Connecting Canada: The Importance of Rail to Canadian Confederation


On July 1st, 1867, the Dominion of Canada was created. This was done through the union of the Province of Canada (Canada West and Canada East), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. By 1871, British Columbia joined the Dominion and became Canada’s sixth province. While a large factor of BC to join Canada was Canada’s willingness to take on its debt, the railway was also an important component. In fact, the railway was probably the largest play that Canada had when negotiating with other colonies to join the Dominion. It certainly had a large role when negotiating with the Atlantic provinces during discussions of confederation between the governments of Canada and Maritimes.

In 1870, Canada had acquired Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory from the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed as a promise to British Columbia upon its entry into Confederation. British Columbia wanted a connection to Eastern Canada and it with no doubt played an important role into the development of the country. However, there was some controversy as the government needed to extinguish Aboriginal title to land. The reason was not only for constructing the railway but also to enable future settlement. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 issued by King George the III saw a part of it dedicated to the protection of Indigenous people and the promise to preserve their rights to traditional territories. Treaties 1 to 7 between the Crown and First Nations from 1871 to 1877 solidified Canada’s claim to lands north of the United States-Canada border. This would in turn enable the construction of the railway from Eastern Canada towards the West. Doing so would allow for potential future agricultural settlement. However, in exchange for the traditional territory, the government promised various special rights including rights to treaty lands, hunting and fishing, farming and more. While these promises were made verbally and written, there is still controversy over the matter and there has been legal and socioeconomic impact on the Indigenous communities.

The construction of the railway would see many delays before finally starting in 1878. In 1872, the contract for railway construction was awarded to Sir Hugh Allan, a shipping magnate and railway promoter. However, it was later discovered that Allan had contributed a large amount of money to the Conservative Party’s election campaign in 1873, forcing the resignation of Sir John A. Macdonald’s government. Eventually, construction would begin in 1878 after Macdonald returned to power. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company was incorporated in 1881, with the railway being completed in 1885, connecting Eastern Canada to British Columbia in the west. The construction of the railway had a large impact on settlement as it was able to rapidly grow with rail. The CPR was heavily involved in the development of early Canada.

Settlement towards the west was enabled b the CPR. The western region of Canada was sparsely populated and for the most part, was covered in wilderness. Many immigrants and settlers were recruited and travelled by rail from Eastern Canada and Europe. It allowed the population to grow through agriculture and sold farmland to willing migrants and settlers. Moreover, the tourism industry for Canada was propelled through rail. It drew in wealthy visitors from abroad who were keen to see the nature that Canada had to offer. Numerous hotels were built across Canada where travellers in search of Canada’s beautiful mountains would stay. The mountains, beaches, winter recreation and much more caused a massive amount of resorts to spring up due to the ability to travel across the country and seek out Canada’s diversity in nature. During the World wars, the railway would have a significant impact, on Canada’s ability to transport troops. As one of its purposes for being built, the movement of crucial troops and resources was able to be transported across Canada to be deployed to Europe quickly. The CPR provided its rail, hotels, people, ships, and all resources it possibly could during both World Wars and lost 12 vessels in the Second World War.

The railway provided Canada with a lot of opportunities. It essentially enabled Canada to develop during a time where its colonies were struggling and ease the fear it had over the United States. While economic collapse brought a number of colonies together for Confederation, the construction of a railway played a significant role in negotiations. Without it, Canada’s borders could look a lot different than what it is today.


Connecting Canada: Conferences, Confederation and the Dominion of Canada

In 1867, British North America comprising of the British Empire’s colonial territories formally became the Dominion of Canada through Confederation. The first provinces of the new Dominion were Canada West (Ontario), Canada East (Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Previously Canada had just been a province on the North American continent and heavily relied on Britain to sustain itself. Canada’s protection up to that point in time was from Britain who was beginning to see its colonies as an economic burden. The British were keen on having its colonies self-govern and become more independent.


