Annexationist movements of Canada

Annexationist movements of Canada

, gradually led to its abandonment in the U.S.

Nevertheless, at various times annexationist movements in Canada have campaigned in favour of U.S. annexation of parts or all of Canada. Historical studies have focused on numerous small-scale movements which are helpful in comparisons of Canadian and American politics. Only a few groups are currently active, although surveys suggest that as many as 20% of Canadians and 40% of Americans would potentially support annexation. [ [ CTV: 4 in 10 Americans support annexing Canada: Poll] Mon. Oct. 14 2002]

As historian Joseph Levitt notes, however, "Since the Treaty of Washington in 1871, when it first "de facto" recognized the new Dominion of Canada, the United States has never suggested or promoted an annexationist movement in Canada. No serious force has appeared on the American political scene that aimed to persuade or coerce Canadians into joining the United States. And, in fact, no serious initiative for any move in this direction has come from the Canadian side either." [ Neuhold and Von Riekhoff, p. 94]

Currently there is no elected member of any federal or provincial assembly, nor any mainstream politician in the United States, who openly advocates annexation.

Historical annexationist groups


Historical annexationist movements inside Canada were usually inspired by dissatisfaction with Britain's colonial government of Canada. Groups of Irish immigrants took the route of armed struggle, attempting to annex the peninsula between the Detroit and Niagara Rivers to the U.S. by force in the minor and short-lived Patriot War in 1837-1838.

It is significant, however, that although the Rebellions of 1837 were motivated in part by this type of dissatisfaction, Canadian resentment of British rule never reached the degree that led to the American Revolution in 1775. In the period from 1790 to 1837, imperial officials repeatedly denounced American-style republicanism and tried to suppress it. The Rebellions of 1837 themselves however were not fought with the goal of annexation; they were small scale attempts launched by militant reformers in present day Ontario and Quebec at political independence from Britain and liberal social reforms as opposed to the not-very-repressive British colonial system.

Between 1848 and 1854, a significant and articulate minority of conservatives in Upper Canada advocated constitutional changes modeled on the American federal-state system and the US Constitution. They critiqued Canada's imitation of British parliamentary government as both too democratic and too tyrannical. It destroyed the independence of the appointed governor and Legislative Council and further concentrated power in the Cabinet. This critique led many conservatives to argue that the American model of checks and balances offered Canada a more balanced and conservative form of democracy than did British parliamentary government. These "republican conservatives" debated a series of constitutional changes, including annexation to the United States, an elected governor, an elected Legislative Council, a federal union of British North America, and imperial federation, within this framework. These conservatives had accepted "government by discussion" as the appropriate basis for political order. A historiographic tradition that stresses the existence of a conservative, pro-British, and anti-American political culture in Upper Canada cannot do justice to the extent, thoughtfulness, and discerning nature of political debate in this period. [McNairn 1996]


Around 1850 there was a serious annexationist movement on the border region of Quebec's Eastern Townships, where the American-descended majority felt that union with the United States would end their economic isolation and stagnation as well as remove them from the growing threat of French Canadian political domination. Leading proponents of this genuinely bipartisan movement were careful not to appear disloyal to Britain, however, and they actively discouraged popular protest at the local level. Fearful of American-style democracy, the local elite also expressed revulsion toward American slavery and militaristic expansionism. Consequently, the movement died as quickly in the Eastern Townships as it did in Montreal after Britain expressed its official disapproval and trade with the United States began to increase. [Little, 1992]

In Montreal at midcentury, with little immigration and complaints that the repeal of the Corn Laws had cut the region off from its British trade links, a small but organized group supported integrating the colonies into the United States. The leading organization advocating merger was the Annexation Association, founded in 1849 by an alliance of French Canadian nationalists and Anglophone businessmen in Montreal who had a common interest in the republic. Many of its members, including Louis-Joseph Papineau, were participants in the 1837-38 rebellions.

The Montreal Annexation Manifesto was published in 1849. It was hoped a merger with the United States would give Canada markets for its goods, ensure national security, and provide the finances to develop the west. A half measure was the in 1854 Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty that linked the two areas economically.

