December 18, 2011

Conferences for Confederation

Prior to July 1, 1967 British North America was composed of separate colonies of Great Britain. These included the Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Rupert’s Land, North-Western Territories, British Columbia, Vancouver Island and the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec).

Charlottetown Conference: September 1864
Issued July 29, 1964 - Perforated 12

Due to the American Civil War and the general view of America as expansionist the Maritime colonies planned a conference to discuss the issue of confederation. When the Province of Canada heard about the conference they asked to be included and that they would also be considered in a union of the Canadian colonies. 

It was thought at the time that Newfoundland would not be interested, so they were not invited to participate. However in August of 1864, Newfoundland asked to attend but the request was too late.

Great Britain was encouraging the union of the Maritime colonies in the hope that a union would lead to the colonies being less financially and politically reliant on the Crown. It was also hoped that any Maritime union would lead to stronger economic and military power for the region. Most of the Maritimes were hoping that a wider Union including the Province of Canada would also be beneficial to them. Ironically considering the location of the conference, Prince Edward Island was unsure about a union and was anti confederation.

The majority of the conference was dominated by delegates from the Province of Canada who presented the Canadian position and laying foundations that benefitted them. George Brown spent two days alone discussing a proposed constitution for the new union. In total 4 of the days were taken up by the Delegation from the Province of Canada.  At the conclusion of the conference on the seventh of September it was agreed that the representatives would meet again in Quebec City in a month.

Quebec Conference: October 1864
Issued September 09, 1964 - Perforated 12
Beginning on the tenth of October, the Quebec Conference lasted until the twenty-seventh of October. It was at this conference that the framework for Canada was determined. One of the major sources of conflict was on whether the new country should have a strong central government or stronger provincial governments.

The biggest proponent of a strong central government was John A. McDonald, who feared that strong local governments were a primary cause for the civil war that was currently being fought in the United States. The Maritimes and Canada East (Quebec) representatives were worried that a strong central government would lead to an eroding and eventual loss of their cultural identities.

A compromise was reached that dividing powers between the federal and provincial governments. Also determined was that the lower house (House of Commons) would be elected and it’s size would be based on proportional representation.

Another source of conflict was the makeup of the upper house. Several of the Maritime delegates felt that the Senate should have equal representation. How the senators were appointed was also a major issue. In the end a sectional equality was adapted where the Maritimes as a whole had the same number of seats as the 2 Canadas.

By the end of the conference a proposed structure for the government was composed as seventy-two resolutions. These resolutions now had to pass a vote at each of the provincial Legislatures. George-Etienne Cartier was responsible for convincing the French-Canadian members of the legislature in Canada to accept them.
Issued September 30, 1931 - Perforated 11

In New Brunswick Opposition to the resolutions was led by Albert Smith, while in Nova Scotia Joseph Howe led the opposition to the resolutions. Eventually both legislatures accepted the seventy-two resolutions. The legislature of Prince Edward Island rejected the resolutions.

London Conference: November 1866
Issued May 26, 1966 - Perforated 12
With the legislatures of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada approving the seventy-two resolutions, sixteen delegates went to London in the United Kingdom and had a conference with officials of the British government.

This conference was a continuation of the Quebec conference and was chaired by John A. MacDonald. Many of the seventy-two resolutions were further worked to become acceptable to the Government of the United Kingdom and Crown.
Issued April 10, 1974 - Perforated 12 x 12½

One major issue during this conference was the education system. Roman Catholic Bishops lobbied for a guarantee that a separate school system would be allowed, but the Maritime Provinces opposed a separate school system. In the end a compromise was reached with Quebec and Ontario having a separate school system and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick not having one.

At the conclusion of the conference the British North America Act, 1867 was created. The preamble to the act reads:

An Act for the Union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and the Government thereof; and for Purposes connected therewith.

29th March 1867
Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom:

And whereas such a Union would conduce to the Welfare of the Provinces and promote the Interests of the British Empire:

And whereas on the Establishment of the Union by Authority of Parliament it is expedient, not only that the Constitution of the Legislative Authority in the Dominion be provided for, but also that the Nature of the Executive Government therein be declared:

And whereas it is expedient that Provision be made for the eventual Admission into the Union of other Parts of British North America:

Be it therefore enacted and declared by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, as follows: …
After receiving Royal Assent from Queen Victoria, the act came into force on July 1st 1867 and forms the basis for the current Constitution of Canada.
Issued December 1, 1897 - Perforated 12

On the enactment on July 1, 1867 Canada, comprised of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario officially became a Dominion. Even though it started in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island was the seventh province to enter Confederation.

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