With Britain pulling out of British North America, the colonies would be left to struggle with high debt and the task of defending themselves, leaving them vulnerable to potential invaders. Many arguments were made in that fear of the United States and the results of the American Civil War led to the eventual confederation of Canada. While partial credit can be given to these certain events, the failing economy, the military, and the storm of politics should be factored in when considering the topic of Canadian Confederation. The process was one that had been in development for decades beforehand.

Canadian Red Ensign

On the topic of conferences, leading up to confederation there were talks concerning matters involving representation, Native affairs. Another topic of concern was how the federal and provincial legislatures would work. Such issues included the powers each form of government would hold, and what abilities they had. While many on the in on confederation were anxious, those in the Maritime colonies refused to join. A total of seventy-two resolutions were drafted in the Maritimes, however many remain skeptical and were unwilling to join in union.


A major reason the Maritime colonies refused confederation was because of the fact that they were in a period of prosperity. While most other colonies were suffering economically the Maritimes profited heavily in their ports with shipping and shipbuilding. Nova Scotia’s economy benefited greatly from its ports and saw themselves as having a closer relationship with Britain than Canada. New Brunswick was of the same view as Nova Scotia. Even though both were heavily against confederation, they would eventually agree to join Canada. While they were prosperous, nothing lasts forever, and their economies began to fail. A major factor in their agreeance was the prospect of the railroad. As a powerful play for confederation, the railway for the maritime colonies would allow for better economic development with steamboats on the rise. Their shipbuilding industry was beginning to falter with new technology, and confederation would have Canada taking the brunt of paying for and building the railway. The introduction of rail tying the east and west coast together would not only benefit the economy but would be an effective method of transportation for moving troops across Canada for defence.


While Britain wanted union for British North America, the pacing of negotiations began to ramp in the 1860s. The American Civil War was a major inspiration towards confederation because of fears of annexation by the United States. The violence and chaos during the civil war had a large impact in British North America, as many believed the civil war occurred because of a lack of a unified or rather central government. Because of Britain’s pressure for the colonies to become independent, many began to have ideas of creating a strong central government. With the American Civil War over, the United States was left with a large and powerful army. The aggressiveness of the United States played a large role in the development of Canada. Pressure from the Americans was very real with American politicians desiring to take control of the whole continent of North America. Furthermore the St. Albans Raid played a significant role with a series of bank robberies. The robberies were planned out by Lieutenant Bennet H. Young to gain money for the Confederate Army and draw the attention of the Union Army towards the northern border. The raiders had escaped to Canada East provoking the Northern Army to pursue them deep into Canadian territory, violating British neutrality. Moreover, in Canada, ‘Manifest Destiny’ which was the belief that settlers were destined to expand across North America was a cause of fear in many Canadians.


However, to get back to politics, Canada was facing a major problem in its provinces. Canada West being largely protestant anglophone was at odds with Canada East who were catholic francophones. The two sides were set in a political deadlock as representation was equal within the Legislative Assembly. There was little change due to this, and by 1864, a coalition government known as the Great Coalition was formed with Confederation being its main priority. The Reciprocity agreement which had allowed free trade on many commodities between the US and BNA was cancelled as Britain had supported the American south. This act provided an opportunity for confederation, as the colonies would be able to create a new market for free trade. This common goal was essentially the propeller towards union as Canada West and Canada East would seek out more land for farming and settlement. Meaning that Canada had to move quickly to secure land away from the Americans who were actively discussing the annexation of Rupert’s Land and more territory up north. This project was one where supporters of Confederation believed that a new political entity would help for future prosperity.

