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Provinces and Territories

Key Terms

Clause 15

Clause 15 was voted on in the British Columbia legislature during the Great Confederation Debate of 1870. During that debate the colonial legislature, dominated by non-elected officials, decided on the terms that would be taken to Ottawa to negotiate union. Clause 15 read:

The constitution of the Executive authority and of the Legislature of British Columbia shall, subject to The British North America Act, 1867, continue as existing at the time of Union, until altered under the authority of said Act.

In effect, the clause stated that British Columbia could continue without responsible government institutions even after union with Canada. The clause faced stiff resistance from reformers like Amor De Cosmos who hinted at rebellion if it was passed. Despite such opposition, the clause was adopted unchanged by the legislature.

In Ottawa, Canadian negotiators at first seemed willing to accept Clause 15. During the course of the union negotiations, however, the Canadians changed their minds. The British Columbia government relented, and a fully elected provincial legislature was introduced to the west coast province shortly after it joined Confederation in 1871.


Shelton, George.  --  British Columbia and Confederation.  --  Victoria : Morriss Printing Co. Ltd., 1967.

Woodcock, George.  --  British Columbia : a history of the province.  --  Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 1990.