English
on
Potawatomi tribe

Council of Three Fires

796 Jan 1
, Michilimackinac Historical Society & Fort de Baude Museum

Originally one people, or a collection of closely related bands, the ethnic identities of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi developed after the Anishinaabe reached Michilimackinac on their journey westward from the Atlantic coast. Using the Midewiwin scrolls, Potawatomi elder Shup-Shewana dated the formation of the Council of Three Fires to 796 AD at Michilimackinac.


In this Council, the Ojibwe were addressed as the "Older Brother," the Odawa as the "Middle Brother," and the Potawatomi as the "Younger Brother." Consequently, whenever the three Anishinaabe nations are mentioned in this specific and consecutive order of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi, it is an indicator implying Council of Three Fires as well. In addition, the Ojibwe are the "keepers of the faith," the Odawa are the "keepers of trade," and the Potawatomi are the designated "keepers/maintainers of/for the fire" (boodawaadam), which became the basis for their name Boodewaadamii (Ojibwe spelling) or Bodéwadmi (Potawatomi spelling).


Though the Three Fires had several meeting places, Michilimackinac became the preferred meeting place due to its central location. From this place, the Council met for military and political purposes. From this site, the Council maintained relations with fellow Anishinaabeg nations, the Ozaagii (Sac), Odagaamii (Meskwaki), Omanoominii (Menominee), Wiinibiigoo (Ho-Chunk), Naadawe (Iroquois Confederacy), Nii'inaawi-Naadawe (Wyandot), and Naadawensiw (Sioux). Here, they also maintained relations with the Wemitigoozhi (Frenchmen), Zhaaganaashi (Englishmen) and the Gichi-mookomaanag (the Americans).


Through the totem-system and promotion of trade, the Council generally had a peaceful existence with its neighbours. However, occasional unresolved disputes erupted into wars. Under these conditions, the Council notably fought against the Iroquois Confederacy and the Sioux. During the French and Indian War and Pontiac's War, the Council fought against Great Britain; and during the Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812, they fought against the United States. After the formation of the United States of America in 1776, the Council became the core member of the Western Lakes Confederacy (also known as "Great Lakes Confederacy"), joined together with the Wyandots, Algonquins, Nipissing, Sacs, Meskwaki and others.

Leiv Eirikson Discovering America (1893) by the Norwegian naturalist painter Christian Krohg

Norse colonization of North America

900 Jan 1
, L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site

The Norse exploration of North America began in the late 10th century, when Norsemen explored areas of the North Atlantic colonizing Greenland and creating a short term settlement near the northern tip of Newfoundland. This is known now as L'Anse aux Meadows where the remains of buildings were found in 1960 dating to approximately 1,000 years ago. This discovery helped reignite archaeological exploration for the Norse in the North Atlantic. This single settlement, located on the island of Newfoundland and not on the North American mainland, was abruptly abandoned.


The Norse settlements on Greenland lasted for almost 500 years. L'Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Norse site in present-day Canada, was small and did not last as long. Other such Norse voyages are likely to have occurred for some time, but there is no evidence of any Norse settlement on mainland North America lasting beyond the 11th century.

Engraving based on a drawing by Champlain of his 1609 voyage. It depicts a battle between Iroquois and Algonquian tribes near Lake Champlain

Iroquois Confederacy

1450 Jan 1
, Cazenovia

The Iroquois are an Iroquoian-speaking confederacy of First Nations peoples in northeast North America/Turtle Island. The English called them the Five Nations, comprising the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. After 1722, the Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora people from the southeast were accepted into the confederacy, which became known as the Six Nations.


The Confederacy came about as a result of the Great Law of Peace, said to have been composed by Deganawidah the Great Peacemaker, Hiawatha, and Jigonsaseh the Mother of Nations. For nearly 200 years, the Six Nations/Haudenosaunee Confederacy were a powerful factor in North American colonial policy, with some scholars arguing for the concept of the Middle Ground, in that European powers were used by the Iroquois just as much as Europeans used them. At its peak around 1700, Iroquois power extended from what is today New York State, north into present-day Ontario and Quebec along the lower Great Lakes–upper St. Lawrence, and south on both sides of the Allegheny mountains into present-day Virginia and Kentucky and into the Ohio Valley.


The Iroquois subsequently created a highly egalitarian society. One British colonial administrator declared in 1749 that the Iroquois had "such absolute Notions of Liberty that they allow no Kind of Superiority of one over another, and banish all Servitude from their Territories". As raids between the member tribes ended and they directed warfare against competitors, the Iroquois increased in numbers while their rivals declined. The political cohesion of the Iroquois rapidly became one of the strongest forces in 17th- and 18th-century northeastern North America.


The League's council of fifty ruled on disputes and sought consensus. However, the confederacy did not speak for all five tribes, which continued to act independently and form their own war bands. Around 1678, the council began to exert more power in negotiations with the colonial governments of Pennsylvania and New York, and the Iroquois became very adroit at diplomacy, playing off the French against the British as individual tribes had earlier played the Swedes, Dutch, and English.

John Cabot in Newfoundland

Cabot discovers Newfoundland

1497 Jun 24
, Cape Bonavista

Under letters patent from King Henry VII of England, the Genoese navigator John Cabot became the first European known to have landed in Canada after the Viking Age claiming the land for England by the Doctrine of discovery. Records indicate that on June 24, 1497, he sighted land at a northern location believed to be somewhere in the Atlantic provinces. Official tradition deemed the first landing site to be at Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, although other locations are possible. After 1497 Cabot and his son Sebastian Cabot continued to make other voyages to find the Northwest Passage, and other explorers continued to sail out of England to the New World, although the details of these voyages are not well recorded.


