Pre-Confederation Official Publications: Journals of the Province of Canada (1841–1866)

By Sandra Bell

The year 2017 marked the sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. As the nation celebrated this event, images of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s First Prime Minister, dominated the collective consciousness. Further away in memory was the path leading up to July 1, 1867: the Rebellion of 1837–1838, and the report of John George Lambton, Earl of Durham (Durham Report, Report on the Affairs of British North America), which recommended the union of the two Canadas.

To explore the period before Confederation often requires a retrospective examination of the forms of government that existed before that date. The Act of Union of 1840 created a single province by merging Upper and Lower Canada into the United Province of Canada, which lasted from 1841–1867, ending (?) with the British North America Act, which created Confederation. The pre-1841 political entities of Upper and Lower Canada then became the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, respectively.

The Province of Canada – 1841

The new Province of Canada brought some changes. The Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada replaced the Upper and Lower Canada Houses of Assembly and the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, 1841–1866, replaced the Legislative Councils of both Upper and Lower Canada. This brought about two new houses: the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada.

Both the elected Assembly and appointed Council of the new Province of Canada produced documents: debates, sessional papers, journals, votes and proceedings. These are all important research tools; however, this blog reviews only the journals of these houses.

What are House Journals?

  • They are the official records of the decisions and transactions of the legislature
  • They provide a record of the daily events of the legislature (minutes of a meeting) While the debates are verbatim, journals are a chronological summary; and, the journals include:
    • Addresses
    • Titles of and record of assent to bills
    • Proclamations which include the summoning and dissolution of parliament
    • Messages from the governor
    • Petitions to the assembly
    • Speech to the throne
    • Addresses in reply to the speech to the throne
    • Names of members
    • Information on committees

Journals are issued at the end of each session, with an index and appendices. Page numbering is continuous within each session.

Reports that are tabled or filed in the Legislature are titled Appendices, and later Sessional Papers. They are assigned letters of the alphabet and cover a diverse range of subjects, from Transportation, Immigration and Indigenous Peoples. Appendices were published separately up to the year 1859, after which date they were included with the Sessional Papers.

A typed page with the following title: Appendix to the Second Volume, Session 1842. After is a list of headings in the Appendix, alphabetically arranged.

Appendix to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly, 1842. Source: Héritage.

A printed page showing a list of all the appendices for 1842, for example, Welland Canal, Annual report of the Directors for 1841.

List of Appendices (List of Appendix), 1842. Source: Héritage.

If the date of an event is known, it can be located by accessing the journals for the corresponding session of the Legislative Assembly. If the date is not known, access to journal content is via the two-volume General Index to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Canada. This index provides subject access with the year of the session and page numbers of the topic in the body of the journal.

A typed cover page reading: General index to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Canada: in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Parliaments, 1852–1866.

General Index to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Canada: in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Parliaments, 1852–1866 by Alfred Todd, cover page. Source: Héritage.

A typed page of an alphabetically arranged index.

General index to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Canada: in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Parliaments, 1852–1866 by Alfred Todd, page 209. Source: Héritage.

You can access the Appendices and Sessional Papers of the Legislative Assembly via Damphouse’s The Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada: An Index (…)

Legislative Council (Upper Chamber)

The Journals of the Legislative Council follow the same format as those of the Legislative Assembly. The sessional journals have indexes and appendices. A cumulative index includes the indexes from the individual sessions.

The Council’s reports and appendices were published separately as Sessional Papers until 1866 when they were replaced by the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada.

The cover page of the Journals of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada.

Journals of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada. First session of the first provincial Parliament, 1841, cover page. Source: Héritage.

The journals and appendices of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council are available in English and French.

Many of the publications of the Province of Canada are available online in sources such as Early Canadiana Online. These documents also exist in alternative formats such as microfilm and microfiche, which are findable in the AMICUS online catalogue.

Additional Sources

The following publications provide additional information on the Province of Canada, its journals, appendices, sessional papers, and organization.

     Bishop, Olga B., 1911-. Publications of the government of the Province of Canada, 1841–1867. Ottawa: National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, 1963. AMICUS 1738026

This bibliography includes a list of departments with their publications. It complements the Appendices and Sessional Papers.

     Hardisty, Pamela. Publications of the Canadian Parliament: A Detailed Guide to the Dual-Media Edition of Canadian Parliamentary Proceedings and Sessional Papers, 1841–1970. Washington, D.C.: United States Historical Documents Institute, 1974. AMICUS 67351

Includes an analysis of parliamentary publishing and useful lists of legislatures and sessions, journals and appendices by session dates for both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council, 1841–1866.

Should you need assistance in locating, retrieving or using the documents listed in this blog, please contact the LAC Reference Services.


Sandra Bell is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division of Library and Archives Canada.