Letter to the Editor: The Province of CBI

Cape Breton Island (CBI) was annexed in 1820 without the consent of the Governor of CBI or consent of the island residents. Annexation was in response to the Crown losing a tax case 1816-1820 to two CBI mine owners, over Crown tax demands of the residents of CBI. In response, the Crown went outside the law and annexed CBI to Nova Scotia, to collect the taxes. CBI’s leaders rebuked the annexation because of irregular procedural improprieties used. But the British Privy Council declined to vote on the appeal.

Cross Roads. Shall We Go to Washington First, or How(e)? 1868 Political cartoon by John Henry Walker. (Source: McCord Museum)

Cross Roads. Shall We Go to Washington First, or How(e)? 1868 Political cartoon by John Henry Walker. Charles Tupper woos Nova Scotia to join Confederation while Joseph Howe, suspected of preferring to join the United States, lurks in the background. (Source: McCord Museum)


In 1867, Nova Scotia joined Confederation but petitioned in 1868 to have the Constitution Act repealed. NS is Canada’s first ‘separatist’ province. It seems Sir Joseph Howe was furious with Premier Charles Tupper for joining Confederation without the consent of the electorate. Howe raised a petition, with 65% of the electorate of NS at the time as signatories, calling on NS to pull out of Confederation. On presentation to the Queen, it was rebuffed as a Canadian parliamentary matter.

Howe’s anti-Confederation forces won all seats (except that held by Premier Tupper), formed the new government and unanimously passed legislation declaring Nova Scotia’s refusal to recognize the Confederation of Canada. This 1868 NS Act was never repealed and stands on record in NS.

Nova Scotia felt strongly they’d be robbed of their taxes, resources and the ability to make important governance decisions that affect their local economy and wanted the ability to self-determine their own future as they feared Central Canadian motivations conflicted with the best interests of NS.

Given the illegal annexation of CBI by NS, the illegitimacy of NS’s own Constitutional status, ongoing fiscal neglect and alienation of our island and our region, CBI has a solid claim to re-instate its Colonial Charter granted by King George as Canada’s newest province, and under international law via: (1) The Human Rights Charter of the United Nations; (2) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and (3) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; which affirm the fundamental importance of the right of self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Mark Macneill, MBA, MPA, LLB, LLM