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Join the debate: Confederation and its consequences

Monday, March 13, 2017

A great debate is happening inside the Library; or, at least, with the help of the Library.

The Confederation Debates is a legacy project in tandem with Canada’s 150th birthday. Supported by universities across the country, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Crabtree Foundation, the project aims to continue the conversation around what makes Canada and how it came to be.

Many of the political debates that take place now across Canada are not new; they have been ongoing since before Canada existed. Before each province and territory became a part of Canada, their legislatures debated any political union. These debates and the Numbered Treaties the British Crown negotiated with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples are equally important to Canada’s founding, yet, as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee recently explained, “too many Canadians still do not know the history of Indigenous peoples’ contributions to Canada, or understand that - by virtue of the historical and modern Treaties negotiated by our government - we are all Treaty people.”

As the project states of its purpose:By bringing together these diverse colonial, federal, and Indigenous texts for the first time, the project will increase political awareness of historical grievances and contribute to reconciliation.”

With the project nucleus within St. Jerome’s Centre on Foreign Policy and Federalism (CFPF), University of Waterloo Library is playing a critical role in compiling these records of confederation.

Using the high-resolution scanner available in Special Collections & Archives, Confederation Debates research assistants began scanning Yukon sessional papers and British Columbia Legislative Council debates to add to the database. Project Manager, Dr. Daniel Heidt, also cites the Library’s access to Early Canadiana as the doorway to building a partnership with that organization, and has credited the Library’s collection of House of Commons Debates (Hansard) with filling in some gaps in already-digitized records.

Assistant browsing books

In celebration of this project, Canada’s birthday and University of Waterloo’s 60th anniversary, the Library is hosting the event Conflicts and agreements: Canada’s foundations and their consequences. This panel discussion will examine the major political agreements, battles and conflicting visions that surrounded each province’s entry into Confederation between 1865 and 1949. Along the way, they will discuss the success and failure of these many visions, describe how they shaped present-day politics, and evaluate whether - and how - we should celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

In addition to attending this free public lecture, you can continue to participate in the discussion via this interactive project. Volunteers - ranging from interested retirees to high school students earning their volunteer hours – can review the scanned document transcriptions for accuracy in the comfort of their own home; a necessary piece to making this puzzle searchable and accessible by anyone online. While perusing these documents, volunteers often find amusing snippets used to generate a Quote of the Day, like this one:

Quote of the day

Join the debate, Friday March 31 at 7pm in STC 0010.  Refreshments and displays will be available at 6:15pm.

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