The war between France and England ended decades ago; but the conflict between the French and English speaking settlers in Canada could still be felt as a result of many events and issues.
Confederation was never enthusiastically embraced in Quebec as it evidently was in Ontario. Since, by Confederation, Quebec only had about 40% of the population of the United Province of Canada, to share equally in the government put it in an advantageous position; this was so much so that it was Upper Canada that now complained about the Union and its most important political leader of the time, George Brown, claimed that the province had become ‘French dominated’. ...view middle of the document...
It is the realization of all of these possible losses that made many Quebecers hesitate about Confederation and generated quite a bit of apprehension and opposition. When the vote was taken in the Legislative Assembly of the United Province of Canada on the Confederation project, about 40% of the members from Quebec voted against it. Nearly half of the newspapers of the province were opposed to Confederation. This not only reflects the great reluctance of Quebecers for Confederation but also supports the idea that the majority rallied behind Confederation, albeit without enthusiasm.
What brought Quebec to support Confederation?
Five main reasons explain why the majority in Quebec eventually supported Confederation:
Political realism: Even the most reluctant Quebecer must have realized by 1864 that the United Province of Canada had become ungovernable. Sectionalism was a constant problem (what language to use? How much confessionals should there be in schools? Should we resort to conscription to protect our territory against the threat of the United States? Where should the capital be? Does each section have a fair share of the civil service and of government expenditures?), the Province was embroiled in a hopeless political deadlock, it was impossible to establish a government that lasted any significant amount of time (we count thirteen governments in a period of eight years at some point), and Rep by Pop was unacceptable in the context of the Union. This state of affairs could not continue indefinitely and, if it remained unresolved by the lack of agreement between Upper and Lower Canada, it was feared that Britain would intervene to resolve the problems. If England intervened, as had been done in 1840-41, it was evident that the solution it would impose might not be favourable to Quebec. Political wisdom, common sense, dictated that Quebecers cooperate in making changes and attempt, in the process, to safeguard vital interests.
The support of powerful elites: Political realism was especially displayed by the power elites of the time (political, economical and clerical). They understood the problems outlined above and they wished to apply pragmatic solutions. The period of Confederation was not yet a particularly democratic time, as we would understand or apply democracy today, but one where elites considered issues and made the necessary accommodations. And when the elites agreed, and made the accommodations, the people were expected to follow; they were rarely consulted and their views mattered very little unless the elites disagreed. There is no doubt that Confederation was going to be good for business, that the political elites of French Canada (people like George Etienne Cartier) thought that Confederation would impact positively on the survival of French Canada and on their own career and, thus, should be supported. The...