20,000 years ago, Canada was completely covered by the
ice cap. People have migrated across the Alaska-Siberia land
bridge, and they may have continued south through an
ice-free corridor in present-day Alberta. Early finds
(9500–8000 BC) have been made on the Canadian prairie and as
far east as Ontario and New Brunswick. After 8000 BC several
cultures were developed adapted to forest and prairie and
coastal environments. Between 6000 and 4000 BC a southern
influence became evident, the economy became more
differentiated and barter developed. An adaptation to the
sea took place in the Arctic as well as on the west and east
With new western currents from Siberia between 2000 BC
and 1000 AD reached palaeo-skimos (dorset culture and its
predecessors) all the way to Greenland. They were followed
by the neoskimos (thule culture and inuit culture), the
ancestors of the present Eskimos after the 11th century. At
about the same time, Vikings arrived at L'Anse aux Meadows
During the period 1000 BC – 500 AD the ceramic production
spread from Asia and from southern peoples to the country's
eastern and western parts. The bow was also introduced from
Asia. Corn, grown as early as 5000 BC in Mexico, southern
Ontario reached about 500 AD, and this agriculture laid the
foundation for new social systems. Long-standing houses in
large fortified villages became characteristic of the
warlike tribes (Iroquois) who lived around the Great Lakes
at the time of contact with the Europeans. In the coastal
area of northwest (British Columbia) other tribes lived on
the rich salmon fishery and marine resources. Permanent
villages with houses built of ornate cedar boards arose, and
communities with strong social strata emerged. In the woods
and on the prairie in Canada's inland, athapaskas and algae
chinese fed on ambulatory hunting and fishing into
French colony (c. 1600–1763)
During the European pursuit of a western route to the
Spice Islands, Canada's east coast was rediscovered as early
as 1497 by John Cabot, who sailed under the British flag.
See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Canada. France's claim in Canada was established by Jacques Cartier,
who discovered and named "Canada" (present-day Quebec) in
1534 and during two trips (1535-36 and 1541-42) explored the
Saint Lawrence River all the way to the first river (at
Montreal) in the hope of finding a waterway to China.
No permanent residence existed before the 17th century in
New France (French Nouvelle France)),
which the French territories of the North American continent
were named during the period 1534-1763. In 1604 Samuel de
Champlain built Port Royal in Acadie (now Annapolis Royal in
Nova Scotia). The colonization of Canada, where Champlain
built a fur trading station at Quebec in 1608, started in
earnest only in the 1630s. Montreal was founded in 1642.
Initially, the administration of Canada was flawed, but
after a reorganization in 1663, a dynamic curator, Jean
Talon, took over the colony from 2,000 residents in 1660 to
10,000 in 1680. Fur trading and fishing were the main
industries. At the same time, exploration trips were made
inland to the Upper Lake and down the Mississippi River to
the Gulf of Mexico (La Salle 1682).
Meanwhile, Britain consolidated its position as a
colonial power along the east coast of North America. In
order to take up the competition with France for the
lucrative fur trade, in 1670, Hudson's Bay Company was
granted, by royal letter of privilege, to manage the entire
river basin at Hudson Bay, which Britain claimed since it
was discovered by Henry Hudson in 1610. Thus, British and
French interests in conflict on two fronts.
Acadie, who changed ownership four times during the 17th
century war, was finally resigned from France to Britain
(called the colony of Nova Scotia) at the peace in Utrecht
in 1713. When about 16,000 French-speaking residents refused
severe allegiance to Britain, about half were deported to
the South colonies in 1755–63, while the rest fled (compare
Cajun). Newfoundland also moved to Britain in 1713.
Immigration to Canada stopped after 1680, among other
things. because of France's European war. At most, there
were only 70,000 residents in the French colonies, compared
to 1.5 million British colonizers on the East Coast. Canada
expanded west when La Vérendrye reached the Rocky Mountains
during travel 1731–43. During the Seven Years' War
(1756–63), Quebec fell in 1759, and at the Paris peace in
1763, France handed over the colony to Britain.
