Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, played host to the first meeting to discuss uniting British North American colonies in 1864 but decided to remain a separate British colony rather than join Canada in 1867. PEI finally entered Canada on July 1, 1873.
The British North America Act was the generic name given to any Act that amended Canada's original constitution, the British North America Act, 1867. The final two British North America Acts were passed in 1975 and dealt with increasing the number of federal representatives for the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Because the Canadian Constitution was an Act of the British Parliament any changes had to be approved by that body. In 1949 Canada did receive the right to make some changes to the British North America Act, 1867 without approval from London, but it wasn't until the Constitution Act, 1982 was passed that Canadians had control of amending their own founding document.
In 1871 Canada expanded by adding Rupert's Land (formerly controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company) and the North-West Territory (which included most of today's Yukon, Northwest and Nunavut Territories and large parts of Northern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan). The same act also recognized the Province of Manitoba which had been created the previous year.
In a March 11, 1948 referendum Newfoundland and Labrador asked its citizens if they would prefer to retain the current unelected Commission of Government, revert to Dominion status, or to join Canada. In the first round of voting 44.5 percent wanted to go back to being a Dominion, 41.1 percent voted to join Canada and 14.3 percent wanted to retain the Commission of Government. A second referendum was held on July 22, 1948 to decide between Confederation and Dominion status in which 52 percent voted to join Canada which the province did on March 31, 1949.
When the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were created, the federal government retained all the rights to the natural resources within provincial boundaries. However, under the BNA Act natural resources were under provincial jurisdiction, and British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia had rights that the three other provinces did not. It wasn't until 1930 that this was changed to give the prairie provinces the control of their natural resources.
Canadian activists began the fight for women's suffrage at the provincial level, and were successful in several provinces, most notably Manitoba in 1916 where the brilliant speaker Nellie McClung had led the campaign. In Ottawa, a reluctant government granted the right to vote in federal elections to a select group of women (those in the armed forces and relatives of military men) in 1917 and then to all female citizens over the age of 21 in May 1918. American women won the right to vote two years later. In the UK, women did not receive the vote on equal terms to men until 1928.
Authors of the 1867 British North America Act weren't much concerned with gender issues. When they were designing the new Canadian Senate, they wrote that only "qualified persons" had the right to be called to the senate. However, a British court had ruled that women were "persons in matters of pains and penalties, but not persons in matters of rights and privileges," which effectively ruled out female senators. Five women in Alberta (Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards) decided to challenge in the courts such obvious discrimination. The Famous Five had to pursue their case right to the Privy Council in Westminster, Canada's court of last resort in those days. In October 1929, the British lord chancellor announced that "the word 'persons' includes members of the male and female sex." Finally, women were entitled by law to rights and privileges, including the right to sit in the senate.
Dawson City, 280 kilometers below the Arctic Circle, did not even exist in 1896. Then, in August that year, gold was discovered nearby: the great Yukon Gold Rush began and Dawson City was born. By 1898 over 35,000 people were living in the newly-created town at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers. Dawson was the largest Canadian town west of Winnipeg. Half a continent away, in Ottawa, the federal government realized it had to bring "peace, order and good government" to this cowboy town dedicated to whiskey, women and wealth. In June 1898, Yukon was made a separate territory with Dawson as its capital and a force of Mounties to enforce the law. But once the Gold Rush was over, Dawson shrank. In 1953, Whitehorse, 530 km further south, took over as the territory's capital.
All the other statues on Parliament Hill depict their subjects as loners on pedestals (or, in Queen Elizabeth's case, on a horse and a pedestal.) The statue of the Famous Five women who won the 1929 Person's Case, which re-interpreted the British North America Act to allow women more rights, is the only group statue on the hill. Sculptor Barbara Paterson modelled Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards at the thrilling moment when they heard that the Privy Council Office in London had declared that women are persons. Nellie McClung, the most famous of the five, would have approved of the statue: she liked to point out that women's political successes were always the result of collective efforts. And visitors to Parliament Hill consistently rate this statue their favourite, because it includes an empty chair on which they are welcome to sit.
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