What were the first Canadian provinces?

The first provinces to enter Confederation on July 1, 1867 were New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. The Province of Canada or United Canadas was divided into two provinces – Quebec and Ontario – on the same day.

A number of factors influenced the decision to form a confederation. Internal causes included demographic pressures, financial and debt issues associated with the Grand Trunk Railway, and economic nationalism. External pressures included: the Fenian raids, the American Civil War, and the new British colonial policy (Great Britain sought to withdraw its troops from the colonies).

The legislature of the Province of Canada was the first to pass a bill approving the union. The issue proved more controversial in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It was not until 1866 when their legislatures passed union resolutions. In 1865, the residents of New Brunswick elected the anti-confederate government of Albert James Smith. A pro-Confederate government came to power in 1866, weakening anti-Confederate positions. Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island opted against joining the union.

Three conferences were held in 1864 and 1866 – the Charlottetown Conference, Quebec Conference, and London Conference. Sixteen delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada travelled to London in December 1866. Queen Victoria received each candidate in private audience, and the delegates debated and approved 72 resolutions. The conference’s decisions, known as the London Resolutions, were then forwarded to the Colonial Office, which dealt with and oversaw colonial affairs in British North America.

The British North America Act replaced the 1840 Act of Union, which abolished the legislatures of Lower Canada and Upper Canada and unified them in a new political entity. The Northwest Territories and Manitoba entered the union in 1870, and British Columbia passed a union resolution on July 20, 1871. British Columbia was the 6th province to join the union. The provincial borders were not yet established and after the Alaska boundary dispute, the province’s territory shrank. Prince Edward Island joined the union in 1873. The federal authorities promised continuous transport between the province and the mainland. This was an important issue at that time. Goods and people were transported through the Northumberland Strait, which linked Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Yukon joined the union in 1898 and during the same year, it was designated as a separate province. The Territorial Commissioner governed with the aid of government officials (a council of 4 members). Because of the strong American presence and the area’s instability, the government of Canada did not appoint local members of council immediately. Saskatchewan and Alberta joined the union in 1905 when the Alberta Act and the Saskatchewan act were adopted by the federal government. Newfoundland entered Confederation in 1949 after the 1948 Referendums. Voters were to choose a union with Canada or retention of the current status. Nunavut was the last to enter Confederation in 1999. On March 26, Helen Mamayaok Maksagak, a manager of a transient center and a community worker, was appointed as Commissioner of Nunavut.