Cabot is reported to have landed only once during the expedition and did not advance "beyond the shooting distance of a crossbow". Pasqualigo and Day both state that the expedition made no contact with any native people; the crew found the remains of a fire, a human trail, nets, and a wooden tool. The crew appeared to have remained on land just long enough to take on fresh water; they also raised the Venetian and Papal banners, claiming the land for the King of England and recognising the religious authority of the Roman Catholic Church. After this landing, Cabot spent some weeks "discovering the coast", with most "discovered after turning back".

16th century painting of Joachim Patinir showing Portuguese ships leaving a port

Portuguese Expeditions

1501 Jan 1
, Newfoundland

Based on the Treaty of Tordesillas, the Spanish Crown claimed it had territorial rights in the area visited by John Cabot in 1497 and 1498 CE. However, Portuguese explorers like João Fernandes Lavrador would continue to visit the north Atlantic coast, which accounts for the appearance of "Labrador" on maps of the period. In 1501 and 1502 the Corte-Real brothers explored Newfoundland (Terra Nova) and Labrador claiming these lands as part of the Portuguese Empire. In 1506, King Manuel I of Portugal created taxes for the cod fisheries in Newfoundland waters. João Álvares Fagundes and Pêro de Barcelos established fishing outposts in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia around 1521 CE; however, these were later abandoned, with the Portuguese colonizers focusing their efforts on South America. The extent and nature of Portuguese activity on the Canadian mainland during the 16th century remains unclear and controversial.

Jacques Cartier meeting with the St. Lawrence Iroquois at Hochelaga during his second voyage in 1535

Let's call it "Canada"

1534 Jul 24
, Gaspé Peninsula

French interest in the New World began with Francis I of France, who in 1524 sponsored Giovanni da Verrazzano's navigation of the region between Florida and Newfoundland in hopes of finding a route to the Pacific Ocean. Although the English had laid claims to it in 1497 when John Cabot made landfall somewhere on the North American coast (likely either modern-day Newfoundland or Nova Scotia) and had claimed the land for England on behalf of Henry VII, these claims were not exercised and England did not attempt to create a permanent colony. As for the French, however, Jacques Cartier planted a cross in the Gaspé Peninsula in 1534 and claimed the land in the name of Francis I, creating a region called "Canada" the following summer. Cartier had sailed up the St. Lawrence river as far as the Lachine Rapids, to the spot where Montreal now stands. Permanent settlement attempts by Cartier at Charlesbourg-Royal in 1541, at Sable Island in 1598 by Marquis de La Roche-Mesgouez, and at Tadoussac, Quebec in 1600 by François Gravé Du Pont all eventually failed. Despite these initial failures, French fishing fleets visited the Atlantic coast communities and sailed into the St. Lawrence River, trading and making alliances with First Nations, as well as establishing fishing settlements such as in Percé (1603).


While a variety of theories have been postulated for the etymological origins of Canada, the name is now accepted as coming from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement". In 1535, Indigenous inhabitants of the present-day Quebec City region used the word to direct French explorer Jacques Cartier to the village of Stadacona. Cartier later used the word Canada to refer not only to that particular village but to the entire area subject to Donnacona (the chief at Stadacona); by 1545, European books and maps had begun referring to this small region along the Saint Lawrence River as Canada.

An illustration of European and Indigenous fur traders in North America, 1777

Fur trade

1604 Jan 1
, Annapolis Royal

In 1604, a North American fur trade monopoly was granted to Pierre Du Gua, Sieur de Mons. The fur trade became one of the main economic ventures in North America. Du Gua led his first colonization expedition to an island located near the mouth of the St. Croix River. Among his lieutenants was a geographer named Samuel de Champlain, who promptly carried out a major exploration of the northeastern coastline of what is now the United States. In the spring of 1605, under Samuel de Champlain, the new St. Croix settlement was moved to Port Royal (today's Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). Samuel de Champlain also landed at Saint John Harbour on June 24, 1604 (the feast of St. John the Baptist) and is where the city of Saint John, New Brunswick, and the Saint John River gets their name.

Arrival of Samuel de Champlain on the site of Quebec City.

Quebec founded

1608 Jul 3
, Québec

In 1608 Champlain founded what is now Quebec City, one of the earliest permanent settlements, which would become the capital of New France. He took personal administration over the city and its affairs and sent out expeditions to explore the interior. Champlain became the first known European to encounter Lake Champlain in 1609. By 1615, he had travelled by canoe up the Ottawa River through Lake Nipissing and Georgian Bay to the centre of Huron country near Lake Simcoe. During these voyages, Champlain aided the Wendat (aka "Hurons") in their battles against the Iroquois Confederacy. As a result, the Iroquois would become enemies of the French and be involved in multiple conflicts (known as the French and Iroquois Wars) until the signing of the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701.

The Beaver Wars between 1630 and 1698 saw a period of intense intertribal warfare around the North American Great Lakes and in the Ohio Valley, largely created by competition in the fur trade.

Beaver Wars

1609 Jan 1 - 1701
, St Lawrence River

The Beaver Wars were a series of conflicts fought intermittently during the 17th century in North America throughout the Saint Lawrence River valley in Canada and the lower Great Lakes region which pitted the Iroquois against the Hurons, northern Algonquians and their French allies.


