Tracing national roots with a stop in Quebec

Canada Post’s tribute to the path of Confederation continues, with a commemorative envelope to celebrate the Quebec Conference.

Along with the Charlottetown Conference envelope issued this past September, it continues the story of the first steps in the foundation of our country, through archival photographs, art and documents.

The envelope showcases a photograph of the conference delegates present at the Quebec Conference.

“On Oct. 10, we celebrate the 1864 Quebec Conference, reliving a key moment in the creation of Canada,” says Jim Phillips, director of Stamp Services at Canada Post.

In the fall of 1864, delegates met twice with the ambitious goal of uniting the British North American colonies. The second conference, held in Quebec, resolved many of the complex challenges raised during lively discussions in Charlottetown.

Delegates represented the Province of Canada (roughly present-day Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

From Oct. 10 on, Quebec Conference delegates debated and eventually approved 72 principles that still largely define Canada today. The creation of these Quebec Resolutions was guided by a determined Sir John A. Macdonald, who later drafted the British North America Act during the final round of debate in London, England in 1866-67.

A major source of disagreement was the issue of provincial rights. Macdonald favoured a strong central government, while delegates from outside of Ontario wanted strong provincial rights.

The result was a compromise that divided authorities and responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments.

The decision was not a given, as opposition to union was strong in some regions, most notably in the Maritimes, where anti-Confederation parties existed and even ran candidates in the 1867 federal election.

In that election, the Anti-Confederate party of Nova Scotia won 18 out of 19 possible seats. They also formed the provincial government the same year on a policy of seceding from Canada.

The conference also saw delegates reach consensus on the form of government for Canada, with a constitutional monarchy, an elected House of Commons, and appointed Senate.

Isabelle Toussaint designed the Quebec Conference commemorative envelope, of which 8,000 were printed by Lowe-Martin Group. It measures 170 mm by 115 mm, slightly smaller than an official first-day cover. The envelope is cancelled in Quebec.

Among the famous Canadians participating were George Brown, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, George-Etienne Cartier, and Charles Tupper.

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