Confederation: A false sense of unity?
Dr. Robert L. Fraser
JWH100Y1 Section L5101
March 5, 2013
Confederation geographically united the colonies of a fledgling Canada. The union defined borders, created governments and brought the various peoples of Canada together under a single dominion. However, the imposition of geographic union on the people did not immediately bring union amongst the people themselves. Political, cultural, economic, and, at times, regional divisions were present and even perpetuated by groups in power. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the peoples of Canada would struggle to find acceptance within their own country.
The signing of the British North America Act in 1867 ushered in a new brand of government in Canada. This act created a strong federal government. The residual powers that remained were relegated to the provincial governments. Tension arose as federal and provincial government jockeyed over jurisdictional issues. In most cases, the federal government, with its sweeping powers, overruled the provincial authorities. A.R.M. Lower wrote:
“What happened in 1867 was that the Crown, in the fullness of its wisdom, decided to rearrange its administrative areas in British North America…All were cast into the crucible of Imperial omnicompetence and came out remelted, shining, new, and fused.”
Lower’s interpretation compares the Crown with the newly formed Canadian government. The power given to the new federal government resembled that of the Crown. Provincial rights advocates began campaigning to the British government to intervene in order to grant more power to the provinces. These advocates struggled to accept governance of issues formerly handled by the quasi-independent colonies that were now being administered by a federal government. This political division fueled a lack of unity amongst the peoples of Canada.
In 1868 it became apparent to...
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