British Colony (1763-1867)
Through the peace in Paris, Britain had gained dominion
over the entire eastern half of the continent. This position
became short-lived. The Quebec Act of 1774 recognized the
right of the French to their language, religion and civil
law. At the same time, southwest Quebec was reserved for fur
trade. This prevented colonization from New England and
contributed to dissatisfaction there. In the North American
War of Independence (1775–83), only Quebec and Nova Scotia
remained loyal. In the peace of Versailles in 1783, Canada
In order to take care of the approximately 40,000
refugees from the United States who were loyal to the
British flag, New Brunswick was created in 1784 and, through
a division of Canada in 1791, Upper Canada (corresponding to
the latter province of Ontario) and Lower Canada
(corresponding to the latter province of Quebec). A tense
relationship arose between the United States and the British
colonies. Regular war broke out in 1812, but US forces
fought back. However, it followed hundreds of years of
territorial disputes with the United States.
The first half of the 19th century was an expansive time.
As a result of the peace following the Napoleonic Wars and
the mechanization of agriculture, immigration from the
United Kingdom increased. The total population grew from
about 430,000 at the beginning of the century to 1,400,000
in 1832 and 3,169,000 in 1861. Cultivation of new areas took
place, canals and railways were built, cities and industry
All colonies had an early form of parliamentary system at
the beginning of the century, in which power lay with the
mediated classes. In Lower Canada, the class conflict was
reinforced by ethnic and religious differences. Demands for
greater power for the elected congregations led in 1837 to
rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada. As a result, the two
colonies were merged into a united Canada in 1841. This left
the French speakers in a minority, and the French language
lost its status as an official language. However, the
elected assembly gained greater power over budgetary issues,
which were utilized to enforce the principle that the
ministers would enjoy the confidence of elected
representatives in 1848. Similar self-government was
achieved in the other colonies by peaceful means.
In the shadow of political instability, US invasion
threats and the economic stagnation of the 1860s, leading
colonial politicians began discussing a merger.
British Dominion (1867–1931)
The federal state of Canada, which included the provinces
of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, was
formed on July 1, 1867, when the Law of British North
America came into force. As a dominion, Canada was given
sovereign powers in all domestic affairs; these powers were
distributed between the provinces and the federal
government. Both French and English were recognized as
The Conservative government in the capital of Ottawa
under John A. Macdonald (1867–73 and 1878–91) now engaged in
consolidation policy. In 1869, the vast domains of the
Hudson's Bay Company were acquired. A new province,
Manitoba, was created in 1870 around the company's only
settlement on the Red River after a rebellion, led by Louis
Riel, was fought. The following year, British Columbia chose
to join the federal government in the promise of a rail link
with eastern Canada. The small island colony of Prince
Edward Island joined in 1873.
Contradictions between French and English-speaking
Canadians were aroused when Riel was executed after a new
uprising in 1885 and when Manitoba in 1890 was allowed to
deprive its own French-speaking minority of its language
In the 1896 elections, the Conservatives lost to the
Liberal Party under Wilfrid Laurier (1896-1911). During his
tenure, immigration reached its peak: between 1901 and 1911
the population increased from 5.7 million to 7.2 million
residents. Two new provinces - Alberta and Saskatchewan -
were created in 1905. Laurier introduced preferential
tariffs for Britain and sent 7,000 volunteers to the Boer
War, but claimed Canada's independence from the motherland.
Canada participated with 600,000 men in the First World War,
now with Conservative Robert Borden (1911-20) as Prime
Minister, and was instrumental in signing the Versailles
Peace. Canada's position as fully sovereign state was
recognized by Britain in the 1931 Westminster Statute.
Sovereign State (from 1931)
The Liberals had under William Lyon Mackenzie King
regained power in 1921. The same year, women's suffrage was
introduced. The Liberals ruled for a decade of strong
economic growth until the stock market crash of 1929, which
led to bankruptcies and high unemployment.
After the 1930 elections, a conservative government was
formed, led by Richard Bedford Bennett, who led a
protectionist policy. King returned in 1935 and succeeded in
strengthening the economy through trade agreements with the
United States in 1938.
During World War II, Canada fought from 1939 on Britain's
side. Canada, after the defeat of France and up to the entry
of the Soviet Union and the United States, was Britain's
most important ally. Calls for war service, however, aroused
reluctance in Quebec, but Canada's participation in the war
was strongly supported by Prime Minister King. During the
war, the country was an important supplier of weapons, food
and equipment to other western allies, which led to an
industrial expansion. After the peace of 1945, Canada was
one of the states that was a founding member of both the
United Nations and NATO.
