed to radical liberalism, advocated the annexation of Canada to the United States, and were anticlerical the latter believed that the power of the Catholic Church should take prominence over political power. The Reformers, meanwhile, sought a middle way, more likely to guarantee a stable and orderly society, with no need to resort to extreme solutions. That way consisted in allegiance to the British Crown, implementation of responsible government, and, ultimately, the co-existence of the French-Canadian and English-Canadian peoples. For these reasons, the Reformers accepted the Act of Union of 1840, despite its serious flaws, and collaborated on the project that would lead to Confederation in 1867. Clearly, to be a Reformer was above all to be pragmatic.

Property rights were another of Cartier’s core convictions. He believed property was fundamental to the organization of society. To be a property owner required good judgment, as it involved the responsibility to manage and maintain that property, a concept that could not be grasped by someone who was not an owner. Property, in Cartier’s view, conferred a degree of dignity on a person. There was nothing unjust about the notion, because anybody could aspire to own property provided that he was prepared to put in the effort required. In other words, property was accessible to all as long as those who desired it worked hard enough to earn it.

George Etienne Cartier’s house, St. Antoine sur Richelieu, QC, copied 1912. (McCord Museum)


Cartier was a solicitor, a businessman, a parliamentarian, and a minister. He owed his career in law to the flourishing of Montreal’s industrial and commercial centre as he put it, he was “in the right place at the right time.” The first clients of his law practice were members of his family, alumni of the Collège de Montréal, and people from his hometown. Later, his client base broadened to include entrepreneurs, manufacturers, shopkeepers, and the like. Gradually, he became part of the Montreal business community, and began to be appointed to the boards of directors of various companies. Moreover, true to his convictions, he invested part of his savings in real estate, acquiring several buildings (along Notre-Dame Street in Montreal, for example), which earned him substantial income.

Concurrently with his activities as a solicitor and landowner, Cartier took an interest in politics. He associated with former Patriotes who, like him, now favoured compromise with the political power in place, and was determined to follow in La Fontaine’s footsteps. In 1848, he made his move, standing as a Conservative candidate in a by-election in the riding of Verchères. He won by a few hundred votes.

When Cartier arrived in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, the debate was dominated by two issues: reparations for victims of the 1837 and 1838 rebellions, and the proposed annexation of Canada to the United States. A discreet parliamentarian at first, Cartier tacitly supported La Fontaine, who was in favour of the Rebellion Losses Bill. He strongly opposed the annexation movement, led by the Rouges. In historian Brian Young’s view, Cartier’s aversion to annexation was directly related to his multiple occupations. As a businessman, he had every reason to want to maintain the status quo, namely, preservation of a British parliamentary system, because of the guarantees it offered of economic stability and a healthy climate for business. As a politician, meanwhile, Cartier had a “lifelong distrust of American democracy,” with its radicalism, and its failure to exemplify executive authority that imposed respect by everyone. The especially bloody Civil War certainly nurtured that sense of suspicion. Cartier was adept at distinguishing economic interests from political concerns, which explains why he advocated freer trade bet ween the Canadian and U.S. economies (following the 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws, with their preferential tariffs that favoured Canadian goods, Canada had an urgent need to find new markets).

Cartier the parliamentarian thus began to attract attention. Not because of his oratorical talents: it is said that he was not particularly charismatic, and given to long, tedious speeches. He was, however, recognized for his ability to persuade, which in politics is as valuable as charisma. He excelled in parliamentary commissions, where he won over colleagues with ease. In this way, he compensated for a lack of charisma with a good measure of intelligence and, above all, political instinct, which would serve him well in pushing through several significant reforms.

View of the Special Court, assembled under the authority of the Seignorial act of Provincial Parliament 1854. (McCord Museum)


Inherited from the French colonial era, the régime seigneurial was the basis for the organization of social and economic life in Lower Canada, with its mostly rural populace. Under this system of land tenure, every farm was part of a seigneurie, or estate, which collected dues of all kinds. For example, the censitaire who farmed the land not only had to use implements belonging to the seigneur but had to pay to use them, despite the fact that he already paid annual tax to said seigneur.

In Cartier’s view, the seigneurial system was a major hindrance to French Canadians’ economic, social, and political development. He thought the rents and dues were excessive and ill suited to the economic context of the time. And he was especially opposed to this obsolete system because it prevented, or at least considerably limited, access to land ownership, a principle that he fiercely defended.

Politically, the seigneurial system was an obstacle to the establishment of a stable state and the institution of new social, commercial, and agricultural policies necessary for economic development. Cartier played a role in the adoption of the Seigniorial Act of 1854, which abolished the system by, among other ways, convincing rural residents of the benefits they would derive from the legislation.


In 1855, Cartier was named provincial secretary for Canada East. In that capacity, he was responsible for a second major reform, that of the education system in Lower Canada. At the time, lay teachers received no professional training. Public schools were underfinanced, and there were frequent irregularities in the system. On top of this, many school principals were illiterate, and a significant number of teachers were minors. Unsurprisingly, only a small percentage of adult francophones knew how to read and write.

Cartier assigned Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau the task of assessing the situation and presenting potential solutions. After Chauveau’s study confirmed the dire state of the public education system, Cartier introduced legislation in 1856 that led to the creation of the Conseil de l’instruction publique (Council of Public Instruction), the ancestor of Quebec’s Ministry of Education. The Council’s job was to administer the public school system, and this included regulating examinations, selecting textbooks, and establishing standards of teaching.

