Cart 0
How Canada Got its Name

How Canada Got its Name


Sir Samuel Tilley
Politician (born in 1818 at Gagetown, N.B.; died in 1896 at Saint John, N.B.) Tilley was New Brunswick’s leading Father of Confederation. In the years before Confederation he sat in the New Brunswick legislature (1850-51, 1854-56, 1857-65, and 1866-67).

Life in New Brunswick rested firmly on the Christian foundations laid in the earliest days of European settlement, and augmented through the evangelistic efforts of many churches in the province. One product of this Christian heritage was Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Premier of New Brunswick at the time of Confederation and a Father of Confederation.

His direct contribution to Canada’s Christian tradition is truly national in scope: from Tilley came both Canada’s official motto, and the country’s unique title: “The Dominion of Canada”.

Both the term “Dominion” and the motto - “A mari usque ad mare”, are taken from Psalm 72:8 - “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

Tilley’s son tells of his father’s contribution:

“I have heard my father state how he came to suggest it at the B.N.A. Conference. When the fathers of Confederation were assembled discussing the terms and conditions of Confederation and the drafting of the British North America Act, there had been considerable discussion the day before and many suggestions as to what the new United Canada should be called, and no conclusion had been reached. The discussion on the name stood over until the next day. The next morning, as was Sir Leonard’s custom, he read a chapter from the Bible, and that particular morning he read Psalm 72, verse 8: ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea.’ When reading verse 8 of said Psalm, the thought occurred to him, what a splendid name to give Canada… the ‘Dominion of Canada’. When he went back to the sitting of the convention that morning, he suggested the word ‘Dominion’, which was agreed to, and Canada was called ‘Dominion of Canada’.”

The motto represents Tilley’s belief, obviously shared by many of Canada’s founding fathers, that God should have His rightful place in the new country, the “Dominion of Canada”.

Tilley was a devoted member of the Church of England, and his church attendance was reported to be “constant and regular”. His biographer says that “the secret of his life was that he loved his God and his country.”

This is perhaps best shown by the faith expressed by Sir Leonard as he lay on his deathbed. One of his final instructions to his gathered family and friends was that his tombstone should simply read: “His trust was in Jesus.” He explained with his fading breaths that he wanted passers-by to know that his faith in Jesus Christ had been the true source of any success he had known, and the power that had most influenced his life.

Just as Sir Leonard Tilley said, “His trust was in Jesus” so you too can have this same confidence and trust. Open up your Bible to John 3:16 and John 14:6 and discover it for yourself.

Pray for our Country
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;” (Jesus) Psalm 33:12.

The House of Commons instituted a new prayer in February of 1994 and they have changed and gotten away from the founding Christian principles and values that this country was built on. The original prayer ended with the words, “In Jesus Christ our Lord.” God hears our prayer when we pray in Jesus’ Name.

He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man or woman or country can come to the Father but by Him. (Read John 14:6). Dying on the cross for us, Jesus opened up access to the Father. Our prayer for our country must be in Jesus’ Name.

More from this collection