The Iroquois sought to expand their territory and to monopolize the fur trade with European markets. The Iroquois Confederation led by the Mohawks mobilized against the largely Algonquian-speaking tribes and Iroquoian-speaking Huron and related tribes of the Great Lakes region. The Iroquois were supplied with arms by their Dutch and English trading partners; the Algonquians and Hurons were backed by the French, their chief trading partner.


The Iroquois effectively destroyed several large tribal confederacies, including the Mohicans, Huron (Wyandot), Neutral, Erie, Susquehannock (Conestoga), and northern Algonquins, with the extreme brutality and exterminatory nature of the mode of warfare practised by the Iroquois causing some historians to label these wars as acts of genocide committed by the Iroquois Confederacy. They became dominant in the region and enlarged their territory, realigning the American tribal geography. The Iroquois gained control of the New England frontier and Ohio River valley lands as hunting ground from about 1670 onward.


The wars and subsequent commercial trapping of beavers was devastating to the local beaver population. Trapping continued to spread across North America, extirpating or severely reducing populations across the continent. The natural ecosystems that came to rely on the beavers for dams, water and other vital needs were also devastated leading to ecological destruction, environmental change, and drought in certain areas. Beaver populations in North America would take centuries to recover in some areas, while others would never recover.

Founding of Montreal

Founding of Montreal

1642 May 17
, Montreal

After Champlain's death in 1635, the Roman Catholic Church and the Jesuit establishment became the most dominant force in New France and hoped to establish a utopian European and Aboriginal Christian community. In 1642, the Sulpicians sponsored a group of settlers led by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, who founded Ville-Marie, the precursor to present-day Montreal. In 1663 the French crown took direct control of the colonies from the Company of New France.


Although immigration rates to New France remained very low under direct French control, most of the new arrivals were farmers, and the rate of population growth among the settlers themselves had been very high. The women had about 30 per cent more children than comparable women who remained in France. Yves Landry says, "Canadians had an exceptional diet for their time." This was due to the natural abundance of meat, fish, and pure water; the good food conservation conditions during the winter; and an adequate wheat supply in most years.

Trading at an HBC trading post

Hudson's Bay Company

1670 Jan 1
, Hudson Bay

By the early 1700s the New France settlers were well established along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River and parts of Nova Scotia, with a population of around 16,000. However, new arrivals stopped coming from France in the proceeding decades, meaning that the English and Scottish settlers in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the southern Thirteen Colonies outnumbered the French population approximately ten to one by the 1750s.


From 1670, through the Hudson's Bay Company, the English also laid claim to Hudson Bay and its drainage basin, known as Rupert's Land, establishing new trading posts and forts, while continuing to operate fishing settlements in Newfoundland. French expansion along the Canadian canoe routes challenged the Hudson's Bay Company claims, and in 1686, Pierre Troyes led an overland expedition from Montreal to the shore of the bay, where they managed to capture a handful of outposts. La Salle's explorations gave France a claim to the Mississippi River Valley, where fur trappers and a few settlers set up scattered forts and settlements.

At Carillon the French won a rare victory in a battle fought according to European tactical doctrines.

French and Indian Wars

1688 Jan 1 - 1763
, Hudson Bay

There were four French and Indian Wars and two additional wars in Acadia and Nova Scotia between the Thirteen American Colonies and New France from 1688 to 1763. During King William's War (1688 to 1697), military conflicts in Acadia included the Battle of Port Royal (1690); a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy (Action of July 14, 1696); and the Raid on Chignecto (1696). The Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 ended the war between the two colonial powers of England and France for a brief time. During Queen Anne's War (1702 to 1713), the British Conquest of Acadia occurred in 1710, resulting in Nova Scotia (other than Cape Breton) being officially ceded to the British by the Treaty of Utrecht, including Rupert's Land, which France had conquered in the late 17th century (Battle of Hudson's Bay). As an immediate result of this setback, France founded the powerful Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island.


Louisbourg was intended to serve as a year-round military and naval base for France's remaining North American empire and to protect the entrance to the St. Lawrence River. Father Rale's War resulted in both the fall of New France's influence in present-day Maine and the British recognition that it would have to negotiate with the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia. During King George's War (1744 to 1748), an army of New Englanders led by William Pepperrell mounted an expedition of 90 vessels and 4,000 men against Louisbourg in 1745. Within three months the fortress surrendered. The return of Louisbourg to French control by the peace treaty prompted the British to found Halifax in 1749 under Edward Cornwallis. Despite the official cessation of war between the British and French empires with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the conflict in Acadia and Nova Scotia continued as Father Le Loutre's War.


The British ordered the Acadians expelled from their lands in 1755 during the French and Indian War, an event called the Expulsion of the Acadians or le Grand Dérangement. The "expulsion" resulted in approximately 12,000 Acadians being shipped to destinations throughout Britain's North America and to France, Quebec and the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue. The first wave of the expulsion of the Acadians began with the Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755) and the second wave began after the final Siege of Louisbourg (1758). Many of the Acadians settled in southern Louisiana, creating the Cajun culture there. Some Acadians managed to hide and others eventually returned to Nova Scotia, but they were far outnumbered by a new migration of New England Planters who settled on the former lands of the Acadians and transformed Nova Scotia from a colony of occupation for the British to a settled colony with stronger ties to New England. Britain eventually gained control of Quebec City after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Battle of Fort Niagara in 1759, and finally captured Montreal in 1760.

