Why Did British Columbia Join the Canadian Confederation?

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British Columbia entered the Canadian Confederation in 1871 because financiers in Ottawa agreed to build a railroad through the territory within a decade, took on the territory's massive debt and provided government subsidies to help British Columbia become more solvent. The United States wanted British Columbia as reparations from the British following the American Civil War and because America purchased Alaska in 1867. The British refused the United States' demands.

Amor de Cosmos was a leading proponent of British Columbia joining the confederation. His support for joining Canada was opposed by the area's elite, who still wanted to be a part of Britain. Cosmos used his influence as a newspaper owner to further the cause of joining Canada.

The British appointed Sir Anthony Musgrave as the colony's governor with the mandate that he would make this western territory part of Canada. He helped convince local residents that joining Canada was the best course of action for this sparsely populated region.

The delegation sent to Ottawa had several demands, one of which was to alleviate British Columbia's $1.5 million debt. Another major concern was transportation, so the delegation wanted a wagon trail stretching eastward. George Cartier, representing the Canadian government, surprised the British Columbians by offering to build a railroad and supplying more than $200,000 per year to finance public work projects.