The Long, Wondrous History of Canada
Like all of North America, the history of Canada is rich and varied. Read on to learn about the country's humble beginnings.
Vikings and Europeans
The Norse people arrived around 1000 CE and established a settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. In 2016, a group of archaeologists excavated a site hundreds of miles from L'Anse aux Meadows, and unearthed a hearthstone that suggested the Vikings covered far more ground than previously thought...
The Venetian navigator John Cabot arrived in Canada in 1497. Like the Vikings before him, he arrived in Newfoundland. Later, French explorer Jacques Cartier made three trips to Canada and claimed it in the name of the king of France, Francis I. After hearing the Iroquoian word “kanata,” meaning village, he decided to name the land Canada.
What about the French?
French fishermen often traded with indigenous inhabitants—known today as First Nations—along the Saint Lawrence River. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded a settlement that eventually became Quebec City, while the English and Scottish also established settlements and set up colonies.
British colonists defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, part of the Seven Years’ War. After the victory, France signed the Treaty of Paris and turned over most of its territory to Great Britain. Nevertheless, the Quebec Act of 1774 allowed religious freedom for French Catholics in Canada.
Abolition, War & Rebellion
In 1834, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire, including its North American territory. Thousands of slaves from south of the Canadian border made their way north to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad.
During the War of 1812, the United States invaded Canada, but the US plan for conquest failed. Rebellions against the colonial government broke out in 1837 but were defeated. Lord Durham recommended that Upper and Lower Canada be combined into the United Province of Canada under responsible government, making British rule dependent on the majority support of elected representatives, and his vision became reality.
The British North America Act of 1867, later renamed the Constitution Act, established the basis of Canada’s modern government. The act followed years of debate among representatives of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada, and those separate territories became a federated kingdom. July 1, 1867, marked the birth of the Dominion of Canada, now celebrated as Canada Day.
20th History of Canada
The 20th century brought a number of changes. More than 600,000 Canadians fought alongside the British during World War I. The first female was elected to parliament in 1921, and women finally got full suffrage in 1940 . Post-war Canada saw increased prosperity and autonomy, and the country instituted universal health care. In 1965, Canada adopted the current Canadian flag with its iconic red maple leaf.
Big Country, Bigger Legacy
Even though it doesn’t always get as much attention as that of its southern neighbor, the history of Canada is just as fascinating. The nation’s battles, movements, and discoveries have all contributed to making Canada the nation it is today.