Canada History – The Creation and Political Constitution of the “Dominion” (1867)

While the new Canadian company was formed on this basis, producing mainly for domestic consumption, since its products (cereals) were not yet in great demand on the European market; a new political event, of capital importance for the future of the country, was preparing for Canada under a double current (local and metropolitan) of thought and interest, namely the consolidation of the British possessions in North America into a single body autonomous politician with the symptomatic official name of Dominion of Canada.

According to agooddir, Lord Durham, in his report, had already given the idea of ​​a federation of all the British colonies of North America; but it was not accepted, and the English possessions remained divided into five colonies (Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland). The meeting, however, under a single government of two provinces different in so many respects, such as Upper and Lower Canada, had so many drawbacks that already in 1857 it was thought whether it was not convenient to transform the Canadian legislative union into a federal union, to which the so-called Maritime Provinces could eventually have access: Nova Scotia, that is the ancient French Acadia already passed to England with the peace of Utrecht of 1713; New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, also originally French colonies but ceded to England only in 1763. At the same time in these maritime provinces the idea of ​​a “maritime union” to be constituted among them on a federal basis was becoming popular. The Civil War broke out in 1861, with the difficulties that arose between the American and British governments, which had recognized the status of belligerents to the Southern states; with the denunciation by the United States of a trade treaty favorable to Canada; with the raids of irregular Irish gangs in the same Canadian territory; in short, with the danger, more than once presented, of an outbreak of hostility between the United States and England and the relative invasion of Canada, it was like the spark that fused together the pre-existing federal elements in Canada proper, on the one hand, in the Maritime Provinces on the other. Coinciding with the political-territorial interests of England in the North American continent and in perfect harmony with the colonial ideas prevailing at that time in the metropolis, the initiative of the first English colonial federation was thus taken by the colonies themselves, by Nova Scotia. at the forefront.

In the convention, in fact, held in Quebec in October 864, Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island agreed in the proposal, to the English government, of a confederation. The related deliberations were incorporated into an imperial statute, with the British North America Act of 1867. For it, the ancient divisions of Upper and Lower Canada were reestablished, under the names “Province of Ontario” and “Province of Quebec” respectively, Canada, New Scotland and New Brunswick formed a colonial confederation (the first in English history), known as the Dominion of Canada ; while, at the request of the Canadian parliament and the respective colonial legislatures, the colonies of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia could also be admitted into the union. At the request of the Canadian parliament, Rupert’s Land and the Northwest Territory could also be admitted. A later act (1872) authorized the Parliament of the Dominion to establish new provinces, to provide for the constitution and administration of them, to vary the limits of the provinces with the consent of the respective legislatures, to finally legislate for the territory not included in any province. Still later, in 1886, the Parliament of the Dominion was authorized to take, from time to time,

According to the Canadian federal constitution of 1867, the executive power of the Dominion resided in the queen, represented by the governor general, and in the private council constituting the ministry. Legislative power resided in a parliament constituted by the queen, an indissoluble senate and a House of Commons elected for five years: the members of the senate, whose number could not exceed 78, were appointed for life by the governor general; elected by the population of the individual provinces the members of the Chamber, whose original number was fixed at 180 (of them 65 for the province of Quebec, which had to maintain its 65 mandates permanently, while the number of mandates of the other provinces changed according to results of the ten-year census). Powers, rights, immunities,

The constitution then regulated the arrangement of provincial governments and legislatures and their position towards the British and Canadian federal governments. As for the first point, the control over the provincial political and legislative bodies previously exercised by the metropolitan government was transferred to the government of the Dominion. As for the second point, power was entrusted to the federation in matters particularly of a public nature and of general interest (customs, defense, railways, telegraphs, canals, commercial and criminal law, public lands of territories not yet erected in provinces, etc.) ; to the federated provinces, in those of a local and private nature. Thus, while in the United States, whose constitution was present to the mind of the legislator, sovereign power is usually of the federated states and, by way of exception, of the federation; in Canada the reverse was established, resulting in a more unitary than federal constitution. The Canadian colonies thus achieved a very high degree of even political autonomy. From the outward designation of the governor general, from the right of veto reserved to the Crown and from that of supreme appeal to the English private council (except in criminal matters, for which not even this was maintained), they no longer had for their legislation and policy internal any other link of dependence on the metropolis.

Canada History - The Creation and Political Constitution of the Dominion (1867)