However, the movement died out in 1854. Annexation was never a very popular choice. Many Canadians were loyal to the Crown and Great Britain, especially the descendants of the United Empire Loyalists. French Canadians worried about being an even smaller minority in a larger union, and were concerned about American anti-Catholicism. The American Civil War, further, convinced many Canadians that the American experiment was a failure.


In the late 1860s, residents of British Columbia, which was not yet a Canadian province, responded to American purchase of Alaska with a sense of being hemmed in. Many residents wanted this frontier region to be the next American purchase. Local opinion was greatly divided as the three Vancouver Island newspapers supported annexation to the United States, while the three mainland newspapers rejected the idea. Even opponents of the annexation scheme admitted that Great Britain had neglected the region and that grievances were justified. Nonetheless, annexation sentiment disappeared within a few months and prominent leaders moved toward confederation with Canada. [Neunherz] Petitions circulated in favour of American annexation. The first, in 1867, was addressed to Queen Victoria, demanding that the British government assume the colony's debts and establish a steamer link, or allow the colony to join the U.S. In 1869, a second petition was addressed to President Ulysses S. Grant, asking him to negotiate American annexation of the territory from Britain. It was delivered to Grant by Vincent Colyer, Indian Commissioner for Alaska, on December 29, 1869. Both petitions were signed by only a small fraction of the colony's population, and British Columbia was ultimately admitted as a Canadian province in 1871. [* Neunherz, (1989)]

However, most Canadians were strongly opposed to the prospect of American annexation. Reports of the Annexation Bill of 1866 (a bill that contrary to myth never came to a vote) might have been one of the many factors behind Canadian Confederation in 1867. Much more serious were the Fenian raids made by Irish Americans across the border in 1866. This caused fear in Canadian hearts and when they were repulsed caused a wave of patriotic feeling that helped the confederate cause. [Donald Creighton, "John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician" 1952 pp 438-43]


In January 1893, concerned about Canada's possible annexation by the United States, a goal then being pursued by the so-called Continental Union Association, a group of Ontario and Quebec Liberals, Prime Minister Sir John Thompson delivered a speech on tolerance, Canadian nationalism and continued loyalty to Britain. Thompson eventually learned that the conspiracy to make Canada part of the U.S. was confined to a small minority among the Liberals.

Modern annexationist groups

Modern groups, which generally have a neoconservative or libertarian political stance, are usually organizations that do not enjoy much public support or awareness. They advocate annexation as a solution to what they label as socialist tendencies in Canadian political and cultural life, such as higher taxes, lower military funding and the role of government agencies such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The Unionest Party was a provincial political party in Saskatchewan in 1980 that promoted the union of the western provinces with the United States. It was the most politically successful annexationist group, but its success was both short-lived and extremely limited in scope. The party briefly had two members in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, both of whom crossed the floor from another party, but dissolved within a few weeks after failing to qualify for official party status.

Parti 51 was a short-lived political party in Quebec in the 1980s that advocated Quebec's admission to the United States as the 51st state.

The Annexation Party of British Columbia was founded by R. Gordon Brosseuk, who wrote a letter to George W. Bush in 2003 similar to those written by British Columbians in the 1860s. Bush has never responded publicly to the letter, and the party has not attracted notable support among British Columbia voters.

Many groups exist on the Web, including Ontario USA [ [ Ontario USA] ] , Nova Scotia Statehood [ [ Nova Scotia Statehood] ] (inactive) and Republic of Alberta, which all advocate annexation for their individual provinces.

United North America [ [] ] , a website created in 2000, advocates the democratic ascension to statehood of Canadian provinces into the USA as states, under the existing framework of the United States constitution. [ [] ] is a political discussion forum focused on exploring the potentialities for a democratic annexation of Canada with the USA.

Anti-annexation rhetoric

*In modern Canadian political discourse, the idea of Canada becoming the "51st state" of the United States is much more often used as a scare tactic "against" political courses of action that may be seen as too "Americanizing". The use of this type of rhetoric may occur even if the proponents of such a course of action have "not" endorsed or proposed annexation.

