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Early History


Through Genetic evidence, it’s believed that North and South America were the last places to become inhabited. There is a period from 2,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D. called the “Woodland Cultural period”. There is pottery that has been found that seems to make this period distinct from other times in history. The oldest pottery found to date in Canada is believed to have been made by the Laurentian Aboriginal people.

These are names of some of the Aboriginal groups that inhabited Canada:


British Columbia

  • People of the Na-Dene languages (may be linked to the Yeniseian languages of Siberia): Athapaskan speaking people and the Tilingit.
  • Salishan language groups:  the Shuswap (Secwepemc) and Okanagan.
  • Southern Athabaskan language groups:  primarily the Dakelh (carrier) and Tsilhgot’in.  
  • Large distinct populations in the Inlets and Valleys were:  Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth.



  • Hopewell tradition.
  • Algonquian and Iroquoian all over Canada, U.S and the Gulf of Mexico.

Canadian Arctic Archipelago (36,563 islands, including most of Nunavut and part of Northwest Territory)

  • Paleo-Eskimos known as Dorset Peoples are traced back to 500 B.C. and are believed to have been replaced by the ancestors of the Inuit by 1500 A.D.




European Settlers



The earliest known reports of contact by Europeans are written in the Icelandic Sagas. (The standard modern edition of Icelandic sagas is known as Islenzk fornrit.)  The Sagas claim that the first European to see Canada was Bjarni Herjolfsson, who was blown off course on his way to Greenland from Iceland in the summer of 985 or 986 A.D.

They state that Leif Ericson made 3 landings in Canada 15 years later, in 1001 A.D.:  Helluland (possibly Baffin Island), Markland (possibly Labrador) and Vinland (possibly Newfoundland).

Norsemen (Vikings) tried to colonize the land but they were driven out by the climate and the indigenous people that lived there. There is some archeological evidence that the Norsemen had a short lived settlement in Newfoundland.

The Portuguese claimed they had rights on the land visited by John Cabot (1497 and 1498). They visited Newfoundland and Labrador and claimed them for the Portuguese Empire. In 1506, the king created taxes for cod fisheries and created outposts in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in 1521. They abandoned them later and focused more on South America.




New France



In 1524 Francis I of France sponsored Giovanni de Verrazzanno to look for a route to the Pacific Ocean between Florida and Newfoundland.

In 1534 Jacques Cartier planted a cross in the Gaspe Peninsula and claimed it for Francis I. There were several other attempts by Cartier (Charlesbourg-Royal in 1541), Marquis de La Roche-Mesgouez  (Sable Island in 1598) by, and Francois Grace Du Pont (Tadoussac, Quebec in 1600). However, the French began to sail by the St. Lawrence River and trade with the Natives.

The English, led by Humphrey Gilbert, had claimed St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1583 as the first North American English colony by royal prerogative of Queen Elizabeth I. In the reign of King James I, the English established additional colonies in Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland, and soon after established the first successful permanent settlements of Virginia to the south.




Canada under British Rule from 1763-1867



The treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. France gave up its rights to almost all land in North America except for fishing rights off of New Foundland. In return France received the return of its sugar colony, Guadeloupe, which they considered more important than Canada. The British protected most of the social, political and religious culture of the French.

An invasion of Canada by the Continental Army occurred in 1775 to try to take Quebec from British control. It was stopped by Guy Carleton with the assistance of local military.


The British evacuated New York City in 1783 and took many Loyalist refuges to Nova Scotia. There were so many, that a new colony named New Brunswick was created.

The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, which ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the United States of America and its allies. The borders between Canada and the United States were officially demarcated. Land south of the Great lakes which include Michigan, Illinois and Ohio were originally part of Quebec and was given to the Americans.




The War of 1812



The war of 1812 was fought between the United States and the British with British North American colony involvement. The focus was invasion of Canada, especially eastern and western Ontario. The American states wanted to suppress the First Nation raids that bothered the settling of the frontier. They may also have wanted to overtake Canada. American forces took control of Lake Erie in 1813 driving the British out, and killing the Native American leader Tecumseh.

The War ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 and the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817. Afterwards, British supporters tried to repress republicism in Canada which was common among American immigrants.

In 1815 Sir John Alexander Macdonald became the first Prime Minister of Canada.

