A Brief History
of Canada

1867 to 1899

Map of Canada 18671867 - Confederation

British colonies in North America are united under the British North American Act to become the Dominion of Canada. The Act, drafted by John A. Macdonald and signed on May 8, became effective on July 1, 1867. (See photo of the Fathers of Confederation)

Despite anti-confederation sentiments in Nova Scotia, future prime minister Charles Tupper convinced Nova Scotia to join the Dominion.

Sir John A. Macdonald was appointed as Canada's first Prime Minister and won the election in August. (read Macdonald's biography)

Ottawa was named the Capital City of the Dominion.


One of the Fathers of Confederation, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, became the first Canadian victim of an assassination on April 7. McGee was a very outspoken enemy of the Fenians (see 1859 & 1866) and died at their hands.


Canada purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company. The purchase threatened western livelyhood and, in November of that same year, Louis Riel lead the Métis in an attack against Fort Garry (the site of present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba) and occupied it. This protest would come to be known as The Red River Rebellion


Before this decade, the demand for leather goods became greater each passing year. During the 70's, the northern herds of bison were virtually wiped out which ultimately lead to the collapse of the western Aboriginal economy and livelyhood. The Natives, who depended on the bison for everything from food to clothing suddenly found themselves at the mercy of the eastern 'new-comers'.

The Red River Rebellion continued to challenge Canadian authority in the northwest. Canada declared a provisional government in January, but the government was ousted by General Wolsely in August. The Manitoba Act created the new province of Manitoba out of the Red River Settlement, effectively suppressing the rebellion.

Future prime minister Richard Bennett was born in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick, on July 3. (see 1930)


British Columbia joined confederation on July 20. Prime Minister Macdonald began the construction of the Intercolonial Railroad.

Map of Canada 18731873

Prince Edward Island joined Confederation. Meanwhile, the new country was hit with a period of economic depression. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald created the North-West Mounted Police (later to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP) to bring law to the territories. However, the Pacific Scandal in which evidence (stolen from future prime minister John Abbott's office) proved that Sir Hugh Allan had made huge campaign contributions to Macdonald's government in exchange for an exclusive charter to build the Canadian Pacific Railway (a.k.a. Canadian Pacific Railroad), forcing Macdonald's resignation on November 5. Liberal Alexander Mackenzie became Canada's second prime minister. (read Mackenzie's biography)


PM Mackenzie reformed the electoral system, introducing the secret ballot. He also founded the Royal Military College in present-day Kingston. By an Act of Parliament, the groundwork was set for the academy. The doors opened on June 1, 1876, attended by the first class of 'Old Eighteen' gentlemen cadets. In 1878, Queen Victoria gave her consent to allow the college to add the prefix 'Royal' to its name.

Meanwhile, Louis Riel was elected to the House of Commons in February but was denied the seat as a result of his involvement in the Red River Rebellion.

On July 26, Alexander Graham Bell displayed his new invention, the telephone, to his family on the outskirts of Brantford, Ontario.

Anabaptists (Russian Mennonites) began to arrive in Manitoba from various Russian colonies on the west coast of North America.

Future prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was born in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario, on December 17. (see 1921 & 1926 & 1935)


Riel was granted amnesty by parliament with the condition that he be banished from Canada for 5 years.

PM Mackenzie established the Surpreme Court of Canada.

Bell demonstrates the first functioning telephone in Boston in June.

Jennie Trout became the first female licensed to practice medicine in Canada. (Emily Stowe had been practicing in Toronto without a license since 1867.) Grace Lockhart graduated from Mount Allison University with the first Bachelor of Arts degree awarded to a female.


The Intercolonial Railway was completed, linking the Maritimes with central Canada. The Pacific Line, which would unite the new nation, was soon begun.

The world's first long-distance telephone call took place on August 10, connecting Alexander Graham Bell's home with a boot store in nearby Paris, Ontario. Meanwhile, the Toronto Women's Literary Club, which was actually a front for the women's suffrage movement was founded. (see 1873)


Manitoba provincial legislature created the University of Manitoba, the oldest University in western Canada.

Canadian doctor, Dr. Leonora Howard King, opened a hospital for Chinese women and children in Tienstin (now Tianjin), southwest of Beijing, where she worked selflessly for 47 years until her death in 1927. (China's Empress Dowager, the guardian of the infant emperor, awarded her the Imperial Order of the Double Dragon.)


John A. Macdonaldwas re-elected.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, anti-Chinese sentiment escalated, reaching a high point when the government banned Chinese workers from entering the public services.


Macdonald's National Policy, set forth on March 12, introduced tariffs which would protect Canadian trade goods, a transcontinental railway system, and immigration to the west.

Future prime minister Charles Tupper began construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.


First performance of 'O Canada', composed by Calixa Lavallée for the St. Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations. (Detailed history of 'O Canada') The French lyrics were a poem written by Judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier and remain unchanged to this day.

