160 Years of the Canada Gazette — page 10

II. The Canada Gazette: 1841-1867

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Upper and Lower Canada

The history of the Canada Gazette is interwoven with that of the nation and its forerunners date back to the early years of British rule in Canada. In the province of Lower Canada (now Quebec), the Quebec Gazette had begun publication in 1764. It had semi-official status and continued until 1823, when it was replaced by the Quebec Official Gazette. Following the establishment of the Province of Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1791, the Upper Canada Gazette was begun at the instigation of John Graves Simcoe, the newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor. It was published for the first time on April 18, 1793, and continued until 1848 or 1849, the exact date of its demise being uncertain. (see footnote 3) Its status was semi-official in that the printers were appointed by the Government and it published official notices; however, it also contained general news items and sometimes anti-government editorials.

Province of Canada

The Union Act, 1840 (see footnote 4), which took effect on February 10, 1841, united Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada. On Saturday, October 2, 1841, the Canada Gazette made its debut, being published "by authority." It became the official newspaper of the new Government, enjoying a status which had not been held by the Upper Canada Gazette and only latelyUpper Canada Gazette by the Quebec Official Gazette, both of which it was intended to replace. During its lifetime the Government sat at different locations in the united provinces and for most of these twenty-six years the Canada Gazette was printed at the seat of Government. The exception was in 1850 and 1851 when the Government sat in Toronto while the Canada Gazette continued to be published in Montréal. (see footnote 5) The first issue was very brief, running to only three pages, and contained a proclamation, two new acts, an order in council and two government appointments. One of these appointments was that of Stewart Derbishire and George-Paschal Desbarats as joint Queen's Printers and Law Printers in and for the Province of Canada.

Derbishire (1794?-1863), has been described as a middle-class English adventurer. He was a soldier, a lawyer and a journalist before coming to Canada in 1838 to gather intelligence for Lord Durham, the Governor General of British North America, concerning the 1837 rebellion in Lower Canada. He later entered politics, sitting as the member for Bytown (Ottawa), but his political career was unsuccessful. His connection with government officials led to his appointment in 1841 as Queen's Printer, a post he held until he died. George-Paschal Desbarats (1808-1864) was a French Canadian who, unlike Derbishire, had a solid grounding in the printing trade, having entered his family's printing business when he was eighteen. His commissions included the Journals of the Legislative Council of Lower Canada. He was named Queen's Printer with Derbishire in September 1841. While serving as Queen's Printer he continued his printing career with his son. Their output included a reprint of the works of Samuel de Champlain. Desbarats was also a very capable businessman whose investments included a glass works in Québec, the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, and land in Ontario and Quebec.

Planing block
Planing block

Following Derbishire's death, Desbarats shared his responsibilities with Malcolm Cameron until his own death the following year. (see footnote 6)

For the first few years the publication of new acts was an important part of the Canada Gazette, and the size of an issue was usually determined by the number and length of the statutes published therein. The content of the Canada Gazette soon began to expand to include other types of information such as selected treaties of the British Government, notices of Royal Assent, proclamations and regulations, financial statements of chartered banks, corporate notices, notices of bankruptcy and a variety of miscellaneous notices including the appointments of notaries and justices of the peace, admissions to the Law Society of Upper Canada, and appointment of Queen's Counsel. Not everything was strictly business. A notice dated June 26, 1847, announced that the wife of the Governor General, the Countess of Elgin and Kincardine, would receive ladies at her residence from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays. The text of new acts appeared only sporadically after the mid-1840s, although notices of proclamations remained an important component of the Canada Gazette.

The Canada Gazette's role in the publication of statutes was the subject of an early order in council. Prior to the union of the Canadas, the provincial gazettes published by law various notices of private and public interest. The Upper Canada Gazette in particular published new statutes immediately after their coming into force, so that members of the bench and bar had quick access to the newest laws. However, after the union, the provincial gazettes as well as the new Canada Gazette published these materials. The Government acted swiftly to establish the Canada Gazette's primacy:

In the absence of any legal provision it was necessary that the Gazettes should be continued for the purpose of publication of such matters as were required by Statute to be inserted in these papers, and it was deemed inexpedient by the Government, suddenly to take away the accustomed means of information, with regard to its own Acts, or to the Laws of the Province these have accordingly been published as before, and in addition have been inserted in the Official Gazette of the Province.

The Committee are however of opinion that there is no necessity for the publication of Proclamations and Government Notices in any paper but the official Gazette, and after the end of the Present Year they recommend that the official publications in the Gazettes of Upper and Lower Canada should be confined to such matters as are legally necessary to be inserted therein, unless the Publication of other matter officially, should be specially directed by one of the Provincial Secretaries. (see footnote 7)

The Canada Gazette

In establishing the Canada Gazette's primacy, the Government reinforced the new Province of Canada as the successor to the old provinces of Upper and Lower Canada.

Printing toolThe Canada Gazette's status was strengthened and confirmed in 1849 with the passage of An Act to provide for the insertion of certain official and legal notices in the Canada Gazette. (see footnote 8) This statute took effect on October 1, 1849. It substituted the Canada Gazette for the Upper Canada Gazette and the Quebec Gazette, both of which were still being published in spite of their diminished status. Section 1 speaks of the circulation of the two regional gazettes as "limited and local" and that of the Canada Gazette as "great and co-extensive." The Canada Gazette was firmly established as the official voice of the Government of the Province of Canada.

Until 1843 the French-language content was almost negligible. This was slow to change, but gradually more and more of the Canada Gazette came to be printed in French, although the English section always preceded the French. In almost every instance the French version was a translation of the English. Volume numbering did not commence until January 1853; until then there were only consecutive issue numbers. Extra issues, or "gazettes extraordinaire," were printed as required, for example to announce the Royal Assent of new bills, the recall of Parliament, or the departure of the Governor General. An index was published for the years 1841-1844 and there were annual indexes thereafter.

What might be the first official exchange of gazettes between Canada and a sister colony was initiated in 1858 by the Government of New Zealand. In a letter dated October 22, 1858, the Colonial Secretary's Office stated that a copy of the New Zealand Gazette was to be forwarded to the Government of Canada, and requested a copy of the Canada Gazette in return. The Executive Council acquiesced to this request on February 15, 1859. (see footnote 9) Later that year, the Executive Council directed that a copy of the Canada Gazette be sent to the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. (see footnote 10)


Footnote 3
For more information on the Upper Canada Gazette, consult Brian Tobin, The Upper Canada Gazette and its Printers, 1793-1849 (Toronto: Ontario Legislative Library, 1993).

Footnote 4
(U.K.), 1840, c. 35.

Footnote 5
Olga B. Bishop, Publications of the Government of the Province of Canada 1841-1867 (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1963) at 58.

Footnote 6
Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 9 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976) at 201.

Footnote 7
Order in Council, December 13, 1841, Canada State Minute Book A; RG 1, E1, C110, p. 167; National Archives of Canada.

Footnote 8
Prov. C. 1849 , c. 26.

Footnote 9
Order in Council, February 15, 1859, Canada State Minute Book T; RG 1, E1, C119, p. 534; National Archives of Canada.

Footnote 10
Order in Council, March 10, 1859, Canada State Minute Book T; RG 1, E1, C119, p. 580; National Archives of Canada.

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