Canadian Money

In Canada, prior to the “Scenes of Canada” series of currency notes, which debuted in 1969, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II appeared on all bills in circulation, as she still appears on the obverse of all the coins in circulation. As Canada’s head of state and the guarantor of the entire thing, this is just and fitting. However, Betty Windsor is also the head of a number of other states, doesn’t even live in Canada, and is a living symbol of unearned privilege and imperial conquest, etc. So the Scenes of Canada series, in accord with the mood in the 1960s, tried to insert some uniquely Canadian Content: the Queen remained on the $1, $2, and $20 bills, but former Prime Ministers appeared on the others: Laurier on the $5, Macdonald on the $10, King on the $50, and Borden on the $100. These were judged to be the most influential heads of government to date, and they were balanced with two from each of the major political parties (and represent a 3:1 English to French ratio, reflective of the country’s demographics). They did not represent sovereignty as such, but they were important people in Canadian history who exercised actual political power. This pattern remained with the Birds of Canada series, the Canadian Journey series, and the current Frontier series.

Politicians, however, don’t get the respect that they used to, and balance between political parties is not the sort of diversity that we cherish anymore. Sir John A. Macdonald, father of Confederation and first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, was also responsible for Chinese exclusion, for the Indian residential school system, and for the execution of Louis Riel. Plus, he was a raging alcoholic. So his statue has been removed from in front of the Victoria, B.C., city hall, the Canadian Historical Association has removed his name from one of the prizes it awards, and as of 2018 his image has been replaced on the $10 note with one Viola Desmond, Canada’s equivalent of Rosa Parks.* So it appears that people on currency notes no longer need any connection to governance at all – in fact, “resisters” of the established order now get monetary memorialization. I’m not saying this is bad necessarily, but the advantage of putting the sovereign on the notes, or important Prime Ministers, is that the choice is obvious – there can be little debate about who should go on, and focusing on the top of the pyramid represents, in its way, everyone below. Once one expands the category to include important Canadians of all stripes, one opens a can of worms. Who gets to go on?!** Generally such memorialization is what postage stamps are for, since there is a potentially limitless number of designs for that particular medium. (Although I wonder, with the deprecation of physical cash, will currency notes soon become like stamps, with multiple designs in circulation at any one time, and new designs introduced every year? Think of how much seignorage the government could make as people collect them! Alternately, maybe we should take the attitude towards human portraits on bills that we take towards human sports mascots – best to avoid them entirely, as does the European Union.)

But since they’ve taken Sir John A. off the ten, they now feel they have to take Laurier off the five. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has recently stated that:

the bank will launch public consultations for the design of the polymer note, similar to the ones “that led to the selection of Viola Desmond for the $10 note,” he said. “This time we will be asking all Canadians to nominate any historic Canadian — someone who is truly banknote-able.” 

A friend of mine suggests that Louis Riel should go on. Personally I think that this would be akin to putting Robert E. Lee on an American note but I guess not all armed rebellions against state authority are equal….

At this point it does not appear that they’ve set up a website asking for suggestions. 

UPDATE: From the National Post: “Would Gord Downie even want Gord Downie on the $5 bill?” (Gord Downie being the lead singer of the Canadian rock act The Tragically Hip, who died of glioblastoma in 2017.)

* In 1946, Desmond, a Nova Scotian of African descent, refused to leave a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S. (It should be noted that the racial segregation was theatre policy, not provincial law.) She was arrested and convicted of tax evasion, since the tax on the floor seats was one cent more than the tax on the balcony seats. She received a posthumous pardon in 2010. 

The United States is contemplating something similar. I have heard for several years now that President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), frontiersman and champion of the common man, but also slaveholder and remover of the Cherokee, is to be removed on the front of the $20 bill, with Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad, put in his place. But this move seems to have put on hold as a result of the change in administration in 2017. 

** I recall that, during the debate about changing the $10 bill, that they wanted to put a Canadian woman it, not realizing that the Queen is a Canadian woman. It reminded me of Mark Steyn’s response to the claim that Adrienne Clarkson was the “first immigrant Governor General”: “Ok, then, who was Viscount Monck – some hardscrabble lobster fisherman who came west and made it big on the street of dreams in Ottawa?”

