Defining Moments in the Canadian History
Confederation From 1864 to 1867, representatives of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada, with British support, worked together to establish a new country. These men are known as the Fathers of Confederation. They created two levels of government: federal and provincial. The old Province of Canada was split into two new provinces: Ontario and Quebec, which, together with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, formed the new country called the Dominion of Canada. Each province would elect its own legislature and have control of such areas as education and health. The British Parliament passed the British North America Act in 1867. The Dominion of Canada was officially born on July 1, 1867. Until 1982, July 1 was celebrated as “Dominion Day” to commemorate the day that Canada became a self-governing Dominion. Today it is officially known as Canada Day.
The Beginnings of Democracy Democratic institutions developed gradually and peacefully. The first representative assembly was elected in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1758. Prince Edward Island followed in 1773, New Brunswick in 1785. The Constitutional Actof 1791 divided the Province of Quebec into Upper Canada (later Ontario), which was mainly Loyalist, Protestant and English-speaking, and Lower Canada (later Quebec), heavily Catholic and French-speaking. The Act also granted to the Canadas, for the first time, legislative assemblies elected by the people. The name Canada also became official at this time and has been used ever since. The Atlantic colonies and the two Canadas were known collectively as British North America.
Constitution Act of 1867 British North America Act, also called Constitution Act, 1867, the act of Parliament of the United Kingdom by which in 1867 three British colonies in North America Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada were united as “one Dominion under the name of Canada” and by which provision was made that the other colonies and territories of British North America might be admitted. It also divided the province of Canada into the provinces of Quebecand Ontario and provided them with constitutions. The act served as Canada’s “constitution” until 1982, when it was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867, and became the basis of Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982, by which the British Parliament’s authority was transferred to the independent Canadian Parliament
A Growing Economy The first companies in Canada were formed during the French and British regimes and competed for the fur trade. The Hudson’s Bay Company, with French, British and Aboriginal employees, came to dominate the trade in the northwest from Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and Fort Edmonton to Fort Langley (near Vancouver) and Fort Victoria—trading posts that later became cities.
Responsible Government In 1840, Upper and Lower Canada were united as the Province of Canada. Reformers such as Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine and Robert Baldwin, in parallel with Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia, worked with British governors toward responsible government. The first British North American colony to attain full responsible government was Nova Scotia in 1847–48. In 1848–49 the governor of United Canada, Lord Elgin, with encouragement from London, introduced responsible government. This is the system that we have today: if the government loses a confidence vote in the assembly it must resign. La Fontaine, a champion of democracy and French language rights, became the first leader of a responsible government in the Canadas.