Portrait of Sir John Alexander Macdonald, c. 1867, C-021604

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In 1860, seven British colonies stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific in North America. In the east were: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Canada. They were divided by Rupert’s Land and the Northwest Territory from British Columbia in the far west.

Military, economic and political forces pushed colonial political leaders to propose uniting some, if not all of the colonies. Discussions began with a conference at Charlottetown in 1864 intended to discuss Maritime union.

In a second conference at Québec, the delegates’ objective was a union from Atlantic to Pacific, even if only the five eastern colonies were represented. However, there was opposition to the terms proposed.

In spite of resistance from members of the “Rouges” party in the east, economic pressure from the Americans and the threat of Fenian invaders convinced the two larger Maritime colonies to join.

The “British North America Act” (BNA) was passed by the British Parliament and given royal assent on March 29, 1867. The Act came into effect on July 1, 1867, creating the new Dominion of Canada.

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