Despite being the second largest country in the world, Canada has not been a country for too long. At least not when taking into consideration other nations across the world. Canada officially became a country in 1867, just 149 years ago. Nonetheless, the history of the region and the people who inhabited it are considerably older. It has taken many centuries and events to create the Canada that you know of today. Let’s take a look at this rich and tumultuous history:
The First Explorers
The most well-known European explorers were the ones that eventually colonized North America. Much earlier than that, however, there were other visitors to this land. In fact, thousands of years ago, the Vikings were some of the first invaders to land in Canada. Once they had colonized Greenland, they made their way to Canada, settling in Labrador and Newfoundland. The L’Anse aux Meadows, where they first settled, is now a World Heritage site.
It was only many years later – the end of the fifteenth century – in fact, that other European explorers were made aware of Canada. It was first Jean Cabot, ordered by the English King Henry VII, that sailed towards this region. There, in Newfoundland, he discovered an abundance of fishing opportunities. Cabot did not stay there long, however.
Between the years of 1534 and 1536, there were other expeditions made. These were largely carried out by a Frenchman, Jacques Cartier. In August of 1935, Cartier sailed into the later named St. Lawrence River. This also marked the first time that Europeans met the Aboriginals of this land. The name Canada is actually derived from the Iroquoian word Kanata, which means village.
The Initial Settlements
Despite the initial explorations, there were no actual settlements until much later on. It was only in 1604 that the first proper settlement began to take place. The first one was in St Croix Island, which is modern Maine, and then in Port Royal, Acadia – now Nova Scotia. Four years later, there was a fortress set up in what is now known as Quebec City. These settlements were made possible due to the French explorers Pierre de Monts and Samuel de Champlain.
The Aboriginals of this land, particularly the Iroquois, were opposed to the French settling on their land. To counteract this defiance, Champlain created alliances with the Huron, Montagnais, and Algonquin, who had been fighting against the Iroquois for many years. The Iroquois and the French finally came to an understanding in 1701. From this a business collaboration involving the fur trade sprung forth.
Britain vs. France
France was not the only player in a bid to dominate North America. Britain had also begun colonizing a majority of the area, particularly in what is now known as America. Britain soon began to grow more prolific, wealthier, and more successful than their French counterparts. In the 1700s, this led to a battle for control between the French and the English. In 1759, the British defeated the French army in Quebec City, bringing the French rule to an end. This colony was renamed the Province of Quebec. Although it took some time, the British rulers and the French citizens were able to come to an agreement regarding the law of the land.
America vs. Britain
In 1776, the United States declared its independence from Britain, leaving future Canada the only part of North America that Britain maintained control over. Several decades later, America felt that it would be beneficial to colonize Canada over anger at the British Empire. However, by 1814 this invasion had failed, allowing Canada to remain independent from the United States.
While Canada wanted to be separate from the United States, they also wished to be a democratic nation all the same. Some individuals in Upper and Lower Canada felt that the process needed speeding up, leading to a rebellion that was quickly thwarted. This, however, did lead to the merging of the Upper and Lower Canada regions under one responsible government. Between the years of 1864 and 1867, there was progress made towards a single, united nation. This led to the splitting of the Province of Canada into Ontario and Quebec. This, together with the regions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, was proclaimed the Dominion of Canada.
It was deemed that each of these provinces would govern independently when it came to certain factors such as health and education. This meant that the government of Canada would operate on two levels – provincial and federal. All of these arrangements were made official on July 1, 1867. This day was known as Dominion Day but was later celebrated as Canada Day.
This is just a short history of the country that is now known as Canada. After the declaration of the Dominion of Canada, other provinces joined the ranks one by one to make up the ten provinces that Canada consists of today.