UNB News
News and stories from one of Canada’s top universities

British prof says NB played key role in creation of modern Canada

Author: Communications

Posted on Sep 23, 2014

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

Ged Martin is professor emeritus of Canadian studies at the University of EdinburghIt's time to dump the negative view of New Brunswick's role in Canadian history, says British professor Ged Martin.

Martin will deliver the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) annual W. Stewart MacNutt lecture on Sept. 29 in Fredericton and Sept. 30 in Saint John.

"Too many textbooks sneeringly portray Canadian history as something that happens to New Brunswick," jokes Martin.

He argues that New Brunswick played a vital and positive role at key moments in the creation of Canadian Confederation in the mid-1860s.

"It was New Brunswick politicians who ensured that the September 1864 Charlottetown Conference endorsed the wider union of British North America, not the smaller scheme of Maritime Union pushed by the Nova Scotians."

Martin accepts that New Brunswick voters held up the movement for Confederation by voting for "Anti" candidates at the 1865 provincial election, but he argues that the vote was neither a landslide, nor a final rejection of union with Ontario and Quebec.

"There were good reasons why New Brunswickers were wary about signing a blank cheque in 1865," Martin points out, insisting that the province's response has been misunderstood.

"Just as happened with the Meech Lake Accord after 1987, New Brunswick became a symbolic battleground on which wider issues had to be debated and resolved."

Martin claims that New Brunswick's greatest contribution to the making of modern Canada came not before July 1, 1867, but immediately afterwards.

"Nova Scotians swung violently against the idea of being governed from Ottawa, but few historians have noted the importance of New Brunswick's refusal to support them," he explains.

"Had the two mainland Maritime provinces jointly demanded to get out of Canada, the fragile new country might have broken up. But New Brunswickers had too much sense to get involved."

Martin hints that the story of what happened -- and didn't happen -- in 1868 contains some big surprises. 

Ged Martin is a graduate of Cambridge where he is an honorary fellow of the University's oldest graduate college, Hughes Hall. He held the UK's first chair of Canadian studies, at Edinburgh University in Scotland.  He now lives in Ireland.

The 2014 W. Stewart MacNutt lecture will be delivered at UNB Fredericton's Alfred G. Bailey Auditorium (Tilley Hall, room 102) on Monday, Sept. 29 at 5:30.

The lecture will also be delivered at UNB Saint John on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 5:30 in Oland Hall room 104. The event forms part of UNB Saint John's fiftieth anniversary commemorations.

Both events are free and open to the public.

The W. Stewart MacNutt lecture is delivered each year in memory of the former history professor and dean who is honoured as one of the founders of the study of New Brunswick history. 

Media contact: Donald Wright

UNB news search