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Article

Political History

Political history is the study of the processes, activities and institutions of governments, the influences on them and the individuals involved with them.

Article

Québec Since Confederation

When the Canadian Confederation was established in 1867, provisions were made for the creation of a provincial government in Québec, the only region with a majority French-speaking population. This distinctive identity has exerted a profound influence on all facets of Québec’s history and continues to fuel debate about the province’s future.

Article

Amnesty Act

Amnesty Act, 1 February 1849, offered a pardon to all those involved in the 1837-38 Rebellions. It originated March 1838, when a conditional pardon was extended to minor participants.

Editorial

Editorial: Baldwin, LaFontaine and Responsible Government

The BaldwinLaFontaine government of 1848 has been called the “great ministry.” In addition to establishing responsible government, it had an incomparable record of legislation. It established a public school system and finalized the founding of the University of Toronto. It set up municipal governments and pacified French-Canadian nationalism after a period of unrest. Responsible government did not transform Canada overnight into a fully developed democracy. But it was an important milestone along the road to political autonomy. Most importantly, it provided an opportunity for French Canadians to find a means for their survival through the British Constitution. The partnership and friendship between Baldwin and LaFontaine were brilliant examples of collaboration that have been all too rare in Canadian history.

Speech

Wilfrid Laurier: Speech on Political Liberalism, 1877

By 1877, Wilfrid Laurier was a rising political star in Québec, although his profile outside his native province was not yet established. On 26 June 1877, Laurier spoke to members of Le Club Canadien in Québec City on the risky topic of liberalism — deemed a radical threat at the time to Québec’s conservative elites and to the Roman Catholic Church. Laurier disarmed such fears by stating clearly what Liberals held dear: political freedom, respect for the Crown, the continuance of Canada’s democratic institutions and religious tolerance. The speech was a master stroke. Overnight, Laurier created space in Québec for the Liberal Party and became, for the first time, a national figure.

Article

Magna Carta

​The 1215 agreement between King John of England and his barons provided the foundation for English common law, which spread throughout the English-speaking world.

Article

Imperialism

Support for the British Empire and imperialism was strong in much of Canada in the decades after Confederation. But gradually, imperialist loyalties declined and Canadians demanded and won full autonomy within the empire.

Article

Manifest Destiny

The term Manifest Destiny was first used in 1845 by New York City journalist John Louis O’Sullivan. He used the term in the context of America’s annexation of the Republic of Texas. Manifest Destiny represented the idea that it was America’s right — its destiny, in fact — to expand across all of North America. Politicians and citizens in the United States called for the US to expand by claiming control of British territory. This included the Province of Canada (formerly Upper Canada and Lower Canada), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Article

Quiet Revolution

The Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille) was a time of rapid change experienced in Québec during the 1960s. This vivid yet paradoxical description of the period was first used by an anonymous writer in The Globe and Mail.

Article

London Conference

From 4 December 1866 to March 1867, politicians from the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick met with delegates of the British government in London. This was the last of three conferences — after the Charlottetown Conference and Quebec Conference in 1864 — that were held to determine the constitutional details of Confederation. The Quebec Resolutions — 72 points that had been agreed upon in Quebec City — were reviewed and amended. They formed the basis of the British North America Act. It was passed by the British Parliament and received Queen Victoria’s Royal Assent on 29 March 1867.

Article

Charlottetown Conference

The Charlottetown Conference set Confederation in motion. It was held from 1–9 September 1864 in Charlottetown, with additional meetings the following week in Halifax, Saint John and Fredericton. The conference was organized by delegates from New BrunswickNova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to discuss the union of their three provinces. They were persuaded by a contingent from the Province of Canada, who were not originally on the guest list, to work toward the union of all the British North American colonies. The Charlottetown Conference was followed by the Quebec Conference (10–27 October 1864) and the London Conference (December 1866–March 1867). They culminated in Confederation on 1 July 1867.

Article

Confederation

Confederation refers to the process of federal union in which the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada joined together to form the Dominion of Canada. The term Confederation also stands for 1 July 1867, the date of the creation of the Dominion. (See also Canada Day.) Before Confederation, British North America also included Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and the vast territories of Rupert’s Land (the private domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the North-Western Territory. Beginning in 1864, colonial politicians (now known as the Fathers of Confederation) met and negotiated the terms of Confederation at conferences in Charlottetown, Quebec City and London, England. Their work resulted in the British North America Act, Canada’s Constitution. It was passed by the British Parliament. At its creation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada included four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Between then and 1999, six more provinces and three territories joined Confederation.

(This is the full-length entry about Confederation. For a plain language summary, please see Confederation (Plain Language Summary).)

Speech

Wilfrid Laurier: Speech in Defence of Louis Riel, 1874

The 1869 Métis uprising in Red River had deeply divided Canadians along religious and linguistic lines. Five years later, the election of Louis Riel as a member of Parliament (MP) prompted a debate about whether the House of Commons should allow Riel to take up his seat there. Wilfrid Laurier — by this time a federal MP in the new Liberal government of Alexander Mackenzie — stood firmly on Riel’s side. Laurier had little personal sympathy for Riel. Politically, however, he used Riel and the Métis cause as a way of staking out the moderation and pragmatism that would become a hallmark his career. On 15 April 1874, he issued this stirring defence of Riel in the House of Commons.

Macleans

Lord's First 200 Days

His absence was, in reality, due to a bout of flu. But many nights, Lord's tan minivan is the last vehicle in the parking lot behind the government buildings. His heavy workload has even reduced the premier to working out at home, instead of his usual fitness regimen of ball hockey and racquetball.

Speech

Wilfrid Laurier: Parliamentary Debut, 1871

As a young lawyer, Wilfrid Laurier deeply opposed the idea of Confederation. Like the Parti rouge members he associated with in Canada East (formerly Lower Canada), he once described any union of the British North American colonies as “the tomb of the French race and the ruin of Lower Canada.” After 1867, however, Laurier accepted Confederation, and would spend the rest of his life passionately praising his new country — and the legal protections of its Constitution — for allowing French and English to live and thrive peacefully side by side in a single state. On 10 November 1871, as a newly elected member of the Québec provincial legislature, he articulated his freshly acquired admiration for Canada by speaking on what would become his favourite subject.

Speech

Wilfrid Laurier: Let Them Become Canadians, 1905

On 1 September 1905, Wilfrid Laurier spoke before an audience of some 10,000 people in Edmonton, the newly minted capital of Alberta, which had just joined Confederation along with Saskatchewan. It had been 11 years since he’d last visited Edmonton, and he remarked that so much had changed in that time. He noted the growth of cities in the West, as well as the development of industry and transportation, agriculture and trade there. “Gigantic strides are made on all sides over these new provinces,” he said. It was a crowning moment of a movement — to colonize the West — and Laurier was there to thank the immigrants and settlers who had made that possible. Though the Laurier government’s immigration policies championed the arrival of some and barred the landing of others, his comments on acceptance in this speech served as a better model to follow.