When Canada Was Founded

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History About Canada

Because the initial explorers believed they had reached the East Indies, when Europeans first explored Canada, they discovered that every region was inhabited by aboriginal peoples they dubbed Indians. Native Americans relied on agriculture and hunting and gathering to support their way of life. Like the Iroquois, the Huron-Wendat people of the Great Lakes region were farmers and hunters. They were hunters and gatherers, the Cree and Dene of the Northwest. The Sioux were nomads who moved from herd to herd like buffalo. Arctic fauna provided food for the Inuit. Fish was preserved by smoking and drying by West Coast tribes. Aboriginal groups frequently engaged in warfare as they fought one another for prestige, resources, and land.

The introduction of European traders, missionaries, troops, and colonists resulted in a permanent shift in the native way of life. Numerous Aboriginal people perished from diseases brought over from Europe to which they lacked immunity. However, throughout the first 200 years of coexisting, Europeans and Aboriginals developed significant economic, religious, and military ties that built the groundwork for Canada.

The First Europeans

A thousand years ago, the Icelandic Vikings who settled Greenland also made it to Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. L’Anse aux Meadows, the ruins of their town, is a World Heritage site.

With the expedition led by John Cabot, who produced the first map of Canada’s east coast, European exploration got under way in earnest in 1497.

Exploring a River, Naming Canada

Jacques Cartier made three trips across the Atlantic between 1534 and 1542 in order to claim the territory for King Francis I of France. Two captive guides were heard by Cartier using the Iroquoian word kanata, which means “settlement.” The name of Canada started to appear on maps about the year 1550.

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Royal New France

French explorers Pierre de Monts and Samuel de Champlain built the first European settlement north of Florida in 1604, first on St. Croix Island (in modern-day Maine), then at Port-Royal, in Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia). A stronghold was erected by Champlain in what is now Québec City in 1608. The colonists battled a hostile environment. The Iroquois, a confederation of five (later six) First Nations that fought the French settlements for a century, were historically enmasse foes of Champlain’s colony. They were associated with the Algonquin, Montagnais, and Huron. In 1701, the French and the Iroquois reached a settlement.

Because of the high demand for beaver pelts in Europe, the French and Aboriginal people worked together in the extensive fur-trading industry. Jean Talon, Bishop Laval, and Count Frontenac were notable figures who established the French Empire in North America, which stretched from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

Struggle For A Continent

The Hudson’s Bay Company was given exclusive trading privileges throughout the watershed that drained into Hudson Bay by King Charles II of England in 1670. The Company faced out against traders with offices in Montreal for the following 100 years. The experienced and valiant men known as voyageurs and coureurs des bois who traveled by canoe forged close ties with First Nations.

Early 1600s English colonies along the Atlantic coast finally surpassed New France in wealth and population. France and Great Britain fought each other for dominance of North America in the 1700s. The French empire in America came to an end in 1759 when the British beat the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Québec City. Brigadier James Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm, the leaders of both armies, were killed while leading their forces into battle.

The Province Of Quebec

Britain gave the colony a new name after the war: “Province of Quebec.” In the English-speaking, Protestant-ruled British Empire, the French-speaking Catholic inhabitants, also referred to as Canadiens, made an effort to uphold their way of life.

A Tradition Of Accommodation

The Quebec Act of 1774 was passed by the British Parliament in order to better regulate the predominantly French Roman Catholic population. The Quebec Act, one of Canada’s founding documents, adapted the ideals of British institutions to the needs of the province. Catholics were given religious freedom and were allowed to serve in public office, both of which were things that were not then permitted in Britain. The Quebec Act preserved British criminal law while restoring French civil law.

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United Empire Loyalists

The United States was founded in 1776 when the 13 British colonies south of Quebec proclaimed their independence. Once more, battle split North America. Over 40,000 persons who supported the Crown and were referred to as “Loyalists” emigrated to Nova Scotia and Quebec to escape the persecution of the American Revolution. Thousands of Mohawk Indian Loyalists were led into Canada by Joseph Brant. The Loyalists belonged to the Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Quaker, and Catholic faiths and were of Dutch, German, British, Scandinavian, Aboriginal, and other ancestry. In search of a better life, some 3,000 black Loyalists—both freedmen and slaves—came north. A new British colony for freed slaves was founded at Freetown, Sierra Leone (West Africa) in 1792 by a few black Nova Scotians who had been given poor land.

Abolition Of Slavery

All around the world, including Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, slavery has been practiced. In the late 1700s, a first attempt to end the transatlantic slave trade gained traction in the British Parliament. Upper Canada became the first province in the Empire to move toward abolition in 1793 under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, a Loyalist military officer. The British Parliament outlawed the purchase and sale of slaves in 1807, and slavery was outlawed throughout the British Empire in 1833. Through the Underground Railroad, a Christian anti-slavery network, thousands of slaves were able to escape from the United States, travel north, and eventually settle in Canada.


A Growing Economy

The first businesses in Canada were established during the French and British eras and engaged in a fur trade competition. Fort Garry (Winnipeg), Fort Edmonton, Fort Langley (near Vancouver), and Fort Victoria—trading posts that later developed into cities—were all under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which also employed French, British, and Aboriginal workers.

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The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the opening of the first financial institutions. In 1832, the Montreal Stock Exchange first traded. For many years, farming and the export of natural resources like fur, salmon, and timber via highways, lakes, rivers, and canals were the main pillars of Canada’s economy.


With British assistance, politicians of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada collaborated from 1864 to 1867 to form a new nation. The Fathers of Confederation are the name given to these persons. Federal and provincial governments were established.

In order to create the new country known as the Dominion of Canada, the previous Province of Canada was divided into the two new provinces of Ontario and Quebec, as well as the two other provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. With control over things like education and health, each province would elect its own assembly.

The British North America Act was enacted by the British Parliament in 1867. On July 1, 1867, the Dominion of Canada became a sovereign nation. The first of July was observed as “Dominion Day” up until 1982 to mark the day when Canada became a self-governing Dominion. It is now formally recognized as Canada Day.


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