That a body such as the Council was created, rather than a ministry of public education, was the result of a compromise, which Cartier accepted because of opposition from the Catholic Church and its allies in the conservative bourgeoisie, who wanted to retain control over school institutions, as well as from the anglophone community, fiercely committed to autonomy for their schools. Still, implementation of the Council of Public Instruction led to more schools being built and, above all, to improved literacy.


The third great reform that dates from George-Étienne Cartier’s time in government is the drafting of the Civil Code of Lower Canada. During the French colonial period, Canada was subject to the coutume de Paris, the customary law of northern France. Under this system dating from feudal times, “property rights [were] integrated into a seigneurial, family, and religious framework.”

After the 1759 Conquest of New France, however, British criminal law had been imposed, and this, combined with the later abolition of the seigneurial system, had resulted in a veritable legal hodgepodge. Cartier set up a commission tasked with codifying civil law, and chaired the parliamentary committee that studied the commission’s report. He then used his parliamentary majority to enact the new civil code, in 1866.

Hon. John A. Macdonald, Hon. George-Etienne Cartier and Lieutenant-Colonel John G. Irvine, among others. 1860. (Library and Archives Canada)


Between 1815 and 1851, Western countries remained in the throes of a lengthy recession, and Canada was no exception. Among possible remedies for this malaise, the idea of free trade gained increasing traction. Canadian producers no longer benefited from Britain’s preferential tariffs, so the country turned to its neighbour to the south, concluding the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States in 1854. This was only a temporary panacea for the Canadian economy, though, because the agreement would only remain in force for ten years. New markets had to be found hence the idea of a federation between the colonies of British North America to reduce barriers to trade among them.

In addition to the commercial incentive, there were political motivations. On the one hand, imperialism was becoming increasingly less popular among the British political class: they viewed the colonies, or more precisely their defence, as a financial burden. On the other, the 1840 Act of Union, which had joined Upper Canada with Lower Canada, where the majority of French Canadians lived, had become a source of chronic political instability.

Here again, a union of all the colonies of British North America seemed the ideal solution. The partnership would thus be a political one, but motivated in large part by economic imperatives, and the building of railways would be its guiding enterprise. Contrary to the opinion of some observers, in particular those who defend the principle of duality, Canada resulted not merely from a political union between two nations, French-Canadian and English-Canadian, but from an economic union of four colonies: Ontario, Quebec (formerly United Canada), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. George-Étienne Cartier was to play a pivotal role both in the establishment of Confederation and in the building of the great railways that would serve as the new nation’s backbone.

Cartier and the railway companies had an extensive history. He had long advocated construction of a rail link between Montreal and the eastern coastal cities of the United States, to ensure year-round connections to seaports. In this, Cartier showed great foresight: winter ice brought maritime transport within Canada to a standstill six months a year, and permanent access to ports on the U.S. east coast would be a boon to the country’s economy. Moreover, a modern transportation net work would prevent American interests from gaining a trade monopoly in the Canadian West. So while the annexationists represented a real threat, at the same time, some sort of rapprochement with the United States was essential—at least in economic terms.

In 1848, during his earliest days as a member of the Legislative Assembly, Cartier petitioned the government to support the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway company, then attempting to complete its line connecting Montreal with Portland, Maine. He secured passage of a bill recognizing the principle that the government should subsidize railway construction. More specifically, the Guarantee Act stated that the government had to contribute financially to construction or extension of any line more than seventy-five miles long. Meanwhile, Montreal businessmen, sensitive to Cartier’s argument that the country’s political and economic destiny was dependent on railway construction, succeeded in raising enough money to build the stretch of track that would secure the government guarantee. In 1853, Cartier was invited to ride on the inaugural train between Montreal and Portland.

By the summer of 1864, the Parliament of United Canada was in the midst of a fractious session. George Brown, the leader of the Clear Grits, a group of radical liberals that held the balance of power, proposed a coalition government with the Conservatives to remedy the situation. Brown imposed a condition, however: the government must adopt a new constitution. The Conservatives, led by Macdonald and Cartier, were amenable to this, even agreeing to discuss a federal union. The idea had been around for years, but both opportunity and political will, in all likelihood, had been lacking.

The leaders of United Canada learned that the representatives of the maritime colonies—Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick—were to meet at Charlottetown in September to discuss a possible union. They seized the opportunity and arranged to be invited to the conference as observers. Better prepared, the United Canada delegation convinced the other provinces of the advantages of federating all of the British North American colonies. It is likely that Cartier’s persuasive skills, which he had continued to hone over the years, helped make the case for a broader union.

The representatives of United Canada and the Maritimes met for a second conference, in Quebec City in October 1864, which led to an initial agreement in principle. At this meeting, Cartier was a discreet presence. Historian Jean-Charles Bonenfant’s explanation is that the delegates were busy studying Macdonald’s proposals, prepared ahead of time by the cabinet of United Canada, to which Cartier belonged.

He therefore focused instead on defending the measures that he believed were necessary to protect the interests of Lower Canada—that is, of French Canadians.

