Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is The Confederation Debates?

A: The Confederation Debates was a multi-university Canada 150 project that crowdsourced the transcrpition and dissemination of Canada's founding parliamentary and Indigenous discussions. You can learn more about the project here.

Q: When I think of "Confederation," I think of John A. Macdonald, George Cartier, George Brown, and Maritime leaders like Leonard Tilley. Are Indigenous leaders really part of Confederation?

A: Confederation was a long process, spanning from the 1860s, through to 1999 and the creation of Nunavut. It is now widely acknowledged that our country was founded by at least “three founding Peoples.” The Confederation Debates embraces this important shift by recognizing that Indigenous Peoples were and continue to be “partners in Confederation,” as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples insisted.

Q: How do I cite a document I found on The Confederation Debates website?

A: There are many citation styles but, for example, this page would be cited as follows:

Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 9 February 1865, The Confederation Debates, (accessed 5 October 2017).

Q: Can I download The Confederation Debate's entire dataset to do text analysis?

A: Yes! It can be downloaded here. Please feel free to branch the repo and upload improvements.

Q: How do I find Confederation politicians and Indigenous leaders from my area?

A: Go to our landing page, type in your postal code, and click on the icons located near your neighbourhood.

Q: Why don't your records include content from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut?

A: It was beyond the resources of this project to reproduce the records of each province and territory's establishment. We hope to eventually expand The Confederation Debates to include these records.

Q: Why are many of the project's records only available in English?

A: The Confederation Debates team did its best to bring our country's founding records to Canadians in both official langauges. Visitors to this site may find the following notes helpful:

  • Many legislatures were officially unilingual when debating Confederation. Despite its large Acadian population, for example, New Brunswick's politicians only debated in English during the 1860s, so no French edition of these records currently exists.
  • The project's first priority was transcribing the French-language edition pf the Quebec-Ontario debates. Our volunteers devoted nearly one-year to these records, and were consequently unable to also transcribe the French-language editions of the House of Commons debates.
  • The Manitoba government graciously provided us with their English and French transcriptions of the Convention of 40 and the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia's debates concerning Confederation.

Q: What do the nodes on the project's landing page map mean? How were they determined?

A: The nodes on the project's landing page map are the approximate centre points of federal and provincial ridings, meeting or signing locations for treaties between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown, or the location of legislatures where witnesses testified. Each node was plotted by a team of four volunteers from across the country who consulted dozens of historical maps and written descriptions.

Q: I'm finding some typos in the transcribed documents.

A: The Confederation Debates crowdsourced the transcription and proofreading of nearly all of the records preserved on this website. Each page went through an additional checking process prior to being posted to the web, but the project's finite resources limited the time we could devote to each page. If you want to report a typo, please send the link, original text, and corrected text to Daniel Heidt.

Q: The Confederation Debates only mentions men. What about Canada's women?

A: Women payed important roles in Confederation, but almost none sat in the various federal, territorial and colonial legislatures that debated the terms of union. One of the rare exceptions was Gladys Strum, who briefly spoke in 1948 during the House of Commons' debates on Newfoundland joining Confederation. To learn more about how women influenced Confederation and Canadian politics, we recommend consulting the following sources:

Q: I have other questions. Who can I contact?

A: Email Daniel Heidt, The Confederation Debate's project manager.