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Canadian Confederation

Canadian Confederation, or the Confederation of Canada, was the process of union between the provinces of British North America, then Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia. It was finalized with the signing, by Queen Victoria of the British North America Act on March 29, 1867.

Before 1867, British North America was a collection of six separate colonies: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the Province of Canada (now Quebec and Ontario), Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia. Only the first three listed here joined Confederation at first, but all did eventually, the last being Newfoundland in 1949. (The remainder of modern-day Canada was made up of Rupert's Land, which was owned by the Hudson's Bay Company and ceded to Canada in 1870, and the Arctic Islands, which were under direct British control.)

The Act, which united the Province of Canada (which was also re-separated into Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, came into effect on July 1 that year. July 1 is now celebrated every year as Canada Day (previously known as Dominion Day).

While the BNA Act gave Canada more independence than it had before it was far from full independence from Britain. Foreign policy remained in British hands, the Privy council remained Canada's highest court of appeal, and the constitution could only be ammended in Britain. Gradually Canada gained more independence, culminating in the Constitution of 1982 where the final ties were broken.

The Fathers of Confederation elected to name the new country the Dominion of Canada, after rejecting Kingdom and Confederation, among other options. One could have created the Dominion of Borealia, much like the Dominion of Australia has existed. The term "confederation" was mostly a ruse by John A. Macdonald, and others, to encourage the vacillating colonies to come to the talks. Most of the colonial leaders worried about being dominated by the population centres of Central Canada and did not want a strong central government. Macdonald had no intention, however, of actually making Canada a confederation and was willing to have many of the colonies remain outside a political union rather than weaken his proposed central government. Canada thus became a federation, but certainly not a confederation, such as Switzerland.

The term Confederation is now often used to describe Canada in an abstract way - "The Fathers of Confederation" itself is one such usage. Provinces and territories that became part of Canada after 1867 are also said to have joined Confederation (but not the Confederation). However, the term usually refers more concretely to the political process that united the colonies in the 1860s; it is also used to divide Canadian history into pre-Confederation and post-Confederation (post-Confederation being a living term that includes the present day).

Table of contents
1 Fathers of Confederation
2 Members
3 External links

Fathers of Confederation

Confederation was first agreed upon at the Charlottetown Conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in 1864, although Prince Edward Island did not actually join Confederation until 1873. The specifics were then mostly determined at the Quebec Conference in Quebec City later in 1864, and at a final meeting in London in 1866. The following are the participants in the three conferences about the act. They are known as the Fathers of Confederation.

The later "Fathers," who brought the other provinces into Confederation after 1867 (such as Joey Smallwood), are not usually referred to as "Fathers of Confederation." Instead, they are sometimes referred to as "Founders."


Here is a list of the order in which the provinces and territories entered Canada. (Territories are italicized.)

New Brunswick
Nova Scotia

51870Northwest Territories

71871British Columbia
81873Prince Edward Island

121949Newfoundland and Labrador


See also: History of Canada

External links