The delegates reached agreement on a number of essential points. Representation of each province in the future House of Commons would be in proportion to its population, while in the Senate, each would have an equal number of seats. There was a commitment to build an intercolonial railway to unite Quebec and Ontario with the Maritime provinces, so that Canadian goods would no longer have to transit through the United States. There is no doubt that Cartier provided the impetus for that project. The agreement became known as the Quebec Resolutions, also referred to as the Seventy-Two Resolutions. After approval by the provincial legislatures, the text of the proposals was submitted to the British government. It served as the draft for the British North America Act.†

Though some of the colonies had misgivings as to the content of the Seventy-Two Resolutions, a Canadian delegation set sail for London in late 1866 to put the finishing touches on the legal text to be presented to the British parliament. At least one account claims that John A. Macdonald used these final negotiations to attempt to change the federative system agreed upon in Quebec City into one that would concentrate power in the hands of the central government. Cartier, proponents of this view say, opposed this, having grasped the scope of Macdonald’s plan. To him, it would have been unimaginable that the federal government should appropriate the greater share of power, including jurisdiction over education and law, which were in the hands of the future provinces, per the reforms that Cartier himself had championed. In his view, the existence of French-Canadian political, social, and cultural institutions could not be subjected to any political compromise. The French Canadians were maîtres chez eux.

They constituted a full-fledged nation that was joining a broader economic and political union of its own volition. And that union, the Canadian federation, would ensure not only the survival of the French Canadians—including those living in the newly created province of Quebec—but also their development as a francophone people within North America.

The new Canadian constitution was submitted to the British parliament in February 1867, as a bill introduced in the House of Lords. It received royal assent in March, with a proclamation issued by Queen Victoria in May, and came into effect on July 1.

Cartier returned from London with a sense of duty fulfilled. From then on, he was among the men who would become known as the Fathers of Confederation. It was also around this time that he was made a baronet, according him the title “Sir” before his first name. In addition, he secured a twelve-million-dollar guarantee for construction of the intercolonial railroad. But rail development was no longer merely a matter of connecting Quebec and Ontario with the Maritimes. From then on, the federal government, and Cartier in particular, would concern itself with Canada’s westward expansion, and the key, once again, would be the construction of “iron roads.”

The makers of modern Canada, 1909. Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, Sir Richard Cartwright, Sir Charles Tupper, Lord Strathcona, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir John A Macdonald, Joseph Howe, George Brown, Lord Mount Stephen and Sir George-Etienne Cartier. From Harmsworth History of the World, Volume 8, by Arthur Mee, J.A. Hammerton, & A.D. Innes, M.A. (Carmelite House/The Print Collector/Getty Images)


Aside from his new duties as minister of militia and defence, whereby he reorganized the country’s system of defence, Cartier was to dedicate the remainder of his political career to extending the territory of Canada all the way to the Pacific Ocean. He travelled to London to negotiate Canada’s purchase of Rupert’s Land and the North-West Territory from the Hudson’s Bay Company and the British government. Canada was on the way to becoming one of the world’s largest countries. Cartier was the man who organized these new territories. He reached agreement with the Métis, who inhabited a significant swath of the newly acquired land, on the creation of a new province, Manitoba, in 1870. And it was largely thanks to him that British Columbia became Canada’s sixth province in 1871, in return for the federal government’s pledge to complete what became known as the Canadian Pacific Railway, which in 1885 at last linked the country from coast to coast.

Cartier’s connections to the railway companies, including the Grand Trunk, epitomized the alliance between economic interests and the Canadian government: while the government instituted tariffs, determined the rights-of-way, defined the labour-market regulations, and so on, the railway companies financed election campaigns and provided work for politicians like Cartier. It was thus a mutually beneficial system, and common practice at the time.

In the 1872 general election, Cartier was unseated by a first-time Liberal candidate in the riding of Montreal East, after representing it for eleven years. The defeat would leave a bitter taste. He was quickly elected by acclamation in the Manitoba riding of Provencher, though, after Métis leader Louis Riel withdrew his candidacy.

But Cartier wasn’t out of the woods yet. Before long, it was alleged that he and Macdonald had solicited campaign donations from a Montreal businessman in exchange for the awarding of the contract to build the transcontinental railway. Weakened by chronic nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys), Cartier left Macdonald to defend the government against the charges. The affair escalated into the so-called Pacific Scandal, which forced the Conservatives to resign. In the meantime, Cartier had left for London, hoping his health would improve. It did not: he died on May 20, 1873, in the city he had always been so fond of.

There are two great thrusts of George-Étienne Cartier’s career that ensured his legacy as a pre-eminent figure in Canadian history: the notion of duality, and economic development. These lines of force intertwine to describe the singular journey of a man as well as of a people whose future he helped shape in durable fashion.

Cartier embodies a certain vision of Canada: the union of the French-Canadian nation, or Quebec, and the English-Canadian nation, or the rest of Canada. Today, though, that idea of duality appears to have lost its lustre. The narrative to which many Canadians, and in particular French Canadians, choose to refer in seeking to understand their country does not seem to have the same persuasive power.

There appear to be two reasons for this. First, duality obscures the existence of other Canadian nations, not least the Acadians and the First Nations. It is thus a non-inclusive vision. Not only does it overlook those other founding nations, but it also slights populations of immigrant origin. Moreover, duality implies a Canada made up of two distinct blocs, whereas it is, in fact, anything but. One need only consider the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, which were initially colonized by francophones. The Métis in this region would never have identified themselves with a monolithic “French-Canadian” nation.

