A very, very brief history of Canada


The land that is now Canada was first home to nations of Indigenous peoples. In 1497 explorer John Cabot reached the east coast of present day Canada, and in 1534 Jacques Cartier explored the Gulf of St Lawrence and claimed the land for France.

Cartier established the first French settlement in 1541 at Charlesbourg-Royal, and by 1604 settlement of what is now known as New France begins. In 1627 The Company of One Hundred Associates is formed to help colonize New France. 

Canada pre-European contact
Meanwhile, Britain grants a Royal Charter in 1621 to Sir William Alexander giving him a barony that included Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, St John's Island (now Prince Edward Island), and the Gaspé Peninsula.

Québec becomes a crown colony of France in 1663 and the first census is taken showing 3,215 inhabitants. Settlement is moving west and in 1673 the first permanent European settlement in the Great Lakes region is established (Fort Cataraqui, later Fort Frontenac. The city of Kingston, Ontario now resides here).

In 1670 the Hudson's Bay Company is formed, and the King of England grants trade rights over all territory draining into Hudson Bay, known as Rupert's Land.

In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht gives Britain possession of Hudson Bay, Newfoundland & Acadia (except for Cape Breton), but there are still disputed territories that both France and Britain claim to own.

The Seven Years War (1755-1763) has both countries fighting for possession and control of the new colonies. The lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia forces 10,000 Acadian settlers from their homes over fears that their loyalty is to France, even though they had declared themselves neutral. The war ends with the Treaty of Paris giving Britain control of the North American colonies with the exception of St Pierre and Miquelon (which is still to this day part of France).

Canada 1713
Canada 1774

In 1774 British Parliament declares the Québec Act which extends the border of Québec to include all of present-day Ontario, establishs English criminal law, restores French civil law, and grants religious freedom for Catholics.

In 1775 American colonies declare independence from Britain sparking the American Revolution. The Treaty of Paris ends the conflict in 1783 and establishes a border through the Great Lakes. A mass migration of British Loyalists from the USA starts with 6,000 Americans and 1,000 Iroquois led by Joseph Brant. By 1790 over 10,000 Loyalists have resettled in British territory.

In 1785 Nova Scotia is split into two provinces - Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Constitutional Act (a.k.a. the Canada Act) in 1791 divides Québec into Upper and Lower Canada, establishing English law and land tenure in Upper Canada. Lower Canada is all land east of the Ottawa River, while Upper Canada is to the west.

The USA declares war on Britain in 1812 resulting in skirmishes throughout the provinces and our neighbour to the south. It ends with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. The 49th parellel, from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains becomes the official border between Canada and the USA in 1818.

Canada 1791
Canada's Maple Leaf

The Act of Union in 1841 unites Upper and Lower Canada as the Province of Canada. Upper Canada is renamed Canada West, Lower Canada becomes Canada East. In 1849 the 49th parellel border is extended to the Pacific Ocean, and an official bilingualism policy goes into effect. All parliament bills are now in both English and French.

Ottawa is declared the capital of Canada by Queen Victoria in 1857 and construction of parliament buildings begins in 1859. During a visit from the Prince of Wales in 1860 the Maple Leaf is first used as an official emblem.

July 1, 1867 Canada is officially born! The three provinces (Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) are united in Confederation and become the country of Canada. The former province of Canada which consisted of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, now becomes two separate provinces. Upper Canada is renamed Ontario, Lower Canada becomes Québec. Sir John A. Macdonald becomes the first Prime Minister.

Canada obtains land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869 which includes the area referred to as the North-Western Territory. It is renamed the Northwest Territories. Some of the land is added to Ontario, and in 1870 part of it becomes the new province of Manitoba. Canada is quickly growing with the addition of British Columbia in 1871 and Prince Edward Island in 1873. The Dominion Land Act of 1872 also opens the prairies for settlement.

Canada 1870

In 1880 Canada claims the British Arctic Territories adding them to the Northwest Territories. In 1898 Yukon is formed from part of the Northwest Territories.  In 1905 the Northwest Territories shrinks again when land is used to create the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Newfoundland joins Confederation in 1949 becoming Canada's 10th province. Fifty years later in 1999, Nunavut is created from part of the Northwest Territories and becomes Canada's third territory.

Legend
Canada 1880
Canada 1898
Canada 1905
Canada 1949
Canada 1999

Disclaimer: Provided maps are approximate & not 100% accurate. The information provided covers only highlights of Canada's formation.
Additional information & corrections are welcome.