Canada’s history

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When Europeans explored Canada they found Native people living in all regions of the country. They called these people Indians because the explorers thought they had reached the East Indies. The native people lived off the land, hunting and gathering their food, or through farming. The arrival of the European traders, soldiers, missionaries, and colonists changed the native way of life forever. Many Aboriginals died of European diseases to which they lacked immunity. However, Aboriginals and Europeans formed strong economic (money and trade), religious, and military bonds.


Vikings from Iceland who settled in Greenland 1000 years ago also came to the island of Newfoundland. Remains of their settlements have been found there.


Between 1533 and 1542, Jacques Cartier came to the new land three times, claiming it for the King of France. He heard the Iroquois refer to “Kanata”, meaning village but misunderstood; he believed they were referring to the entire nation, and so named the new land “Canada”.


The French settlers and explorers created several different settlements in the new land:

  • St. Croix in present-day Maine

  • Port Royal in Acadia (present day Nova Scotia)

  • A fortress in Quebec City

The settlers struggled against a harsh climate and, although they had some First Nations tribes as allies, others fought against them.


The Hudson Bay Company was granted trading rights by the King of England, and the company competed with the Montreal traders for the next 100 years. The traders for the HBC formed strong alliances with the First Nations people.

Eventually, British colonies became richer and had more people than New France, and when France and England went to war in Europe, the colonies fought each other as well. The British won, and they renamed New France, Quebec. The original French-speaking settlers tried hard to preserve their way of life in the new province. The British government then passed the Quebec Act in 1774, which allowed religious freedom for Catholics. It combined French civil law and British criminal law.


In 1776, the British colonies south of Quebec declared independence and formed the United States. About 40, 000 people, called loyalists because they were loyal to the British crown, fled to Nova Scotia and Quebec to escape the American Revolution.


The Hudson Bay Company is the oldest Canadian company, and many of their trading posts developed into cities. For centuries, Canada’s economy has been based on farming and exporting natural resources such as fur, fish, and timber.


The first representative assembly was elected in Halifx, Nova Scotia, followed by PEI and New Brunswick. The Constitutional Act split Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada. Upper Canada was later named Ontario and Lower Canada was later named Quebec. The Act also made Canada the official name of the country, and gave people the right to a legislative assembly elected by the people. At this time, the Atlantic colonies and the two Canadas were known as British North America.


In 1840, Upper and Lower Canada were combined to create the Province of Canada, and the governors and ministers worked toward responsible government. The first colony to achieve this was Nova Scotia. This is the system we have today: if the government loses a vote of confidence then they must resign.


From 1864- 1867, representatives of the Canadian provinces worked together to establish a new country. These men are known as the Fathers of Confederation. They created the provincial and federal governments. The old Province of Canada was split into Ontario and Quebec, and they combined with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to become a new country called the Dominion of Canada. In 1867, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act which made the Dominion of Canada an official country separate from Britain. Canada was officially born on July 1, 1867, which is known as Canada Day.


In 1867, Sir John A. Macdonald who was a Father of Confederation, became the first Prime Minister of Canada.


Saskatchewan was originally part of Rupert’s Land, which was later referred to as the North West Territories. In 1905, Saskatchewan officially became a province in the Dominion of Canada.


The Coat of Arms of Canada is the official Coat of Arms for the Canadian Monarch, who is also the Monarch of Great Britain – currently this is Queen Elizabeth II. It has been the official coat of arms for Canada since 1921.


Originally, the Canadian flag was the Union Jack of Great Britain. In 1965, the government officially adopted what we know as the Canadian flag.

file:flag of canada.svgfile:flag of the united kingdom.svg

The national anthem of Canada is “O’ Canada”, and it was originally written in 1880. French lyrics were written in 1906, and English lyrics were written in 1908. The most popular version is the 1908 version. It officially became the national anthem in 1980, and was included as part of the Canada Day celebrations that year.

You should know the lyrics to O’Canada by heart. God Save the Queen will be fill in the blanks.
Oh Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see the rise,
The true north strong and free!
From far and wide,
O’ Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O’ Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O’ Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Quite often, “God Save the Queen” (or King) is played at official events because we are a part of the Commonwealth of Great Britain. Although there are several verses, usually only the first one is sung.

God save our gracious Queen,

Long live our noble Queen,

God save our Queen!

Send her victorious,

happy and glorious,

long to reign over us,

God save the Queen.



In 1812, England and France began fighting, and the war carried over to North America. This led to the Americans resenting the British and, believing that Canada would be easy to conquer, they launched an invasion in June of 1812. The Canadians and the First Nations people fought back. The war lasted three years, and in 1814, Major-General Robert Ross led an expedition from Nova Scotia that burned down the White House. By the end of 1814, the American invasion had failed, but that didn’t stop the Canadians from building a defence system. That system is still visible today, although it is not used. The border between Canada and the United States is partly an outcome of this war.