Charlottetown Conference

The Charlottetown Conference of in early September of 1864 set into motion discussions of Confederation. The meetings were organized by delegates from the Atlantic colonies to discuss possible union for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Here, they were persuaded by the Province of Canada into working towards the union of all British colonies located in British North America. The Great Coalition was a major turning point in Canadian politics as it saw the disputes within government to take a back seat to confederation. Another major conference would later be held in Quebec just a month later. The second meeting between the parties was in Quebec, where delegates would go on to pass 72 Resolutions. These were the fundamentals of what was previously discussed in the Charlottetown Conferences and would lay out the framework for the formation of a new country. They outlined federalism and how the powers and responsibilities would be divided between provincial and federal governments. This was largely focused on a balanced government to avoid any mistakes that could lead to a civil war like the American Civil War. The new government would have an elected House of Commons based on representation by population and being appointed to the Senate. The seats would be equally split between Canada West, Canada East and the Atlantic Colonies. The biggest factor and perhaps the largest financial commitment required by the new government was the construction of an Intercontinental railway. The Railway was a powerful card for Canada during Confederation negotiations and would further be used when negotiating with other colonies over their futures in the new Dominion of Canada.

Quebec Conference

There were many factors that lead to Canadian Confederation. For Canada, the 19th century saw political battles between Upper and Lower Canada. The creation of the Province of Canada to settle matters over representation by population equally split between Canada West, Canada East, and the Atlantic colonies saw each region have a voice in parliament. The American Civil and Britain’s desire to pull out of North America was a fear for the young colonies. The prospect of relying on themselves was a major push towards the formation of the Dominion of Canada.  Moreover, the previously prosperous economies of many colonies were beginning to fail as their materials began to lose value with new technology. At that point, Confederation was one of the few solutions to counteract the deficit. Confederation was an onerous task and took place through many conferences with Britain and its colonies. The British North America Act was passed by the British parliament on July 1, 1867.

May History: A brief look at British Columbia as a colony and its path to Confederation.

In 1871, British Columbia official joined Canada and became it the sixth province to do so. British Columbia at the time was in massive debt and was entering confederation on the terms that Canada would absorb its debt and build a railway stemming from Montreal to the Pacific coast. British Columbia was formerly known as the territory of New Caledonia. It was part of the Hudson’s Bay Company as a fur-trading district and comprised of north-central portions of present-day British Columbia. While it was not an official British Colony, it was part of the British Empire’s claim to North America, with Fort St. James as its ‘capital’. The rest of British Columbia at the time was known as the Columbia Department or Oregon Country by Americans.

The colony of British Columbia out west was founded in 1858 with James Douglas who was also the governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island became the first Governor of the newly formed colony of British Columbia. Douglas who is viewed as “The Father of British Columbia” remained as the governor for both colonies until retiring in 1864. This was a result of the Fraser River Gold Rush where approximately 30,000 people rushed to the Fraser River in search of gold. The greatest worry for Britain during the rush was that of a possible influx of Americans into the territory would allow the United States to annex the land for themselves. By the end of the gold rush around 1860, the colony of British Columbia was hit with a huge recession and was massively in debt. Arrival of the newcomers had driven the real state prices to new astronomical levels, as the Hudson’s Bay Company took advantage and sold town depending on location. New businesses and branches from American firms were established with financing coming from San Francisco. However, such actions were dangerous as, wave after wave of Americans filing into the Fraser Valley posed a threat to British sovereignty. However, with the founding of a new colony, British Columbia could be said to not be a place that could thrive because there was nothing to support. The only source of income came from the mines, which in turn would eventually have their resources depleted leaving nothing but rubble and empty rock in its place. By then, the colony would only be on a downward spiral and become nothing but a ghost town. Amidst the numbers of people leaving increasing and those coming in lowering, both Vancouver Island and British Columbia were facing major economic problems.


At a certain point in the mid-1800s, British Columbia had a debate over the fate of their future. In 1867, there were three possible choices for the British colony. Those choices were to either continue being a part of the British Empire as a colony, be annexed by the United States or to confederate with the newly formed federation called the Dominion of Canada. The gold rush saw major economic problems for both Vancouver Island and British Columbia, as both colonies were nearly bankrupt. In response, Britain promoted for the unionization of the two colonies, which would allow them to reduce their administrative costs. The British sought for its colonies to be run independently without the reliance on Britain’s support. However, the problem of American annexation was one that loomed over the colony especially with the purchase of Alaska up north. While British Columbia desired to remain a British colony, there was little choice as the possibility of annexation by the United States was a high probability.

