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Québec History
Civilisation Occidentale
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[For the source of this document, see the end of the text.]

The dream has taken solid shape. The vision of those who planned the Canadian future has materialized at long last. Saturday, the act of union, predicted in the imagination and hope of Canada 's founding fathers 81 years ago, was consummated at Ottawa with the signing of the terms of Confederation by a Newfoundland delegation. December 11, 1948 , thus takes its place among the memorable dates of Canadian history.


Even in an age calloused to great events by a constant drum beat of trivialities, this act of union cannot be shrugged off or dismissed as of no consequence. It is of consequence and before we became as we are, undemonstrative and phlegmatic about such things, it would have been greeted with guns and celebrations the length of the country. For it means far more than the addition of some territory and new population, it is the completion of the Canadian pattern as it was foreseen many years ago and which the accidents of history delayed for more than eight decades.


The reasons for the first union with its binding ties of the British tradition, its sense of destiny, economic and historic, its sense of continent and its fear of the United States had o nly little part in the events which culminated a few hours ago. Newfoundland had come close to union before. Twice in its history, it seemed as though confederation was due to embrace the long Atlantic sea line. Once, the people of Newfoundland turned it down; on the second occasion, the indifference of a busy Canada sent the Newfoundland delegates back home empty handed.

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Now the third attempt has been successful. This is not the time to draw up a balance sheet and show who made profit out of the deal or who lost in dollars from it. The final settlement of confederation is more than a bank balance established by close bargaining. It is rather an occasion for sentiment and congratulation.

"Half a continent is ours," said Galt, "if we have but the courage to take up the burden." "Some people," said Cartier, are afraid of union because our Federation will embrace Catholic and Protestant, English, French, Irish, and Scottish." That is no drawback. It is a benefit rather than otherwise that we have a diversity of race and religion. Each will contribute to the prosperity and glory of the new Confederacy."

"I see," said McGee, "in the not remote future one great nationality bound; like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of the ocean. I see it quartered into many communities, each disposing of its internal affairs bound together by free institutions, free intercourse and free commerce. I see a generation of industrious contented moral men, free in name and in fact - men capable of maintaining, in peace and in war, a constitution worthy of such a country."

McGee's shield is complete today. His great nationality is bound by "the blue rim of ocean". His many communities are tied by "free institutions, free intercourse and free com merce." His generation of industrious men have shown themselves twice in a quarter of a century capable of a constitution worthy of such a country against enemies the strength of which even he did not foresee.

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"Making one political body out of two is among the most difficult of human tasks", wrote Professor Lower in Colony to Nation. There will be difficulties, there will be disagreements and strains between the new province and the Canadian whole, as there are still between the old partners of the union. But these, important as they are necessary as it is that there be equitable solution of them, have shown in times of danger and real difficulty to be subordinate to the life of the country


Newfoundland does not betray its history or sacrifice its independence through this act of union. Rather it adds to the one and ensures the other. In union there is strength, here as well as to the south. This is a memorable occasion both for the new and the old of this country. A friendship which never was the friendship of one foreign country for another or even that of a dominion for its parent nation but something very special, is ensured of a continuity for as long as both shall last. It is a great day.


Source: Winnipeg Free Press, December 13, 1948 , p. A17. Article transcribed by Jonathan Kusek. Revision by Claude Bélanger.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College