Dorion led the Parti Rouge (Liberals) in the 1850s and he had served with George Brown in a short-lived government. Early in 1865 representatives from the United Province of Canada (today’s Quebec and Ontario) met to decide if they would proceed with a federation that had been negotiated to include the English colonies in Atlantic Canada. Dorion was opposed to this wider confederation, as were a majority of the francophone delegates. They feared that the English majority would overwhelm the French. Dorion also opposed the idea of a legislative union, in which the central government held most of the power. His arguments in 1865 illustrate the historic disagreement over the founding reality of Canada. Was confederation to be the union of two nations, or was it a federation of equal provinces? These conflicting views still exist.
In 1864, the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland planned to meet in Charlottetown to investigate a union among the British Maritime colonies. John A Macdonald and other representatives from Upper and Lower Canada invited themselves to the meeting and arrived by steamship. They proposed a wider union which would include Upper and Lower Canada. The group met again in Quebec City in October 1864 and agreed to proceed. Then in February 1865, the legislature of Upper and Lower Canada met to decide whether to ratify the proposal. Macdonald’s was the first of many speeches in the long debate in Quebec City.
This is a fitting speech as Canada winds down its 150th year since Confederation. Thomas D’Arcy McGee was one of the great pre-Confederation orators. This speech, urging the creation of a new Canadian nationality, was delivered three years prior to conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec City, which negotiated the details of Confederation. McGee came to Canada from Ireland via New York and settled in Montreal where he was a newspaper editor and later a politician. The US civil war was raging in 1862 and McGee warned that to survive people in British colonies to the north must create their own nationality, an un-hyphenated Canadianism.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007. Its recurring theme is that Indigenous peoples have the right to dignity and self-determination, and that no actions regarding their persons or lands should be taken without their “free, prior and informed consent.” Canada became a signatory in 2014, but the government provided no legislative machinery to implement the declaration’s principles. MP Romeo Saganash, formerly an Indigenous leader from northern Quebec, drafted Bill C-262, which he says would ensure that Canada’s laws are consistent with the UN declaration. Saganash’s bill was debated in the House of Commons on December 5, 2017 and he spoke to it.
Maclean’s magazine hosted its annual Parliamentarians of the Year Award in Ottawa early in November 2017. The magazine presented a lifetime achievement award to Monique Bégin, who served as an influential cabinet minister in Pierre Trudeau’s governments, most notably as the minister of health and welfare. After leaving politics in 1984, Bégin pursued an academic career, including 11 years at the University of Ottawa. In her acceptance speech, she talked about male power and women’s equality in the context of numerous allegations about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment and news industries and in politics. A significant portion of Bégin’s remarks follow here. The full text of her address is available on the Maclean’s site.
It was 150 years ago, on November 6, 1867 that the Parliament of Canada convened for the first time in a made over lumber town called Ottawa. Recently, on the anniversary of that historic day MPs celebrated with former prime ministers Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin looking down from the visitors’ gallery. Geoff Regan, the House speaker, talked about how far the country has come.
“On this day 150 years ago, our predecessors embarked on an ambitious journey that continues to this day, the journey towards a fair, prosperous country for all citizens,” Regan said. “It is difficult to imagine the enormity of the task before those first parliamentarians gathered in the chamber that used to stand here, facing the monumental challenge of governing a vast and sprawling country still in its infancy.” Continue reading Searching Canada’s parliamentary debates back to 1867
Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons, and after taking her seat early in 1922 she encountered many taunts and inappropriate treatment. Undaunted, she demanded the full equality of women. These are brief excerpts from speeches Macphail made in the House of Commons regarding existing divorce laws.
“I want for myself what I want for other women — absolute equality.”