On this day in 1867, Canada became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain and a federation of four provinces: Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Ontario; and Quebec. Various Northwest territories would join the confederation through the latter 19th century and the Klondike Gold Rush, and Rupert’s Land, the vast wilderness around Hudson Bay and its drainage basin, remained a private concern until 1870. Newfoundland, a staunchly independent nation of fisheries and strange English language usage, would not surrender independent sovereignty and join the Nation until 1934.
Back to the confederation under the British North America Act, although she was still a British colony, Canada gained an increased level of political control and governance over its own affairs, with the British parliament and Cabinet maintaining political control over certain functions, such as foreign affairs, national defense, and constitutional changes. Canada gradually gained increasing independence over the years, notably with the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931; she did not, however, become completely independent until the passing of the Constitution Act of 1982, which served to fully patriate the Canadian constitution, with Elizabeth II remaining their Queen.
As she stands today, Canada is second largest country in the world in area after Russia, occupying roughly the northern two-fifths of the continent of North America. Canada shares a 5,525-mile-long border with the United States (including Alaska), the longest border in the world not patrolled by military forces, while the overwhelming majority of its population live within 185 miles of the international boundary. It is noted her proximity to Michigan and the Great Lakes made life in Detroit and Windsor far more interesting during prohibition. Although Canada shares many similarities with its southern neighbor and, indeed, its popular culture and that of the States are in many regards indistinguishable, the differences between the two countries, both temperamental and material, are profound.
“The central fact of Canadian history,” observed the 20th-century literary critic Northrop Frye, is “the rejection of the American Revolution,” and indeed, it took a do-over of the American Revolution to finally settle scores between the neighbors. Contemporary Canadians are inclined to favor orderly central government and a sense of community over individualism; in international affairs, they are more likely to serve the role of peacemaker instead of warrior, and, whether at home or abroad, they are likely to have a pluralistic way of viewing the world. Most assuredly, from poutine, to Rush, to old-time hockey, to outstanding beer and whisky, this enormous nation teeming with natural resources and breathtaking beauty has much to offer.
It may also be noted that the current Prime Minister shares the first three letters of his surname with the temporary US President, but there the similarities between the two men end abruptly, as does our story.