Debating the Confederation Debates of 1865

Canada Watch, 2016:  "Debating the Confederation Debates of 1865."
Spring 2016

The special publication sponsored and published by the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University, devoted to essays responding to the edited Confederation Papers.

In 1865, politicians in the United Canadas debated the prospect and terms of Confederation.  The legislature published these debates, and an abridged version provides a readily accessible source of the political discussions.  In these debates we can see some of the contemporary justifications and criticisms of the Confederation deal.

As we at York University consider the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we believe that it is appropriate and useful to re-examine the debates and explore the logic, presuppositions and absences.  The Canadas of 1865 were vastly different than the Canada of 2015, but the general constitutional framework adopted in 1867 still defines many of the parameters of political life today.

For this project, we asked colleagues to all read P.B. Waite, ed., The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada, 1865, 2nd edition, with a new introduction by Ged Martin, and to write a short opinion piece in response to the question:

“From the vantage point of 2015, how do the Confederation debates of 1865 look from the perspective of XXXX?” 

In some cases, the topic was completely ignored in the debates 150 years ago.  Other issues were of critical importance to the original debates, but are much less significant as a component of national political discourse in our day. We took the same point of departure; we reflected on the issues in our own ways.

Read the essays

    Reconsidering the Debates over Canadian Confederation
    Colin M. Coates & Philip Girard

    The Atlantic Provinces and the Confederation Debates of 1865
    Philip Girard

    An Example for the World? Confederation and French Canadians
    Marcel Martel

    Confederation as an Intra-Christian Pact
    David S. Koffman

    Revisiting the 1865 Canadian Debates on Confederation: Rights and the Constitution
    David R. Cameron, Jacqueline D. Krikorian and Robert C. Vipond

    Confederation and Taxation
    Elsbeth Heaman

    Canadian Confederation and Democracy
    Dennis Pilon

    "Canada was... just like a farmer": Confederation from the Perspective of Agrarian Society
    Colin M. Coates

    The Nature of Confederation
    Sean Kheraj

    A Workingman Watches
    Craig Heron

    Gender and the Confederation Debates
    Kathryn McPherson

    Confederation Comes at a Cost: Indigenous Peoples and the Ongoing Reality of Colonialism in Canada
    Gabrielle Slowey

    Using History to Justify Confederation
    Marlene Shore

    The Robert Harris Group Portrait
    Ged Martin

    Suggested Readings

Edited by:
Colin Coates (Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, York University)
Philip Girard (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University)

Download the entire Canada Watch issue, Debating the Confederation Debates of 1865