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Missing Voices of Confederation
Transcript of Missing Voices of Confederation
Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined Confederation on July 1st, 1867 to form the country of Canada. Other provinces joined in years to come. The confederation was a process by which Canada was formed. The process that formed Canada was a negotiation between European political influences, British and French mostly, that did not consider the fact that country is being formed on the land of native North American people inhabited not only by European males.
When confederation was formed there were still many voices missing from the discussion. Take a look at the picture.
Missing Voice of Women
At the time of Confederation in 1867 women were not allowed to be participate in political life. They were not even allowed to vote in federal elections. It was not until 1918 that women could vote in federal elections, and not until 1919 that women gained the right to be elected to the House of Commons. At the time of Confederation women did not have the power to express themselves in politics.
Missing Vocies of First Nations
First Nations people were not considered citizens of Canada and after the confederation was created a special government department decided where they would live and spend their life. They were forced to live on reserves and did not have the same privileges as other Canadians. The only way first nation’s people would get the same privileges was if they left the reserve and began living like colonists. If they wanted to exercise their right to vote, they could not be "residing among the Indians" or benefiting from amounts paid to a tribe.
Questions and Answers
Q .What is common for all social group’s whose voices were ignored in Confederation?
A. They have all been in a non favorable economic situation. Women could not own property, natives where effectively deprived of property on their own resources, and minorities consisted of poor immigrants.
Q. Has anybody heard of Laura Secord during her lifetime? No mention of Secord was made in reports that immediately followed the battle of Beaver Dams. Why did the story of Laura Secord take on mythological overtones in Canada?
A. I believe that the legend is actually over politicizing the event. By exposing Laura Secord historians are trying to to show that women actually had a significant role in early Canada.
Q. How would Canadian society look today if the First nations were given equal rights in the early days of the Confederation?
A. If equal rights were given to First nations they would be enjoying more government benefits and that would help generations of First nations to come. There are more First Nations children on welfare today than ever before in Canada and that is the result of long social suffering. Canadians would probably not be ashamed today because of long standing system of residential schools.
If you notice, the famous Fathers of Confederation painting by Rex Woods does not include any woman or minority groups. At this time woman were not allowed to vote or to own the property. Their point of view was considered unimportant. First nation people are not included in this painting either, however, they were expected to give up their tradition and accept European values. Minorities such as people of colour mostly of Asian and African descent and were not a significant part of the political picture of Confederation either.
Timelines of some important events for women in Canada:
1867- Dr. Emily Stowe graduates in medicine from New York State University, but is not allowed to practice in Canada until 1880, when she becomes registered as a member of the Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
1884- Ontario grants married women the right to own property and deal with it and sell it without consulting her husband.
1887- In Manitoba, single or married women are allowed to vote municipal elections, but are not eligible for municipal office until 1917.
1900- Teaching is the only profession open to women that leads to a pension.
1912- Carie Derick is the first woman in Canada to become a full professor, becoming a professor of Morphological Botany at McGill.
1951- The first woman to become mayor of a major city is Charlotte Whitton, the mayor of Ottawa.
1988- Sheila Hellstrom is the first woman Brigadier-General in the Canadian Armed Forces.
1988- Men with less than a grade 8 education earn, on average, $22,387 annually while women college graduates on average earn less than $20,000 annually.
1990- Dr. Roberta Bondar is the first Canadian woman astronaut, being selected by NASA to participate in a flight of the space shuttle in December 1991.
1997- Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette receive 1997 Juno award for International achievement.
Timelines of some important events for First Nations in Canada:
1867- The British North America Act gives the federal government responsibility for aboriginals and their lands.
1876- The Indian Act is passed, essentially extinguishing any remaining self-government for natives and making them wards of the federal government.
1880s-1996- More than 140 church-run Indian Residential Schools operate across Canada. (While most schools were closed in the 1970s, the last one remained open until 1996.) Their painful legacy would stretch to today.
1960- Aboriginal people finally gain the right to vote. Beginning in 1960, aboriginal Canadians were no longer required to give up their treaty rights and renounce their status under the Indian Act in order to qualify for the vote.
1984- The Inuvialuit Claims Settlement Act gave the Inuit of the western Arctic control over resources.
1985- Changes to the Indian Act extend formal Indian status to the Metis, all enfranchised aboriginals living off reserve land and aboriginal women who had previously lost their status by marrying a non-aboriginal man.
2008- Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers a formal apology on behalf of Canada over residential schools.
2010- Canada signs the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Missing Voices of Minorities
In a number of parts of Confederation white European people grow fearful and angry about immigration from Asia that they perceived threatened their jobs and the culture. That led to a lot of anti-Asian sentiment, mostly in British Columbia. Asian immigrants would be admitted to Canada but special head tax was imposed ($500 for immigrants from China and $200 for immigrants from India). Asian-Canadians would be denied the vote until 1947.
People of African descent (male) in Confederation did have voting right. However, most of them were either descendants of slaves (slavery was abolished in 1834) or slave fugitives from US that fled to Canada. They were poor and with little economic leverage. They could not gain a lot of political influence.
The Confederation of Canada was created based on the European political principles of the 19th century. The process ignored most of the population (all women, native people and large part of visible minorities) and denied them from active political participation through the right to vote. Some ‘ignored’ groups did not enjoy any equality in general. It took a lot of time to clear some of the injustices in the process. Today, Canada has a good record of human rights and high level of social equality. However, there is a long way to go to achieve that all voices in society are heard.