Revanche!

Here is an amusing story that serves as a riposte to Monsieur Eaton and his treatment of a youthful Roch Carrier (hat tip: David Winter):

Tania Levesque.

Pastry Chef Disappoints Toronto Maple Leafs Fan with Maple Leaf Foods Cake

Canadians from coast-to-coast are getting a giggle today out of what might be the funniest cake decorating fail since someone mistook graduation “cap” for actual “cat.”

The tale begins in Mascouche, Quebec, where the parents of a young sports fan named Jacob started planning his eighth birthday party.

Knowing that Jacob loves nothing more than hockey — and, in particular, the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs — his parents planned a party at a Montreal arena and put in an order in for a custom cake bearing the Maple Leafs logo.

The boy’s stepmother, Tania Levesque, posted a photo of the finished product on Facebook Saturday evening.

“So Jacob was asking for a Toronto Maple Leafs cake for his birthday. The Pastry Chef of course was on google to find the logo but didn’t write… from Toronto,” wrote Levesque in her post, which has since been shared nearly 1,500 times.

“So this party is sponsored by the cold meats.”

That’s right: The baker confused Maple Leafs —Toronto’s NHL team — with Maple Leaf — one of Canada’s largest packaged meat brands.

Jacob’s father picked up the cake while en route to his son’s birthday party this weekend, but didn’t get a chance to look inside the box until he got there, according to CBC Montreal.

While shocked and confused by what they saw on the cake, the boy’s parents laughed off the silly mistake and served it anyway.

When asked what happened, Levesque told the CBC that the unnamed bakery she went to didn’t have a Toronto Maple Leafs stencil on hand. She suggested they simply Google the logo and put it on Jacob’s cake.

Something seems to have been lost in translation along the way, but kids attending the party ate the cold cut-themed cake all the same —  except for Jacob, who Levesque said refused to try it.

Some might say, as a Maple Leafs fan in Quebec, that the boy had it coming.

Apparently Maple Leaf meats have furnished Jacob with tickets to see the hockey team. 

Cake Wrecks is an entire website devoted to “professional cakes going horribly wrong.” Here is the “cake that started it all“:

Cake Wrecks.

Toronto Flaggery

I enjoyed a great weekend in Toronto, where I participated in the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada’s Study Day with a talk on symbols of Newfoundland (drawn in part from previous posts on this blog). It was nice of my parents to come in from Port Hope for the day (and for my cousins to put me up). 

Photo: Robert Walsh.

In keeping with one of the themes of this blog, I took some photographs of flags that I saw.

This is the interior of the “Great Hall” of Union Station, which features a display of all the provincial flags of Canada.

Flag of Toronto, flying on University Avenue. This flag dates from 1974 and was the flag of the old City of Toronto proper, i.e. one of the constituent cities of Metropolitan Toronto, which included East York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and York. With the abolition of these cities in 1998, the flag of the one part became the flag of all the parts, since the 1999 grant of arms to the amalgamated City of Toronto did not include a flag. The design references the distinctive architecture of Toronto City Hall.

Flying from the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, the flags of Ontario, Canada, and Legislative Assembly, which consists of the arms of Ontario with crossed maces and an embattled bordure. This was granted back in 1992 and was somewhat controversial, if I recall correctly, since generally legislatures get badges, not full coats of arms. Plus, it seems that the actual flag granted to the Ontario Legislature was supposed to be square, not rectangular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoyed a nice dinner at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, where the flags of Canada’s three armed service commands are prominently displayed in the lobby. 

Also on display at RCMI, a World War I era Canadian red ensign, complete with nine-quartered coat of arms. 

I walked by a renovated Varsity Stadium, the main sports field of the University of Toronto. Flying on Bloor Street were two U. of T. flags, one featuring the university’s coat of arms with a reversed background (nice effect!), and another athletic flag featuring a T and a maple leaf. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a flag that I did not know about. In front of the Legislative Building we encountered a protest in favour of Azad Kashmir, with numerous examples of its flag being displayed.

L’Anse aux Meadows

Flags of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and the United Nations, at the L’Anse aux Meadows visitors’ centre. 