Although the traditional definition of Canadian duality can be called into question for these reasons, the concept has not exhausted its potential. We must, however, conceive of it differently. We therefore propose a definition based on the following fact: the French-Canadian nation, today embodied primarily in Quebec, predates the nation of Canada. In other words, its institutions, culture, and language existed before the nation of Canada. This is an important fact of history, all the more so because it nurtured the political journey of George-Étienne Cartier.

The notion of duality is evident in the Cartierist view in at least two areas. The first has to do with the reforms that he championed. For example, although Cartier campaigned in favour of its abolition, the seigneurial regime left a durable imprint on Quebec: it is the only Canadian province where farmland was divided into rangs, or long, narrow strips perpendicular to waterways. This is a significant indicator of difference vis-à-vis the other provinces, as the seigneurial system was one of the first methods of land-use planning in the country, if not the first. The difference is especially important when one considers that geography is a fundamental identifier for a people.

There was an even more important reform, though: that of the law. In addition to having had the loi coutumière system before the 1759 Conquest, Quebec is today the only province with a civil code—that is, a body of rules set down as general principles governing rela- tions between persons, which differs from the British common law, under which the courts base decisions on jurisprudence. Thus there has been a system of law specific to French Canadians—at least in Quebec—both before and after the Conquest. It is significant to note that Canadian law today is characterized by a form of bijuralism—the coexistence of two distinct legal traditions—which confirms that there is at least one form of Canadian duality.

The second area in which Cartier illustrated duality was his political positions in favour of French Canadians, in particular when it came to constitutional negotiations. His opposition to Macdonald’s centralist designs and his unwavering defence of French-Canadian institutions strongly suggest that he would never have agreed to Quebec’s joining the Canadian Confederation without existing French-Canadian institutions being accepted by all parties. In other words, the French Canadians had to remain maîtres chez eux. This was non-negotiable.

Cartier’s pressing for a federation less centralized than the one Macdonald sought also reminds us of two lessons about the country’s origins and, concomitantly, about duality.

First, the Fathers of Confederation agreed on the creation of a federal state, not a unitary state. French Canadians in general and GeorgeÉtienne Cartier in particular would never have accepted a Canadian state that failed to take into account the existence of a historically constituted French-Canadian nation. Quebec joined the Canadian federation first of all because it obtained the guarantee that its distinct character would be respected and recognized by the other members of that federation, and second, because it also secured the right to renegotiate the conditions of its membership in the federation should it come to consider that its distinct character was no longer respected and recognized by the other provinces. In short, it would have been inconceivable for Canada to be created to the detriment of the distinct character of the French Canadians, in particular the Québécois. Let us note that this conception of duality does not cast doubt upon the explanation provided previously, that an economic union was key to the building of Canada: it is complementary to it.

Second, whether we conceive of the origin of Canada through the prism of duality, economic union, or both, one fact is incontrovertible: Canada was not a creation of the Canadian state, but of the colonies of British North America, including the French-Canadian nation. It was not the central government that decided to unite the colonies, but the colonies that united to create a federal state. In this respect, the provincial governments are subordinate neither in fact nor in law to the federal government. The two levels of government are autonomous in relation to one another, especially when it comes to their respective spheres of competence. This justifies, for example, the federal government’s acknowledgement of jurisdictions—cultural, institutional, political, and so forth—specific to the provinces, in particular those specific to Quebec, by means of tools such as asymmetrical federalism. Thus it is the provinces, including Quebec, that cement Canadian unity.

Economic development is another essential aspect of the history of Canada and, as we have noted, a key path in Cartier’s political journey. Consider his speeches aimed at persuading citizens of the benefits of doing away with the seigneurial system, or his activism in favour of railway construction—especially given that one of the primary motivations for the creation of Canada was the unification of a group of colonies for economic reasons.

In our opinion, economic development has a bearing on three fundamental aspects of Canadian federalism. The first is liberty: for a people to have the liberty of self-determination—and thus of making its own choices—it must first control the economic levers proper to a state, such as the provision of public finances and maintenance of a social and political environment conducive to wealth creation. That is all the more important in a country such as Canada, in which the provincial governments manage the social safety net (hospitals, education, social benefits, and so on).

That same liberty—this is the second aspect—enables a province such as Quebec to exercise its full autonomy in its own spheres of competence. We also note that it is easier for a province to negotiate a new constitutional agreement when its public finances are sound.

The final aspect involves the idea that an economy is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, which is the overall welfare of individuals and communities. It provides for what the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has called “the affirmation of ordinary life”—that is, family life and production. Thus economic development procures for a people the freedom to determine its future and the capacity to improve the terms of the union of which it is a part, in order for it ultimately to ensure the welfare of the greatest possible number of citizens.

Jean Charest, the former premier of Quebec, and one of the authors of this essay. (CP)


George-Étienne Cartier and the other figures whose lives are related in these pages were conveyors of a shared destiny: that of the French-Canadian nation, embodied essentially by Quebec. That shared destiny is first and foremost a shared language. French is not merely a tool for communication, an instrument for a particular purpose, but a way of existing—in other words, of being in the world. That shared destiny is also a history, stretching back to the “discovery” of a new world, America, and continuing through to the founding of the Canadian federation. That history allows us to measure the scope of everything accomplished since, including the common good that is Canada.

