Province of Canada

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Note: for information about Canada's present-day provinces, see Provinces of Canada.

The United Province of Canada was a British colony in North America, created by the fusion of the Canadas into one province by the Act of Union (1840). The former Lower Canada became known as Canada East and Upper Canada as Canada West.

The first capital was Kingston (Canada West). After 1843 the capital alternated between Toronto and Montreal, then finally was moved to Ottawa after 1858 where parliament buildings were constructed in 1865.

In response to the rebellions of 1837, one of the chief purposes of the union was to assimilate French Canadians into British culture. The union notably failed to do this.

As both Canada East and Canada West each held 42 seats in the Legislative Assembly, there was legislative deadlock between English and French. Initially, the French had the population majority, and demanded "rep-by-pop" ... representation by population, opposed by the English. Once the English population, rapidly growing due to immigration, exceeded the French, the English demanded rep-by-pop. In the end, the legislative deadlock between English and French led to a movement for a federal union which resulted in the broader Canadian Confederation in 1867.

Amongst its accomplishments, the Province of Canada negotiated the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 with the United States, built the Grand Trunk Railway, improved the educational system in Canada West under Egerton Ryerson, reinstated French as an official language of the legislature and the courts, codified the Civil Code of Lower Canada in 1866, and abolished the seigneurial system in Canada East.

The Governor General of the province was closely involved in political affairs until 1848 when James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin implemented responsible government.

Originally, local government in Canada West operated mainly at the district level, until 1849, when a system based on counties was introduced. In 1841, elected district councils were introduced; prior to that time, district officials were appointed by the lieutenant-governor.

The Province of Canada ceased to exist upon Confederation, when it joined with the British North American colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada. The Province of Canada then redivided into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec providing each linguistic group with its own province.


Year Population (Lower) Canada East Population (Upper) Canada West
1841 n/a 455,688
1844 697,084 n/a
1848 765,797-786,693 estimates 725,879
1851-52 890,261 952,004
1860-61 1,111,566 1,396,091
  • Source: Statistics Canada website Censuses of Canada 1665 to 1871.

See also

fr:Province du Canada pl:Prowincja Kanady (kolonia brytyjska w Ameryce Północnej) zh:加拿大省