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Canada History


Aboriginal tradition holds that the First Peoples have inhabited parts of what is now called Canada since the dawn of time. Archaeological records show that these lands have been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. Several Viking expeditions occurred circa AD 1000, with evidence of settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows.

British claims to North America date from 1497, when John Cabot reached what he called Newfoundland, though it is unclear whether Cabot landed in current Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, or Maine. French claims date from explorations by Jacques Cartier (from 1534) and Samuel de Champlain (from 1603). Neither Cabot's nor Cartier's explorations left any permanent settlers behind. In 1604, French settlers were the first Europeans to settle permanently in what is now Canada. After an unsuccessful winter in St. Croix Island (today in Maine), they settled Port-Royal in what is now the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, but moved to found Quebec City in 1608. The current Acadians are descendants of settlers who came later in the same century and re-founded Port-Royal. New France was generally the name given to the French colonies of Canada and Acadia (and later Louisiana).

British settlements were established along the Atlantic seaboard and around Hudson Bay. As these colonies expanded, a struggle for control of North America took place between 1689 and 1763 (see French and Indian Wars), exacerbated by wars in Europe between France and Great Britain. France progressively lost territory to Great Britain, surrendering peninsular Nova Scotia in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and the remainder of New France including what was left of Acadia in the Treaty of Paris (1763).

During and after the American Revolution approximately 70,000 Loyalists fled the Thirteen Colonies. Of these, roughly 50,000 United Empire Loyalists [3] settled in the British North American colonies which then consisted of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, the Province of Quebec, and Prince Edward Island (created 1769). To accommodate the Loyalists, Britain created the colony of New Brunswick in 1784 from part of Nova Scotia, and divided Quebec into Lower Canada and Upper Canada under the Constitutional Act of 1791.

General Isaac Brock leading the charge in the Battle of Queenston Heights Enlarge General Isaac Brock leading the charge in the Battle of Queenston Heights

The War of 1812 began when the U.S. attacked British forces in Canada in an attempt to end British influence in North America (and particularly, the British seizures of American merchant ships in the Atlantic). In April 1813, U.S. forces burned York (now Toronto). The British/Canadians retaliated with the burning of Washington (DC) in a surprise attack in August 1814, but were subsequently turned back at Plattsburgh, Baltimore, and New Orleans. The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814. It was only after the French and Napoleonic wars ended in Europe that large-scale immigration to Canada resumed.

The Canadas were merged into a single colony, the United Province of Canada, with the Act of Union (1840) in an attempt to assimilate the French Canadians. Once the U.S. agreed to the 49th parallel north as its border with western British North America, the British government created the colonies of British Columbia in 1848 and Vancouver Island in 1849. By the late 1850s, politicians in the Province of Canada had launched a series of western exploratory expeditions with the intention of assuming control of Rupert's Land (administered by the Hudson's Bay Company) and the Arctic.

In 1864 and 1866, British North American politicians, in what became known as the Great Coalition, held three conferences to create a federal union. Spearheaded by John A. Macdonald, on July 1, 1867, three coloniesóCanada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswickówere granted a constitution, the British North America Act, by the United Kingdom, creating the Dominion of Canada. The term "Canadian Confederation" refers to this 1867 unification of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec (formerly Canada East or Lower Canada), and Ontario (formerly Canada West or Upper Canada). The remaining British colonies and territories soon joined Confederation. By 1880 Canada included all of its present area except for Newfoundland and Labrador, which joined in 1949. (It should be noted that, although part of Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan did not gain Provincial status until 1905.)

Enlarge Canadian Red Ensign, former flag of Canada

In 1919, Canada became a member of the League of Nations and, in the Imperial Conference of 1926, Canada assumed full control of its own foreign affairs through the Balfour Declaration. In 1927, Canada appointed its first ambassadorto a foreign country, the United States. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster gave the Balfour Declaration constitutional force, confirming that no act of the UK's parliament would thereafter extend to Canada without its consent. Canadian citizenship was first distinguished from British in 1947; judicial appeals to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ended in 1949. The power to amend Canada's constitution remained with the British parliament, although subject to the Statute of Westminster, until it was finally "patriated" to Canadian control by the Canada Act 1982.

The Quebec sovereignty movement has led to two referendums held in 1980 and 1995, with votes of 59.6% and 50.6% respectively against its proposals for sovereignty-association. In 1997 , the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unilateral secession by a province to be unconstitutional.

Sources: University World and Wikipedia