As promised, a post about L’Anse aux Meadows, an archaeological site of some importance, located at the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland and maintained as a National Heritage Site by Parks Canada. The site, discovered in the 1960s, offers indisputable proof that Scandinavians settled in the New World around the year 1000, almost five hundred years before Columbus landed in the Bahamas; for this reason it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also quite popular and provides a lot of the branding for local tourism (the Viking Trail, the Viking Lodge, the Great Viking Feast, etc.)

Several Icelandic sagas describe voyages made by the Norse from their settlements in Greenland to mainland North America in search of needed supplies, chiefly timber. The explorers visited places they named “Helluland,” “Markland,” and “Vinland” – and since the nineteenth century archaeologists have tried to identify them. It is reckoned that “Helluland” is Baffin Island, and “Markland” somewhere on the coast of Labrador. Vinland was more elusive: the sagas describe it as a place where wild grapes grew, which could be on the southern shore of of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or south of that in New England. 

Vínland, with an acute accent over the “i”, means “wineland,” which would be a natural name for a place with wild grapes. The Norwegian husband-and-wife team of Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, however, hypothesized that it was simply “Vinland,” without the accent, which would mean “pastureland,” with northern Newfoundland being a promising site. Visiting L’Anse aux Meadows in 1960, he was shown a series of low turf walls that the locals referred to as “the Indian mounds.” Excavations throughout the 1960s showed that these were the remains of buildings similar to those found in Iceland and Greenland and dating from around AD 1000. What really established the site as Norse, however, were such discoveries as a spindle whorl used for weaving, a stone with a depression in the middle (interpreted either as a lamp or a pivot stone for a door), a bronze fastening pin, and the remains of a forge that had produced iron slag, and the remains of iron rivets used for boat repair. No Natives at this time used such technology. 

Remains of the Viking buildings.

As it turns out, L’Anse aux Meadows is probably not Vinland, which really ought to have a long “i” and mean “Wineland,” as the sagas suggest. Birgitta Linderoth Wallace points out, in Westward Vikings, that the word “vin” as “pasture” had fallen out of use by 1000. She suggests that Vinland was likely somewhere in northern New Brunswick, and that L’Anse aux Meadows is Straumfjord (“Current Ford”) mentioned in Erik the Red’s Saga, a sort of base camp that served as a gateway to Vinland and a place to gather goods before shipping them back to Greenland. The inhabitants at the site did not practice agriculture, but they could spend the winter there if need be, in the substantial turf buildings they had constructed.

Model of the site.

Will we ever discover where in “Vinland” the Norse actually came ashore? Wallace claims that it’s unlikely. Any temporary camps the Norse may have set up in New Brunswick would have left little evidence behind, or at least such evidence would be indistinguishable from sites of Native provenance. Even items of Viking origin would not be proof of an actual encampment, but simply of trade (such items can travel a long way from their point of origin, through many intermediaries). 

Parks Canada reconstruction of Norse buildings at L’Anse aux Meadows.

L’Anse aux Meadows was not occupied for very long, perhaps less than ten years in total (at least, if you don’t subscribe to the most recent scholarship on the place). Our guide claimed that the Ingstads, and subsequent archaeologists, have actually found very little at the site, evidence that it was deliberately abandoned (if it were suddenly and hastily abandoned, the occupants would have left a lot more stuff, since they wouldn’t have had time to clean it up). He also claimed that the abandonment was as a result of the conversion of the Norse to Christianity, which also took place around the year 1000. With conversion, trade with Europe became much easier, obviating the need to sail to Vinland, although Wallace suggests, from evidence uncovered in Greenland, that the Vinland explorers were already Christian. Either way, it was likely just as easy to sail to Norway as it was to Newfoundland, where more interesting goods could be acquired, and where there was a bigger market for Greenland’s walrus ivory. And in any event, Wallace estimates that maintaining the site was too expensive in terms of manpower – it would have required some 5% of the adult male population of Greenland, which was simply too much.

Reconstructed forge, L’Anse aux Meadows.

It is certainly worth a visit if you ever get there. The Visitors’ Centre is excellent, with thorough and informative exhibits, and a great gift shop. The reconstructed buildings, complete with re-enactors, are also a lot of fun. 