Allegory of the Peace of Paris, entitled Paix rendue à l'Europe. On the right the figure of Peace hands personifications of the party countries Olive branchs

British Dominance in North America

1763 Feb 10
, Paris

The Treaty of Paris was signed on 10 February 1763 by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, after Great Britain and Prussia's victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years' War.


The signing of the treaty formally ended conflict between France and Great Britain over control of North America (the Seven Years' War, known as the French and Indian War in the United States), and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe. Great Britain and France each returned much of the territory that they had captured during the war, but Great Britain gained much of France's possessions in North America. Additionally, Great Britain agreed to protect Roman Catholicism in the New World.

The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775. | ©John Trumbull, 1786

Invasion of Quebec (1775)

1775 Jun 1 - 1776 Oct
, Lake Champlain

The Invasion of Quebec was the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to seize the Province of Quebec from Great Britain, and persuade French-speaking Canadiens to join the revolution on the side of the Thirteen Colonies. One expedition left Fort Ticonderoga under Richard Montgomery, besieged and captured Fort St. Johns, and very nearly captured British General Guy Carleton when taking Montreal. The other expedition, under Benedict Arnold, left Cambridge, Massachusetts and traveled with great difficulty through the wilderness of Maine to Quebec City. The two forces joined there, but they were defeated at the Battle of Quebec in December 1775.


Montgomery's expedition set out from Fort Ticonderoga in late August, and in mid-September began besieging Fort St. Johns, the main defensive point south of Montreal. After the fort was captured in November, Carleton abandoned Montreal, fleeing to Quebec City, and Montgomery took control of Montreal before heading for Quebec with an army much reduced in size by expiring enlistments. There he joined Arnold, who had left Cambridge in early September on an arduous trek through the wilderness that left his surviving troops starving and lacking in many supplies and equipment.


These forces joined before Quebec City in December, and they assaulted the city in a snowstorm on the last day of the year. The battle was a disastrous defeat for the Continental Army; Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded, while the city's defenders suffered few casualties. Arnold then conducted an ineffectual siege on the city, during which successful propaganda campaigns boosted Loyalist sentiments, and General David Wooster's blunt administration of Montreal served to annoy both supporters and detractors of the Americans.


The British sent several thousand troops under General John Burgoyne, including Hessian mercenaries, to reinforce the province in May 1776. General Carleton then launched a counter-offensive, ultimately driving the smallpox-weakened and disorganized Continental forces back to Fort Ticonderoga. The Continental Army, under Arnold's command, hindered the British advance sufficiently that an attack could not be mounted on Fort Ticonderoga in 1776. The end of the campaign set the stage for Burgoyne's 1777 campaign in the Hudson River valley.

Treaty of Paris. | ©Benjamin West (1783)

Boundary set

1783 Jan 1
, North America

The Treaty of Paris, signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, officially ended the American Revolutionary War and overall state of conflict between the two countries. The treaty set the boundaries between the Canada (British Empire in North America) and the United States of America, on lines "exceedingly generous" to the latter. Details included fishing rights and restoration of property and prisoners of war.

A romanticized depiction of the arrival of the Loyalists in New Brunswick

New Brunswick

1784 Jan 1
, Toronto

When the British evacuated New York City in 1783, they took many Loyalist refugees to Nova Scotia, while other Loyalists went to southwestern Quebec. So many Loyalists arrived on the shores of the St. John River that a separate colony—New Brunswick—was created in 1784; followed in 1791 by the division of Quebec into the largely French-speaking Lower Canada (French Canada) along the St. Lawrence River and the Gaspé Peninsula and an anglophone Loyalist Upper Canada, with its capital settled by 1796 in York (present-day Toronto). After 1790 most of the new settlers were American farmers searching for new lands; although generally favourable to republicanism, they were relatively non-political and stayed neutral in the War of 1812. In 1785, Saint John, New Brunswick became the first incorporated city in what would later become Canada.

Fencibles, militia, and Mohawks repel an American attack on Montreal, Battle of the Chateauguay, October 1813

War of 1812

1812 Jun 18 - 1815 Feb 17
, North America

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and the British, with the British North American colonies being heavily involved. Greatly outgunned by the British Royal Navy, the American war plans focused on an invasion of Canada (especially what is today eastern and western Ontario). The American frontier states voted for war to suppress the First Nations raids that frustrated the settlement of the frontier. The war on the border with the United States was characterized by a series of multiple failed invasions and fiascos on both sides. American forces took control of Lake Erie in 1813, driving the British out of western Ontario, killing the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, and breaking the military power of his confederacy. The war was overseen by British army officers like Isaac Brock and Charles de Salaberry with the assistance of First Nations and loyalist informants, most notably Laura Secord.


The War ended with no boundary changes thanks to the Treaty of Ghent of 1814, and the Rush–Bagot Treaty of 1817. A demographic result was the shifting of the destination of American migration from Upper Canada to Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, without fear of Indigenous attacks. After the war, supporters of Britain tried to repress the republicanism that was common among American immigrants to Canada. The troubling memory of the war and the American invasions etched itself into the consciousness of Canadians as a distrust of the intentions of the United States towards the British presence in North America.

Great Migration of Canada

Great Migration of Canada

1815 Jan 1 - 1850
, Toronto

Between 1815 and 1850, some 800,000 immigrants came to the colonies of British North America, mainly from the British Isles, as part of the great migration of Canada. These included Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots displaced by the Highland Clearances to Nova Scotia and Scottish and English settlers to the Canadas, particularly Upper Canada. The Irish Famine of the 1840s significantly increased the pace of Irish Catholic immigration to British North America, with over 35,000 distressed Irish landing in Toronto alone in 1847 and 1848.

