Sir John A. Macdonald was the chief architect of modern Canada. In his youth, British North
America was a patchwork of separate colonies; by the time of his death, Canada stretched from
sea to sea. Shrewd and charismatic, Macdonald persuaded New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to join
Québec and Ontario in forming Confederation in 1867. He was the main author of the young
country's constitution and its first Prime Minister.
Macdonald devoted his later career to expanding the country, tying it together with a
transcontinental railway, and populating it with white settlers. To these ends, his government
implemented policies designed to displace, control, and assimilate Indigenous people while also
working to prevent Asians from immigrating and voting. These policies and their legacies have
made Macdonald a deeply controversial figure.
If we wish to
form... a great nationality, commanding the respect of the world, able to hold our own against all
opponents, and to defend those institutions we prize... this can only be obtained by a union of some kind
between the scattered and weak boundaries composing the British North American Provinces.
John A. Macdonald, 1865
I have reason
to believe that the agents as a whole... are doing all they can, by refusing food until the Indians are on
the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense.
Sir John A. Macdonald, 1882