Dominion of Canada: 1867-1918

This period of Canada’s history is a time of nation building and growing pains.

Through Confederation, which established the Dominion of Canada, we carved our way into nationhood.  With the building of the railway we carved into the land. With our participation and sacrifice in the First World War we also made our way onto the world stage as a nation of many peoples.

Confederation joined the country together.  It was the product of political, regional, and cultural compromise.  Confederation attempted to unify our population despite having differences such as language and religion.  Confederation was seen as a way out of political deadlock, as an avenue for improved trade, and as a means of achieving better defence.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries an increasing number of immigrants came to Canada.  Many Ukrainians, Poles, and Russians made the prairies their home, whereas many South Asians, Chinese, and Japanese immigrated to the west coast.

Confederation did nothing for First Peoples. They were forced to relocate to reserves, often situated on inhospitable land.  Many First Peoples faced a bleak future.  Louis Riel, a Métis leader who was later named Father of Manitoba, claimed that his people were “… being bartered away like common cattle.”  However, instead of listening, Ottawa passed the Indian Act, which legislated and regulated every aspect of First Peoples’ lives.  It even outlawed ancestral traditions such as the Potlatch and Sundance.  It controlled daily life and restricted freedom of movement; anyone who tried to leave the reserve lost their status.  These polices greatly isolated the First Peoples.

As a part of the British Empire, Canada automatically entered the First World War when the U.K. declared war in August 1914.  This conflict marked Canada’s first appearance on the world stage, and many immigrants and First Peoples joined the war effort.  A modern Canadian identity was beginning to take shape.
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Royal Ontario Museum
Historical Advisors: Alison Faulknor, The Dominion Institute; Nick Brune, author and history teacher; Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, Department of Politics and Economics, Royal Military College; Professor Andrij Makuch, University of Toronto

© 2006, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

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