But part of me wonders whether it isn’t somewhat ethnocentric to make such a big deal about L’Anse aux Meadows. The place is significant, but far more significant is Port au Choix, an archaeological site which we visited as we drove up the northern peninsula. It features six thousand years of continuous occupation by successive Native peoples, including the Maritime Archaic people, the Dorset people, the Groswater people and the Beothuks, all of whom fished and hunted seals. This place deserves to be better known.

The trouble is that it would be politically very difficult to have re-enactors playing Indians. Even the diorama, you’ll notice, does not feature three-dimensional figures.

Colonial Seals of Canada

Warning: this post is technical and pedantic.

Two years ago I wrote a post about the evolution of Canada’s coat of arms. Prior to Confederation in 1867, though, it seems that no colony regularly used a coat of arms. Instead, colonies represented themselves with emblematic seals, on the rare occasions when they needed to. Few people know about these seals nowadays; it seems that joining Confederation and adopting a coat of arms went hand-in-hand.

One place where you can see some colonial-era seals is in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, near the entrance to the House of Commons. I took these pictures in 2006, but I only noticed just now that they aren’t exactly parallel to each other. 

Upper Canada (i.e. Ontario).

Lower Canada (i.e. Quebec).

New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia.

You will notice that the seals of both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have renditions of the royal arms hanging over an emblematic scene, a feature that does not exist in the seals of Upper and Lower Canada. This wasn’t always the case, however: Conrad Swan’s Symbols of Sovereignty (1977) illustrates colonial-era seals for both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that are simply the emblematic scenes. 

“Obverse (proof impression) and reverse of the 1817 Great Seal Deputed of New Brunswick of George III.” From Swan, Symbols of Sovereignty, 150.

“Great Seal Deputed of Nova Scotia of George III, in use from 1818.” From Swan, Symbols of Sovereignty, 128.

Or rather, what we have here are double-sided seals, with the emblematic scene on one side, and the royal arms on the other. There was a time when official instruments featured seals hanging by ribbons from the bottom of the document, in which case it was possible for a different design to be impressed on either side of the wax. Letters Patent originating from the College of Arms in London are still done this way, as is the honorary grant of arms to the Virginia Senate:

What seems to have happened, over the course of the early nineteenth century, is that dependent seals went out of fashion, and seals impressed directly into the document became more common. Thus, the royal arms had to migrate from one side of the seal to the other, so that both the arms and the scene could appear on the same side. This shift occurred in Upper and Lower Canada as well:

“Proof impression of the Great Seal Deputed of Upper Canada of Victoria.” From Swan, Symbols of Sovereignty, 167.

“Proof impression of the Great Seal Deputed of Lower Canada of William IV, 1832.” From Swan, Symbols of Sovereignty, 111.

Note the dates here: the first is from the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), and the second from the reign of King William IV (1830-37), while the double-sided ones are all from the reign of George III (1760-1820). 

Actually, the seal of Upper Canada for Victoria could not have seen much use, because in 1841 Upper and Lower Canada were united to form the United Province of Canada (subdivided into “Canada West” and “Canada East,” but still one polity). The seal of the United Province of Canada showed both seals of Upper and Lower Canada together, under the royal arms, as had become the custom by that time. 

A. & P. Vachon Collection, Canadian Museum of History.

So I would say that the display in the House of Commons could have been done slightly better. It should either show four emblematic scenes alone, for Upper Canada, Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia – or it should show only three seals with the royal arms over the emblematic scene: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and United Canada, as representing the political situation on the eve of Confederation. (People forget that only three colonies came together in 1867, because immediately Canada was redivided into Ontario and Quebec.)

But as I say, each of these now-provinces has a coat of arms, and that’s what people know. These coats of arms are what got engraved into the provincial seals. From Wikipedia, here is Ontario’s:

The royal arms appear in the centre, while Ontario’s arms are at the base, both of them within a glorious Victorian-Gothic frame. 

Apparently this was a template: other provinces have the same design. Quebec certainly did:

From Swan, Symbols of Sovereignty, 114.

