Canada’s history

Brief history of Canada summarized

A brief journey through the history of Canada, in a clear and summarized way.

The discovery of Canada

The first people in Canada crossed the Bering Strait from Asia. In the north, the Inuit lived by hunting seals, walruses, and whales. They also hunted caribou. On the West Coast, people hunted deer, bear, and beaver. They also fished. On the plains people lived by hunting buffalo. In the east people grew beans, squash, corn, and sunflower seeds.

The first Europeans to arrive in Canada were the Vikings. In 986 a Viking named Bjarni Herjolfsson was blown off course by a storm and saw a new land.

However, he set sail without landing. In 1001 a man named Leif Eriksson landed on the new land, which he named Vinland (it was part of Canada). However, Eriksson did not stay permanently. The Vikings later established a colony in North America, but abandoned it due to conflict with the natives.

However, after the Vikings, Canada was forgotten until the end of the 15th century. In 1497 the English King Henry VII sent an Italian named Jean Cabot on an expedition across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. Cabot discovered rich fishing waters off the coast of Canada.

Then, in 1534 and 1535-36, a Frenchman named Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) sailed on two expeditions to Canada. On August 10, 1535 (Saint Lawrence’s Day) he embarked on the Saint Lawrence River, which he named after the saint.

Canada in the 17th century

However, permanent European settlements were not established in Canada until the early 17th century. In 1603 a Frenchman named Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) sailed up the Saint Lawrence River. In 1604 he founded Port Royal in Acadia (Nova Scotia). In 1608 de Champlain founded Quebec. (The name Quebec is believed to be an Algonquian word meaning a narrow part of a river.)

In 1642 the French founded Montreal. The new colony in Canada was called New France. In 1685 the population of New France was about 10,000. In 1740 there were 48,000.

In the early 17th century, French missionaries such as the Jesuits tried to convert the natives of Canada to Christianity, without much success. Meanwhile, French settlers traded with the natives for fur and farmed the land. Unfortunately, they also brought European diseases such as smallpox, which the natives did not resist.

However, the British were also interested in Canada. In 1610 Henry Hudson discovered Hudson’s Bay. (In 1611 his crew mutinied and set him adrift.) In 1631 Thomas James led another expedition. James Bay is named after him. Then in 1629 the English captured Quebec. However, it was returned to France in 1632.

In 1670 the English founded the Hudson’s Bay Company. The company was granted exclusive rights to trade with the inhabitants of the Hudson Bay area. They traded with the natives for furs and hides. Meanwhile, the rivalry between the British and the French in Canada continued.

Canada in the 18th century

After the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), France was forced to recognize British control of Hudson Bay and Newfoundland. The French were also forced to cede Nova Scotia to Great Britain.

However, further conflict between Britain and France was inevitable. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) the two nations fought for control of Canada. In 1758 the British captured the French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island.

Then in 1759 General Wolfe captured Quebec City. (Wolfe’s victory in Quebec ensured that Canada would become British rather than French.) Then in 1760 the British captured Montreal. Finally, in 1763, the French were forced to hand over all of their territories in Canada to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris.

The British were left with the problem of how to deal with the French Canadians. They wisely decided to treat them delicately and the Quebec Act of 1774 allowed French Canadians to practice their own religion (Roman Catholicism). French Canadians were also allowed to keep French civil law alongside British criminal law. In 1775, Canada had a population of about 90,000. The colony was flourishing.

When the American Revolution began in 1775, Americans expected French Canadians to join them. However, they were disappointed. An American army entered Canada in September 1775 and captured Montreal in November. However, an attempt to capture Quebec in December failed, and the American soldiers withdrew in 1776.

After the American Revolutionary War, some 40,000 Americans who remained loyal to Great Britain emigrated from the newly independent country to Canada.

Then, in 1791, the British Parliament passed another act that divided the Lawrence River Valley into two parts, Upper and Lower Canada. (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were not affected.)

Meanwhile, the exploration continued. George Vancouver (1757-1798) sailed along the west coast of Canada in 1791-94. Vancouver Island is named after him. Alexander Mackenzie (1755-1820) traveled from the Great Slave Lake along the Mackenzie River and reached the Arctic Ocean in 1789. In 1793 he crossed the continent by land and reached the Pacific.

During the American War of 1812 the Americans invaded Canada but were repulsed.

Canada in the 19th century

Meanwhile, in the early 19th century, Canada’s population grew rapidly fueled by many immigrants from Great Britain. A shipbuilding industry flourished in Canada, and canals were built to aid trade.

However, in the early 19th century, many Canadians became dissatisfied with their government. In 1791 both Lower and Upper Canada were allowed to have an elected legislature. However, the king appointed councils with executive powers. However, both Francophone and English-speaking Canadians wanted a more democratic form of government.

Finally, in 1837, some Canadians revolted. Louis Joseph Papineau led an uprising of French Canadians. However, the rebellion was soon crushed. In Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie, who became Toronto ‘s first mayor in 1834, led the insurrection. In 1837 he led an uprising that was quickly crushed. Mackenzie himself was murdered.

However, Canada finally gained democratic rule in 1867 when Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were federated as the Dominion of Canada. Canada then had a strong central government, ruling from Ottawa, the new capital. Canada’s first Prime Minister was Sir John Macdonald.

Manitoba became a province in 1870. British Columbia joined the confederation in 1871. Alberta and Saskatchewan joined in 1905.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada’s population grew rapidly. The Canadian economy also expanded rapidly thanks to the expansion of the railways. The transcontinental railroad, the Canadian Pacific Railway, was completed in 1885.

Many British people immigrated to Canada, and in the early 20th century many Eastern Europeans immigrated there as well. Large tracts of land were given over to agricultural and manufacturing industries.

Meanwhile, in 1896 gold was found in the Klondike district of the Yukon and a gold rush ensued.

Canada in the 20th century

More than 60,000 Canadian men died in the First World War. Meanwhile, Manitoba was the first province in Canada to allow women to vote in provincial elections in 1916.

Canadian women were granted the right to vote in federal elections in 1918. By 1925, all provinces except Quebec had granted women the right to vote in provincial elections. Finally, Quebec granted that right to women in 1940.

The 1920s were generally prosperous years for Canada. However, like the rest of the world, Canada suffered from the depression of the 1930s. Canada suffered a huge drop in exports of timber, grain, and fish. By 1933 unemployment had skyrocketed to 23%.

The government introduced relief works, but economic difficulties continued into the 1930s. The depression only ended when World War II began in 1939. However, during World War II 45,000 Canadians were killed.

In the late 20th century, Canada’s population grew rapidly. In 1951 there were 16 million. By 1961 it had risen to 18 million. After 1945, people from southern and eastern Europe flocked to live in Canada. Beginning in the 1960s, many immigrants came from South Asia.

Meanwhile, during the 1950s and 1960s, the Canadian economy grew and Canada became a prosperous society. Meanwhile, television began in Canada in 1952.

However, things turned ugly in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, Canada suffered a deep recession and unemployment rose to 11%. There was another recession in the early 1990s. However, Canada recovered.

In 1995, the people of Quebec voted in a referendum not to secede from Canada. Then, in 1999, the Northwest Territories were divided in two and a new territory called Nunavut was created.

Meanwhile, in 1993 Kim Campbell became Canada’s first female prime minister.

Canada today

Like other countries, Canada suffered in the 2009 recession. However, Canada soon recovered. In April 2012, unemployment in Canada was 8.1%.

However, by September 2013 it had fallen to 6.9%. Today, Canada is a prosperous country and has vast natural resources. In 2018 the population of Canada was 37 million.

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