The Battle of Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada

Rebellions of 1837

1837 Dec 7 - 1838 Dec 4
, Canada

The rebellions of 1837 against the British colonial government took place in both Upper and Lower Canada. In Upper Canada, a band of Reformers under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie took up arms in a disorganized and ultimately unsuccessful series of small-scale skirmishes around Toronto, London, and Hamilton.


In Lower Canada, a more substantial rebellion occurred against British rule. Both English- and French-Canadian rebels, sometimes using bases in the neutral United States, fought several skirmishes against the authorities. The towns of Chambly and Sorel were taken by the rebels, and Quebec City was isolated from the rest of the colony. Montreal rebel leader Robert Nelson read the "Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada" to a crowd assembled at the town of Napierville in 1838. The rebellion of the Patriote movement was defeated after battles across Quebec. Hundreds were arrested, and several villages were burnt in reprisal.


The British government then sent Lord Durham to examine the situation; he stayed in Canada for five months before returning to Britain, bringing with him his Durham Report, which strongly recommended responsible government. A less well-received recommendation was the amalgamation of Upper and Lower Canada for the deliberate assimilation of the French-speaking population. The Canadas were merged into a single colony, the United Province of Canada, by the 1840 Act of Union, and responsible government was achieved in 1848, a few months after it was accomplished in Nova Scotia. The parliament of United Canada in Montreal was set on fire by a mob of Tories in 1849 after the passing of an indemnity bill for the people who suffered losses during the rebellion in Lower Canada.

Moody likened his vision of the nascent Colony of British Columbia to the pastoral scenes painted by Aelbert Cuyp

British Columbia

1858 Jan 1
, British Columbia

Spanish explorers had taken the lead in the Pacific Northwest coast, with the voyages of Juan José Pérez Hernández in 1774 and 1775. By the time the Spanish determined to build a fort on Vancouver Island, the British navigator James Cook had visited Nootka Sound and charted the coast as far as Alaska, while British and American maritime fur traders had begun a busy era of commerce with the coastal peoples to satisfy the brisk market for sea otter pelts in China, thereby launching what became known as the China Trade. In 1789 war threatened between Britain and Spain on their respective rights; the Nootka Crisis was resolved peacefully largely in favour of Britain, the much stronger naval power at the time. In 1793 Alexander MacKenzie, a Scotsman working for the North West Company, crossed the continent and with his Aboriginal guides and French-Canadian crew, reached the mouth of the Bella Coola River, completing the first continental crossing north of Mexico, missing George Vancouver's charting expedition to the region by only a few weeks. In 1821, the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company merged, with a combined trading territory that was extended by a licence to the North-Western Territory and the Columbia and New Caledonia fur districts, which reached the Arctic Ocean on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the west.


The Colony of Vancouver Island was chartered in 1849, with the trading post at Fort Victoria as the capital. This was followed by the Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1853, and by the creation of the Colony of British Columbia in 1858 and the Stikine Territory in 1861, with the latter three being founded expressly to keep those regions from being overrun and annexed by American gold miners. The Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands and most of the Stikine Territory were merged into the Colony of British Columbia in 1863 (the remainder, north of the 60th Parallel, became part of the North-Western Territory).

Donald Smith, later known as Lord Strathcona, drives the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway, at Craigellachie, 7 November 1885. Completion of the transcontinental railway was a condition of BC's entry into Confederation.

Territorial expansion west

1866 Jan 1
, Northwest Territories

Using the lure of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a transcontinental line that would unite the nation, Ottawa attracted support in the Maritimes and in British Columbia. In 1866, the Colony of British Columbia and the Colony of Vancouver Island merged into a single Colony of British Columbia. After Rupert's Land was transferred to Canada by Britain in 1870, connecting to the eastern provinces, British Columbia joined Canada in 1871. In 1873, Prince Edward Island joined. Newfoundland—which had no use for a transcontinental railway—voted no in 1869, and did not join Canada until 1949.


In 1873, John A. Macdonald (First Prime Minister of Canada) created the North-West Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to help police the Northwest Territories. Specifically the Mounties were to assert Canadian sovereignty to prevent possible American encroachments into the area. The Mounties' first large-scale mission was to suppress the second independence movement by Manitoba's Métis, a mixed-blood people of joint First Nations and European descent, who originated in the mid-17th century. The desire for independence erupted in the Red River Rebellion in 1869 and the later North-West Rebellion in 1885 led by Louis Riel.

Conference at Quebec in 1864.

Dominion of Canada

1867 Jul 1
, Canada

Three British North American provinces, the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, were united into one federation called the Dominion of Canada, on July 1, 1867. The term dominion was chosen to indicate Canada's status as a self-governing polity of the British Empire, the first time it was used about a country. With the coming into force of the British North America Act, 1867 (enacted by the British Parliament), Canada became a federated country in its own right. 


Federation emerged from multiple impulses: the British wanted Canada to defend itself; the Maritimes needed railroad connections, which were promised in 1867; English-Canadian nationalism sought to unite the lands into one country, dominated by the English language and loyalist culture; many French-Canadians saw an opportunity to exert political control within a new largely French-speaking Quebec and exaggerated fears of possible U.S. expansion northward. On a political level, there was a desire for the expansion of responsible government and elimination of the legislative deadlock between Upper and Lower Canada, and their replacement with provincial legislatures in a federation. This was especially pushed by the liberal Reform movement of Upper Canada and the French-Canadian Parti rouge in Lower Canada who favoured a decentralized union in comparison to the Upper Canadian Conservative party and to some degree the French-Canadian Parti bleu, which favoured a centralized union.

