It’s only about one-hundred fifty years old and is the second largest country in the world. It has cold winters and hot summers. People there love hockey and Tim Hortons doughnuts. That’s all you really need to know about Canada. Actually it’s not!
Though its history is not as universally well-known as its southern neighbor the United States, Canada has an eventful history with many milestones. Many of these moments have not only affected Canada as a nation, but influenced other countries as well.
Here’s some of the key moments in Canadian history:
The Council of Three Fires is established, a combination of three indigenous tribes— Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi—that is the first recorded confederacy in Canada.
Genoese navigator John Cabot discovers Newfoundland, eventually claiming it for Great Britain.
Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, discovers and claims the Gaspé Peninsula for France.
The Hudson’s Bay Company is granted a charter by King Charles II of England, allowing it to establish a trading monopoly over an area of Canada that was then known as Rupert’s Land.
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham near Quebec City occurs; a result of the Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France. British General James Wolfe resists French-Canadien militia led by General Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm, leading to the establishment of Canada and future longstanding divisions between English and French speaking Canadians.
The British defeat American invaders at the Battle of Beaver Dams, near present day Niagara-on-the-Lake.
After the Red River Rebellion led by Louis Riel, a Métis native, land rights are finally given to the Métis and the province of Manitoba is formed.
Canada becomes an official nation called the Dominion of Canada, a democratic monarchy under the British Crown that includes the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Scottish-born Sir John A. Macdonald becomes the first prime minister.
Alexander Graham Bell invents the first telephone in Brantford, Ontario.
The Canadian Pacific Railroad is completed, making it the world’s longest railway line.
William P. Hubbard becomes the first Canadian of African descent elected to public office in Toronto.
New Zealand born Ernest Rutherford wins the Nobel Prize for the work in nuclear physics he developed at McGill University in Montreal. Other famous Canadian scientists such as Frederick Banting and Arthur McDonald receive the Nobel Prize later.
Canada enters World War One alongside Great Britain.
The National Hockey Association is established. Eventually it becomes the National Hockey League, encompassing teams both in Canada and the United States.
Manitoba’s Captain Wilfrid May and Ontario’s’ Captain Arthur R. Brown engage Germany’s Captain Manfred von Richthofen, otherwise known as the Red Baron, in an aerial dogfight. It’s disputed which pilot actually shot down the Red Baron.
Along with the United States, Canada enters the Great Depression. Exports of raw materials such as wheat, fish, minerals, and timber plunge. In the western provinces, a dry ‘dust bowl’ climate ensues with large locust invasions and civilian riots in various towns.
Canada enters the Second World War. The United States doesn‘t enter until 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
Saskatchewan’s Tommy Douglas introduces the first Canadian Health Care Act, whereby health care coverage is provided by a Canadian government body. Douglas was also father to actress Shirley Douglas and grandfather to actor Kiefer Sutherland.
Newfoundland is the last of the ten provinces to enter the Canadian Confederation.
Canada enters the Korean War and partakes in it until its end in 1953.
Canada’s indigenous people are finally given the right to vote in federal elections. This will lead to more rights for natives and the abolition of various regulations on native people, including residential schools and native status rights.
Under the influence of Douglas’ health care reform, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson introduces publically funded healthcare for all Canadian citizens, or ‘Medicare’.
Canada celebrates its one hundred year centenary with the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, or ‘Expo ’67’, in Montreal.
Montreal is the first Canadian city to host a Major League Baseball team—the Expos—outside of the United States.
Canada implements the Official Languages Act, making Canada an officially bilingual country in both English and French.
On 5 October, the rebellious faction Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnap Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross in the name of demanding Quebec sovereignty from Canada. Cross is released but Laporte is found murdered in the trunk of a car. The Prime Minister implements the War Measures Act giving police more arrest rights and the culprits are eventually caught. This comes to be known as the October Crisis and focuses attention on the particular ethnic conflicts within Canada.
Montreal is the first Canadian city to host the Summer Olympics. Calgary and Vancouver follow, in the 1988 winter and 2010 summer respectively.
The CN (Canadian National) Tower is erected in Toronto. It is the world’s tallest freestanding structure for decades, finally superseded by the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai in 2010.
The first referendum for Quebec independence is held. Almost sixty percent of the province’s voters elect to stay in Canada.
Residents of the Oka Native Reservation near Ottawa stage a large protest that draws international attention to native land rights.
Dr. Roberta Bondar becomes the first Canadian woman and neurologist to go on a NASA mission.
The Toronto Blue Jays become the first Canadian team to win the World Series of Baseball. They repeat this success the following year.
British Columbia’s Kim Campbell becomes the first Canadian female prime minister.
Toronto receives its first National Basketball Association team, the now renowned Toronto Raptors.
Egyptian born, Toronto-based writer-director Atom Egoyan becomes the first Canadian-based director to be nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Director category for his film The Sweet Hereafter. He loses to Titanic’s James Cameron, a Canadian-American born in Kapuskasing, Ontario.
Nunavut separates from the large Northwest Territories as an independent territory, solidifying Canada’s geographic breakdown into the three territories Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Plus its ten provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.
Internationally acclaimed short story writer Alice Munro of collections The Moons of Jupiter and Lives of Girls and Women becomes the first Canadian recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
As one might imagine, there are more key events in Canada’s history. For anyone interested in learning more, see The Language Gallery Toronto’s Canadian Culture elective. You’ll learn about these Canadian events and much more.