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Topic – Sir John A. Macdonald

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Sir John A. Macdonald

Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, had worked hard to bring the country together. He dreamed of a nation stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean—and he made his dream come true.

Sir John A. Macdonald, 1858

From Scotland to Canada

Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1815. When he was just five years old, his family moved to Upper Canada, known today as Ontario. Macdonald became a lawyer when he grew up. People liked him because he had a good sense of humour and a remarkable ability to remember their names.

Life in Politics

In 1843, Macdonald entered politics. By the 1860s, the colonies (now provinces) in what is today Canada knew it was time for change. The United States was threatening to take them over. As well, the colonies were not growing and developing. One reason was because transportation between the colonies was not very good.

“The Fathers of Confederation”, Robert Harris, 1884

The colonies began to think about banding together to become more successful and stronger. Macdonald thought this was a very good idea. He worked hard to make people see how important it was for the colonies to become one country. Macdonald and the other 35 men involved in the union became known as the Fathers of Confederation.


On July 1, 1867, the new country of Canada was formed. It consisted of only the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec (formerly Lower Canada). But Macdonald was convinced it could grow and prosper. Because he had worked so hard to bring about Confederation, Macdonald was named the new country’s first prime minister.

Canadian Pacific Railway, 1895

As time went by, more of the colonies joined Canada and the country kept growing. For example, British Columbia joined in 1871, after Macdonald promised to build a railway to the Pacific to link the country.

In 1885, the railway was completed. The next year, Macdonald and his wife, Lady Agnes, rode the train to the Pacific. When they rode through Kicking Horse Pass in British Columbia, the couple sat out on the front of the train! Macdonald was 71 years old at the time.

Parks and Mounties

Northwest Mounted Police, Calgary, 1901

Macdonald brought many other changes to Canada. In 1873, he set up the North-West Mounted Police, which would later become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 1885, he also set up the country’s first national park in Banff, Alberta.

Macdonald died in 1891. He was prime minister of Canada for 19 years. Only one other prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, has been prime minister longer.

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