Grade 8 History Lesson 38

The Dominion of Canada

July 1, 1867

     Today’s lesson is on Canada, the second largest country in the world. British control over Canada dates back to the French and Indian War. In 1763 England and France signed the Treaty of Paris which granted the British Government control over Canada. While the war was in progress Many French Canadians fled to Louisiana or back to France. However 65,000 stayed in Canada to endure British control. Of course they did not completely like it but it did offer them two things. First the mostly protestant British gave the predominantly Catholic French religious freedom. Secondly the British allowed the French Canadians to practice under their own civil law. For these reasons and a few more the tension between the French and British was set to a simmer. However the pot started to boil when the American Revolution unfolded. Well 40,000 to 60,000 British colonists remained loyal to England during the revolution. In fear of the war many of these colonists flooded into Canada. So many British colonists flooded in that a British province was formed to house them. This province was called New Brunswick. In addition 35,000 British settlers moved into the already existing province of Nova Scotia.

The conflict between the French and the British finally led to the Constitutional Act of 1791. In that year British legislators decided to divide the French population from the British population. The British were in the upper province of Quebec. So the British deemed one part of Quebec to be British and named it Upper Canada. They deemed another part of Quebec to be French and named it Lower Canada. Now this may be confusing but Lower Canada is actually more north on the map than Upper Canada. This is because these places were named for their elevation in land. So Lower Canada was actually lower in elevation while it was more northern. And Upper Canada was higher in elevation while lower on the map. Now just like the United states Upper and Lower Canada were tired of the heavy hand of England. They both wanted freedom so both Upper and Lower Canada produced a leader. Upper Canada chose William Lyon Mackenzie while Lower Canada chose Louis-Joseph Papineau. They both led a rebellion, however both failed.

Unable to understand the restlessness of the provinces Great Britain sent a gentleman by the name of John Lambton, the 1st earl of Durham. In his study nicknamed the Durham report he concluded that the best thing that could be done for the provinces was to allow them responsible for their own self government. As a result of the Durham report, the Union act was passed in 1841 granting Upper and Lower Canada independence from Great Britain. However there was a catch, the two provinces had to unite as one. And against all odds they did both provinces slowly dissolved to become the United Province of Canada. And in 1848, self government was granted to Nova Scotia. In addition a single parliament was pit in place in the United Province of Canada. It gave equal representation to what was previously Upper Canada and Lower Canada. However Lower Canada had a much larger population than Upper Canada. Adding to the story tens of thousands of hungry half clothed immigrants poured into Canada along with the United states in the late 1840s. Where did all these people come from, Ireland. You see the mains source of food in Ireland was the potato, so when a disease came and killed all the crops they had nothing else to eat. So they came to the United states and Canada for something to eat. Makeshift hospitals were not enough for a million malnourished Irish. And with the people came the old world rivalries between the Irish and the English.

Canadians in time began to recognize that they would stand stronger as a confederation. They wished to add the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to the United Province of Canada. Gathering at the historic Quebec Conference of 1864, representatives of Canada and the provinces were deemed the “fathers of Confederation” for planning to unite the provinces. The name that was ultimately chosen was the Dominion of Canada. They thought of the Kingdom of Canada but scraped it because they were afraid it would be threatening to the United States and they didn’t believe in the system of Kings. Two years would pass before Nova Scotia and New Brunswick approved of the union. Details were hammered out in the British North America Act, signed July 1 1867. Over the years the title of “dominion” faded away and the singular name of Canada remained popular. Not all would go smoothly because the indigenous groups of First People(s), or First Nations and Inuit (also known as eskimos) were left out of the negotiation.

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