Useful Notes / Canadian History
Not to be confused with the despicable sex act.
Reenactments of many of these moments and others can be viewed at History by the Minute.
ca. 20 000 - 10 000 BCE
: Siberians cross the Bering Strait by either a land bridge (due to lower ocean levels as a result of the Ice Age) or a sheet of ice (due to the… uh, Ice Age). Hundreds of unique cultures grow and develop up and down the Americas from these progenitors.
ca. 1000: Leif Ericson founds Vinland
in what is now L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. His men stay for a while until the natives kick them out for partying too hard.
1497: John Cabot
(Giovanni Caboto) lands at what is believed to be either Newfoundland or Cape Breton, and claims it for Henry VII.
Deganawidah, a powerful Iroquoian leader, unites five separate Iroquois nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk) as the Haudenosaunee or League of Iroquois. The League becomes one of the most powerful First Nations organizations on the continent. The Tuscarora of what is now North Carolina later join the confederacy, giving it the popular name "Six Nations". The Six Nations confederacy still exists today as a strong voice for Native people. The Great Law of Peace, written by Deganawidah, still serves as its constitution.
Jacques Cartier's expedition explores deeper into the mainland. In 1535, he spends the winter in what is now Québec, nearly loses half his men to hypothermia, only to then nearly lose half his men to scurvy. They survive by drinking tea made from boiled spruce needles. Yum.
(Here starts the history of New France, lasting from 1534 to 1763 — you shall proceed to barely hear about it in this article)
Samuel de Champlain establishes Port-Royal, later the heart of New France. He institutes Canada's first social club, L'Ordre de Bon Temps
, to avert death by winter depression and malnutrition. In 2005, Canadians celebrated the anniversary of this achievement the best way they know how: with commemorative quarters.
The British start to arrive on Newfoundland and establish a thriving cod fishing industry on the Grand Banks (one of the most fertile fishing grounds in the world until its collapse in the 1950s). Apparently, the head Brits planned this as a summer settlement only, assuming Newfoundland to be uninhabitable in the winter. The ordinary people brought over to harvest and process the aforementioned fishies decided they were having none of that travel back and forth, thank you very much,
and built permanent settlements anyway. Tensions rose to nearly start the first (white) rebellion in North America. The head Brits finally decided that anyone crazy enough to live in Newfoundland in the winter was welcome to it, and let them be.
1000 Filles du roi
(the King's Daughters) were sent to New France to boost the population of the colonies and correct the huge gender imbalance there. The women were mostly orphans, and the government paid for their passage and dowries.
May 2, 1670
: Based on the proposal of trappers Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers (Messers Radishes and Gooseberry), Charles II founds the Hudson's Bay Company, granting it exclusive trade rights (and de facto
control) of the Hudson's Bay watershed, ⅓ of modern day Canada. The venerable HBC would go on to supply Europe with beaver pelt hats and First Nations with European technology for the next two hundred years.
As part of the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, France cedes nearly all of its New World holdings to Great Britain, including Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. France retains control over Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island.
The Great Upheaval. British authorities forcefully deport 12,000 Acadians from their newly-won colonies. Many die in the process. Some end up in what is now Louisiana; "Acadian" eventually becomes "Cajun."
September 12, 1759:
In the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a British force lead by General James Wolfe decisively defeats the French of Louis-Joseph Marquis de Montcalm and captures Québec City. The French forces in New France surrender a year later. Both generals were killed in battle. The Death of General Wolfe
by Benjamin West remains one of the most famous Canadian historical paintings.
February 10, 1763:
The French and Indian Wars or The Seven Years War end with the Treaty of Paris. France gives up almost all of her North American colonies to Britain outside of the tiny islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
October 7, 1763:
The Royal Proclamation is issued, forbidding settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. Though more immediately applicable at the time to land grants given to British colonists in what is now the United States, the Proclamation continues to have legal significance in 21st-century Canada's relationships with its First Nations.
