Editorial: Coming to Confederation

It’s 2017 and Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday as a nation with festivities planned throughout the country. This week, several area schools acknowledged the milestone anniversary with a variety of “Canada150” events.

But, how did residents feel about Confederation in 1867? Was there a unanimous cry for independence from the Mother Country?

In an April 1967 edition of The Leader, as part of the year-long focus on Canada’s 100th birthday, the editor included an article titled: “The Dundas Courier thought Confederation was ‘unBritish.’”

The January 13, 1865 edition of The Dundas Courier, published in Morrisburg, County of Dundas, Canada West, stated: “Whether or not it is practicable and desirable to unite the British Provinces of North America into one nation is the great question of the day.”

While there were clearly a significant number of people rooting for Confederation, there were almost as many who were not.

How would Canada protect itself without Britain standing behind it, offering strength and support?

“It has been argued that the Confederation is an impossibility, that there cannot be sufficient national cohesion in a country so long and narrow,” the 1865 editorial stated. “The thought is that, like the earthworm, its vitality will be low and sluggish, that it will be easily cut into separate parts, which, being without the direction of the central government and without an organization of their own, will be unable to continue resistance to the enemy (United States) and will readily fall to him.”

And, would it not be disloyal for Canadians to abandon the country that helped to create it?

“We who are part of the British People, the greatest colonizing and organizing race of all time, that holds with firm grasp all it gets, and gets all it can,” the editor wrote. “(We) have changed very much if we are not able to hold our own against all comers, not alone, but our share, with the great empire of which we are part.”

Clearly, the road to Confederation was far from simple. The decision to cut the umbilical cord tying this country to Britain was a hard one. It was made without the luxury of hindsight, not knowing what the future would bring.

As a Canadian living in the year 2017, I would say: “Well done. Thank You.”