Swan designates this as the “Present Great Seal of Quebec” but the design did not last very long after his book was published in 1977. The previous year, you see, the Parti Québécois had taken power in Quebec, and proceeded to refashion it in their image. From Wikipedia, here is the real present seal of Quebec, which dates from 1979:

So they jettisoned both the royal arms and their provincial arms, which features references to Britain and Canada as well as France. (Frankly, I’m surprised that they haven’t changed this as well.) 

Wikipedia. 

Instead, the current seal just features a simple fleur de lys, done in the standardized Quebec style (and a ring of fleur de lys around the exterior, like the hem of the old Quebec Nordiques sweaters). You’ll also note an acute accent over the first “e” in Quebec, even though accents are optional on capital letters – and no reference at all to Quebec being a “province.”

Vive le Québec libre! 

Vacation Pics – Quebec

Here’s a typical postcard view: the Chateau Frontenac from the streets of the Lower Town.

In the heart of the Lower Town: Place Royale and the church of Notre Dame des Victoires, built 1723. I was pleased to see this church appear in the film Catch Me If You Can

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec, designated a basilica in 1874. It contains the tomb of St. François de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec, and from 2013 features a Holy Door

The arms of Laval are carved on a nearby wall.

The Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (armigerous). 

Monument to Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec, on the Dufferin Terrace. 

Vacation Pics – Prince Edward Island

The eight-mile Confederation Bridge, connecting Cape Jourimain, N.B., and Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., approved by plebiscite in 1988, made possible by constitutional amendment in 1993, and opened for traffic in 1997. 

Charlottetown City Hall, built in Romanesque Revival style in 1888. 

Charlottetown has a coat of arms – it also has a surf-and-turf themed seal, which can be seen here and there. 

St. Dunstan’s Basilica, the Roman Catholic Cathedral for the Diocese of Charlottetown, completed in Gothic Revival style in 1919. 

St. Peter’s, one of the two cathedrals of the Anglican diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (the other is All Saints’ in Halifax). 

The Sunday service featured beautiful church music and liturgy conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer. I was very pleased! 

To the north side of the church: All Souls’ Chapel, designed in Victorian Gothic in 1888 by William Critchlow Harris and featuring sixteen paintings by his brother, Robert Harris. 

All Souls’ was designated a national historic site in 1990.

On the other side of the island, a literary landmark of some importance: Green Gables, the home of L.M. Montgomery’s uncle David MacNeill and the setting of her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908). 

In the interpretive center, editions of Anne of Green Gables translated into thirty-nine different languages. It really is a wonderful book.

In O’Leary, on the western side of the island: the Canadian Potato Museum. The fiberglass potato might be a little cheesy, but the potato is a very important crop in world history, and on the island in particular, and the museum tells this story very well. Recommended if you ever get to PEI.

Vacation Pics – New Brunswick

St. Andrews, New Brunswick is right across the border from Maine. As you might imagine, it was founded by refugees from the American Revolution; thus is All Saints’ Anglican Church quite “Loyalist” in tone. 

It even has a coat of arms, with the monogram of King George III at the fess point and the eminently Loyalist motto “Fear God Honour the King” (from 1 Peter 2:17).

A nearby Loyalist cemetery features the badge of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, which also contains the cypher of George III. 

Now obsolete, but nevertheless still standing: a blockhouse and cannons guarding the border against Americans. 

To the northeast is Fredericton, the provincial capital. This is the back end of the provincial legislature (my photograph of the front end didn’t really turn out). 

The interior of the legislative chamber (Canadian provincial legislatures are all unicameral). I was pleased to learn that New Brunswick still has a Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, who gets a door slammed in his face and who must knock three times to request admission to the chamber. 

Down the street, Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, also armigerous

Confederation

I am from Canada, and an historian, but I’m afraid that my knowledge of Canadian history is not what it ought to be. I was pleased, therefore, to be able to visit the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and to see their exhibit and film on the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. This event was the first formal step towards the union (“confederation”) of four British North American colonies into a new polity, which was granted home rule (“dominion”) status within the British Empire on July 1, 1867.* This “Dominion of Canada,” like the American union to the south, was expandable, eventually stretching “From Sea to Sea,” and all the way to the North Pole for good measure. It achieved legal equality with the UK in 1931 and full constitutional independence in 1982, and is today a first-world liberal democracy, a member of the G7, NATO, NAFTA, and “Five Eyes,” with a 1.8 trillion dollar GDP, a “very high” human development index, and an international reputation for inoffensive blandness.