August 1, 1764:
The Treaty of Fort Niagara was agreed to by British and Indigenous representatives, trading a section of land along the Niagara River and establishing the relationship between Indigenous peoples and new colonists who would be settling in the area. The new relationship established would come into play forty-eight years later (see below).
In a remarkable display of foresight, the British pass the Act of Québec, which guarantees the Catholic religion and system of Civil Law derived from France for the French Canadians. In a typical Canadian compromise, the French system of civil law is blended with the English system of criminal law. With their rights guaranteed, the French Canadians have no reason to rebel, and join with the British in fighting the American invasions, most notably at the 1775 Battle of Québec.
- Perhaps diluting the remarkableness of that foresight, the act would be cited as one of the "Intolerable Acts" that spawned the American Revolution. Opposition in the 13 colonies came for various reasons, partly that the Québecois were being allowed to remain Roman Catholic, and partly that the lands given to Québec by the act included regions that were being eyeballed for colonial expansion.
- Although since French and British explorers and settlers had been in the land given to Québec long before the 13 colonies started eyeballing it, this becomes again remarkable foresight against Manifest Destiny.
End of the American Revolution: many United Empire Loyalists flee America, where for obvious reasons they are less than welcome, for a new life in Canada: this is the point when Canada starts to become a truly bilingual country.
The province of Québec is divided into the sections of Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Many of the Loyalists who fled the American Revolution settled in Upper Canada, forming what will become the province of Ontario. The French Canadians remain the majority in Lower Canada, which would eventually become the province of Québec.
- Note that the "upper" and "lower" refer to Upper Canada being farther up the St. Lawrence River than Lower Canada, confounding the usual convention that "up is north", and confusing many elementary school students being shown these areas on a map.
1100 black Loyalists travel to Sierra Leone to found the Freetown colony led by the abolitionists John Clarkson and freeman Thomas Peters. All were former slaves from America who either escaped or were granted freedom and resettled in Nova Scotia for fighting for Britain in The American Revolution
The Act Against Slavery is passed by the Upper Canada legislature, banning the slave trade within the colony and guaranteeing freedom for children born to female slaves once they reached the age of 25. It was the first law against slavery enacted anywhere in the British Empire.
June 18, 1812 - February 12, 1815:
Britain and America get into trade disputes over Napoleon's blockade of Britain, and Britain is also "impressing" (kidnapping) American sailors. America decided that taking Canada from the Brits will be "a matter of marching", but they're in for a shock: the Anglo-Canadians still have strong memories of Loyalism and Licking the Damn Yanks, the Franco-Canadians would rather the devil they know than the devil they don't, and the natives like Tecumseh also tend to take the British side, because the Brits have been much better than the Yanks at their side of many of the treaties they'd made with the First Nations.note
The people rally to help the British army, and after throwing out several invasion attempts, including a burning and looting of York (Toronto
), the Brits strike back by burning Washington, D.C.
. A British soldier does not loot without orders, I shall have you know!
- June 21 - 24, 1813: Laura Secord, taking care of her wounded husband in their home where American officers had billeted, learns of an impending American attack against James FitzGibbon's British forces and sets out to warn him. She travels on foot for almost two days through untamed wilderness to deliver her warning. FitzGibbon's British and Mohawk force defeats the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams.
- The Treaty of Ghent officially ended the war on December 24, 1814, but it took weeks to get that information to North America from Belgium. In the meantime, the British lost the Battle of New Orleans. Even though the war ends with an effective stalemate, the fact that the Colonies were able to repulse the American invaders multiple times was victory enough for them and a lasting boost to the notion of keeping their own identity as something different from America: a Canadian-ness is developing, neither "Americans on the wrong side of the war" or "British on the far side of the sea" but something separate.
