Canada East (French: Canada-Est) was the eastern portion of the United Province of Canada. It consisted of the southern portion of the modern-day Canadian Province of Quebec, and was primarily a French-speaking region.
Formerly a colony called the Province of Lower Canada, based on Lord Durham's report it was merged with the Province of Upper Canada (present-day southern portion of the Province of Ontario) to create the United Province of Canada.
The most important farm products were potatoes, rye, buckwheat, maple sugar, and livestock. When it came time to confederate the Francophones were nervous because they did not want to lose their French heritage. They were afraid that it would be overwhelmed by the English. At the time of confederation, 1867, Montreal was the biggest city in the British North American colonies.
Due to heavy immigration, the population of English-speaking residents of Canada West soon outstripped Canada East. Under the Act of Union, 1840, however, the seats in the house were evenly divided between Canada East and Canada West.
By the late 1850s all the land of Canada West had been bought. The next frontier was west of Lake Superior. However, this land was owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Most in Canada East resisted the takeover of this land, as it would have changed the balance of the seats in the legislature.
The St. Lawrence River was full of ice for half the year. For that half of the year goods had to be transported on American railways. A railway through Canada East to Halifax would provide an all-British route for trade and defence.
By the 1860s, the Grand Trunk Railway was about $72 million in debt. Its annual income was about $200. Partly because of this, the Province of Canada pulled out of the negotiations for the Intercolonial Railway.
Only 20% of Canada East's residents lived in the city, the rest were all farmers or habitants as they called themselves. They made their own stone houses and wooden furniture. Their clothes were homemade and their food was grown on the farms.
At the time of Confederation (1867) Montreal was the largest city of the British North American colonies, with a population of 107,225. Some of the richest people in Canada lived in Montreal.
There was a danger of Fenian raids along the Canadian-American border south and east of Montreal.
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