Culture Question:

Things about Canada like History

(posted: Mar 2010)

A Brief History of Canada

First there was just the land and lots of critters. 20 or 30 thousand years ago an ice age created a land bridge at the Bering Strait and the first people came, on foot, to what is now Canada. Thousands of years went by as they spread out across the Americas. They developed into many tribes and nations of tribes who lived, loved, traded, celebrated, fought, hunted, planted, fished -- pretty much did what humans do wherever they settle on the planet.

Europeans from Nordic countries tried to settle in ‘Canada’ a thousand or so years ago, but it didn’t work out for them.

It was five hundred years before Europeans came back to ‘Canada’. England and France both laid claim to areas. The French had more of a presence initially, getting an early lead in the Fur trade (the major economic activity). England and France clashed both in Europe and in their North American colonies and, at the end of the Seven Years war, the French were defeated in ‘Canada’. The French in ‘Canada’ lost their French colony status but still got to keep their language, religion and customs, which they have been struggling to keep (at least the language and customs) ever since.

Shortly after the Seven Years war, the 13 American colonies rebelled against British rule and the U.S.A. was born. Many British Loyalists (people who were loyal to Britain) didn’t feel comfortable in this new U.S. country and came to ‘Canada’ to settle. Immigrants from Europe came to ‘Canada’ in waves, particularly from Scotland and Ireland, bringing new customs with them.

There were some tensions between British ‘Canada’ and the U.S. with each burning the others’ capital during the War of 1812. But eventually relations settled out to a point where they were no longer trying to work out differences with armies.

Over time,‘Canada’, like many British colonies, wanted more home rule and responsible government. Britain gave up much of its control over ‘Canada’ in 1867, setting up the Dominion of Canada (this was a confederation of 4 provinces -- Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). Ottawa became the capital of this new country. Other provinces joined in the next few years: Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, with Alberta and Saskatchewan coming into the fold in 1905 and finally Newfoundland in 1949.

One of the things that unified this huge country was the railroad that was built across the whole country. Thousands of the workers who built the railway were Chinese. Many of them stayed in Canada after it was built.

After 1900, more immigrants came in more waves, many of these from central and eastern Europe. They settled the flat prairies, creating farms and pushing out the Native peoples who were being settled on reservations.

The Great Depression in the 1930’s hit Canada very hard leaving many out of work and hungry. This was one of the forces at work making Canada more open to socialism than its American neighbours to the south.

Canada continues to be a nation of immigrants, in the 1960’s removing discriminatory immigration laws. This opened it up to people from all parts of the world. As a result, Canada is now a multi-cultural tapestry, working out the details as it goes along.

Sources:

  1. Schools in Canada, “Canadian History Timeline”, (http://www.schoolsincanada.com/Canadian-History-Timeline.cfm), 14-Mar-2010.

  2. “Upper Canada Historical Summary” (http://www1.xe.net/~mbone/webtree/history-ca.htm), 14-Mar-2010.

  3. Wikipedia, “History of Canada” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Canada), 14-Mar-2010.

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Map showing changing boundaries of Canada

Changing boundaries of Canada
Click here to see a larger view of this map showing the evolution of Canada.

 

Further Reading:

Periods in Canadian History – Canadian Encyclopedia
Eras in Canadian History – Canada History site