But we can certainly be very proud of ourselves.

From 1859, the UK Parliament was under the control of the Liberals, who favoured both dominion status and confederation: they wanted to offload the expense of running the colonies onto the colonies themselves, and were prepared to allow them greater control over their domestic affairs as the price of doing so; they also wanted to strengthen “British North America” against the United States, engaged as it was in a bloody Civil War, which might turn north at some point. Thus the Charlottetown Conference, which was held September 1-9, 1864. It was originally called to discuss the possibility of the union of the three British maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, and it was held in PEI because that colony was the most initially recalcitrant: it was the smallest, and feared that it would be swamped in any proposed union; it also was doing quite well economically and saw only a downside to joining up with others. But politicians from the United Province of Canada heard about the conference and asked to join, and they ended up dominating it, with John A. Macdonald and George Brown presenting a suave and ultimately convincing case for a union that included Canada (i.e., Ontario and Quebec), in between lots of eating, drinking, and socializing. Canada was itself a victim of frequent constitutional deadlock, and was presumably hoping for a new arrangement that might break this unfortunate situation. 

The film (which I wish I could find on YouTube) makes apparent that this gathering was a men’s club; no women formally participated, and no Native people either. All the same, the Conference was a success, leading to the Quebec Conference the next month, at which the 72 Resolutions were adopted, outlining the framework for a proposed union that potentially included Newfoundland, British Columbia, Vancouver Island (at the time a separate colony), and the Northwest Territory as well. The central issue was whether the union would be a unitary state or a decentralized country on the model of Switzerland; the result was a compromise between these two poles, with an elected lower house and an appointed senate. 

Two years of debate followed before the London Conference of 1866, which hammered out the British North America Act for the three colonies still interested: Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The BNA Act received royal assent on March 29, 1867, and passed into law on July 1 of that year. Prince Edward Island ultimately decided that it was not interested, and even the other maritime provinces had misgivings: in New Brunswick, the Anti-Confederation Party won the 1865 election, but was defeated the following year; in Nova Scotia, Anti-Confederates won 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature in 1867, unfortunately (for them) too late to prevent Confederation from happening. The Anti-Confederates thought that the Maritimes would be overwhelmed in the new country. Their opponents claimed  that the Maritimes were powerless anyway, and union with Canada was their only hope of influence, a view that ultimately prevailed.

This is the facade of Province House in Charlottetown, where the PEI Legislature sits and where the Charlottetown Conference was held. As you can see, it is currently under restoration, so this is the only view of it I can provide.

In the Confederation Centre for the Arts, however, one can see a replica conference table for delegates…

…and (for now) a statue of an important participant and first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. 

Prince Edward Island, as it happens, did join Confederation in 1873. In just a few years it went from prosperity to near bankruptcy, largely as the result of that archetypical nineteenth-century prestige project: a railway. The story was that the builders were paid by the mile, and that every small town on the island demanded railway access, so the railway took a meandering path across the island, raising its cost significantly. Canada agreed to take on these debts and to finish the project, and to provide a permanent link with the mainland; thus did PEI become a province, and Charlottetown can now boast that it is the cradle of Confederation. 

This was not the case in Newfoundland, which joined Confederation only in 1949. Newfoundlanders had heard of the Charlottetown Conference, but too late to attend it; they had come to the Quebec Conference, but only as observers. The Newfoundland election of 1869 was fought largely on the issue of Confederation, with the anti-confederates winning 21-9, and putting the issue to rest for the time being. It resurfaced in 1895 after the failure of Newfoundland’s Union and Commercial Banks, but no agreement with Canada could be reached, and Newfoundland retained its independence and weathered the financial storm. In 1907, as the result of the Imperial Conference that year, Newfoundland received dominion status within the British Empire – but this was largely a formality, as the colony had enjoyed responsible government since 1855. 

