John A. Macdonald's Canada
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John A. Macdonald's Canada
John A. Macdonald's Canada
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John A. Macdonald's Canada

In 1867, the Dominion of Canada was formed with John A. Macdonald its first prime minister. Canada was a country built on diversity and compromise with the promise of peace, order and good government. In the years to come, Canada and its leaders would be tested, as the fledgling nation faced revolt and scandal to become a country that spanned from sea to sea.
Ottawa was designated the capital of the new Dominion of Canada.
Ottawa was designated the capital of the new Dominion of Canada.

The original Canadian federation had four provinces; Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the East Coast with 600,000 people in total; and in the centre, Quebec with just over a million and Ontario with one and half million and growing rapidly.

West of Canada were the vast plains controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company. The most populated area on the prairies was the Red River district with a mixture of European farmers, fur traders and Mtis - the offspring of white fur traders and natives.

On the Pacific Coast sat the growing colony of British Columbia.

As the young Dominion was taking shape, linguistic and religious divisions still dominated the political landscape. In Quebec, 80 per cent of the population was French-speaking and Catholic. The rest of the country was mainly English-speaking, and was divided between Protestants and Catholics, although Ontario had a strongly Protestant culture.
Father of Confederation Thomas D'Arcy McGee believed Canada would one day reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Father of Confederation Thomas D'Arcy McGee believed Canada would one day reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

Despite the diversity, many politicians believed Canada could overcome its differences and become a great nation that reached the Pacific Ocean. One such man was Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a poet and one of the Fathers of Confederation.

"I see in the not remote distance, one great nationality, bound, like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of ocean... I see within the round of that shield, the peaks of the Western mountains and the crests of the eastern waves. I see a generation of industrious, contented, moral men, free in name and fact."

It was a vision that would eventually be realized. But in the next few years, the young country would endure growing pains and McGee would lose his life as a result of the same intolerance he had sought to overcome.

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