In 1868, Amor De Cosmos, a politician and newspaper publisher, led the movement for British Columbia to join Confederation.  The Confederation League was formed by Cosmos in May of 1869 with the intent to unite the colony with the Dominion of Canada and bring responsible government to BC. It was a popular move as the public sought to remain British in some form rather than being annexed entirely by its Southern neighbour. Later that year, a conference at Yale was held in September and would be dubbed the Yale Conference. It saw a meeting of delegates from across the colony to discuss the future of the little colony moving forward. In total 26 delegates passed 37 resolutions outlining the terms for possible confederation with the Dominion of Canada. Many agreed upon the requirement for Canada to take on the colony’s debt, that the province would have responsible government, and the requirement of a road of the railway being built to British Columbia to link the west with the east. Alongside these resolutions were various controlling rights over immigration, land, and First Nations affairs to name a few. Albeit the Confederation League certainly did not go unopposed. There were a group of unelected members of BC’s government that greatly opposed the Confederation League. They were in fear of the possibility of losing their jobs and pensions if British Columbia were to join confederation. Governor Frederick Seymour was opposed to the thought of Confederation citing that union would do little help to the colony. However, with the Hudson’s Bay Company and Bank of British Columbia’s intent on union, Seymour’s opposition would do little to change the outcome.

The purchase of Rupert’s Land and North-Western Territory from the Hudson’s Bay Company in July of 1870 would essentially seal the deal for British Columbia to join the Dominion of Canada. It gave control of Canada over a vast majority of land beyond the Great Lakes towards British Columbia, clearing the way for the construction of a railway. If successful, the railway would allow the country easy access from coast to coast. With Canada’s agreement on debt, the construction of a railway, British Columbia became the sixth province on Canada on July 20, 1871. The Federal government was intent on BC having responsible government. British Columbia was to have representation in Ottawa with three senators and six members of Parliament. The staggering events which would lead to the relatively quick development of new colonies was surprising, as they had seemingly risen overnight. While the colony was hastily built, it eventually stood up by itself avoiding annexation and becoming part of Canada.

May History: Borden, Canada and Conscription during World War One.

The world is at war and your government is forcing you to enlist into the military whether you want to or not. Conscription is quite a controversial topic. It is a mandatory enlistment of people into the military and is used most often during times of war. No one really wants to be forced into war nowadays, but some countries still have it, such as the United States with its draft. In Canada, conscription occurred in 1917 during The Great War and in 1944 during World War Two. Our focus will be on the Conscription Crisis of 1917 that saw it do heavy political damage to Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden and the Conservative Party of Canada.

During the early stages of the First World War from 1914 to 1915, Canada a good number of willing combatants that enlisted to fight against Germany in France and Belgium. However, by 1916, with the war dragging on and the endless droves of men of all ages continuing to die overseas, enlistment began to dwindle. The war itself was seemingly endless as both sides saw soldiers die one after another within the trenches and No Man’s Land. Reinforcements from Canada began to cause problems for British and Canadian commanders leaving Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden to hold talks with the British in May to come up with a solution for the country’s lack of soldiers. In 1917, the federal government would make the decision to conscript young adult men for military service.


However, the official opposition Liberal Party and other forces in government posed a threat to Borden’s conservative government. A concern of his was the potential loss of the general election in 1917 to the Liberals. In Quebec, opposition to the conscription was high as the province did not want to be forced into a war, which they did not particularly support it. Quebec itself saw felt no loyalty to either Britain or France, both of whom were involved in the First World War. The conscription issue brought out numerous issues between the Francophone province and the rest of the Anglophone country, which was already prominent.