These rebellions happened because some of the people in Upper and Lower Canada believed that progress toward democracy was too slow. They occurred in the areas surrounding modern-day Toronto and Montreal. They were not successful, and were defeated by British troops and Canadian volunteers. Some rebels were hanged and some were exiled; some of the exiles later returned to Canada. Some of the British lords suggested that Canada be given responsible government, which means that the ministers must have the support of the majority of the representatives to govern. They also suggested that Upper and Lower Canada be merged into one country.


When Canada took over the western part of Canada from the Hudson Bay Company in 1869, the Metis people of the Red River Valley (North West Region) were not consulted, and a man named Louie Riel led an armed uprising against the government. He and his followers attacked Fort Garry, which was the capital. Ottawa sent soldiers to retake Fort Garry, and Riel fled to the States. Canada established a new province, Manitoba. Riel was elected to Parliament, but never took his seat. In 1885, a second rebellion occurred in Saskatchewan because Metis and Indian rights were once again threatened. This rebellion led to Riel being tried and executed for high treason (treason is the crime of plotting against the government). Riel is considered a hero to many, and is a defender of Metis rights and the Father of Manitoba. After these uprisings, John A. Macdonald established the North West Mounted Police to work in the unsettled lands. They founded several forts which have become modern day cities. The NWMP became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP and is the national police force of Canada.

WORLD WAR I (1914-1918)

Most Canadians were proud to be a part of Canada, and many volunteered to fight in the Boer War in South Africa, as well as in the battles of Paardeberg and Lillefontein. These served to strengthen national pride. When Germany attacked Belgium and France, and England declared war, over 600 000 Canadian soldier signed up and fought. This was World War I, and it lasted from 1914 to 1918.

Canadians were known as tough and innovative soldiers who were hard to beat on the battlefield. The Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge in 1917, with over 10, 000 killed or wounded. Canadians gained a fierce reputation, and were the “shock troops” of the British Empire.
Unfortunately, from 1914-1920, Canada put 10 000 Austro-Hungarian subjects (people from areas around Austria and Hungary), mainly Ukrainian men, into 24 labour camps across Canada because they were considered enemy aliens.
WORLD WAR II (1939-1945)

World War II began in 1945 when Germany invaded Poland and conquered much of Europe. Canada joined with the allies to defeat the Nazi’s. More than 1 million Canadians and Newfoundlanders (Newfoundland was still a separate entity) joined served in the Second World War. Over 44 000 Canadian soldiers were killed over the course of the war.

The Canadian soldiers fought bravely, and suffered losses in the defence of Hong Kong, and in the unsuccessful raid on Dieppe. The Royal Canadian Air Force was a large part of the air force, and flew bombers and fighter planes over much of Europe. Saskatchewan soldiers were particularly talented in this field because of their experience with crop dusting. The Royal Canadian Naval Force played a large role in the battle of the Atlantic, protecting merchant ships against German submarines. At the end of the war, Canada had the third largest navy in the world.

During the Second World War, Japan attacked the Aleutian Islands, attacked a lighthouse on Vancouver Island, launched fire balloons over the Prairies, and mistreated the Canadian prisoners of war.

The Canadian government also forcibly relocated many Japanese Canadians because of their race, and forced the sale of their property without compensation.


Slavery has existed all over the world. In 1793, Upper Canada became the first province to move against slavery. In 1833, slavery was abolished (made illegal) throughout the British Empire. Between 1833 and 1965, thousands of slaves from the United States followed the North Star and came to Canada via the underground railroad, a Christian anti-slavery network.


British Columbia joined Canada in 1871 after Ottawa promised to build a railroad to the west coast. The project was paid for by British and American investors, and built by European and Chinese labour. The Chinese suffered much discrimination, including a head tax that was charged to Chinese immigrants when they came to Canada. In 1885, they drove the last spike and the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR’s) “ribbons of steel” fulfilled a national dream.


When Canada became a country, only white men could vote. Women tried to gain the vote, and this is known as the Women’s Sufferage Movement. Dr. Emily Stowe, who was the first woman to practise medicine, was the leader of this movement. In 1916, Manitoba became the first province to allow women to vote. In 1917, the federal government gave some women the right to vote in federal elections. In 1918, most Canadian female citizens aged 21 and older were granted the right to vote.



Your assignment is to create a poster about a Canadian inventor, artist, and athlete. Your poster should have:

  • A minimum of 5 *pertinent* points about the person and their accomplishments

  • A picture of the person

  • A small map of Canada showing where they’re from

You will end up with three 8.5”x11” posters that you will glue to construction paper for posting around the school. No two students should do the same person, so read though the sign-up list before you start.

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