However, Newfoundland lost this status in 1934, and reverted to being a crown colony, the only dominion ever to do so. No longer did Newfoundland enjoy even responsible government – instead, it was run by an unelected seven-man Commission of Government, civil servants directly answerable to the British Parliament. The Great Depression had hit Newfoundland hard, and rather than default on its debt payments, it agreed to a suspension of its parliament until such time as it could become self-sustaining. But this never came to pass. According to Greg Malone in Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders (2012), a secret deal was struck between Canada and the United Kingdom during World War II which would deliver Newfoundland into Confederation, in return for Canada forgiving certain wartime loans it had made to the UK. With Newfoundland a province, Canada’s strategic position could be improved – it would have the Gander and Goose Bay airfields, at the time essential refueling stations for transatlantic flights, and the risk of Newfoundland joining the United States and becoming a sort of eastern Alaska would be obviated. Disputes over the fishery would be minimized, and Canada would get its hands on the potential mineral and hydroelectric resources of Labrador. 

Malone claims that Confederation may have been inevitable, but he insists that Newfoundland should have had responsible government reinstated first, as had been promised. Then the place would have been in a much better bargaining position with Canada. As it stands, the British essentially negotiated with Canada on behalf of Newfoundland, not particularly caring for the details so long as it was no longer their problem. A referendum on the arrangements was still seen as politically necessary, however, and three choices appeared on the ballot in 1948 – continuation of the Commission of Government, a return of responsible government, or confederation with Canada. In the first round responsible government won, but it did not receive an absolute majority, so a runoff was held the next month, which Confederation won with 52.3% of the votes cast. The option of union with the United States was kept off the ballot, and the Confederates, led by the charismatic Joey Smallwood and secretly funded by Canada, enjoyed an immense tactical advantage. 

Referendum propaganda on display in The Rooms, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Museum and Art Gallery. “Canada’s social programs” formed a great deal of the appeal of Confederation to poor Newfoundlanders, who tended to see responsible government as control of Newfoundland by a clique centered on St. John’s. 

But whatever the details, the Newfoundlanders voted for it, right? Ultimately, there’s no arguing against the results of a referendum. The really shocking claim of Malone’s book, though, is that the vote was rigged; that responsible government really won the second referendum of 1948, and that dirty tricks, of the sort allegedly played in Illinois during the presidential election of 1960, ensured a surplus of about 7000 votes in favor of the correct outcome. Thus did Canada get control of Newfoundland’s fishery, which it has mismanaged, and of the development of the iron mines of Labrador, which employ many locals but whose profits flow elsewhere. The Churchill Falls Generating Station, a joint project between Newfoundland and Quebec, ended up being a terrible deal for Newfoundland, but according to Malone Ottawa forced them to ratify the agreement for the sake of bribing Quebec not to secede. 

The Confederation Building, St. John’s, Joey Smallwood’s monument to himself. Opened in 1960, it replaced the Colonial Building as the meeting place for Newfoundland’s legislature. It also houses several governmental departments. 

It was eye-opening for me to visit a part of Canada that has such genuine and persistent grievances against the federal government. This is very seldom an issue in my home province of Ontario. And yet, if the ubiquitous appearance of the maple leaf flag indicates anything, Atlantic Canadians are not hoping to secede any time soon. 

Many Newfoundland homes feature a cross-shaped “nautical” pole from which multiple flags fly; the flags of Newfoundland and Canada are both very popular. 

* It seems to me that the word “Confederation” has survived much better than “Dominion” has in the Canadian vernacular. “Dominion” now connotes a colonial junior-partnership, and was never really translatable into French. “Confederation” suffers neither of these drawbacks, and lives on in the names of such things as the Confederation Centre, Confederation Bridge, Confederation Square, etc. In my youth there existed a supermarket chain named Dominion which has gone the way of all corporate mergers, and I believe that at one point there was person known as the Dominion Geographer in Ottawa. Otherwise, I can think of no other everyday appearances of this word. Good thing Canada is a “Confederation,” though, not a “Confederacy.”

Quote of the Day

“History is no panacea for our national ailments. But a nation cannot forget its past, obliterate it, subdivide it into micro-histories, alter it, and bury it. Too often in the last half-century, Canadians seem to have done just that, and it is time to restore the past to its proper place in our national cultural consciousness, in our schools and universities, and in our public discourse.”

-Jack Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History? (1998).