D is for Dominion

When I was growing up, Canada was referred to as a dominion. It achieved that status, rather than as a colony, per the British North America Act of 1867: “Whereas the Provinces of Canada [i.e., Ontario and Quebec], Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom …shall form and be One Dominion under the Name of Canada; and on and after that Day those Three Provinces shall form and be One Dominion under that Name accordingly… Title to the Northwest Territories was transferred by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1868, and the Province of Manitoba was the first created out of it, and the first province created by Ottawa instead of London, in 1870.” Other provinces joined after that point, all without need of the permission of the crown.

Apparently, dominion status end in 1982 “when the British and Canadian parliaments passed parallel acts – the Canada Act, 1982 ([UK] 1982, c.11) in London, and the Constitution Act 1982 in Ottawa. Thereafter, the United Kingdom was formally absolved of any remaining responsibility for, or jurisdiction over, Canada; and Canada became responsible for her own destiny. In a formal ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the Queen signed both acts into law on April 17, 1982.”

But in that period between 1867 and 1982, Canada declared war on its own, in 1939. And subsequent to 1982, “the federal government continues to produce publications and educational materials that specify the currency of these official titles.” So I’m still not 100% clear I understand all of this correctly. (The picture, BTW, is from a 1945 Dominion of Canada $50 Eighth Victory Loan War Bond.)

The other reference to dominion I grew up with came from Genesis 1:28 of the Bible: “And God blessed [ Adam and Eve ] and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (KJV) Some folks seem to focus on the “subdue” part, and find that using up our natural resources is OK, that God has given permission. Others tend to focus on “replenish the earth” and believe that having dominion over the earth means to be a good steward of the earth. When the United Kingdom had dominion over Canada, it meant that it had a responsibility to care for it, not to merely exploit its resources. I’m a “replenish” kind of guy.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10


34 thoughts on “D is for Dominion

  1. An appropriate post in the week that Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her diamond jubilee as dominion refers to an independent country that retains the king or quueen as their head of state. Dominion became synonymouse with federal government.

  2. Long live the Diamond Queen who has reigned 60 years over both Britain and all dominions! Australia is also a dominion isn’t it? Rather complicated.
    Our royalty is not so difficult to understand.
    Have a great week, Roger!
    Wil, ABC Wednesday Team.

  3. Interesting post. Aside from the fact that I didn’t know Canada was a Dominion,as I read the official language, I am amazed at its circumlocution! Lots of words to say what doesn’t appear to be that complicated. My other comment is the Bible story. What is interesting is that there are actually TWO creation stories one with dominion over naming and caring for the animals and one where it is much less clear.

  4. Interesting post. I also remember Canada being referred to as a dominion when I was growing up and into my adulthood too for that matter. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

  5. Oh Roger! You have made me, a Canadian, prouD! I, too, am a “replenish” kind of person but I Do believe it’s okay to use what GoD has proviDeD – in a way that we are still stewarDs of the earth. I have grown up knowing that Queen Elizabeth is our ultimate ruler, albeit a figureheaD. And I congratulate her on her 60 years of reign over so much of the worlD. May she continue to reign for many more years!

    abcw team

  6. It was a smooth transition when Britain relinquished its “Dominion” over Canada, although this was a position enjoyed in name only by the time it actually happened legally. I agree having dominion over something is to respect and care for it … not rob it of resources.

  7. I’m a replenish kinda guy, too, Roger. Thank you for choosing the Dominion of Canada (into which I was born) for the letter D. My good friend Penelope is right, it was a smooth transition because Britain certainly didn’t rule over Canada any more. As you said, Canada chose to declare war in 1939, as a separate nation, but in support of Britain and other countries as well. Canadian forces, so far from home, were quite naturally quartered in Britain before deployment to Europe, however.
    Unfortunately, some of the ambiguities have been the cause of considerable dissension in our otherwise peaceful country. Quebec, although certainly not belonging in any way to France, uses its Frenchness as a reason for wanting to break away from Canada. Albertans make secessionist noises from time to time, too, since the idea became feasible (if not viable) with the discovery of oil. Rumors of BC going it alone also surface occasionally, although no British Columbian (which I am at heart) takes it seriously.
    Great post, Roger. Thanks again.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  8. A good choice for D, Roger. I grew up in the Dominion of Canada, but as others who are Canadians have said, it was a smooth transition when we became an independent country, – it had been more of a partnership for a long time. I have English,Scotch and Irish ancestry, so the UK has always been high in my affections.

