For Fathers of Confederation such as Thomas D’Arcy McGEE, Hector-Louis LANGEVIN, and George-Étienne CARTIER, the protection of minority rights in the new nation was a crucial concern [see Education, Religion, and Minority Rights]. The subject was discussed at the Quebec conference in 1864:
“McGee introduced the resolution which called for a guarantee of the educational rights of religious minorities in the two Canadas.”
Langevin was an ardent supporter of the cause:
“For him, the objectives of confederation were clear and noble: to defend the general interests of a great country and powerful nation by means of a strong central power, which must protect the rights of the different ethnic groups.”
Cartier had similar ideas:
“[He] wanted a Quebec that was master of its destiny in the matter of education, common law, and local institutions. Furthermore, he endeavoured to protect the religious rather than linguistic rights of the minorities in other provinces. One may even wonder whether Cartier believed in a veritable Canadian duality which would allow French speaking Canadians to enjoy their rights fully throughout the country from the point of view both of education and of the use of their language.”
John A. MACDONALD, however, saw things rather differently:
“He envisaged a Canada with one government and, as nearly as possible, one homogenous population sharing common institutions and characteristics.”
To what extent did confederation live up to the hopes and expectations of men such as McGee, Langevin, and Cartier? This section examines Canada’s treatment of religious, linguistic, or ethnic minority groups, aboriginals, and the people who were designated “enemy aliens” during the First World War.
For more information on minority rights as envisioned by the Fathers of Confederation, please consult the following biographies.