Our internal quarrels, in particular in Quebec, tend to cast a veil over the things that unite Quebec and Canada. That unity illustrates that our country is marked by profound diversity—cultural, linguistic, and geographical—the occasionally precarious fulcrums of which were, in many cases, erected and maintained by francophones like George-Étienne Cartier. Canada has allowed Quebec to progress from survival to development, to become a nation in its own right that—if we may be so bold—exercises sovereignty over the essential spheres of the lives of Quebeckers.

A final aspect of that shared destiny is institutions. Quebec is distinguished by a British-inspired parliament that bears a French-inspired name, the National Assembly, by a tradition of civil law paired with British common law, and by a pattern of land management that is unique in North America. Each of these institutions operates in one and the same language and is the fruit of a singular history. These institutions are the culmination of the destiny common to all French Canadians, particularly Quebeckers.

There are men whose life stories overlap with a larger history, that of their country. George-Étienne Cartier’s story is one such dual narrative. Through the reforms undertaken under his leadership, the building of railways, the constitutional negotiations, the addition of vast territories, and the creation of new provinces, Cartier played a pivotal role in the creation of Canada. Few people accomplish so much in the span of a lifetime. Cartier is part of the pantheon of Canada’s great nation builders. We owe him a great debt. And the best way to repay it is to become acquainted with his life story.

Excerpted from Legacy: How French Canadians Shaped North America. Copyright © 2016 by Generic Productions Inc. “Sir George-Étienne Cartier” © Jean Charest and Antoine Dionne-Charest. Published by Signal, an imprint of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Timeline: Notable dates in Canada’s history

A look at some notable dates in the history of Canada, which marks its 147th birthday July 1.

June 24, 1497 – John Cabot claims a new continent in the name of King Henry VII of England after landing near Labrador.

June 30, 1508 – A detailed map of the New World published in Rome lists for the first time Terra Nova – Newfoundland.

June 11, 1534 – French explorers under Jacques Cartier celebrate Canada’s first Roman Catholic mass, at their camp of Brest on Labrador’s coast.

June 29, 1534 – Cartier sights Prince Edward Island and calls it the “best tempered region one can possibly see.”

Aug. 13, 1535 – Cartier becomes the first European to sail into the St. Lawrence River, which he believes is a route to Asia. Two sons of Iroquois Chief Donnacona, who are guiding Cartier, refer to their native village as Canada, the explorer’s first exposure to the name.

1600 – Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit and Francois Grave du Pont build Canada’s first fortified trading post, at Tadoussac in what is now Quebec.

1606 – Jean de Beincourt, Sieur de Poutrincourt, builds North America’s first water-powered mill, on the Allains River in Acadia, after seeing six men die of exhaustion from grinding grain by hand.

July 3, 1608 – Samuel de Champlain founds the settlement of Quebec.

July 30, 1609 – Champlain helps Huron and Algonquins defeat a much larger force of Iroquois, exposing them to firearms for the first time.

June 24, 1611 – English explorer Henry Hudson and his crew are set adrift by other mutinous crew members in the massive bay that now bears Hudson’s name.

June 3, 1620 – The Recollet missionaries lay the cornerstone for Notre Dame des Agnes, the first stone church in Quebec.

June 25, 1625 – Father Nicholas Viel, missionary to the Hurons of Ontario, becomes Canada’s first martyr when he is deliberately drowned in the Ottawa River.

March 16, 1649 – More than 1,000 Iroquois overrun the Huron missions of New France, torturing to death the missionaries who established them.

Aug. 6, 1654 – Fur traders Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medart Chouart des Groseilliers begin their first westward journey.

July 21, 1660 – Canada’s first census puts the population at 3,418.

Feb. 24, 1663 – New France becomes a royal colony of the French crown.

July 7, 1667 – Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy concludes the first genuine French-Iroquois peace treaty in more than five decades of hostilities.

May 2, 1670 – King Charles II of England signs the charter incorporating the Hudson’s Bay trading company.

Aug. 7, 1679 – After being granted permission to explore western North America, Sieur de La Salle launches the Griffon, the first ship to navigate the Great Lakes.

Nov. 19, 1686 – France and England sign the Treaty of Neutrality providing for peace between respective possessions in America and settling the dispute over activities in Hudson Bay.

May 17, 1689 – King William’s War is declared between England and France, which pits New France against New England colonies and their Iroquois allies.

July 19, 1701 – The Iroquois cede territory to England north of Lake Ontario and west of Lake Michigan.

Aug. 4, 1701 – The Iroquois Five Nations sign a peace treaty with New France at Ville-Marie, Que.

April 11, 1713 – Under the Treaty of Utrecht, France recognizes British sovereignty over Hudson Bay, Acadia and Newfoundland. France retains possession of St. Pierre and Miquelon, Ile Royale (Cape Breton) and Ile Saint-Jean (P.E.I.).

Aug. 12, 1728 – Danish sailor Vitus Johassen Bering sails through the strait that now bears his name in an expedition that would prove that Asia and North America are some 60 kilometres apart.

June 8, 1731 – De la Verendrye leaves Montreal with an expedition to establish new trading areas in the west.

1739 – A census of Canada records a population of 42,701.

July 9, 1749 – Edward Cornwallis, governor of Nova Scotia, announces the establishment of Halifax.

April 17, 1750 – A fortified outpost is built on the present site of Toronto. Fort Rouille is intended to encourage Indians to trade furs with the French.