A famine in the Red River Colony (to be known as Manitoba) causes Governor Miles Macdonell to ban exports of food. This raises the ire of the Métis population, who want the right to sell food if they want. In 1816, leader Cuthbert Grant leads a revolt and steals the government's food to see how they like it, which leads to the Battle of Seven Oaks that June 19, when the new governor, Robert Semple, finds out. He gets himself killed for it (might have something to do with sending 28 poorly trained men against 61 well-trained men) and the Métis define themselves as a nation, complete with their own flag. (The battle site is at what is now the corner of Main Street and Rupertsland Boulevard in Winnipeg, on the #18 North Main bus route.)
With the death of Shanawdithit, the Beothuk people
of Newfoundland become the first documented extinct people of the New Worlds.
Rebellions against British rule occur in both Upper (Anglo-) and Lower (Franco-) Canada, in part for responsible government, i.e., essentially real democracy, at least by the standards of the time, and home rule. The Lower Canadian rebellion was far better organized, but both were crushed. However, the rebels still eventually won in part because the Crown sent Lord Durham to figure out why the people didn't like British rule, and his report recommended the same "responsible government." His report is nevertheless thought of as an insult by Lower Canada, as it also recommended the prompt assimilation of the French Catholic Canadians into the English Protestant rest of Canada.
February 10, 1841:
The Act of Union, 1840, is ratified, united Upper and Lower Canada into a single province. They don't get the responsible government Lord Durham recommended until 1848.
June 15, 1846:
The Oregon Treaty establishes the 49th parallel north as the political boundary between the United States of America and British North America west of the Rocky Mountains. Both sides agree because when you travel above 49 degrees north, the temperature abruptly drops forty degrees.note
The height of the Underground Railroad
, which brought escaped slaves North to freedom. Slavery had been abolished in Canada in 1834 (although discrimination was still rampant) and individuals could not be extradited back to the U.S. At least 30,000 people, but possibly as many as 100,000, escaped slavery this way, many settling in what is now southern Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
The leaders of the British North American colonies discuss the possibility of uniting to deal with various political issues, including financial problems, political gridlocks, and mutual defense against any American invasion. Their discussions lead to the creation of what would become the British North America Act.
July 1, 1867:
The British North America Act, 1867, comes into effect. The Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia become the Dominion of Canada, which still exists today, much modified. The Province of Canada's subdivisions are renamed Ontario and Québec. In a general trend that repeats itself throughout Canadian history, Confederation is a witch's brew of ideas and trends, mixed together in a large compromise. John A. Macdonald celebrates by getting drunk.
The newly formed dominion buys the vast Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company. In response, Métis leader Louis Riel sets up a provisional government in the Red River Settlement. This eventually, after some bloodshed, leads to the inauguration of the postage stamp — I mean, province
— of Manitoba, established in 1870. John A. Macdonald celebrates by getting drunk. Over the next century and a half, the Northwest is divided into new territories and provinces, and established provinces see their territories expanded.
July 20, 1871:
The Colony of British Columbia is brought into Confederation. John A. Macdonald celebrates by getting drunk.
John A. Macdonald celebrates the formation of the Northwest Mounted Police on May 23rd by getting drunk.
The NWMP march west to enforce law and order in the Northwest Territories and the Native American nations were quite impressed, at least at first, at how helpful they were tamping down the whiskey traders ravaging their communities. On July 1st Prince Edward Island joins Confederation, and John A. Macdonald celebrates by getting drunk.
February 8, 1879:
With the world rapidly becoming smaller, railway surveyor (for both the Intercolonial and Canadian Pacific railways) Sandford Fleming first proposes a system of standard time zones at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute. The entire world eventually adopts a modified version (Universal Coordinated Time) by 1924.
Louis Riel, now arguably mentally unstable but still a hero to his people, leads another and more violent rebellion in the west. The Canadian militia uses the partially built (and all but broke) transcontinental railway to get there in a few days to crush the rebellion. As a result, Riel is defeated, tried, and executed, which alienated the French Canadian population even while the whole affair gave Macdonald's dream to unite the nation through a ribbon of steel the final political boost needed to complete it. John A. Macdonald celebrates by getting drunk. Note that Riel is to this day
thought of as a traitor by some Canadians and a hero by others. There are High Schools
and Ottawa named after him, a public monument of him the Manitoba Legislature building
and a Manitoba provincial holiday
in his honour (how many people executed for high treason can claim that?).
