Henry Nathan was born on September 3, 1842 in London, England. Arriving in Canada in 1862, he settled in Victoria, quickly becoming a prominent citizen of the province and establishing the firm of Henry Nathan Jr., Wholesale Merchants. Henry was actively involved in public affairs in both the colony of Vancouver Island and the province generally.
In November of 1870, Henry was elected to represent Victoria in the British Columbia Legislature. In 1871, he was elected by acclamation to Federal Parliament, becoming the first member for Victoria District. There was an exciting send off in British Columbia as he departed for Ottawa, illustrating his popularity amongst the people.
In the Canadian general election of 1872, following British Columbia’s admission to Confederation, Henry was officially re-elected to Parliament in by-elections held to fill the newly created seats. Mr. Nathan was the first Jewish Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons, and he sat in the House until 1874.
As a strong supporter of Sir John A. Macdonald, Henry Nathan was one of the directors of the Prime Minister’s endeavor to have a railway that extended across Canada, which today is known as the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The residents of British Columbia that lived during Henry’s time claim that he was one of the driving forces in bringing British Columbia into the Dominion of Canada, and that he did more than any other individual in ensuring the union.
Henry Nathan Jr. took some of the earliest steps for multiculturalism in Canada. The impact of his election to Parliament has been felt throughout Canadian history for the past 150 years.