March 23, 1752 – Canada’s first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, is printed by John Bushell.

1754 – Louis La Corne plants the first wheat in the west, in the Carrot River Valley of present-day Saskatchewan.

Sept. 5, 1755 – Lt.-Col. John Winslow says Acadians who refuse to pledge allegiance to the British Crown will forfeit their property and be relocated from their communities to Louisiana and British American colonies.

May 17, 1756 – The Seven Years’ War begins with Britain declaring war on France. It starts in North America and spreads to Europe.

Sept. 13, 1759 – British Commander-in-Chief James Wolfe dies on the field after being shot three times during the battle of the Plains of Abraham. French commander Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, mortally wounded, succumbs the next day.

Feb. 10, 1763 – The Treaty of Paris ends the Seven Years’ War, with Britain taking possession of Canada.

June 22, 1774 – The British Parliament passes the Quebec Act, establishing among other things French civil law, British-based criminal law and religious freedom for Roman Catholics.

April 1, 1776 – The first of thousands of United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution arrive in Halifax.

March 29, 1778 – James Cook, George Vancouver and their crews become the first Europeans known to have landed at British Columbia.

April 24, 1779 – The North West Company is formed in Montreal to compete with the Hudson’s Bay Company in the fur trade.

June 10, 1791 – Britain’s Canada Act divides the new country into Upper Canada, with its capital at Newark (later Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.), and Lower Canada, with Quebec City as its capital.

Oct. 13, 1812 – Gen. Isaac Brock is killed in a counterattack against American forces in the Battle of Queenston Heights, near Niagara Falls.

June 22, 1813 – A Queenston (Ont.) woman, Laura Secord, aided by Indians, treks more than 19 kilometres to warn British forces of plans she overheard of an American attack.

Dec. 24, 1814 – The Treaty of Ghent is signed, ending the War of 1812 and restoring Canada-U.S. borders.

March 21, 1821 – The Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company merge after decades of often-fierce rivalry.

1825 – The latest census puts the population of Lower Canada (Quebec) at 479,288, and Upper Canada (Ontario) at 157,923.

March 6, 1834 – York reverts to its original name, Toronto, and is incorporated as a city.

Feb. 4, 1839 – Lord Durham, former governor-in-chief of British North America, recommends in a report to the British Parliament the systematic anglicization of French Canadians to make them a minority.

Oct. 14, 1844 – John A. Macdonald is elected to represent Kingston, Ont., in the Legislative Assembly of Canada.

April 23, 1851 – Canada’s first official postage stamp, the three-penny beaver, is issued.

Dec. 31, 1857 – Queen Victoria names Ottawa as the new capital of Canada.

Sept. 7, 1864 – Maritime delegates at the Charlottetown Conference offer unanimous support for the idea of Confederation. The conference was supposed to focus on uniting the Maritime provinces, but an unofficial delegation from the province of Canada derailed the agenda and delegates agreed to the broad outline of a federal union that would eventually include Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1867.

July 1, 1867 – The Dominion of Canada, uniting Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, comes into existence, with John A. Macdonald as first prime minister.

May 15, 1870 – Manitoba becomes Canada’s fifth province.

April 2, 1871 – The first census of the Dominion of Canada lists the population as 3,689,257.

July 20, 1871 – British Columbia enters Confederation as the nation’s sixth province.

July 1, 1873 – Prince Edward Island enters Confederation.

Aug. 3, 1876 – The first telephone call between separate buildings is made by inventor Alexander Graham Bell, in Mount Pleasant, Ont., to his uncle, David Bell, in Brantford, Ont.

Feb. 8, 1879 – Sir Sandford Fleming presents a paper to the Royal Canadian Institute proposing that the world be divided into 24 time zones.

Nov. 7, 1885 – Rail director Donald Smith drives the ceremonial last spike home for the Canadian Pacific Railway, linking Montreal to Port Moody, B.C.

Nov. 16, 1885 – Metis leader Louis Riel is hanged for high treason as a result of the North West Rebellion.

Oct. 30, 1899 – More than 1,000 Canadian soldiers set sail from Quebec to South Africa and the Boer War.

Nov. 7, 1900 – Liberal Wilfrid Laurier becomes prime minister after defeating Charles Tupper’s Conservatives. Laurier goes on to be one of Canada’s most lauded prime ministers.

Oct. 19, 1903 – Canadian representatives on the Alaska Boundary Commission refuse to sign the commission’s decision setting the boundary between Alaska and Canada, saying virtually all American positions had been accepted.

May 14, 1904 – Canada competes in the Olympics, in St. Louis, for the first time.

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July 20, 1905 – Acts proclaiming Alberta and Saskatchewan as Canada’s newest provinces receive royal assent.

Jan. 2, 1908 – The first coin is struck at the new Royal Mint building in Ottawa, ending years of importing Canadian currency from England.

Feb. 23, 1909 – John Alexander Douglas McCurdy makes the first airplane flight in the British Empire, travelling about 10 metres above the ground for almost a kilometre at Baddeck, N.S.

Dec. 4, 1909 – The University of Toronto defeats the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club 26-6 in the first Grey Cup game for a Canadian football championship.

May 14. 1912 – Ottawa divests itself of responsibility for vast tracts of northern land, granting boundary extensions to Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Aug. 4. 1914 – Following Germany’s invasion of Belgium, Britain declares war on Germany. Canada, as part of the British Empire, is engaged in the war as well.

