From 1840 until 1867, Ontario (Canada West) and Quebec (Canada East) were joined together as one
colony under the union of the Canadas. Although Francophones in the colony outnumbered the
English speakers, the colonial office in London gave equal representation to both groups in the
Legislative Assembly and made English the official language of all parliamentary documents. As a
result, the imbalanced power structure led to the eventual political deadlock of the
Although the concept had been discussed for some time, the continued deadlock and feared American
aggression allowed for a movement toward federation of Britain's North American colonies. In 1867
the Canadas joined with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Confederation.
In 1869 when
the Dominion purchased and began settling the northwest,
Francophones, including the Métis, were
second only to the First Nations in terms of population in the region. Given this
scenario it was highly plausible that the West could have become a Francophone stronghold in Canada.
However, by the
1880s Francophones in the
West were already greatly outnumbered by English-speakers.
Rather than emigrate to the far-off Canadian West where the land had not yet been broken and
there were few amenities and no obvious industry, most departing
Francophones went to New England where
work was readily available and they were close to home. In Alberta, in addition to recruiting a small
number of immigrants from Quebec, the French Roman Catholic clergy was successful in recruiting
several thousand Francophones from the United States, Belgium and France. However, the massive
influx of Anglophone settlers, combined with events such as the failure of the Riel Rebellion and the
elimination of official French language rights in the Northwest Territories, paved the way for
a predominantly English-speaking Alberta.
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.