Newfoundland became Canada's tenth province in 1949. The
Liberals retained the government under Louis Étienne Stephen
Saint Laurent 1948–57, lost the 1957 elections to the
Conservatives under John Diefenbaker but returned in 1963
under Lester Pearson who had power until 1968.
During the 1960s, the national feeling in Quebec
developed into a dynamic force for change. The Liberal Party
took power in the province and launched a comprehensive
modernization program, called the Silent Revolution. The
political program, among other things, broke the strong
position of the Catholic Church in the province and aimed to
promote French-speaking companies.
According to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Quebec's
independence claim posed a threat to the Canadian federal
state, while emphasizing that all the country's minorities
should have the same freedoms and rights. From 1971,
multiculturalism became part of official politics. Trudeau
strengthened the French language's position in the federal
administration and also sought a settlement with the
provinces to enroll language rights in the Constitution,
In Quebec, several disputed language laws were adopted in
the 1970s, which made French the only official language. In
1976, the Social Democratic Party Québécois (PQ), in office,
held a referendum for increased independence, but a majority
of voters voted no. At this stage, Trudeau chose to push
through the constitutional change without Quebec's approval,
and the new Constitution, the Constitution Act, came into
force in 1982.
The Liberals' long government holdings ended in the fall
of 1984 when the Progressive Conservative Party (PC) under
Brian Mulroney won an overwhelming election victory. Under
PC's conservative rule, a rapprochement with the United
States occurred and in 1989 Canada signed a free trade
agreement with the Americans.
The following year, negotiations began with Mexico, to
which the United States joined. The negotiations resulted in
a 1992 agreement on a free trade zone for the whole of North
America (the so-called NAFTA agreement), which came into
force in 1994. Mulroney attempted in 1987 to settle the
constitutional dispute with Quebec, but the so-called Meech
Lake agreement was not ratified by all provinces. within the
stipulated time and fell in 1990. A new proposal, the
Charlottetown Agreement, was rejected by a majority of
Canadians in a 1992 referendum. At the same time, despite
sharp savings and increased taxes, the government failed to
deal with the increasingly poor economy. Since Mulroney
resigned in June 1993, Kim Campbell took over as the new PC
leader and federal prime minister.
The October 1993 parliamentary elections were won by the
Liberal Party, which formed government under the leadership
of politically experienced Jean Chrétien. PC suffered a
stinging defeat and received only two terms.
Even during the remainder of the 1990s, the issue of
state cohesion and the status of the provinces in relation
to the federal power in Ottawa gained considerable political
space. The separatist Party Québécois won the 1994
provincial election in Quebec. In 1995, a referendum on
independence for the province was held, which the
separatists lost by a small margin. In 1998, the Supreme
Court of Canada ruled that no province had the right to
unilaterally leave the federation. Two years later, the
federal parliament passed a law, the Clarity Act, which
stipulated that a clear majority within a province must
support an exit for independence negotiations to come about.
There was a clear gap between the government of Ottawa
and the English-speaking provinces of Western Canada who
considered themselves neglected by the federal government.
It was also considered that the federal government took too
much into consideration Quebec. By playing on this
discontent, the right-wing populist Reform Party, which had
been formed in 1987, gained more and more supporters.
However, the Liberals won the federal election in 1997
without any major problems. Before the election three years
later, the Reform Party merged with several small parties on
the right-hand side of the Canadian Alliance. The
new party won six new mandates in November 2000, which was
not enough to pose any real threat to the liberals' power
From the end of the 1990s, interest in independence in
Quebec decreased. Uncertainty about the future of the
province led to reduced investment, and the younger
generation seemed to be more interested in getting the
economy on its feet than by independence. One sign of this
was that the Liberals won the provincial elections in 2003.
Jean Chrétien's Liberal government implemented a
restructuring of state finances and, for the first time in
several decades, turned the deficits in the state budget
into a surplus. From the mid-1990s and eight years on, the
state budget was at a plus, while the country's debt burden
decreased. This was done, among other things, by reducing
appropriations to the provinces, cuts in the public sector
and less money for the defense.