- To thank the fifteen thousand Chinese laborers who helped build the Canadian Pacific (completed November 7th), the government passes the Chinese Immigration Act, forcing all future Chinese immigrants to pay $50 to enter Canada if they fell outside narrow definitions (teachers, merchants, and missionaries were exempt). It's not the first slap in the face to the Chinese in North America and it won't be the last.
John A. Macdonald wins his final election, and celebrates by getting drunk.note
He dies later that year, and the whole country offers a toast in his honor. In December, Dr. James Naismith (former PE teacher and director of athletics at McGill University) invents basketball while an expatriate in the US, at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.
May 5, 1893:
The Montreal Hockey Club wins the first Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, better known as The Stanley Cup
. The Cup will go on to become the most prestigious North American professional hockey trophy.
The Klondike Gold Rush. Tons of American prospectors flood north into British Columbia. The presence of the NWMP makes this the most orderly gold rush in history, and the presence of the NWMP's machine guns finally define the Alaska-Canada border which had been bandied about by politicians for years. Wilfrid Laurier, leader of the Liberal Party, is elected to lead his party's first government since 1878 (and becomes the first French-Canadian PM, the post-Confederation PM with the longest consecutive tenure, ending in 1911
and the Liberal leader credited with making them "Canada's natural governing party"
), finally ending a weird period of Canadian politics which saw five Prime Ministers in five years.note
June 13, 1898:
The Yukon Territory is established to get a better handle on the Gold Rush.
Prime Minister Laurier declares the 20th century as the century of Canada. Nobody else notices.
September 1, 1905:
Alberta and Saskatchewan, created from the Northwest Territories, join Confederation.
September 26, 1907:
The Dominion of Newfoundland is established.
May 23, 1914:
The steamship Komagata Maru
arrives in Vancouver with over 300 Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim immigrants from India; they are refused permission to dock and enter the country, even though they are British subjects (like all Canadians were at the time); after two months in Vancouver harbour, the ship is turned around with all but twenty passengers forced to return to India. The Canadian government will make an official apology for the incident in 2016.
May 29, 1914:
The steamship Empress of Ireland
collides with the Norwegian coal ship Storstad
in heavy fog in the Gulf of St Lawrence and sink in 14 minutes. 1,012 of the 1,477 people on board lose their lives, making it the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in Canadian history.
December 8, 1915:
Field surgeon John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields
is first published in Punch
magazine. Allegedly, McCrae's fellow soldiers retrieved it after he had discarded it as unsatisfactory. McCrae himself died of pneumonia in 1918. His collected works, In Flanders Fields and Other Poems
, was first published in 1919.
July 1, 1916:
The Newfoundland Regiment (later Royal Newfoundland Regiment) launches an assault on German forces at Beaumont-Hamel as part of the Battle of the Somme. The 30-minute battle is a bloodbath
, with all but 110 of the 780 who went "over the top" dying; of those who survived, only 68 answered role call the next morning.note
April 9, 1917:
Canadian troops show their guts in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Despite some 40% casualties, it was well-planned and well-executed, with victory achieved after three days of fighting. Four of the soldiers present earn Victoria Crosses. Following this, the Canadian troops develop a reputation for being pretty dangerous, prompting the Germans to invent the term Stormtrooper
to describe them.
December 6, 1917:
The French munitions ship Mont Blanc
collides with Belgian vessel Imo
in Halifax Harbour. She burns for twenty-five minutes before she explodes, levelling two square kilometres and killing over two thousand people. Train dispatcher Vince Coleman desperately sends a message to stop an inbound train carrying over seven hundred people, remaining at his post until he confirms the train's response. He does not survive. Until the Trinity test, this was the largest manmade explosion at the time, and remains the largest non-nuclear manmade explosion to date.note
February 1, 1920:
The (Royal) Northwest Mounted Police merges with the Dominion Police, creating the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
October 23, 1922
: New Brunswick-born Bonar Law becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as of 2018 the only individual born outside the UK to do so; he will serve for eight months.
