Canada continues to evolve with each passing day, but many of the issues we face resemble or were impacted by past struggles. Before each province and territory became a part of Canada, their local legislatures (and the House of Commons after 1867) debated the extent, purposes, and principles of political union between 1865 and 1949. From 1871 to 1921, Indigenous Peoples and Crown officials also negotiated Numbered Treaties that committed both parties to lasting relationships. The Confederation Debates
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Between 1865 and 1949, Canada's Confederation debates took place in local legislatures, in the House of Commons, and during Treaty negotiations with Indigenous Peoples. Browse the volumes below and find a record that interests you.
When considering the negotiated terms of union in 1870, British Columbia's Legislative Assembly weighed the merits of joining Confederation and securing a rail link to the rest of Canada against pursuing closer ties with the US. For many, the best choice was far from obvious.
The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were both created in 1905. The debate in the House of Commons concerning their creation was one of the longest and most heated in the history of the Confederation Debates. First Half.
The second half of the House of Commons' debates concerning Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Peter Erasmus was a Métis translator who spoke over six different languages. Hired by Cree Chiefs Mistawasis and Ahtahkakoop as an interpreter for the Treaty 6 negotiations at Fort Carlton. Erasmus was one of the most capable translators present, and his account remains a critical record of the proceedings.
Between March and June 1870, Manitoba was governed by the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. It debated many things, including whether Manitoba should enter Confederation as a province. The text full text was compiled by Norma Jean Hall and can be read at https://www.gov.mb.ca/ana/major-initiatives/pubs/laa%20debates.pdf.
En 1865, le Québec et l’Ontario (le Canada-Est et le Canada-Ouest) sont regroupés au sein d’une seule colonie dotée d’une Assemblée législative. Les débats parlementaires présentent des arguments favorables et critiques du projet de Confédération. Ceci est l'édition française des débats. L'édition anglaise est aussi disponible.
Ontario and Quebec (or as they were then known, Canada-West and Canada-East) shared common legislatures in 1865. Their debate of the terms of union provides some of the most compelling defences and critiques of the terms of union. This is the English edition of the debate. The French debate is posted separately.
Most of Prince Edward Island's politicians were unsatisfied by the 1865 terms of union, so they initially rejected Confederation and held out for better terms. Read these debates to learn about the Island's demands, as well as whether its politicians succeed in getting what they wanted.
Newfoundland suffered immense hardship during the 1930s, and was subsequently governed by a commission of government supported by the British parliament. After the Second World War, it was time for Newfoundland to determine its political future. The National Convention, which sat from 1946 to 1948, investigated virtually every aspect of Newfoundland's situation, and debate whether to join Confederation. These records were edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington.
Newfoundland participated in the 1865 negotiations, but did not join Confederation until 1949. The House of Commons' debates on Newfoundland's entry provide interesting insights into how the rest of Canada's views on the Atlantic Dominion shifted over time.
The federal government created the Yukon Territory in 1898. Before this period, the region had been part of the Northwest Territory and, therefore, did not debate its separation. These documents track the creation of the Yukon and its eventual achievement of responsible government.
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In response to curiosity about Confederation during this sesquicentennial year, historians Patrice Dutil, Daniel Heidt, P. Whitney Lackenbauer, Marcel Martel, Robert Wardhaugh, and political scientist Jacqueline Krikorian convened at the University of Waterloo for a public panel to review Canada’s expansion, strengths, and faults during the past 150 years.
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