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Canadian Confederation, or the Confederation of Canada, was the process that ultimately brought together a union among the provinces, colonies and territories of British North America to form a nation state now know as Canada.
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 and the North-Western Territory, which were owned by the Hudson's Bay Company and ceded to Canada in 1870, and the Arctic Islands, which were under direct British control.)
British North America Act, 1867
Confederation was accomplished when Queen Victoria gave royal assent to the British North America Act on March 29, 1867. That act, which united the Province of Canada with the colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, came into effect on July 1 that year. The act dissolved the Act of Union (1840) which had previously established the union of Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Separate provinces were re-established under their current names of Ontario and Quebec. July 1 is now celebrated as Canada Day.
While the BNA Act gave Canada more independence than it had before, it was far from full independence from the United Kingdom. Foreign policy remained in British hands, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council remained Canada's highest court of appeal, and the constitution could only be amended in Britain. Gradually Canada gained more independence, culminating in the Constitution of 1982 where the final ties were broken.
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.
Confederation as a political term of art
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).
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 lists the participants in the conferences and their attendance at each stage. They are known as the Fathers of Confederation.
|Sir Adams George Archibald||Nova Scotia|
|Sir Alexander Campbell||Ontario|
|Sir Frederick Bowker T. Carter||Newfoundland|
|Sir George-Étienne Cartier||Quebec|
|Edward Barron Chandler||New Brunswick|
|Jean-Charles Chapais||Nova Scotia|
|George Coles||Prince Edward Island|
|Robert B. Dickey||Nova Scotia|
|Charles Fisher||New Brunswick|
|Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt||Quebec|
|John Hamilton Gray||Prince Edward Island|
|John Hamilton Gray||New Brunswick|
|Thomas Heath Haviland||Prince Edward Island|
|William Alexander Henry||Nova Scotia|
|Sir William Pearce Howland||Ontario|
|John Mercer Johnson||New Brunswick|
|Sir Hector-Louis Langevin||Quebec|
|Andrew Archibald Macdonald||Prince Edward Island|
|Sir John A. MacDonald||Ontario|
|Jonathan McCully||Nova Scotia|
|Thomas D'Arcy McGee||Quebec|
|Peter Mitchell||New Brunswick|
|Sir Oliver Mowat||Ontario|
|Edward Palmer||Prince Edward Island|
|William Henry Pope||Prince Edward Island|
|John William Ritchie||Quebec|
|Sir Ambrose Shea||Newfoundland|
|William H. Steeves||New Brunswick|
|Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché||Quebec|
|Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley||New Brunswick|
|Sir Charles Tupper||Nova Scotia|
|Edward Whelan||Prince Edward Island|
|Robert Duncan Wilmot||New Brunswick|
There were 36 original Fathers of Confederation. Harry Bernard, who was the Recording Secretary at the Charlottetown conference, is considered by some to be a father 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".
|8||1873||Prince Edward Island|
|12||1949||Newfoundland and Labrador|
See also: History of Canada