Métis provisional government

Red River Rebellion

1869 Jan 1 - 1870
, Hudson Bay

The Red River Rebellion was the sequence of events that led up to the 1869 establishment of a provisional government by Métis leader Louis Riel and his followers at the Red River Colony, in the early stages of establishing today's Canadian province of Manitoba. It had earlier been a territory called Rupert's Land and been under control of the Hudson's Bay Company before it was sold.


The events were the first crisis the new federal government faced after Canadian Confederation in 1867. The Canadian government had bought Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869 and appointed an English-speaking governor, William McDougall. He was opposed by the French-speaking mostly-Métis inhabitants of the settlement. Before the land was officially transferred to Canada, McDougall had sent out surveyors to plot the land according to the square township system used in the Public Land Survey System. The Métis, led by Riel, prevented McDougall from entering the territory. McDougall declared that the Hudson's Bay Company was no longer in control of the territory and that Canada had asked for the transfer of sovereignty to be postponed. The Métis created a provisional government to which they invited an equal number of Anglophone representatives. Riel negotiated directly with the Canadian government to establish Manitoba as a Canadian province.


Meanwhile, Riel's men arrested members of a pro-Canadian faction who had resisted the provisional government. They included an Orangeman, Thomas Scott. Riel's government tried and convicted Scott and executed him for insubordination. Canada and the Assiniboia provisional government soon negotiated an agreement. In 1870, the Parliament of Canada passed the Manitoba Act, allowing the Red River Colony to enter Confederation as the province of Manitoba. The Act also incorporated some of Riel's demands, such as the provision of separate French schools for Métis children and the protection of Catholicism.


After reaching an agreement, Canada sent a military expedition to Manitoba to enforce federal authority. Now known as the Wolseley Expedition, or the Red River Expedition, it consisted of Canadian militia and British regular soldiers, led by Colonel Garnet Wolseley. Outrage grew in Ontario over Scott's execution, and many there wanted Wolseley's expedition to arrest Riel for murder and to suppress what they considered to be rebellion.


Riel peacefully withdrew from Fort Garry before the troops could arrive in August 1870. Warned by many that the soldiers would harm him and denied amnesty for his political leadership of the rebellion, Riel fled to the United States. The arrival of troops marked the end of the incident.

Study period at a Roman Catholic Indian Residential School in Fort Resolution, NWT

Indian Act

1876 Apr 12
, Canada

As Canada expanded, the Canadian government rather than the British Crown negotiated treaties with the resident First Nations' peoples, beginning with Treaty 1 in 1871. The treaties extinguished aboriginal title on traditional territories, created reserves for the indigenous peoples' exclusive use, and opened up the rest of the territory for settlement. Indigenous people were induced to move to these new reserves, sometimes forcibly. The government imposed the Indian Act in 1876 to govern the relations between the federal government and the Indigenous peoples and govern the relations between the new settlers and the Indigenous peoples. Under the Indian Act, the government started the Residential School System to integrate the Indigenous peoples and "civilize" them.

The Battle of Batoche was a decisive victory for the Canadian militia, with the capture of Louis Riel, and the collapse of the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan.

North-West Rebellion

1885 Mar 26 - Jun 3
, Saskatchewan

The North-West Rebellion was a resistance by the Métis people under Louis Riel and an associated uprising by First Nations Cree and Assiniboine of the District of Saskatchewan against the Canadian government. Many Métis felt that Canada was not protecting their rights, their land, and their survival as a distinct people.


Riel had been invited to lead the movement of protest; he turned it into a military action with a heavily religious tone. That alienated Catholic clergy, whites, most Indigenous tribes, and some Métis, but he had the allegiance of 200 armed Métis, a smaller number of other Indigenous warriors, and at least one white man at Batoche in May 1885, who confronted 900 Canadian militia and some armed local residents. About 91 people would die in the fighting that occurred that spring before the resistance's collapse.


Despite some notable early victories at Duck Lake, Fish Creek, and Cut Knife, the resistance was quashed when overwhelming government forces and a critical shortage of supplies brought about the Métis' defeat in the four-day Battle of Batoche. The remaining Aboriginal allies scattered. Several chiefs were captured, and some served prison time. Eight men were hanged in Canada's largest mass hanging, for murders performed outside the military conflict.


Riel was captured, put on trial, and convicted of treason. Despite many pleas across Canada for clemency, he was hanged. Riel became a heroic martyr to Francophone Canada. That was one cause for the rise of ethnic tensions into a deep division, whose repercussions continue to be felt. The suppression of the conflict contributed to the present reality of the Prairie Provinces being controlled by English speakers, who allowed only a very limited francophone presence, and helped cause the alienation of French Canadians, who were embittered by the repression of their countrymen. The key role that the Canadian Pacific Railway played in transporting troops caused support by the Conservative government to increase, and Parliament authorized funds to complete the country's first transcontinental railway.

Hill-side mining, showing rockers, c.1899

Klondike Gold Rush

1896 Jan 1 - 1899
, Dawson City

The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of Yukon, in north-western Canada, between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered there by local miners on August 16, 1896; when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a stampede of prospectors. Some became wealthy, but the majority went in vain. It has been immortalized in films, literature, and photographs.