Relations between the federal government and the
provincial governments became increasingly tense. After the
change of power in the US in 2001, tensions arose in contact
with the US. Canada participated in the US-led war against
Afghanistan, but Chrétien openly criticized the US
intervention in Iraq in 2003. Former Finance Minister Paul
Martin took over as Liberal Party leader in 2003 and was
appointed new head of government.
In 2004, the Liberals lost their majority in the lower
house. Martin was hard pressed by a corruption scandal
within the ruling party, despite himself not being accused
of anything. The Conservative Party of Canada (CP), formed
the year before by a merger of the Canadian Alliance and the
Progressive Conservative Party, has now become the largest
opposition party. The Martin government later fell into a
vote of no confidence that same fall since the Social
Democratic New Democratic Party (NDP), which was
dissatisfied with the government's health care policy, made
common cause with CP and the separatist Bloc Québécois (BQ).
The 2006 election was won by the Conservatives and a
Conservative minority government took office with party
leader Stephen Harper as prime minister. However, Harper's
government found it difficult to push through its policies.
In the autumn of 2008, the world was hit by an
international financial crisis. The Harper government was
criticized for not acting more vigorously to counter a
recession, but the Canadian economy did quite well during
The 2011 re-election was won by the Conservatives who got
their own majority in the lower house, which meant that the
party could for the first time conduct its own policy.
Stronger penalties for violence and sexual offenses were
introduced, as well as new anti-terrorism legislation.
During this time, Canada reduced its involvement in the
UN and also cut back on aid. In 2011, Canada withdrew from
the Kyoto agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. The extensive and environmentally hazardous
extraction of oil sands in Alberta made it particularly
difficult for the country to fulfill its commitments.
Compare the Kyoto Protocol.
In 2013, Canada agreed with the EU on a trade agreement,
CETA, which meant that most of all customs duties would be
removed. The agreement came into force in 2017.
The indigenous people receive public apology
The rights of indigenous peoples have continued to be on
the political agenda. Representatives of the indigenous
population have requested compensation for lost land rights
and demanded increased self-determination and better living
conditions. The issue of land rights has mainly been
addressed in the judicial system, but there have also been
confrontations between groups from the indigenous population
and the police.
In recent years, various Canadian governments have sought
to redress past abuses against indigenous peoples and
counteract the social misery that many of these groups live
in. However, the process has been slow. In 2008, then-Prime
Minister Harper officially apologized for violations of
school students from the indigenous population committed in
boarding schools until the 1990s and run by the Catholic
Church and various Protestant communities. The children were
forcibly separated from their parents in order to be
assimilated into Canadian society.
Just a few years later, the Harper government passed new
laws that would make it easier for mining companies to
extract the natural resources contained in Inuit's (First
Nations/Premières Nations, formerly called Eskimos)
reserves. The legislative changes led to widespread protests
among the indigenous peoples.
The 2015 election led to a shift in power when the
Liberals gained their own majority in the lower house with
Justin Trudeau as prime minister. Trudeau's appearance was
in stark contrast to the unity that prevailed under Harper's
rule. Among the first Trudeau did as prime minister was to
sign the Paris Agreement (compare the Climate Convention).
He also promised better conditions for indigenous peoples,
and in 2016 Canada signed the United Nations Declaration on
Indigenous Rights nine years after it was adopted by 144
Since 2016 it has been allowed in some cases with
euthanasia. In 2018, Canada became the second country in the
world after Uruguay to legalize marijuana for everyday use.
In 2017, US President Donald Trump requested that the
NAFTA agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico be
renegotiated. Initially, the negotiations were disturbed by
the fact that the US introduced new duties on Canadian steel
and aluminum. A new agreement, the USMCA, became clear in
2018, but has so far only been ratified by Mexico (2019).
Oil recovery has been a key issue during the 2010s,
especially the oil pipelines to be built to transport oil
from Alberta in Western Canada to eastern Canada, the US and
British Columbia. The management has raised protests from
environmental groups and representatives of indigenous
peoples whose lands are affected.
In 2019, Quebec introduced a disputed law prohibiting
civil servants from wearing religious symbols during working
hours. The law has been criticized for restricting religious
freedom and for being primarily directed at Muslims and
especially women wearing veils.
In the 2019 federal election, support for Trudeau's
Liberal Party, which lost its majority in the House of
Commons, fell. See also State of affairs and politics.