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History of Canada

Canada is the world’s second-largest country with a land area of 9,970,610 km2 and a population of around 32 million. The history of Canada is drenched with centuries-old dominance by the French and British colonialists. Leaving a significant impact on the aboriginals (local inhabitants), under the colonial influence, Canada got transformed into English and French-speaking European colonies. Starting in the 17th century with early French settlers and later controlled by the financially strong Englishmen, it was not until the 20th century that Canada saw some liberation and freedom from foreign influences.

The history of these conquests profoundly influenced its geography and inhabitants. The Inuit and aboriginals are known to be native to Canada for thousands of years. There have been speculations about contacts being established between native North Americans and people from rest of the world. One of the largest settlements discovered is the Red Bay station that is reported to have some 900 inhabitants.

John Cabot is the European explorer who reached the coast of North America in 1497. In 1534, the French explorer Jacques Cartier further explored, and eventually, the first settlement was established in 1608 under the leadership of Samuel De Champlain. The British conquered new land and started with settlements in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and regions near the Hudson Bay.

Britain also had a presence in Newfoundland and with the advent of settlements, claimed the south of Nova Scotia, as well as the areas surrounding the Hudson Bay. In an attempt to weaken each other’s power and control, the French and British tried to befriend natives. The French joined hands with the Huron resulting in profitable trading business, while the Iroquois turned hostile towards the French. The British armed the Iroquois to further weaken the French power. Many wars were fought between the French and Iroquois.

The New Era- Nouvelle France

In 1608, Quebec became the capital of New France. Beaver fur was very popular in Europe in those days, and French traders frequently travelled to Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec in search of fur and often traded with the natives for guns, gunpowder, textiles and other goods. As fur trade did not require manual work, it did not invite many people to settle in, resulting in a meagre population of 60,000 by 1759.

French Vs. British: The Colonial bloodshed

The French were a dominant force, but they lacked in financial assistance to their colonist in New France, who were left to their own devices. Britain, on the other hand, had thirteen colonies in the south and also the Hudson Bay. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain and France fought relentlessly for more power. Many naval and land battles were marked in the times within and around Canada.

British colonial forces invaded the French dominated Louisburg in Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia during King George’s reign. However, the victory was given back to France in 1748 during a treaty Aix-la-Chapelle. Canada also turned into a battleground during the Seven Years’ War in which Great Britain invaded Quebec after a fierce battle of Montreal (1760) & the Plains of Abraham in 1759.

Withdrawal of French Power

At the end of Seven Years’ War, the French colonist retreated after signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It gave up almost all its territorial control in North America.

There was a surge of growing intolerance and revolt amongst people in Upper and Lower Canada. A group of reformists from Upper Canada showed some unsuccessful form of rebellion in Toronto, London and Hamilton under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie. A stronger wave of revolt came from Lower Canada when the Quebec City was secluded, and the rebels took over the towns of Chambly and Sorel. Robert Nelson, a reformist and rebel read a declaration for independence in Napierville in the year 1838. However, Les Patriotes got defeated after a battle in Quebec resulting in mass destruction and arrest.

After Lord Durham’s report on the assessment of the situation and his recommendations (Durham report), Upper and Lower Canada were unified with the Act of Union (1840) into the United Province of Canada.

1867: The rising Dominion

The Dominion of Canada was born on July 1, 1867, with the passing of the British North America Act by the British Parliament. The Dominion consisted of Federation of the Province of Canada, New Brunswick & Nova Scotia. The new country expanded in all directions, especially with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Manitoba and British Columbia became a part of the Dominion in 1870 and 1871 respectively, while Saskatchewan and Alberta were admitted as provinces in 1905.

With the new Dominion, the years from 1900 onwards are marked with World Wars, Interwar years and a great depression that shook the roots of the economy in Canada. After the Second World War, Canada’s economy stabilised with many beneficial policies for social welfare. The rise and fall of the great Canadian history unfold many confluences and power struggles. Every chapter leads to some exciting discovery that lends insight to the present-day evolution of a bilingual and multicultural Canada with its own unique identity.