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Canadian History for Kids: George-Etienne Cartier

May 12, 1870 – George-Etienne Cartier sees his Manitoba Act given Royal Assent.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive, looks at an amazing Canadian, George-Etienne Cartier.

As a lawyer, politician, prime minister of the Province of Canada, a possible descendant of Jacques Cartier, and a father of Confederation, George Cartier is one of the most influential and important early politicians in the history of Canada.

George-Étienne Cartier was born on September 6, 1814 in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Lower Canada (Quebec). Cartier was educated and was called to the bar in 1835 where he began to practise law.

It was then that he became friendly with the patriot Jean Louis Papineau and joined Papineau’s unsuccessful revolt. It failed and Cartier fled into exile. However, by 1848, he was back and was elected to the Canadian (now Quebec and Ontario) Parliament. From 1858 to 1862 he was joint Prime Minister of the Province of Canada with Sir John A. Macdonald and they remained close associates for the rest of Cartier’s life.

Cartier was a loyal friend of Macdonald, with whom he created the Great Coalition with George Brown in 1864. The purpose of the Great Coalition was to end the political shakiness in the province, which had six governments in six years.

The Great Coalition was one of the first steps in the movement towards Confederation. He attended all three of the conferences organized for this purpose: Charlottetown, Quebec, and London. Cartier was mostly responsible for gaining French-Canadian support for union.

Upon the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, Macdonald became Prime Minister and Cartier was his Minister of Militia and Defence.

Cartier’s accomplishments included ensuring the choice of Ottawa as the national capital and reconciling the majority of French Canada to Confederation on the grounds that it made possible the re-establishment of the old Province of Québec.

He negotiated in London for the transfer of the HBC territory of RUPERT’S LAND to the Dominion. While acting Prime Minister during Macdonald’s illnesses and after personal meetings with provincial delegations, he played the primary role in drafting the Manitoba and British Columbia Acts.

In 1871, Cartier experienced the first symptom of Bright’s Disease, a kidney disease. After the 1872 election, Cartier traveled to London hoping to find a cure. His health did not improve and he died in London on May 20, 1873 at the age of 58. He was unable to pay a visit to his Manitoba riding where he was acclaimed a Member of Parliament. His body was brought back to Canada, and interred in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montreal, following a public funeral procession.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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