*In the 1911 federal election, the Conservative response to the proposed reciprocity treaty negotiated by the Liberals was to denounce it as equivalent to an American economic takeover, with annexation likely to follow. The rhetoric carried the Conservatives to victory. (Ironically, in the later 1988 federal election, the Liberals used the same type of rhetoric to denounce the Progressive Conservatives' proposed Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, although the Progressive Conservatives won that election and the agreement was implemented.)

*Annexation fears can be found throughout "Canadian History for Dummies" (2nd ed 2005) when humourist Will Ferguson tried to be serious. He falsely states that for "John L. O'Sullivan, it was the "manifest destiny" of the United States to annex and possess all of North America" (pp. 211, 206, 220, 269). In fact, O'Sullivan's use of the term never extended beyond potential American annexation of Texas and the Oregon Territory; he explicitly wrote that he did "not" believe that the United States had a destiny to annex Canada.

*Political satirists, including the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, have occasionally proposed reverse annexation, whereby the United States would be annexed into an expanded Canadian federation. Following the 2004 American election, some Americans distributed the satirical Jesusland map on the Internet, depicting a similar proposal under which the "blue states" were part of a new political entity called "The United States of Canada".


* H. F. Angus and R. M. MacIver; "Canada and Her Great Neighbor: Sociological Surveys of Opinions and Attitudes in Canada concerning the United States" Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1938
* Cros, Laurence. "Le Canada et La Peur De L'annexion Americaine a L'epoque Victorienne, a Travers Les Dessins Politiques Canadiens" "International Journal of Canadian Studies" 2001 (23): 157-186. ISSN 1180-3991; Canadian cartoons often showed Uncle Same as a long, thin, vulture-like individual wearing striped pants and a starred top hat; Belonging to a generation of Victorians both prudish and fascinated by things erotic, Canadian cartoonists of the time took delight in concocting innumerable scenarios according to which Miss Canada would yield, willingly or unwillingly, to Uncle Sam's advances.
* Cumming, Carman. "The Toronto Daily Mail, Edward Farrer, and the Question of Canadian-American Union" "Journal of Canadian Studies" 1989 24(1): 121-139. ISSN 0021-9495 Campaigned for annexation to protect Anglophone Protestants in Quebec.
* Ellis, L. Ethan. "Reciprocity 1911, A Study in Canadian-American Relations" (1939)
* J. L. Granatstein. "Yankee Go Home: Canadians and Anti-Americanism" (1997)
* Hugh Keenleyside and Gerald S. Brown; "Canada and the United States: Some Aspects of Their Historical Relations" NY 1952
* William Kilbourn; "The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion in Upper Canada" Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1956
* Joseph Levitt, "A Vision Beyond Reach: A Centuty of Images of the Canadian Destiny" Ottawa: 1982, twelve eminent Canadian intellectuals discuss annexation
* Little, J. I. "The Short Life of a Local Protest Movement: the Annexation Crisis of 1849-50 in the Eastern Townships." "Journal of the Canadian Historical Association" 1992 3: 45-67. ISSN 0847-4478
* McNairn, Jeffrey L. "Publius of the North: Tory Republicanism and the American Constitution in Upper Canada, 1848-54." "Canadian Historical Review" 1996 77(4): 504-537. ISSN 0008-3755
* Hanspeter Neuhold and Harald Von Riekhoff, eds.; "Unequal Partners: A Comparative Analysis of Relations between Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany and between Canada and the United States" Westview Press. 1993
* Neunherz, Richard E. "'Hemmed In': Reactions in British Columbia to the Purchase of Russian America". "Pacific Northwest Quarterly" 1989 80(3): 101-111. ISSN 0030-8803
* Allan Nevins; "Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration" (1936)
* Allan Smith. "Canada, An American Nation?" (1994) intellectual history essays on continentalism and identiy
* Goldwin Smith; "Canada and the Canadian Question" Toronto: Macmillan, 1891
* Charles C. Tansill, "Canadian-American Relations, 1875-1911" (1943)
* Donald Frederic Warner; "The Idea of Continental Union: Agitation for the Annexation of Canada to the United States, 1849-1893" University of Kentucky Press, 1960


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