Frederick Banting shares the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with John Macleod for their discovery of insulin's role in regulating blood sugar, enabling diabetes sufferers the world over to lead normal lives. Banting shares his part of the award money with his assistant Charles Best and Macleod shares half of his money with James Collip, Banting's other collaborator.
July 1, 1923
: After two revisions increased the head tax to $100 and then $500, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923
outright bans Chinese immigrants from Canada. Again, merchants, diplomats, foreign students, and "special circumstances" granted by the Minister of Immigration exempt only a select few. This and other racist immigration policies would stand until the widespread immigration reform of the 1960s and '70s. (More info here
The "Famous Five" (Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Muir Edwards) take their case to the Privy Council in England and have women declared as "persons" under the law, able to vote and hold office.
The Statute of Westminster makes Canada (and Newfoundland, still an independent dominion at this time) an equal member of the British Empire to the UK herself. Westminster can no longer legislate for Canada, British diplomats can no longer sign treaties for Canada, and Canada begins to establish separate embassies. The Constitution remains a British law, because the Canadians can't agree on what to do with it.
Dr. Wilder Penfield of Spokane, Washington founds the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University and becomes a Canadian (British) citizen. While there, Dr. Penfield pioneers the mapping of the human brain and the Montreal procedure to treat epileptic seizures. Countless people will no longer dread the smell of burnt toast so much.
The Dominion of Newfoundland ceases to exist when the United Kingdom resumes direct rule of the heavily indebted nation.
November 2, 1936:
The Canadian Broadcasting Act creates the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
September 10, 1939:
Canada makes its sovereignty official by voting to go to war against Germany nine days after Britain, their first international act as a sovereign nation. Between the declaration of war and VE-Day, the Royal Canadian Navy grows a hundredfold as Canada takes up the bulk of the responsibility for protecting convoys from U-Boat attack, becoming experts in anti-submarine warfare.
January 19, 1943:
Princess Margriet of the Netherlands is born to Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands while the family is in exile in Canada. The maternity ward of the Ottawa Civic Hospital is temporarily declared to be international territory to ensure the princess inherits only her Dutch citizenship from her mother. As thanks, the Dutch royal family sends one hundred thousand tulip bulbs to Ottawa once the war is over. Ten thousand bulbs have been sent to Ottawa every year since, giving rise to the Canadian Tulip Festival.
June 6, 1944:
Canadian forces landing on Juno Beach on D-Day penetrate deeper into German territory than either the British or the Americans.
September 6, 1945:
Igor Gouzenko, a file clerk from the Soviet Embassy, presents Justice Minister Louis St. Laurent with documents revealing Soviet espionage in the West. Not only does this event lead to the arrest of thirty-nine suspected spies, the disruption of a spy ring led by an MP, and usher in the modern era of Canadian security intelligence, it is also considered the beginning of the Cold War
Tommy Douglas introduces the universal health care system in Saskatchewan, where he leads the first avowedly socialist government in North America. By 1961, all provinces will have adopted the health care plan.
March 17, 1946: Jackie Robinson
breaks baseball's colour line when he debuts at shortstop for the Montreal Royals, the International AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although the racist pressure on him almost drove him to a nervous breakdown, he survived in part because Montrealers hailed him as their summer sports hero and he backed that adulation with spectacular play. Robinson will be called up for the 1947 season and eventually enter the MLB Hall of Fame.
June 27, 1946:
The Canadian Citizenship Act gains Royal Assent, separating Canadian citizenship from British nationality; it will take effect on January 1, 1947.
May 14, 1947:
The Canadian government repeals the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. It will still take twenty years before Canadian immigration policy changes to allow Chinese immigration in any numbers.