In 1866, the Colony of British Columbia and Vancouver Island merged into one colony, British Columbia.  They were incorporated into the Confederation in 1871. In 1873, Prince Edward Island was admitted into the country.

The North-West Mounted Police was created in 1873 (later called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). The first purpose was to police the North-West Territories and protect Canadian sovereignty against Americans trying to overtake the sparsely populated land.  

Metis wanted independence and were part of the Red River Rebellion (Manitoba, 1869) and North-West Rebellion (1885).




Alaska Boundary Dispute



The purchase of Alaska occurred in 1867 and disputes over the boundary between Alaska and Yukon began. When gold was found in Yukon in the 1890s, the dispute became more important. The US controlled all possible ports of entry, and Canada insisted that the port of Skaqway was part of their land. In 1903 a British delegate sided with the Americans, angering the Canadians who felt betrayed.




Significant Times


The Criminal Code of Canada was created in 1893. This liberal ideal of “equality before the law” was made tangible. The 7th Prime Minister of Canada Wilfred Laurier, felt Canada was on the verge of becoming a world power, and declared that the 20th century would “belong to Canada”


The First World War occurred between July 28th, 1914 and November 11th, 1918.


The Great Depression was worldwide. It began in the United States in late 1929 and reached Canada shortly afterwards. It was mainly between 1929 and 1939, in other parts of world it lasted until the 1940’s.   


The Second World War lasted from 1939 to 1945.


After the Second World War, Canada began to prosper and developed Universal health care, old-age pensions and veteran pensions.

The Great Depression had caused the Dominion of Newfoundland to give up responsible government in 1934 and become a crown colony ruled by a British governor. In 1948 voters of the Newfoundland Referendum were given three choices by the British government: remain a crown colony, return to Dominion status (independence), or join Canada. Joining the United States was not made an option. In 1949, citizens decided to join Canada in as a province.


Canada was a founding member of NATO. And in 1950, Canada sent combat troops to Korea during the Korean War as part of the United Nations forces. The federal government desired to assert its territory in the Arctic during the Cold War, which caused the High Arctic relocation, involving relocating Inuit from Nunavik (northern Quebec) to barren Cornwallis Island.







In the 1960’s the Quiet Revolution began in Quebec and eventually broke out in violence in 1970 during the October crisis. Quebec Nationalists wanted to modernize the economy and society, and also demanded independence.

In 1965, Canada adopted the maple leaf flag.

In the 1960’s Legislative restrictions on Canadian immigration that had favored British and other European immigrants were amended, which opened the way for immigrants from all parts of the world.







In 1980 the referendum in Quebec wanted Sovereignty, but it was turned down by a 59% vote.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau influenced many social and cultural changes in Canada, including Official Bilingualism, and Multiculturalism as official Policy.

He pursued significant constitutional changes especially in the petroleum-producing provinces like Alberta, which were opposed by central and western Canada. This created great antagonism and influenced western alienation.

On March 29, 1982 Queen Elizabeth II gave Royal assent to the Canada Act which was passed by the British parliament.

The Canadian Parliament passed the  Constitution Act, and it was given Royal Assent on April 17, 1982 by the Queen  thus patriating the Constitution of Canada

Beforehand, the constitution was only an act passed by British parliament, and was not located in Canada. However, it was not altered without Canadian consent.

At that time, the Bill of Rights was replaced by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The patriation of the constitution was the last major act Pierre Trudeau’s performed as Prime Minister before his resigned in 1984.




1990’s until Present day




Brian Mulroney began talks in 1987 to recognize Quebec as a “Distinct Society” but it was refuted in 1992 by a small margin.

The relation with the United States become closer related under Prime Minister Mulroney’s leadership.


In 1995, Quebec held a second Referendum to try to become sovereign.

In 1998, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unilateral secession by a province to be unconstitutional, and Parliament passed the Clarity Act which outlined the terms of departure.

Canada became the 1st country in the Americas and the 4th country in the world to legalize same sex marriage through the Civil Marriage Act.

In 2003 The Canadian Alliance and PC Party merged into the Conservative Party of Canada, which ended a 13 year division in the conservative vote.

Canada was involved in the Afghanistan War as part of the U.S. stabilization force and the NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force from 2002 to 2011.

Stephen Harper has been the Prime Minister of Canada since 2006.

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