To reach the gold fields, most prospectors took the route through the ports of Dyea and Skagway, in Southeast Alaska. Here, the "Klondikers" could follow either the Chilkoot or the White Pass trails to the Yukon River, and sail down to the Klondike. The Canadian authorities required each of them to bring a year's supply of food, in order to prevent starvation. In all, the Klondikers' equipment weighed close to a ton, which most carried themselves, in stages. Performing this task, and contending with the mountainous terrain and cold climate, meant those who persisted did not arrive until summer 1898. Once there, they found few opportunities, and many left disappointed.


To accommodate the prospectors, boom towns sprang up along the routes. At their terminus, Dawson City was founded at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers. From a population of 500 in 1896, the town grew to house approximately 30,000 people by summer 1898. Built of wood, isolated, and unsanitary, Dawson suffered from fires, high prices, and epidemics. Despite this, the wealthiest prospectors spent extravagantly, gambling and drinking in the saloons. The indigenous Hän, on the other hand, suffered from the rush; they were forcibly moved into a reserve to make way for the Klondikers, and many died.


Beginning in 1898, the newspapers that had encouraged so many to travel to the Klondike lost interest in it. In the summer of 1899, gold was discovered around Nome in west Alaska, and many prospectors left the Klondike for the new goldfields, marking the end of the Klondike Rush. The boom towns declined, and the population of Dawson City fell. Gold mining production in the Klondike peaked in 1903 after heavier equipment was brought in. Since then, the Klondike has been mined on and off, and today the legacy draws tourists to the region and contributes to its prosperity.

Ukrainian immigrants

Saskatchewan and Alberta

1905 Jan 1
, Alberta

In 1905, Saskatchewan and Alberta were admitted as provinces. They were growing rapidly thanks to abundant wheat crops that attracted immigration to the plains by Ukrainians and Northern and Central Europeans and by settlers from the United States, Britain and eastern Canada.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge began on 9 April 1917 with an intensive artillery barrage. | ©Richard Jack

World War I

1914 Aug 4 - 1918 Nov 11
, Central Europe

The Canadian Forces and civilian participation in the First World War helped to foster a sense of British-Canadian nationhood. The highpoints of Canadian military achievement during the First World War came during the Somme, Vimy, Passchendaele battles and what later became known as "Canada's Hundred Days". The reputation Canadian troops earned, along with the success of Canadian flying aces including William George Barker and Billy Bishop, helped to give the nation a new sense of identity. The War Office in 1922 reported approximately 67,000 killed and 173,000 wounded during the war. This excludes civilian deaths in war-time incidents like the Halifax Explosion.


Support for Great Britain during the First World War caused a major political crisis over conscription, with Francophones, mainly from Quebec, rejecting national policies. During the crisis, large numbers of enemy aliens (especially Ukrainians and Germans) were put under government controls. The Liberal party was deeply split, with most of its Anglophone leaders joining the unionist government headed by Prime Minister Robert Borden, the leader of the Conservative party. The Liberals regained their influence after the war under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie King, who served as prime minister with three separate terms between 1921 and 1949.

Nellie McClung (1873 – 1951) was a Canadian feminist, politician, author, and social activist. She was a member of The Famous Five.

Women's suffrage

1917 Jan 1
, Canada

When Canada was founded, women could not vote in federal elections. Women did have a local vote in some provinces, as in Canada West from 1850, where women owning land could vote for school trustees. By 1900 other provinces adopted similar provisions, and in 1916 Manitoba took the lead in extending full women's suffrage. Simultaneously suffragists gave strong support to the prohibition movement, especially in Ontario and the Western provinces.


The Military Voters Act of 1917 gave the vote to British women who were war widows or had sons or husbands serving overseas. Unionists Prime Minister Borden pledged himself during the 1917 campaign to equal suffrage for women. After his landslide victory, he introduced a bill in 1918 for extending the franchise to women. This passed without division but did not apply to Quebec provincial and municipal elections. The women of Quebec gained full suffrage in 1940. The first woman elected to Parliament was Agnes Macphail of Ontario in 1921.

A Montreal soup kitchen in 1931

Great Depression in Canada

1930 Jan 1
, Canada

The worldwide Great Depression of the early 1930s was a social and economic shock that left millions of Canadians unemployed, hungry and often homeless. Few countries were affected as severely as Canada during what became known as the "Dirty Thirties," due to Canada's heavy dependence on raw material and farm exports, combined with a crippling Prairies drought known as the Dust Bowl. Widespread losses of jobs and savings ultimately transformed the country by triggering the birth of social welfare, a variety of populist political movements, and a more activist role for government in the economy.


In 1930-1931 the Canadian government responded to the Great Depression by applying severe restrictions to entry into Canada. New rules limited immigration to British and American subjects or agriculturalists with money, certain classes of workers, and immediate family of the Canadian residents.

The Big Picture, opening of the Parliament of Australia, 9 May 1901, by Tom Roberts

Political independence

1931 Jan 1
, Canada

Following the Balfour Declaration of 1926, the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster in 1931 which acknowledged Canada as coequal with the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. It was a crucial step in the development of Canada as a separate state in that it provided for nearly complete legislative autonomy from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Statute of Westminster grants Canada political independence from Britain, including the right to an independent foreign policy.

Canadians aboard LCAs heading towards Juno Beach during D-Day, June 1944

Canada in World War II

1939 Sep 1 - 1945
, Central Europe

Canada's involvement in the Second World War began when Canada declared war on Nazi Germany on September 10, 1939, delaying it one week after Britain acted to symbolically demonstrate independence. Canada played a major role in supplying food, raw materials, munitions and money to the hard-pressed British economy, training airmen for the Commonwealth, guarding the western half of the North Atlantic Ocean against German U-boats, and providing combat troops for the invasions of Italy, France and Germany in 1943–45.


