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Constitutional History
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Aboriginals
1608 - 1759
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Documents

Aboriginals: Treaties & Relations
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Pionniers et Immigrants
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Photograph: Canadian Pacific Railway Locomotive #5068 - NAC/ANC PA-143158
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1867 - 1931: Territorial Expansion

The first four provinces formed the nucleus of the new nation. Within six years, Sir John A. Macdonald had negotiated the entry of three more provinces, using a combination of opportunism and promises. Then, around the turn of the century, Canada's population in the west exploded. Saskatchewan and Alberta were born shortly afterward.

Topics in this section:

Annexing the West
The Birth of Manitoba
British Columbia
Prince Edward Island
New Provinces Out of the Territories
Alberta and Saskatchewan
Other Interesting or Important Documents

Canada, 1873
Canada, 1873

Annexing the West
Shortly after Confederation, Canada began dealing with one of the issues that had caused friction for many years: expansion to the west. The Rupert's Land Act ended the rule of Hudson's Bay Company over Rupert's Land and the North-western Territory. In compensation, HBC received £300,000 and one twentieth of all farmable land in the territories.

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Rupert's Land Act, 1868
(This act allows Canada to admit Rupert's land into Canada.)

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Temporary Government of Rupert's Land Act, 1869 (bilingual)
(Establishes a temporary government for Rupert's Land when it is admitted into Confederation.)
(Courtesy of Department of Justice, Canada)

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Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory into the Union, June 23, 1870
(Brings the territories into Confederation.)

READ the summary
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To learn more about the Northwest Territory's entry to Confederation:


Photograph: Louis D. Riel - NAC/ANC C-052177
Copyright/Source

The Birth of Manitoba
After Canada took control of the Hudson's Bay Company territories, it began to encourage settlement in these lands. The government ignored the land claims of the more than 100,000 Aboriginals and Métis who lived in the region.

Alarmed by the possibility that they might be pushed off their land along the Red and Assiniboine rivers, the Métis (led by Louis Riel) prevented the appointed Canadian governor from entering the territory in 1869. Prime Minister Macdonald realized that a military response was impossible for several reasons:

  • The distances to be covered by any military force were enormous, and there was as yet no rail service west.

  • It was the middle of winter, making such an action even more improbable.

  • The British had not yet ratified the transfer of the territories to Canada, so the Métis had not, in fact, broken any Canadian laws.

After negotiations, the province of Manitoba was created, with several controversial provisions:

  • The land already occupied would not be taken from the Métis, and a large section of land was reserved for them.

  • There was a provision for denominational schools.

  • French was to be a language of debate.
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Manitoba Act, 1870
(This act creates Manitoba as a province in Confederation.)

READ the summary
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Manitoba Boundaries Extension Act, 1881
(Extends the boundaries of the province of Manitoba and replaces section 1 of the Manitoba Act, 1870.)

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Did you know?

There was another Métis rebellion in 1885. Many of the Métis had moved into what is now Saskatchewan and established farms. They were once again concerned that they would be pushed off their land and asked Riel to lead them. Violence erupted, but this time was quickly crushed by troops brought from Ontario by train.



To learn more about Manitoba's entry to Confederation:


Painting: First Legislative Council of the United Colony of British Columbia, 1867 - NAC/ANC C-013960
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British Columbia
British Columbia entered Confederation much more easily. The residents (and Canada) were worried that the Crown colony might be annexed by the United States. Since 1868, a group called the Confederation League had been agitating to join Confederation.

In 1870, their efforts were fruitful and a delegation was sent to Ottawa. Negotiations were successful and, in 1871, British Columbia became a Province of Canada. The terms settled on included:

  • Canada would assume British Columbia's debt.

  • There would be subsidies for public works.

  • A railway would be built from Ontario to British Columbia in ten years.

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Order of Her Majesty in Council Admitting British Columbia into the Union, 1871
(Renamed British Columbia Terms of Union, 1871)

READ the summary
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To learn more about British Columbia's entry to Confederation:

Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island had rejected Confederation in 1867 on the basis that they had little to gain - and their independence to lose. By 1873, though, the would-be province had reasons to reconsider:

  • Absentee landlords in Britain owned most of the land and would not sell at reasonable rates to settlers.

  • A railway project on the island was threatening to collapse the finances of the colony.

Negotiators were sent to Ottawa. Ultimately they succeeded in obtaining excellent terms:

  • Canada would assume Prince Edward Island's debt.

  • Canada would buy the land from the absentee landlords for $800,000.

  • A connection to the mainland by ferry was guaranteed.

  • The province was to have six members of Parliament instead of the five promised at the Québec Conference.
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Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Prince Edward Island into the Union, 1873
(Renamed Prince Edward Island Terms of Union, 1873)

READ the summary
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To learn more about Prince Edward Island's entry to Confederation:


Photograph: Panning gold during the Klondike Gold Rush, ca. 1897 - 1908 - NAC/ANC C-005389
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New Provinces Out of the Territories
Canada had the authority to create provinces out of the Northwest Territories in 1871. This did not happen immediately, however, since it was still too difficult for settlers to reach the remote region. This began to change when the Canadian Pacific railroad was completed in 1885.

Yukon Territory was separated from the Northwest Territories in 1898, in response to the huge population increase in the area during the Klondike gold rush. However, much of this population left when the gold was exhausted.

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British North America Act, 1871
(Renamed Constitution Act, 1871. Allows the Parliament of Canada to create new provinces out of any territories within the Dominion.)

READ the summary
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Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting all British possessions and Territories in North America and islands adjacent thereto into the Union, 1880
(Renamed Adjacent Territories Order. Newfoundland and its dependencies are excluded.)
(Courtesy of Department of Justice, Canada)

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Yukon Territory Act, 1898
(Creates Yukon Territory.)

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To learn more about Yukon Territory's entry to Confederation:


Photograph: View looking west on Jasper Avenue from about 97th Street, Edmonton, Alberta, 1912 - NAC/ANC PA-123736
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Alberta and Saskatchewan
Between 1897 and 1911, two million people immigrated to Canada. Many went west: about 30,000 farms were started per year in this period. More railways were built to help carry the load.

In 1905, two new provinces were created out of the territories between Manitoba and British Columbia. The terms of entry for Alberta and Saskatchewan were almost identical. There were some controversial terms:

  • Neither province was given control of the natural resources in the province.

  • There was a provision for denominational schools.
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The Alberta Act, 1905
(Renamed Alberta Act, 1905. Creates the province of Alberta)

READ the summary
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The Saskatchewan Act, 1905
(Renamed Saskatchewan Act, 1905. Creates the province of Saskatchewan.)

READ the summary
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To learn more about Alberta and Saskatchewan's entry to Confederation:


Canada, 1905
Canada, 1905

Other Important or Interesting Documents

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