Feb. 4. 1916 – Fire partially destroys the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

April 9, 1917 – The Canadian Corps attacks German positions on Vimy Ridge in France, a key piece of land held by the Germans since 1914. Six days later, fighting ends with the Canadians victorious despite the loss of 3,600 troops.

Dec. 6, 1917 – Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes in Halifax Harbour, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying some 6,000 homes.

May 24, 1918 – Canadian women win the right to vote in federal elections.

Nov. 11, 1918 – The First World War ends Canada has lost 60,000 troops.

May 15, 1919 – A general strike begins in Winnipeg in support of striking workers in building and metal trades. It ends six weeks later, after two deaths in skirmishes.

Feb. 1, 1920 – The Royal North West Mounted Police and Dominion Police merge to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Oct. 24, 1921 – The Lunenburg fishing schooner Bluenose defeats the American vessel Elsie to win the international schooner championship.

Dec. 6, 1921 – Agnes Macphail becomes the first woman elected to Parliament.

Jan. 3, 1922 – The Royal Mint produces Canada’s first five-cent pieces, made mostly of nickel.

Oct. 25, 1923 – Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod are first Canadians to win a Nobel prize, for their work that led to discovery of insulin.

Nov. 19, 1926 – The Commonwealth adopts the Balfour Report, specifying that dominions such as Canada are autonomous from and equal to Britain.

March 2, 1927 – The British dominion of Newfoundland wins a 25-year boundary dispute with Canada. Labrador, which had been claimed by Quebec, is awarded to Newfoundland.

April 24, 1928 – The Supreme Court rules that women are not persons, and therefore are not eligible to sit in Senate. The government later amends the British North America Act to allow women to enter Senate.

Feb. 5, 1930 – Canada’s first woman senator, Cairine Wilson, is appointed.

Oct. 1, 1930 – After negotiations with Ottawa, Alberta gains control of its natural resources. Saskatchewan and Manitoba also receive the same power that same year.

July 6, 1931 – Federal officials and the Red Cross announce plans to aid victims of a drought that has gripped the Prairies for more than a year.

Dec. 11, 1931 – The Statute of Westminster, giving dominions of the Commonwealth full legal freedom, is passed by British Parliament. At Canada’s request, Britain retains power to amend the British North America Act.

May 24, 1932 – Legislation brings the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission into existence.

July 18, 1932 – Canada and the United States agree to develop the St. Lawrence River into a seaway capable of taking ships into the Great Lakes.

July 3, 1934 – Parliament passes the Bank of Canada Act, creating a central bank.

Sept. 10, 1939 – Canada declares war on Nazi Germany.

June 27, 1941 – The federal government allows women to enlist in the army.

Dec. 7, 1941 – Canada declares war on Japan after its attack on Pearl Harbor.

Feb. 26, 1942 – The Canadian government announces plans to move all Japanese on Canada’s West Coast inland to camps.

April 27, 1942 – Canadians voting in a plebiscite support conscription, but the vote badly divides the country: 70 per cent of Quebecers reject it.

May 11, 1942 – A German U-boat in the St. Lawrence River torpedoes two freighters, the first time the war has come to Canadian territory.

Aug. 19, 1942 – Canadian troops sustain major losses in a raid on the French port of Dieppe. Nearly 1,000 Canadians die and another 1,800 are taken prisoner.

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June 6, 1944 – Allied troops storm the beaches at Normandy – Canadians take Juno Beach – in the largest amphibious operation in history.

June 15, 1944 – T.C. (Tommy) Douglas leads the CCF to power in Saskatchewan, becoming Canada’s first socialist premier.

May 7, 1945 – Victory comes for the Allies in Europe as the Germans surrender. News of V-E Day touches off wild celebrations in Canada.

Aug. 15, 1945 – The Japanese emperor announces Japan’s surrender, ending the Second World War.

May 14, 1946 – The Canadian Citizenship Act is passed, meaning a Canadian citizen is no longer classified as British subject first.

Oct. 14, 1946 – The government introduces Canada Savings Bonds.

Feb. 13, 1947 – Drilling begins at Leduc No. 1, a huge oil find in north-central Alberta.

March 31, 1949 – Newfoundland officially enters Confederation.

Dec. 18, 1950 – The 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, begins disembarking in Pusan as Canada enters the war between North and South Korea.

May 7, 1951 – Parliament passes a motion seeking a constitutional amendment that would create pensions for all Canadians over 70.

Sept. 6, 1952 – Canada’s first television station, CBFT Montreal, begins broadcasting.

June 6, 1956 – A pipeline bill authorizing the creation of a western section of pipeline to transport natural gas to Ontario from Alberta passes second reading in the Senate. The bill has caused an uproar after the Liberal government invoked closure – a time limit on debate – for the first time in history.

June 26, 1959 – Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower officially open the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Aug. 10, 1960 – The Bill of Rights, specifying the rights of Canadians, becomes law.

Jan. 19, 1962 – The government announces a new immigration policy intended to remove any racial discrimination from the system.

July 1, 1962 – Saskatchewan’s Medical Care Insurance Act takes effect, creating Canada’s first comprehensive public health-care program.

March 26, 1964 – Defence Minister Paul Hellyer releases a report that recommends merging Canada’s army, navy and air force into a single force.

