Canada is relatively a new country compared to the long-established nations of the world in Africa, Asia and Europe. Although, Canadian history does have a rich pageantry in the short time since it has become an independent nation.
Canada’s name originates from the Huron/Iroquois name ‘Kanata’, which means ‘settlement’, or ‘village’. The first inhabitants on the land were indigenous people. The Vikings, Norsemen, also established a settlement in Newfoundland around 1001 AD, and explorer Leif Erikson and his crew were the first Europeans to touch the earth in North America, 500 years before Christopher Columbus arrived.
The country was first explored mainly by French explorers such as Jacques Cartier, who in 1534 mapped the Gulf of St. Lawrence and claimed the land as the Colony of New France. Then Samuel de Champlain established the city of Quebec in 1608 and was named the ‘Father of New France’. Rich in natural resources and a booming fur trade, other nations, such as Great Britain, also wanted to claim Canada as its own.
Govern & Ruling
Prior to the birth of the nation, part of the land was under French rule. During the next 200 years, conflict ensued and in 1763 it was ceded to England after the French were defeated on the Plains of Abraham just outside of Quebec City, in the Seven Years War. Canada became a colony of England until 1867, when the new independent nation, the Dominion of Canada was established. Today, Canada is still a member of the British Commonwealth.
Under the guidance of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Province of Canada (which consisted of Lower and Upper Canada, now the provinces of Ontario and Quebec), was joined by two other British colonies, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to form a confederation of provinces and a self-governing entity. On July 1, 1867, the Dominion of Canada was born.
There are now 10 provinces and three territories that comprise Canada, and each province and territory has its own capital. In 1870 the province of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories joined confederation. Using the promise of completing a railroad across Canada by the Canadian Government, British Columbia joined the Confederation in 1871. Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, was added to the nation in 1873. 25 years later, in 1898, the Yukon Territories became part of Canada, partially due to the Yukon Gold Rush that needed policing at the time. Alberta and Saskatchewan joined in 1905, and the last province to become part of Canada was Newfoundland and Labrador, in 1949. Nunavut, which was part of the Northwest Territories, entered Confederation in 1999.
There have been 22 Canadian Prime Ministers, from the first one, Sir John A. Macdonald to our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. William Lyon Mackenzie King has been the longest serving Prime Minister as he was the head of government for more than 21 years. John A. MacDonald, Wilfred Laurier and Pierre Trudeau all served as Prime Minister for more than 15 years each.
War and Conflict
Since becoming a nation Canada has been involved in 14 different wars and conflicts throughout the world, starting with the Fenian Raids in 1866-1871. As a colony of Great Britain, Canadians fought in the War of 1812 with the British against the United States and it was during the war, due to the American threat, that the city of Ottawa was made the capital of Canada.
Canada had a defining moment on the international stage in World War 1 in 1917, when four divisions in the Canadian Corps attacked Vimy Ridge during the Battle of Arras in France and overtook the Germans in four days. It was a huge victory but had a terrible cost as over 10,000 Canadians either lost their lives or were wounded in the battle. It was the first time in history that Canada attacked another nation as one military unit.
Canada also served and played a big role in the Second World War, declaring war on Germany a week after the British declared war on the axis nations. The nation participated in the Korean War and present day it is battling ISIS, along with numerous other countries.
Despite being involved in numerous wars and conflicts, Canada is viewed as a peacekeeping nation, partially due to the work of Canadian diplomat and former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. In 1957 Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in solving the Suez Crisis, convincing Britain and France to depart from Egypt. He created the United Nations Emergency Force, which is the modern concept used at present for peacekeeping.
Want to learn more about Canada?
There is so much to learn about a new country when you first arrive. Here are 14 facts about Canada that you should know as you take off on your Canadian journey.
- Canada is the second largest land mass country in the world after Russia.
- Canada borders three oceans; Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific.
- Canada has the longest shared border in the world with the United States, 8893 kms.
- Boasting the longest coastline in the world, Canada has 243,977 kms of shoreline.
- There are approximately 36 million people living in Canada.
- O’ Canada is the national anthem.
- There are two official languages in Canada, English and French.
- Mount Logan is Canada’s highest mountain and resides in the Yukon.
- Canada’s longest river is the Mackenzie River.
- The official animal of Canada is the North American Beaver.
- Canada’s official motto is: ‘From Sea to Sea’.
- Canada’s official sports are hockey and lacrosse.
- Nunavut is translated to ‘our land’.
- Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris.