Conquest and Rebellion: The Road to French Canada’s Participation in Canadian Confederation through the lens of La Survivance

by Sarah Spear in collaboration with Clare Burgham

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The decision by conservative French Canadian politicians to join Canadian Confederation and participate in the Confederation debates of 1864- 1867 was made in an effort to preserve and protect a unique French Canadian nation and identity. This national identity grew in part as a reaction to British colonial rule after the Conquest of 1763. Continuous attempts by English governance at assimilating and anglicizing the French Canadian population strengthened the nationalist idea of “la survivance”- the cultural survival of French Canadian language, religion and institutions. Notions of national preservation and survival changed from a radical ideology by the rebellious Parti canadien/Patriotes against assimilation throughout the Rebellions of 1837- 1838 and consequences of the Lord Durham Report, to one of a conservative protection of cultural and institutional rights in the entrance and acceptance of Canadian Confederation by the Parti bleu.


Conquest, La survivance, Patriotes, Rebellions, Lord Durham Report, Parti bleu, Parti rouge, Act of Union, Confederation


Sarah Spear is a doctoral candidate in the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University, with an MA in Women’s Studies from Simon Fraser University. She is interested in the varied historical manifestations of Canadian nationalism in French and English Canada and their intersections with politics, religion and gender. Her primary research interrogates the political, religious, and gendered discourses and ideologies of women suffragists in Ontario and Quebec at the turn of the twentieth century.

Clare Burgham, born in Ottawa (Ontario), is in her final year of studies at Carleton University. Majoring in Canadian Studies and History, a combined honours, she enjoys studying Canadian and European history and immigration policies.

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