Dec. 15, 1964 – A new Canadian flag – red maple leaf on white background between two red bars- wins the approval of Parliament.

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April 28, 1967 – Expo 67, a world’s fair built on the theme Man and His World, opens in Montreal.

July 1, 1967 – Canada celebrates its centennial with parties and building projects across the country. The government institutes the Order of Canada to recognize exemplary achievement by Canadians.

Oct. 17, 1968 – Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduces the Official Languages Act, making English and French the country’s two official languages.

Oct. 5, 1970 – The October Crisis begins as the Front de Liberation du Quebec kidnaps British diplomat James Cross and, later, Labour Minister Pierre Laporte. Trudeau invokes the War Measures Act, which allows government to temporarily suspend civil liberties. Cross is released 60 days later but Laporte is found dead.

Sept. 28, 1972 – Team Canada, on Paul Henderson’s goal with 34 seconds remaining in final game, defeats the Soviet Union four games to three, with one tied.

June 22, 1976 – The House of Commons approves, by just eight votes, a bill abolishing the death penalty.

July 17, 1976 – Montreal hosts the Summer Olympics.

Nov. 15, 1976 – Rene Levesque’s separatist Parti Quebecois wins a stunning election victory in Quebec.

July 14, 1978 – The federal government agrees to pay $45 million to 2,500 Inuit of the Western Arctic in return for Inuit surrendering aboriginal rights to 270,000 square kilometres of land they traditionally used.

May 27, 1980 – By a 60-40 margin, Quebecers vote against sovereignty association in a referendum.

Sept. 1, 1980 – Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, his one-legged run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, ends abruptly near Thunder Bay, Ont., when his cancer returns.

Nov. 5, 1981 – Ottawa and all provinces but Quebec reach agreement to patriate the Constitution.

April 17, 1982 – With the stroke of a pen by the Queen in Ottawa, Canada has its own Constitution.

Oct. 26, 1982 – Legislation changes the name of the annual Dominion Day holiday to Canada Day.

March 4, 1986 – The federal government announces it will outlaw mandatory retirement for civil servants and discrimination against homosexuals.

May 2, 1986 – Expo 86, a world’s fair on the theme of transport, opens in Vancouver.

June 30, 1987 – The $1 coin, which quickly earns the nickname “loonie,” is introduced.

Jan. 2, 1988 – The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement is signed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan.

Jan. 28, 1988 – The Supreme Court overturns the law that required a panel at an accredited hospital to determine if a woman’s life or health was endangered before allowing her to have an abortion. The decision paves way for abortion on demand.

Feb. 13, 1988 – The Winter Olympics open in Calgary.

Jan. 14, 1990 – The Via passenger train The Canadian makes its final crosscountry trip after the federal government orders the railway to cut service.

Jan. 1, 1991 – After months of protest, the GST takes effect. The federal tax adds seven per cent to the cost of many goods and services.

Jan. 19, 1991 – Canadian CF-18 jet fighters fly an offensive mission in the Persian Gulf war, marking the first time Canadian forces have engaged in battle since the Korean War.

July 2, 1992 – With cod stocks dwindling, Fisheries Minister John Crosbie announces a two-year shutdown for Newfoundland’s northern cod fishery.

Jan. 1, 1994 – The North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico takes effect.

Oct. 30, 1995 – Quebecers narrowly reject separation, with 50.6 per cent voting “no.”

Feb. 19, 1996 – Canada’s new $2 coin, dubbed the “toonie,” is introduced.

May 1, 1996 – The Commons approves changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against gays.

May 31, 1997 – The Confederation Bridge opens, linking Prince Edward Island to the mainland.

Aug. 4, 1998 – A treaty gives the Nisga’a First Nation ownership of 2,000 square kilometres in northern British Columbia. Some critics complain the deal paves the way for aboriginal self-government.

April 1, 1999 – Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut, is carved out of the eastern Northwest Territories.

Jan. 12, 2000 – Beverly McLachlin becomes the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Oct. 7, 2001: Prime Minister Jean Chretien announces Canada’s participation in an international anti-terrorism mission in Afghanistan

April 18, 2002 – Four soldiers, part of Canada’s contribution to the war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, are killed when a U.S. fighter jet mistakenly bombs them in Afghanistan. They are the first soldiers killed in a combat zone since the Korean War.

Dec. 16, 2002 – Canada signs Kyoto Accord, committing it to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

July 20, 2005 – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Canada.

Mar. 13, 2007 – Census data collected the year before puts Canada’s population at 31,612,897.

Jun. 11, 2008 – Prime Minister Stephen Harper issues a formal apology for the abuse suffered by aboriginals in the residential school system.

Dec. 5, 2008 – Canada marks the 100th military death as a result of its ongoing mission in Afghanistan.

Feb. 12, 2010 – The Winter Olympic Games begin in Vancouver. Freestyle moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau becomes the first-ever athlete to claim a gold medal on Canadian soil. Canada goes on to win 14 gold medals – an all-time high for a host country in a Winter Olympics.

March 12, 2014: The Canadian flag is lowered at the NATO headquarters in Kabul, marking the formal end to Canada’s operations in Afghanistan.

SOURCES: Canadian Press archives, Chronicle of Canada (1990, Chronicle Publications), Canadian Facts & Dates, Jay Myers (1986, Fitzhenry & Whiteside)

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