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Purpose

The ideas and concerns that inform a country’s founding inspire and complicate politics for generations. In the United States, Americans can learn about their country’s founding ideas and debates by consulting any one of several published editions of the Federalist Papers, or thematically organized multi-volume sets of thematically organized papers, debates and pamphlets. For Australia’s centenary, the University of Sydney digitized the full texts of that country’s key debates from the 1890s to the 1940s.

Canadians do not enjoy these opportunities. 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. The vast majority of these records, however, remain inaccessible. Indeed, many of the texts can only be found in provincial archives. A few single-volume edited collections exist, but they had to be heavily edited to reduce the cost of printing. In addition to federal and colonial debates, the British Crown also negotiated a series of Numbered Treaties with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. These texts, and the records of their negotiation, are equally important to Canada’s founding yet, as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee recently explained, “too many Canadians still do not know the history of Indigenous peoples’ contributions to Canada, or understand that by virtue of the historical and modern Treaties negotiated by our government, we are all Treaty people.”

Embracing new research technologies and dissemination formats will make it possible for The Confederation Debates to finally bring all of these debates to every Canadian and preserve them for future generations. By bringing together these diverse colonial, federal, and Indigenous texts for the first time, the project will increase political awareness of historical grievances and contribute to reconciliation. After the materials are transcribed by volunteers, this project will convert them into a TEI database, provide a website permanently hosted by the University of Victoria where users can search the texts, read e-books, or data mine them by downloading the dataset. We will also be publishing a Confederation "Quote of the Day" in both official languages. Finally, we are producing grade 7/8 and High School lesson plans that cater to each provinces’ history and curriculum. All of these materials will be available online free of charge for Canada's 150th anniversary in July 2017.

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