The first human settlements in the land now known as Canada occurred thousands of years ago, as humans, spreading out across Asia, crossed over the Bering Straight by land or ice bridge to settle in the northern parts of North America. Archaeologists have found the presence of human settlements in the Yukon dating back some 26,000 years, though stronger evidence exists that another migration occurred approximately 12,000 years ago during the last ice age. 3,000 years later, the first settlements occurred around the Great Lakes, where modern day Toronto exists.
The first Europeans to venture to Canada came around 1000 AD, when a group of Norse Vikings created a settlement in Newfoundland. The settlement was abandoned after only a few years, and it wasn't until 1497 when John Cabot and Jaques Cartier started exploring and settling the Atlantic coast as England and France competed for presence in the new world. Explorers started moving inland via the St. Lawrence river, and in 1605 Samuel de Champlain founded the settlement on what would become Quebec City. Further exploration was driven inland for profit, as the fur trade pushed the French to explore the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and down into Louisiana, in what is now the USA.
English explorers pushed down the Atlantic coast, creating the colonies including the thirteen colonies that made up the USA after independence. Through numerous wars between the British and French during this time, eventually the English took control of all the area of New France, including the modern day provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. Originally the English tried to crack down on the French culture and language, but facing an increasingly angry population of Francophones, passed the Quebec Act of 1774, establishing the rights of Francophones in Quebec, and creating the unique French culture that exists in the modern day province of Quebec today.
As the revolution started in USA in the late 1700s, Canada provided a base for the English in North America. Eventually the territories south of the Great Lakes were ceded to the new country to Canada's south, and the modern day boundry between Canada and the USA was created.
On July 1st, 1867, the British North America Act brought about Confederation, creating "one dominion under the name of Canada" with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and also gave control of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory to Canada. The Red River Rebellion fostered the creation of the province of Manitoba in July 1870. British Columbia and Vancouver Island and the colony of Prince Edward Island joined Confederation in 1871 and 1873, respectively.
To open the West, the government sponsored construction of three trans-continental railways, including the famous Canadian Pacific Railway and established the North West Mounted Police to assert its authority over this territory. European immigrants, drawn by the inexpensive land, settled the prairies, and Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905. After World War II in 1949, Newfoundland which had previously been under English control, joined Canada as the 10th province.
Throughout the 1900s, Canada was becoming increasingly nationalist, looking to break away from British control and become a country in it's own right. The Constitution Act of 1982, which was ratified by all the provinces and territories except Quebec, set out to "patriate" the Canadian Constitution (previous known as the British North America Act) from Britain and allow the government to take control of their own constitution.
Nunavut was separated out of the Northwest territories in 1999 by the Nunavut Act to settle land claims from the Inuit, the northern indigenous people of Canada, known previous by the term "Eskimos," though that term is now considered to be pejorative in Canada. Mostly governed by the Inuit, the region has the unique position of adding two languages to the official language list of Canada: Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, in addition to the rest of Canada which has official languages of English and French.
Throughout the history of Canada, the unique position of the province of Quebec and the Francophone Canadian has played an important role. Quebec Nationalism (also Quebec Sovereignty or Quebec Separatism) aims to enhance the standing of the Francophone community and the province of Quebec by becoming either an independent country or a sovereign region within Canada. The Parti Quebecois is the main political proponent of this movement, and the citizens of Quebec have voted in two referendums on the issue of seperation or sovereignty. In 1980, a proposal for sovereignty-association was put forward, maintaining economic relations with the rest of Canada including free trade between Canada and Quebec, common tariffs against imports, and a common currency. This proposal was rejected by 60% of the Quebec electorate. A similar proposal was narrowly defeated in 1995, with 50.6% of the voters voting to stay in Canada versus 49.4%.
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