British Empire
The end of the British empire - the Dominions
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Extracts from the British North America Act, 1867
(Catalogue ref: Co 44/115)
  • This extract comes from the British North America Act of 1867.
  • The Act effectively made Canada a Dominion of the British empire. This meant that Queen Victoria was still Canada's queen and that Canada was part of the British empire. There was a British Governor General in Canada who had a lot of power and influence. The Governor General decided on important issues involving foreign policy, helped to sort out disputes between the Provinces, and had to give the final approval to any laws passed by the Canadian Parliament.
  • However, the Act meant that Canada was now ruling itself. It had its own Parliament and Constitution. The Canadian Parliament could also overrule or limit the powers of the Governor General.
  • The British ruled much of North America from the 1770s. Between 1776-83 they lost control of their colonies on the east coast of what is now the USA in the American War of Independence. However, they still kept control of British North America.
  • Throughout the 1800s British North America expanded its territories. By the 1860s the people of the territory wanted to rule themselves and the British North America Act made this possible.
  • The provinces of British North America became a federation, which was the foundation of present day Canada.
  • There was little struggle or resistance to British rule in Canada and the handover of power was peaceful. However, in general terms the Native Americans did less well out of self-rule than the settlers. Many Native Americans lost out in land settlements and later in the nineteenth century they lost the right to vote.
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