March 31, 1949:
Newfoundland is brought (kicking and screaming) into Confederation, with a vote of 51% to 49% in favour of it. On December 6, 2001, Newfoundland officially changed its name to Newfoundland and Labrador (the latter being the mainland portion of the province).
Avro Aircraft Ltd. designs, produces, and then (on order of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker) cancels the Avro Arrow
supersonic interceptor program. Dan Aykroyd
is not amused. While a marvel of engineering, ICBMs had rendered interceptors obsolete before the Arrow could be built, but the dismantling of the project was so complete and thorough that it essentially returned Canadian aviation back to square one — and we have been buying American fighter planes ever since.
February 15, 1965:
Canada adopts its current maple leaf flag, replacing the old Red Ensign that had served as its national emblem beforehand.
Expo '67 is held in Montreal from April to October, a watershed moment for the city. French president Charles De Gaulle
shouts "Vive le Québec libre" to a volatile separatist-leaning crowd and is (politely) told to go home. Also, every small town builds a Centennial hospital, high school, or park.
March 30, 1968: Céline Dion
is born. We're sorry. However, Rush
forms in Toronto later in 1968. Does that make up for it?
The first Official Languages Act
declares Canada as a bilingual country with English and French receiving equal standing as official languages. The second Official Languages act, passed in 1988, strengthens the obligations presented herein.
The October Crisis. The Québécois nationalist group Front de Liberation du Québec
(FLQ) graduates from blowing up mailboxes and starts kidnapping and murdering politicians. On the 13th, CBC reporter Tim Ralfe asks Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
how far he's going to go in this crisis. "Just watch me," Trudeau replies
, and he invokes the War Measures Act (i.e. martial law) to enable police to arrest and detain suspected FLQ members and sympathizers. However, it is abused, and hundreds are detained with no reason given (and then released without being charged for anything). By the end of the year, the FLQ cell that did the kidnapping and murdering (their actions ended up killing five people and wounding a lot more, mainly with bombs) has been rounded up.
The first theater operated by the Montreal company IMAX is opened in Toronto, after building industry interest with early prototypes of their movie format showcased at both the Montreal Expo '67 (as "Multiscreen") and Osaka Expo '70 (the first time the name "IMAX" was used).
Canada plays the Summit Series, an eight-game hockey tournament pitting their best players (banned from the Olympic Games
because they were overwhelmingly professional) against the Soviet Red Army team. After losing Game Four 5-3 in Vancouver
, Canadian captain Phil Esposito delivers an emotional outburst delivered toward the Canadian public, whom he perceives as not fully supporting their team.
In the last game, series tied 3-3 with one tie, Paul Henderson scores the game-winner off a rebound, his third in the last three games.
Canadians across the country celebrate; any Canadian who grew up in that period can tell you where he or she was when Henderson scored.
November 15, 1974:
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback
was born. Again, we're sorry.
November 10, 1975:
The US ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald
breaks up and sinks in Canadian waters in Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew members on board. Gordon Lightfoot
will write and record a chart-topping song about the disaster the following year.
July 17 - August 1, 1976:
Montreal hosts the Games of the XXI Olympiad. No Canadian athlete wins a gold medal. Mayor Jean Drapeau famously stated
, after his city was awarded the games back in 1970, "The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby
." Montreal didn't pay off the Olympic debt until 2006, and with the exception of Lake Placid 1980 every Olympics since
has run a deficit. The Olympic Stadium, a white elephant among white elephants, stands with no permanent tenant; despite its reputation for structural issues, it is too strongly built to be demolished by any means but implosion...which can't be done without destroying the subway tunnel directly beneath.
November 10, 1979:
A freight train carrying a wide variety of hazardous chemicals
derails in Mississauga, Ontario. More than 200,000 people are evacuated from the city in what was the largest peacetime evacuation in North America until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The city's response earns Mayor Hazel McCallion the undying respect of residents, and she remains mayor until her retirement in 2014.