Eventually, Borden would meet with British officials in May of 1917 to discuss a possible course of action for Canada and Britain. By May 18 Borden announced to Parliament that his government was going to implement conscription. On May 25, 1917, Borden and his Conservative Party offered Liberal leader sir Wilfrid Laurier to form a coalition government with his government and the Liberal Party. Ultimate, Laurier would come to reject that offer as he feared Quebec’s opposition to conscription was too strong and did not want to risk losing French Canadians to nationalists such as Henri Bourassa. By August 29, 1917, the Military Service Act was enacted and became law sparking political controversy and further dividing the country between French and English Canadians. The outcome resulted in Borden creating the Unionist Party of Canada where it consisted of members of his Conservative Party. The Liberals, Independents and a Labour member representing the working class. The Unionist party was for all members of parliament in support of conscription including Liberal MP who ran as Liberal-Unionists. The Party was used in the December 1917 general election called by Borden to resolve ongoing issues with conscription allowing the Canadian Prime Minister to split up support within Laurier’s Liberal Party.

The War Measures Act, however, was not the only controversial law enacted at this period of time. In September 1917, The Wartime Elections Act extended the right to vote to women serving in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and to women who had relatives in the military. This law allowed women who previously could not vote the right to. The plan was to entice voters that were most likely to support conscription and Borden’s Union Government. Moreover, more controversy with the new law denied the right to voting to thousands of people considered to be immigrants from enemy countries, even after becoming a citizen. Those that had members of their family in the Canadian military and fighting in the war were exempted. Furthermore, conscientious objectors were denied the right to vote, as their religious, moral or ethical beliefs led to them refusing to go to war and were outright against the fighting taking place across the Atlantic.


In the 1917 federal election, the Union Government won by majority with 153 seats. Of those seats, however, the Borden government only won 3 seats from Quebec. Laurier’s Liberals won 62 seats from Quebec with a total of 82 seats won in the election. While Borden’s party won with support from pro-conscription citizens, it would be damaging for the conservatives.


The result of conscription was polarizing. While Borden’s conservatives had major support in various provinces, others felt betrayed. Farmers in the agricultural sector felt especially betrayed due to the promise of exemptions though limited from the conscription as the government went back on their promise. French-Canadians protested immensely during the lead-up to conscription and even after many refused to register in the draft. At various points throughout 1918, attempts at arresting them resulted in countless riots. Anti-conscription rollouts took place through the province of Quebec, forcing the government to use the War Measures act during the Easter Riots in Quebec City. The riots saw rioters use gunfire and other methods of violence with four civilians being killed after soldiers fired upon armed rioters. The riots shocked supporters on both the Conservative and Liberal sides. Thousands of soldiers would eventually be deployed to Europe under martial law.


While conscription was a heavy topic in Canada, it did have a large impact on Canada’s war effort. It provided enough troops to the European theatre to continue crucial battles through the war. The move allowed Canada to contribute to an eventual victory for the Allied Powers.

The First Tim Hortons: Tim Horton, an iconic Canadian Restaurant and its history.

Today is an interesting day in Canadian history. If Canadians know what I am talking about, then it is undoubtedly an iconic day. Many argue that it is a Canadian staple. Others believe that it is within our blood. If you were to think about Canada, then there are a few things that many individuals would associate with our country such as hockey, maple syrup, stuff like that; but of course, there’s also Tim Hortons.  55 years ago, and on this day May 17 1964 National Hockey League player Tim Horton opened the first Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut shop in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

A great majority of Canadians would know who this legendary player is, but for those who do not; Tim Horton played in the National Hockey League for nearly 24 years as a defenceman. For most of his career, he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but did make stops in New York, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. Horton, a 4x Stanley Cup champion and 6x All-Star did not earn the type of salary today’s stars earn back in the Original Six era. Players often had to work in the offseason to supplement income for themselves and family and he was no exception. When not playing professional hockey, Horton worked plenty of different jobs like at a beer store or for Conn Smythe’s sand and gravel company. It was during these off seasons that Horton would develop a liking towards business and would propel his desire to enter into entrepreneurship. His ventures into business would start him off in a few different industries. Yet it was not quite the doughnut and coffee shop just quite yet. His first businesses were a car dealership in Toronto and a few eateries; a hamburger shop in Scarborough and a restaurant in North Bay with his brother Gerry. Thereafter, he would eventually open the coffee and doughnut shop known as Tim Hortons with Jim Charade.