Of a population of approximately 11.5 million, 1.1 million Canadians served in the armed forces in the Second World War. Many thousands more served with the Canadian Merchant Navy. In all, more than 45,000 died, and another 55,000 were wounded. Building up the Royal Canadian Air Force was a high priority; it was kept separate from Britain's Royal Air Force. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Agreement, signed in December 1939, bound Canada, Britain, New Zealand, and Australia to a program that eventually trained half the airmen from those four nations in the Second World War.


The Battle of the Atlantic began immediately, and from 1943 to 1945 was led by Leonard W. Murray, from Nova Scotia. German U-boats operated in Canadian and Newfoundland waters throughout the war, sinking many naval and merchant vessels. The Canadian army was involved in the failed defence of Hong Kong, the unsuccessful Dieppe Raid in August 1942, the Allied invasion of Italy, and the highly successful invasion of France and the Netherlands in 1944–45.


On the political side, Mackenzie King rejected any notion of a government of national unity. The 1940 federal election was held as normally scheduled, producing another majority for the Liberals. The Conscription Crisis of 1944 greatly affected unity between French and English-speaking Canadians, though was not as politically intrusive as that of the First World War. During the war, Canada became more closely linked to the U.S. The Americans took virtual control of Yukon in order to build the Alaska Highway, and were a major presence in the British colony of Newfoundland with major airbases. After the start of the war with Japan in December 1941, the government, in cooperation with the U.S., began the Japanese-Canadian internment, which sent 22,000 British Columbia residents of Japanese descent to relocation camps far from the coast. The reason was intense public demand for removal and fears of espionage or sabotage. The government ignored reports from the RCMP and Canadian military that most of the Japanese were law-abiding and not a threat.

The Royal Canadian Air Force, February 1945. By the end of World War II, Canada fielded a significantly large air force, and navy.

Canada in the Cold War

1949 Jan 1
, Canada

Canada was a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) in 1958, and played a leading role in United Nations peacekeeping operations—from the Korean War to the creation of a permanent UN peacekeeping force during the Suez Crisis in 1956. Subsequent peacekeeping interventions occurred in the Congo (1960), Cyprus (1964), the Sinai (1973), Vietnam (with the International Control Commission), Golan Heights, Lebanon (1978), and Namibia (1989–1990).


Canada did not follow the American lead in all Cold War actions, sometimes resulting in tensions between the two countries. For instance, Canada refused to join the Vietnam War; in 1984, the last nuclear weapons based in Canada were removed; diplomatic relations were maintained with Cuba; and the Canadian government recognized the People's Republic of China before the United States.


The Canadian military maintained a standing presence in Western Europe as part of its NATO deployment at several bases in Germany—including long tenures at CFB Baden-Soellingen and CFB Lahr, in the Black Forest region of West Germany. Also, Canadian military facilities were maintained in Bermuda, France, and the United Kingdom. From the early 1960s until the 1980s, Canada maintained weapon platforms armed with nuclear weapons—including nuclear-tipped air-to-air rockets, surface-to-air missiles, and high-yield gravity bombs principally deployed in the Western European theatre of operations as well as in Canada.

"Maîtres chez nous" (Masters in Our Own Home) was the electoral slogan of the Liberal Party during the 1962 election.

Quiet Revolution

1960 Jan 1
, Québec

The Quiet Revolution was a period of intense socio-political and socio-cultural change in French Canada which started in Quebec after the election of 1960, characterized by the effective secularization of government, the creation of a state-run welfare state, as well as realignment of politics into federalist and sovereigntist (or separatist) factions and the eventual election of a pro-sovereignty provincial government in the 1976 election.


A primary change was an effort by the provincial government to take more direct control over the fields of healthcare and education, which had previously been in the hands of the old establishment which centered around the Roman Catholic Church and led to modernizing of the economy and society. It created ministries of Health and Education, expanded the public service, and made massive investments in the public education system and provincial infrastructure. The government further allowed unionization of the civil service. It took measures to increase Québécois control over the province's economy and nationalized electricity production and distribution and worked to establish the Canada/Québec Pension Plan. Hydro-Québec was also created in an attempt to nationalize Québec's electric companies. French-Canadians in Québec also adopted the new name 'Québécois', trying to create a separate identity from both the rest of Canada and France and establish themselves as a reformed province.


The Quiet Revolution was a period of unbridled economic and social development in Québec, French Canada and Canada; it parallelled similar developments in the West in general. It was a byproduct of Canada's 20-year post-war expansion and Québec's position as the leading province for more than a century before and after Confederation. It witnessed particular changes to the built environment and social structures of Montreal, Québec's leading city. The Quiet Revolution also extended beyond Québec's borders by virtue of its influence on contemporary Canadian politics. During the same era of renewed Quebecois nationalism, French Canadians made great inroads into both the structure and direction of the federal government and national policy.

Maple Leaf

Maple Leaf

1965 Jan 1
, Canada

In 1965, Canada adopted the maple leaf flag, although not without considerable debate and misgivings among large number of English Canadians.

References

References for History of Canada.



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  • Brown, Craig, ed. Illustrated History of Canada (McGill-Queen's Press-MQUP, 2012), Chapters by experts
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  • Chronicles of Canada Series (32 vol. 1915–1916) edited by G. M. Wrong and H. H. Langton
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