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The Shaping of Canada
Why Confederation?
On the Road to Confederation
People in the Background
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Prelude to Confederation: The Making of Canada

People in the Background

When Canada entered Confederation over a century ago some groups of people were not given the chance to participate in the talks or to have their opinions heard. Two groups were especially important:

Native peoples

The First Nations and Inuit peoples have lived in North America for thousands of years. However, by the time of Confederation the European settlers had taken control of much of the land. Treaties were made with many First Nations to move them onto smaller areas of land called reserves. The government tried to make these people live like Europeans. For example, they supported missionaries who took Native children away to teach them the religion and lifestyle of Europeans.

The idea was to make Native people fit in with the Europeans that surrounded them. Today we realize that one group should not try to change the way of life of another, but in the 1860s this was not seen to be a bad thing. Not only did the politicians try to change the life of these people, but they also did not include them in negotiations for Confederation. Native people had no say over the future of the land that they had lived on for thousands of years.


At the time of Confederation in 1867 women were not allowed to be politicians. 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.