The 36 men traditionally regarded as the Fathers of Confederation were those who represented British North American colonies at one or more of the conferences that lead to Confederation on 1 July 1867, including the Charlottetown Conference (September 1864), the Québec Conference (October 1864) and the London Conference (1866–67).
Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the dominant creative mind which produced the British North America Act and the union of provinces which became Canada. As the first prime minister of Canada, he oversaw the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea. His government dominated politics for a half century and set policy goals for future generations of political leaders.
In a country that frowns upon self-promotion, Canadians prefer modest heroes. This is true even when a hero’s fame lives on long after him, touches millions of people beyond the country’s borders and when his accomplishment has resulted in almost $700 million being raised for an important cause.
Ezekiel (Ezechiel) Hart, businessman, seigneur, militia officer, politician (born 15 May 1770 in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada [Québec]; died 16 September 1843 in Trois-Rivières). A respected businessman and militia officer, Ezekiel Hart was the first Jewish person to be elected to public office in the British Empire. However, though he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in 1807 and again 1808, he was expelled both times due to the argument that, as a Jew, he was unable to take the (Christian) oath of office. His sons played an important role in the Emancipation Act of 1832, which gave full political and civil rights to Jewish citizens of Lower Canada — about 25 years before the United Kingdom itself.
George Brown played an instrumental role in establishing Confederation. As leader of the Clear Grits (forerunner of the Liberal Party) in Canada West, he set aside political differences and allied with his Conservative rivals John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier in 1864, with whom he pitched Confederation to the Atlantic colonies at the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences. From 3 February to 13 March 1865, politicians in the Province of Canada debated the terms of Confederation, offering some of the most compelling defences and critiques of the union of British North American colonies. In the following speech, delivered before the legislature of the Province of Canada on 8 February 1865, Brown explains his reasons for supporting Confederation.
Mathieu Da Costa (depending on the language of the documents that mention his name, also known as “Mateus Da Costa,” “Mathieu de Coste,” “Matheus de Cost” and “een Swart genamd Matheu”), interpreter (dates and places of birth and death unknown). Da Costa is one of the most fascinating and elusive figures in the early history of Canada. Historians consider him the first Black person known to have visited Canada, probably in the company of Pierre Dugua de Mons and Samuel de Champlain. But many aspects of his life remain unclear or unknown.
On 9 October 1867, in Spotted Island Harbour, Labrador, Captain William Jackman secured his vessel ahead of a vicious storm and went ashore to visit his old friend, John Holwell. Before the day ended, events transpired that earned Jackman a place in Newfoundland history — and legend.
John Graves Simcoe, army officer, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada (born 25 February 1752 in Cotterstock, Britain; died 26 October 1806 in Exeter, Britain). Simcoe served as an officer with the British army in the American Revolutionary War, but is best known to Canadians as the first lieutenant-governor of the new British colony of Upper Canada, which later became Ontario.1
Augustin-Norbert Morin, editor, lawyer, judge, politician, Patriote (born 13 October 1803 in Saint-Michel, Lower Canada; died 27 July 1865, Sainte-Adèle-de-Terrebonne, Canada East). Augustin-Norbert Morin studied law before he became one of the most important members of the Patriote movement; he founded La Minerve, drafted the 92 Resolutions, and acted as Louis-Joseph Papineau’s lieutenant in Québec City. After the rebellion, he was one of La Fontaine’s Reformers and on two occasions, first with Francis Hincks and then Allan Napier MacNab, led the government of the Province of Canada. Between 1859 and his death in 1865, he worked on the creation of the 1866 Civil Code of Lower Canada.
The 36 men traditionally regarded as the Fathers of Confederation were those who represented British North American colonies at one or more of the conferences that led to Confederation on 1 July 1867, including the Charlottetown Conference (September 1864), the Québec Conference (October 1864) and the London Conference (1866–67).1
Margret Benedictsson (née Jonsdottir), journalist, social activist, suffragist (born 16 March 1866 in Hrappsstadir, Iceland; died 13 December 1956 in Anacortes, Washington). Benedictsson brought her deeply held beliefs and interest in social change to Manitoba. Through her service to the Icelandic communities in Selkirk, Gimli, and Winnipeg, she championed women’s suffrage, education, improved working conditions, and human rights.