Emily Stowe was finally granted a license to practice medicine legally in Toronto.

Map of Canada 18821880-1884

Thousands of underpaid Chinese labourers were hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to lay the tracks through the Rocky Mountains. The work was dangerous and casualties were high. As the story goes, 'There is one dead Chinese for every mile of track.'


Future prime minister Louis St. Laurent was born in Compton, Québec, on February 1. (see 1948)


Louis Riel became an American citizen in Montana.

Augusta Stowe (daughter of Emily Stowe), became the first woman to graduate from the Toronto Medical School. Meanwhile, the Literary Club of 1876 officially became the Toronto Women's Suffrage Association

North American railroads adopted Standard Time, created by Canadian Sir Sanford Flemming. (Standard time was soon adopted around the world.)


Louis Rien returned to Canada to lead the North-West Rebellion.


The Métis were defeated at Bacoche, ending a seven-day battle from May 2'nd to May 9'th. Louis Riel was captured and returned to Regina to stand trial for his treason. Riel was hanged on November 16.

The last spike of the transcontinental railway was pounded into place in Eagle Pass, British Columbia, on November 7, joining Canada from coast to coast with a 'ribbon of steel'.

Canada's first National Park was created at Banff, Alberta.


Wilfrid Laurier was elected by the Liberals as Party Leader. Meanwhile, the first provincial Premiers' conference took place in Québec City.


The Liberals in Manitoba under Thomas Greenway halted public funding of Catholic schools in March, laying the groundwork for the controversial Manitoba Schools Question which would plaque the governments for years to come. (see 1895)

Meanwhile, Canadian Isaac Shupe invented a rather curious sheet-metal scrubber that automatically lathered with soap.


Sir John A. Macdonald won his fourth consecutive election in March and died less than 3 months later on June 6 while still in office.

Conservative John Abbott was elected prime minister following Macdonald's death. (read Abbott's biography)

The first game of basketball, created by Canadian James Naismith (Almont, Ontario), was played in Springfield, Massachusetts. The final score was 1-0.


Conservative John Thompson succeeded John Abbott as prime minister following Abbott's retirement due to failing health. (read Thompson's biography)

PM John Thompson created the Canadian Criminal Code.

Former prime minister Mackenzie King died on April 17.

PM John Abbott resigned due to poor health.


The National Council of Women of Canada was founded.

Former prime minister John Abbott died on October 30.


Future prime minister Arthur Meighen was born in Anderson, Ontario, on June 16. (see 1920 & 1926)

Prime Minister John Thompson died (in office) on December 12 at Windsor Castle in England. Held in fond esteem by Queen Victoria, a requiem mass was held for Thompson in Windsor. Thompson was then returned to Halifax for burial aboard the battleship HMS Blenheim, which had been painted black for the occasion.

Conservative Mackenzie Bowell became prime minister following John Thompson's death. (read Bowell's biography)

Map of Canada 18951895

In June, PM Mackenzie Bowell drafted legislation which would force Manitoba to reinstate funding of Catholic Schools under the British North America Act, but Cabinet opposition forced Bowell to postpone the issue for 6 months.

The Yukon was created as a provisional district separate from the Northwest Territories. (see 1898)

Future prime minister John Diefenbaker was born in Neustadt, Ontario, on September 18. (see 1957)


The economic depression came to an end.

By January, the Cabinet was questioning PM Mackenzie Bowell's competence. Seven ministers resigned in order to force Bowell into stepping down as prime minister. The Cabinet also prevented Bowell from replacing his ministers and the government fell into crisis. The Governor General The Earl of Aberdeen intervened and reinstated 6 ministers and Charles Tupper joined the cabinet and assumed virtual control of the party. Bowell resigned in favour of Charles Tupper and remained in the Senate until his death.

Conservative Charles Tupper became prime minister following Bowell's resignation. (read Tupper's biography) However, Tupper was forced to call an immediate election and, despite a vigorous and aggressive campaign, Tupper lost to Liberal Wilfrid Laurier. Tupper's reign as prime minister was the shortest in Canadian history

Liberal Wilfrid Laurier won the federal election based mainly on his proposed compromises in the Manitoba Schools Question. Laurier was the first French-Canadian prime minister. (read Laurier's biography)

Gold was discovered in the Klondike on August 16.


Future prime minister Lester B. Pearson was born on April 23 in Newton Brook, Ontario. (see 1963)

Laurier's 'Manitoba Schools Question' compromises were initiated.

Meanwhile, L. T. Snow received a patent for a simple mechanical meat grinder he had invented.


Fortune-seakers flocked to the Klondike. Meanwhile, Doukhobours began to settle in Saskatchewan.

The Yukon was identified as a separate and new territory.


Canada entered the Boer War in South Africa (October 30) when the first Canadian troops were sent overseas.

Meanwhile, Canada's first female lawyer, Clara Brett Martin, began to practice law.

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