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 coasts.
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 in Newfoundland.
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 historical times.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Canada. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
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 remained British.
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 grew.
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 official languages.
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 rights.
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, which failed.
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 holdings.
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 crisis.
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 states.
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.