The Dominion of Canada wasn't born out of revolution, or a sweeping outburst of nationalism. Rather, it was created in a series of conferences and orderly negotiations, culminating in the terms of Confederation on 1 July 1867. This Collection brings together content related to the creation of Canada.
Confederation refers to the process of federal union in which the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada joined together to form the Dominion of Canada — a new country. The term Confederation also commonly stands for 1 July 1967, the date of the creation of the Dominion. Before Confederation, British North America also included Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and the vast territories of Rupert’s Land (considered the private domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the North-Western Territory. Beginning in 1864, colonial politicians, known as the Fathers of Confederation, met and negotiated the terms of Confederation at conferences in Charlottetown, Quebec City and London, England. Their work resulted in the British North America Act, Canada’s Constitution, which was enacted by British Parliament. At its creation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada included four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Between then and 1999, six more provinces and three territories joined Confederation.
After the failed Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, its leader, William Lyon Mackenzie, retreated to Navy Island, in the Niagara River, accompanied by some 200 followers. The Caroline, an American ship based at Fort Schlosser in New York State, was chartered to bring supplies to the rebels. On 29 December 1837, a force of the Upper Canada militia led by Commander Andrew Drew of the Royal Navy found the Caroline moored at Schlosser. In the quick skirmish that followed, an American was killed. The Caroline, set on fire and adrift, capsized before reaching the falls and sank. The incident aggravated the already tense relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Oka Crisis was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, police, and army. At the heart of the crisis was the proposed expansion of a golf course and development of condominiums on disputed land that included a Mohawk burial ground. Tensions were high, particularly after the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, a police officer, and the situation was only resolved after the army was called in. While the golf course expansion was cancelled, and the land purchased by the federal government, it has not yet been transferred to the Kanesatake community.
The 1869–70 uprising in the Red River Colony (also known as the Red River Resistance) was sparked by the transfer of the vast territory of Rupert's Land to the new nation of Canada. The colony of farmers and hunters, many of them Métis, occupied a corner of Rupert's Land and feared for their culture and land rights under Canadian control.5
The history of Black Canadian voting rights is marked by contrasting shifts. Enslaved during the period 1600–1834, Black persons could not vote. Emancipated, they were entitled to the rights, freedoms and privileges enjoyed by British subjects, including the franchise; however, racial discrimination did at times impede Black Canadians’ right to vote. The rights and freedoms of Black women were further restricted by virtue of their sex.
The Aroostook War was a confrontation between British and Maine authorities in disputed territory known as Madawaska. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was in dire need of wood and the region’s pine forests became an important commodity. Claimed by both Maine and New Brunswick, Madawaska became fertile ground for confrontations between the two. The war peaked in 1838‒39 when the governor of Maine, John Fairfield, sent a group, led by Rufus McIntyre, to stop “provincials” from entering territory that Fairfield believed was Maine’s. McIntyre was captured and accused of invading the colony. The conflict ended in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which divided the territory along the Saint John River.
The bombing of an Air India flight from Toronto to Bombay on 23 June 1985 — killing all 329 people on board — remains Canada’s deadliest terrorist attack. A separate bomb blast the same day at Tokyo’s Narita Airport killed two baggage handlers. After a 15-year investigation into the largest mass murder in the country's history, two British Columbia Sikh separatists were charged with murder and conspiracy in both attacks. They were acquitted in 2005. A third accused, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was convicted of manslaughter for his role in building the two bombs.
The ongoing Syrian conflict has catalyzed different responses in Canada. The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, which came into power in November 2015, has greatly expanded the resettlement of Syrian refugees into Canada. However, the policies have also been criticized as Canada continues to fight Islamophobia and negative attitudes about refugees.
Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed the vast majority of people of Japanese descent living in British Columbia. They were interned for the rest of the Second World War, during which time their homes and businesses were sold by the government in order to pay for their detention.1
The war in Afghanistan (2001-2014) was Canada's longest war and its first significant combat engagement since the Korean War. After the 2001 terror attacks on the United States, Canada joined an international coalition to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban regime that sheltered it in Afghanistan. More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the 12-year campaign. The war killed 165 Canadians —158 soldiers and seven civilians. Although the Taliban were removed from power and the al-Qaeda network was disrupted, Canada and its allies failed to destroy either group, or to secure and stabilize Afghanistan.
French Canadian militants in Lower Canada took up arms against the British Crown in a pair of insurrections in 1837 and 1838. The twin rebellions, which killed more than 300 people, followed years of tensions between the colony's anglophone minority and the growing, nationalistic aspirations of its francophone majority.2
The terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 had an immediate and profound impact on Canada. Twenty-four Canadians died in what became known as the "9/11" attacks. When the US closed its airspace, hundreds of planes carrying thousands of passengers were diverted to Canadian airports. In the weeks following, Canada passed controversial anti-terrorism laws and sent its first troops to Afghanistan as part of the “War on Terror.”
George Brown played an instrumental role in establishing Confederation. As leader of the Clear Grits (forerunner of the Liberal Party) in Canada West, he set aside political differences and allied with his Conservative rivals John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier in 1864, with whom he pitched Confederation to the Atlantic colonies at the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences. From 3 February to 13 March 1865, politicians in the Province of Canada debated the terms of Confederation, offering some of the most compelling defences and critiques of the union of British North American colonies. In the following speech, delivered before the legislature of the Province of Canada on 8 February 1865, Brown explains his reasons for supporting Confederation.
Refugees and asylum seekers flee their countries in hopes of safety abroad. Governed by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, refugee status is a matter of both international and domestic law. Historically, Canada has assisted many refugees from all over the world. However, human migration is a complex phenomenon, and Canada's refugee policies are also not immune to the influence of political and popular opinion.
The Québec referendum of 1980, on the Parti Québécois government’s plans for sovereignty-association, was held in fulfilment of a promise that the party had made to do so, during the 1976 election campaign that brought it to power. In this referendum, the government asked the people of Québec to give it a mandate to “negotiate a new constitutional agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations.” When the votes were counted, nearly 60% of Quebecers had voted against this plan, and it was thereby rejected. If the “Yes” side had won, the results of the negotiations would have been submitted to a second referendum. The 1980 referendum was followed by constitutional negotiations that have left an indelible mark on the Canadian political scene.
Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian. In 2002 he was sent by the United States to Syria as an accused terrorist, based on faulty information supplied to US agents by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Arar was tortured in Syria before being released and returned to Canada. The federal government paid him $10.5 million in compensation for the wrongs done to him.
The Battle of the Windmill was one of a series of raids launched along the Canada/US border in the summer and fall of 1838 by the Hunters’ Lodges, secret societies established by Canadian rebels who had taken refuge in the northern United States after the failed rebellions of 1837. Several thousand Americans also joined these societies, whose goal was to push the United Kingdom and the United States into war so as to liberate the Canadian provinces from British tyranny. The Battle of the Windmill was fought from 12 to 16 November 1838 near Prescott, in Upper Canada, and ended in a defeat for the invaders from the US. One month later, the Battle of Windsor put an end to the American incursions and Canadian rebellions.