The United States has the Founding Fathers. Canada has the Fathers of Confederation. Unlike the Founding Fathers, whose new nation gained independence thanks to war, the Fathers of Confederation took a quieter, more methodical approach.
Fathers of Confederation refers to 36 men who represented their colonies at one or more conferences that were held to decide the future of British North America.
The Dominion of Canada was official formed on July 1, 1867, from three colonies. While discussions of unification were not new, the purpose was to protect the Canadian colonies from potential American aggression as well as economic and population expansion.
The colonies were New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada (modern day Ontario and Quebec). Representatives from Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland also attended conferences, but opted not to enter confederation.
The Charlottetown Conference was held September 1864. The purpose was to discuss the possible unification of the Maritime colonies, but the Province of Canada was invited and soon discussion turned to unification of all the colonies.
The delegates discussed how the new government would operate, including a bicameral system with a Senate and House of Commons.
The Quebec Conference was held in October 1864 to discuss in greater detail the proposals made at the last conference.
The London Conference was held from December 1866 to March 1867 in Great Britain. The purpose was to draft the British North America Act establishing the Dominion of Canada. The legislation easily passed the British Parliament.
The Dominion of Canada
After Queen Victoria signed the British North America Act into law, a royal proclamation was issued.
“We do ordain, declare, and command that on and after the First day of July, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty-seven, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.”
July 1 was originally commemorated as Dominion Day. Today it is known as Canada Day.
When a new province was added, it was said to be entering into Confederation. The first addition came in 1870 when Manitoba entered into Confederation.
By the start of World War I, all the provinces and territories we recognize today as modern day Canada existed with the exception of Newfoundland, which was an independent Dominion until after World War II, and Nanuvut which was formed out of the Northwest Territories in the late 20th century.
Updated: 28 October 2020