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(CANADA, 1851 to 1900 – continued)

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CANADA, 1851 to 1900 (3 of 7)

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Canada to 1873

Map of Canada, 1873

The Dominion of Canada (orange) 1873. Queen Charlotte Islands appear as a single solid mass north of Vancouver Island. Gray areas (such as Newfoundland) belong to Britain.

Kwakwaka'wakw young woman

Kwakwaka'wakw young woman – Vancouver Island. Her earrings are abalone shells and signify nobility.

In 1870, Rupert's Land (named after Prince Rupert, nephew of King Charles I) and the North-West Territories were acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company. These territories were combined under the name of North-West territory and acquired by the Canadian parliament to administer.

In an area west of Ontario province that today is the city of Winnipeg, trouble had been brewing while negotiations were underway to transfer the area to Canadian territory. The area was a former Indian trading center. By the 1860s it was peopled by a blend of Indian and French personas called Métis. They were French-speaking and Catholic and resented the influx of English-speaking Protestants from Ontario who had begun pouring into the area. The Metis declared that any attempt by Canada to assume authority would be contested, and they seized the fort in the area, Fort Garry. They arrested members of a pro-Canada faction opposed to them, and they executed one of pro-Canada faction for having threatened to kill the Metis leader Louis Riel. Canada sent a military expedition. Riel (in his mid-twenties) fled to the United States. Talks were conducted, followed by an act of Canada's parliament, the Manitoba Act of 1870, that paved the way for Manitoba's entry into the Canadian Confederation as its fifth province. The Métis were guaranteed title to the lands they already farmed, language rights and the right to denominational schools. On November 8, 1873, Winnipeg was incorporated as a city.

Riel felt forced to remain in exile, in Montana, while he was considered among the Metis as the Father of Manitoba.

British Columbia

In 1871, British Columbia became Canada's sixth province. Migrants had been arriving there in increased numbers during the Fraser Gold Rush in the late 1850s and more into the 1860s, many of them from California. There were Germans, Scandinavians, people originally from Australia, Poland, Italy, Belgium and China. The first European settlement appeared in 1862 at McLeery's farm on the Fraser River, where the city of Vancouver would eventually rise.

Canadians decided to make it a province partly from fear that the United States would annex it. Making the British colony a province would enhance Canadian control, and the Canadian government promised locals that it would assume the colony's debt, and it promised to extend railway service there.

Vancouver Island was part of the new province, and the British naval base at the southern tip of the island, with its large shipyard and a naval hospital, was to become Canadian. The Kwakwaka'wakw tribes in the north of the island were still there, living in peace with the Canadians but reduced by smallpox from around 19,000 in the 1700s to approximately 3,000. Nuu-chan-nulth tribes were still on the south and west side of the island – a whaling people who had also been decimated by small pox. They had been the first of those north of California to come into contact with Europeans. They were to number 8,147 in 2006, compared to about 5,500 for the Kwakwaka'wakw.

Also remaining on Vancouver island were blacks who had arrived from San Francisco in the late 1850s. They had intended to integrate themselves with others in the city of Victoria. They had been welcomed at the Congregational Church they attended, but the minister wanted them seated together – a segregation the blacks didn't accept. Also in Victoria they were given the right to drink in "a white man's bar," but they were relegated to the balcony of theaters.

The province of British Columbia included Queen Charlotte Islands (named after the wife of King George III). It is claimed that when whites first arrived the area had one of the highest concentrations of hunter-gatherer societies in the world, an estimated 10,000 people many of whom died from smallpox or other diseases such as typhoid, measles or syphilis. They would be counted at 350 in 1900 but would multiply to 3,800 by 2010.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island, on Canada's east coast, had been inhabited by people called Mi'kmaq. Many of them mixed with the French, converted to Catholicism, and when the British made the island a British colony in 1763 many of them fled to Nova Scotia.

In 1867, the people on Prince Edward Island balked at becoming Canadian. They preferred to remain a British colony, but by 1871 they were frustrated with Great Britain's Colonial Office and began negotiations with the United States. Canada's prime minister, John A. Macdonald, was eager to thwart U.S. expansionism and talked the islanders into joining Canada. Canada assumed the colony's railway debts. It agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony's absentee landlords, to free up land ownership by ending leasehold tenure, and it promised to end new immigration to the island.

The island became a province on 1 July 1873. Agriculture was the center of the economy but it was also a fashionable retreat for Britain's nobility.

Ethnic minorities remained and the island's population was relatively stable. Its population for 1871 has been listed as 91,024 and for 2006 as 135,851. Of that number In 2006, 90 persons listed their mother tongue as Mi'kmaq.

Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.