M984.306.169 | The Situation

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The Situation
Anonyme - Anonymous
January 29,1870, 19th century
Ink on paper - Photolithography
40.5 x 28.3 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , politics (general) (2228) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

In the years following Confederation (1867), Canada planned to expand its territory westward and northward. It became imperative for Canada to establish its borders, to confront the threat of U.S. expansion. In 1870 Canada took possession of a fifth province located in the heart of the country, Manitoba, as well as the North-West Territories. Until then Manitoba and the North-West Territories had been part of Rupert's Land (comprising part of present-day northern Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and all of Manitoba).

In 1869 Canada began negotiations to take over Rupert's Land, managed since 1836 by the Hudson's Bay Company, without the consent of the people living there. Many Métis (of mixed Aboriginal and European descent) lived in the Red River Colony, more than half of whom spoke French. The other colonists were Anglophones. Fearing for their property and cultural rights, the Métis, led by Louis Riel (1844-1885) rebelled in 1869 in an attempt to force Canada to listen to their demands. Finally, in January 1870, Canada negotiated with Riel's provisionary government the conditions of Manitoba's entry in to Confederation.

This cartoon, published during these negotiations, in January 1870, shows a Miss Winnie Peg hesitating over the annexation of her territory to Canada. Miss Canada holds out her arms in greeting, while Brother Jonathan (the United States) looks on with interest, suggesting that the Americans hoped to acquire the territory in the place of Canada. At the time, people on both sides of the border were hoping to take advantage of the Red River Rebellion to help the United States take over the western territories.

  • What

    The cartoon illustrates the uncertainty surrounding Canada's acquisition of Rupert's Land. The fact that the people of the Red River Colony were not consulted sparked the Red River Rebellion.

  • Where

    Winnipeg, which in 1870 was just a small town, was part of the Red River Colony.

  • When

    This cartoon appeared in the weekly the Canadian Illustrated News on January 29, 1870. The governments of Great Britain and Canada had set the previous December 1 as the date for the transfer of Rupert's Land, but Canada did not take possession until July 1870.

  • Who

    This fictional scene brings together Miss Winnie Peg (centre), a character representing the Red River Colony, Brother Jonathan, personifying the United States, and Miss Canada, symbolizing this country.