  9. Very informative post, Roger. We lived in Canada for 8 years. Our two boys are both Canadians. I will never forget Charles de Gaul and his “Vivre la Quebec libre!” As for Genesis, I’m for replenishing and responsibility. Isn’t ABC Wednesday doing so well?!! Great job everyone is doing.

  10. Roger, I’m NOT into royalty at all. I’m not into America’s seeming domination of everything, either. Reading “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” which doesn’t knock teachers themselves, but the history/social studies textbooks from which they are forced to teach. It’s all ABOUT dominion. Who owns what (or even whom), how to keep Europeans and EuroAmericans in control of the West. If I was Canadian and the Queen showed up, I’d be holding a protest sign!

    Don’t hold back, Amy, tell us how you really feel!! (Feel the same about our Congress these days, both parties…) Thanks for a great post. Missed you. Amy http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/emotional-dyslexic/

  11. Dominion over the earth (Genesis) was in my mind as I clicked my way to your post. It’s probably the only reference I know of the word. Until I arrived here and found Canada is too.

  12. Didn’t know the Hudson’s Bay Company got the NW Territories when dominion status came along. Interestingly, it was 1867 when my French Canadian relatives immigrated to the US. According to a distant cousin, many left Quebec in those years because the government restricted the amount of land they could buy. Have not verified this independently.
    Thanks, Roger, for once more sending off searching for more info!
    ABC Team

  13. I didn’t notice any reference to how “Dominion” was chosen as the word to describe the new state formed at Union in 1867. It’s an interesting tale.

    In the London Conference in December 1866, the Fathers of Confederation were busy putting the content of the 72 Quebec Resolutions from 1865 into the shape of a bill to be introduced into the House of Commons in London by Lord Carnarvon. There were various suggestions for the name of the country — Albionora, Hochelaga, Hesperia, Tuponia and more — but as we know, the name of the largest existing province, Canada, was chosen to apply to the whole country.

    The “rank” or title of the country was also an important consideration. In the Quebec Resolutions, it was specified that the Queen would determine the “rank” of the country to be formed by the union of the three British North American provinces, but of course, the time was long gone when the monarch actually made a decision on her own account. It was for her ministers to “advise” her and she, as now, would come to the exact same decision as they had instructed her to make: all that remained was “where do I sign, Dizzy? (That was her nickname for Benjamin Disraeli, British PM at the time).

    Various names were tried out, and you can see them in the various drafts of the BNA Bill that were completed in January of 1867 before the final version was tabled in the Commons at Westminster Palace. United Provinces, Federated Provinces and the like all seemed uninspiring and didn’t express the shared ambition of all the “Fathers of Confederation”. As George-Étienne Cartier (who had been pushing for a new federal union since the late 1850s) put it in 1865, they hoped to create “a new political nationality independent of the religious or national origins of individuals”, one that would potentially become greater than Britain itself. John A. Macdonald (not yet knighted) preferred “Kingdom” to express that vision for the future, but the colonial office were nervous about the reaction of the Americans, heavily armed after their just-finished war against the southern secessionists, who the British side (including those in North America) had shown sympathy toward. They let it be known that “Kingdom” was not on.

    At that time, Samuel Leonard Tilley, a New Brunswick delegate, happened in his daily morning devotions and Bible reading, to select Psalm 72, which contains in one of its verses, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the Earth”. The verse was written from the perspective of an inhabitant of the Fertile Crescent, so the two seas were the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, the river was the Tigris and the ends of the Earth was way out in Siberia and eastern Asia. But for a man preoccupied with founding a new great nation in North America, the seas were the Atlantic and Pacific, the river was the Saint Lawrence, and the ends of the Earth were the far northwest and the Arctic Ocean.

    The verse described the hoped-for future extent of the new country’s territory, but the word that struck him most was “dominion”. What else did that mean but the undivided power of a single ruler, in other words full sovereignty over a territory? The same idea as “kingdom” but even more poetic and evocative.

    When he arrived at the conference that morning, he proposed the title to the other delegates, to their unanimous acclaim. And that is how Canada came to be “One Dominion under the Crown of Great Britain and Ireland”, as the preamble to the 1867 Act of Union put it (and as Part II also put it, after Union the original three provinces would “form and be One Dominion”).

    The word came to be extended later as a specific “status” to other overseas provinces moving beyond colonial status toward self-government and quasi-sovereignty, but Tilley’s original coinage was a proud assertion of the country’s sense of its own autonomy and sovereignty over half a continent, and its existence as a single nation with the Crown as its symbol.

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