New Dominion Is Launched

The first Parliament of the new Dominion met on Nov. 6, 1867, with Macdonald as prime minister. By the Deed of Surrender of 1869, Canada purchased the vast Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company. The company was permitted to retain trading rights in the area and a small percentage of the prairie lands.

The only western settlement of importance east of the Rockies was the Red River colony in Manitoba, which had attained a population of some 12,000 since Selkirk's time. The metis were the most numerous of these settlers. Their leader, Louis Riel, defied the new governor sent out to take over possession of the territory from the Hudson's Bay Company. Riel seized Fort Garry, set up his own provisional government, and forwarded demands to Ottawa that the civil rights and the land rights of the people be protected. At this point Riel might easily have won a place in Canadian history as the father of Manitoba, but he committed the grave error of imprisoning some of the Ontario settlers who opposed him and of having one of them, Thomas Scott, executed.

Calmer judgments prevailed when Donald Smith (later Lord Strathcona) and Bishop Alexandre Tache, the religious leader of the Red River Settlement, went to Ottawa and obtained passage of the Manitoba Act of 1870. By this act Manitoba was constituted a province, with its seat of government at Fort Garry (later Winnipeg). But it was a much smaller province, amounting to little more than the Red River Settlement. The right of the French-speaking inhabitants to their own religion and schools was recognized. Soldiers under Col. (later Sir) Garnet Wolseley were sent to Fort Garry to bring law and order on authority from Ottawa. Riel allowed his provisional government to collapse and fled from the new province. The Red River Rebellion was ended but not the career of Riel.

The first Dominion census, which was taken in 1871 in accordance with the British North America Act, showed a population of 3,689,257. In the same year the Treaty of Washington was signed between Great Britain and the United States, which settled United States and Canadian use of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system and the Yukon River in Alaska. The United States was accorded fishing rights in Canadian Atlantic waters for a limited period in return for 5 1/2 million dollars in compensation. Among the five commissioners who represented Great Britain in these negotiations was Macdonald. His presence was a recognition of Canada's new status in the British Empire.

During the same summer of 1871, British Columbia joined the new Canada Confederation. Improvement in overland communications was a primary condition imposed by the new province. Macdonald pledged that the Dominion government would begin construction of a transcontinental railway within two years and complete it within ten years.

Progress on the Intercolonial Railway, which was to link the Maritimes with Quebec, encouraged Prince Edward Island in 1873 to become the seventh province in the Dominion. The transcontinental railway project already was requiring heavy financial commitments by the government, and Macdonald was under considerable pressure in the House of Commons as well as in the press. He won the election of 1872, only to face charges by his political enemies that railway contractors had contributed heavily to his party's election funds. The Pacific Scandal, as this incident was named, defeated the Conservatives in 1873. Alexander Mackenzie headed the Liberal government that then took office.

Mackenzie's contribution to the infant Dominion was real though unspectacular. During his term in office from 1873 to 1878, voting by ballot was introduced in 1874; the Supreme Court of Canada held its first sitting in 1876; and the Intercolonial Railway ran its first train from Halifax to Quebec, also in 1876. A tireless worker and a man of high personal integrity, Mackenzie nevertheless did not have great popular appeal. When Macdonald fought the 1878 election on a platform of protectionist tariffs, which he called his National Policy, the voters favored their "old chieftain." The Conservatives thus were returned to office. 

Discovery of Canada

Rediscovery and Exploration

Cartier's Explorations

End of the First Colonizing Effort

The Founding of New France

The Father of New France

For the Glory of God

Seigneur and Habitant

Governor, Intendant, and Bishop

French and English Rivalry

The Final Struggle for the Continent

Early British Rule

The Quebec Act of 1774

The United Empire Loyalists

Upper and Lower Canada

Settlement and Exploration in the West

The Selkirk Settlement

The War of 1812

Struggle for Self-Government

Mackenzie and Papineau Rebel

The Durham Report

Canada West and Canada East

The Colonies Grow Up

The Confederation Idea

Dominion from Sea to Sea

New Dominion Is Launched

Macdonald's National Policy

The Age of Laurier

Canada and World War I

Canada Between the Wars

The British Commonwealth of Nations

Canada and World War II

Postwar Developments

Centennial of Canadian Confederation

Quebec Separatism

Modern Canadian Leadership

Native Peoples Issues