For Canada, doughnut shops began appearing in suburban areas of Ontario during the 1950s. These shops were small and locally owned. By the early 1960s, American companies such as Mister Donut and Dunkin’ Donuts began expanding up north with doughnut franchises popping up in Ontario and Quebec. In 1962, Canada would follow with their own donut companies in Tim Hortons and Country Style soon afterwards.

When concerning the restaurant Tim Hortons, many would associate it with Tim Horton and Ron Joyce. However, Horton opened the first restaurant with Jim Charade, a salesman and doughnut plant manager for Quebec snack food company, Vachon. Charade initially wanted to open a retail doughnut shop with Vachon, however, the company was not keen on the idea and instead wanted to focus on being a supplier of snack food to major grocery stores. This would lead to Charade crossing the border to Boston, Massachusetts to tour the Mister Donut factory and attempt at getting a franchise of his own in Canada. Upon his return, however, he would choose to open up his own shop in Your Do-Nut. However, after opening his shop, the doughnut market returns were lower than what Charade was expecting.  Thereafter, Charade would eventually meet the famed Tim Horton and thought about using the star name of a famous NHLer to benefit the branding of his small local shop.

With the meeting between Charade and Horton, the two started a business relationship forming Timandjim LTD, and began discussing plans to move forward with the company. Horton, however, was not interested in the doughnut and wanted to focus on hamburgers. The pair would open a few burgers-focused drive-in restaurants with Charade licensing Horton’s name to rebrand his doughnut shop into Tim Horton Do-Nut. Ultimately, the restaurants would struggle, and Charade would persuade Horton on the doughnut idea, finally establish the first Tim Hortons franchise.

The Horton brand doughnut shop would go on to franchising stores instead of opening and owning a number of their own stores. By doing so, it allowed the company to spread their stores more easily through selling equipment and having the franchisees follow the guideline.  In 1965, the pair of Charade and Tim would move on from Timandjim LTD. to Tim Donut LTD. after incorporating Charade’s struggling doughnut shop and Horton becoming an equal partner in the business.

The first franchisee of the Tim Hortons brand was one 21-year-old Spencer Brown who was a bank clerk from Toronto. The restaurant provided caffeine for nearby steelworkers, and the doughnuts were a huge hit. This relationship, however, was short-lived with Brown and Charade not having the best relationship. Brown would choose to sell and move onto other ventures, but Charade’s second franchisee owner also did not have the best of relationships. The third franchisee, and perhaps the most well known, was Hamilton police officer, Ron Joyce, who lived in the area.  Joyce had already been running a franchise of his own in Dairy Queen but was looking for further opportunities after being denied a second Dairy Queen franchise. Yet the relationship between Charade and Joyce would not last and Joyce left a short time afterwards. At some point, with Charade struggling by himself and Horton playing hockey, he would leave Tim Donut LTD. Horton would go on to persuade Joyce to rejoin with the latter purchasing half the company for $12,000 as a condition to re-enter the fold.

On February 21, 1974, Tim Horton would be involved in a high-speed single-vehicle crash that ultimately took his life at the age of 44. Horton had been known to struggle with alcohol, and the autopsy showed that he was under the influence at the time of his death. Joyce would become the majority owner with 50.5 percent of shares in the company after Horton’s death. By 1975, Joyce bought out the rest of the company from Horton’s wife Lori for $1 million becoming the sole owner of the company.

Today the company is owned by Restaurant Brands International and has over 4500 stores across Canada, the United States and the world.