In May, Québec has its first referendum to see if the province would bargain about leaving Canada. The No/Non side wins by 60%. Terry Fox begins his epic Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research by running from one end of the country to the other, but is forced to stop when his cancer spreads to his lungs. He did not run in vain, however, as subsequent Terry Fox Runs held in his honor have raised millions of dollars for cancer research.
April 17, 1982:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II signs the Canada Act, 1982, officially severing all legislative dependence on the United Kingdom. The significance of this act is that Canada is now able to amend her own Constitution, having agreed, more or less, what do with it. The actual content of the act is, typically for Canada, a mishmash of agreements and compromises, hailed by some and deplored by others. Québec doesn't sign; despite two later attempts are reconciliation, Québec still hasn't ratified the 1982 constitution. In typically Canadian fashion, this fact has no legal significance whatsoever, and consumes the country in constitutional infighting for the next decade. In addition, the constitution's Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms enshrined a specific bill of rights into Canada's politics and gave its courts considerable power to interpret and enforce it.
1983: Gord Downie
founds the rock band The Tragically Hip
. They will become universally adored heroes in their home country, but will never be a blip on the radar anywhere else.
Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian in space aboard the Challenger spacecraft. He is followed over the next 30 years by eight more scientists, two robotic arms, and a clown.
March 20, 1985:
Inspired by Terry Fox, Rick Hansen begins the Man in Motion
tour at the Oakridge Mall in Vancouver. Over the next twenty-six months, he pushes his wheelchair over forty thousand kilometres
around the world to raise money for research into spinal cord injuries. David Foster and John Parr write the song "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)"
in his honour.
February 13 - 28, 1988:
Calgary hosts the XV Olympic Winter Games. The Soviet Union and East Germany dominate the podium. No Canadian athlete wins a gold medal (their gold in curling doesn't officially count because it was a demonstration sport at the time). Britain's Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards and Jamaica's bobsled team compete despite having no hope of success. The Jamaican bobsled team's performance will be dramatized
in Disney's 1993 Cool Runnings
December 6, 1989:
Fourteen women are killed at Montreal's École Polytechnique in Canada's largest mass shooting. The perpetrator commits suicide.
The Oka Crisis.
A golf course in the town of Oka, Québec releases plans to expand onto what the local Mohawk community of Kanesatake claim is traditional land. The resulting protests lead to weeks of confusion and tense stand offs between Native protesters, local police, and the Canadian Army. The only known casualty is SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay. Twenty years later, his sister publishes a book
detailing her own journey for understanding and forgiveness.
June 9, 1993:
The Montreal Canadiens defeat the Los Angeles Kings in five games to win their twenty-fourth Stanley Cup.
For some reason, the Canadiens fans decided a riot would be the perfect way to celebrate the win. It is also the last time (as of 2017) that a Canadian team won the Cup.
June 25, 1993:
After Brian Mulroney resigned, Kim Campbell was appointed Prime Minister. Becoming the first female Prime Minister of Canada. Four months and one notorious campaign ad
later, the Progressive Conservative party suffered the most humiliating defeat in the history of Canadian politicsnote
March 1, 1994: Justin Bieber
was born. Do you think that warrants another apology?
October 30, 1995:
Québec has its second referendum to see if the province would bargain about leaving Canada. In a tense evening, the No/Non side wins with 50.58%. As it transpired, as close as that vote was, it would be the last so far. Ironically, the Québec premier, and the most ardent separatist leader of the day, Jacques Parizeau, inadvertently helped make that possible
when he publicly embarrassed the Québec sovereignty with a petulant Sore Loser
speech in which he blamed the defeat on "money and the ethnic vote." With that outburst, he all but guaranteed that minority communities would never support future independence with leaders who had that kind of attitude. The needed "winning conditions" for a third referendum have proved hopeless to achieve since then.
The last residential school
closes in Saskatchewan. Since the 1800s, such schools had removed Native children from their families with the intent of making them fit with Canadian society through "aggressive assimilation." By the time the federal government realized the serious problems with this policy and begins shutting down the schools in the 1970s, thousands of kids had suffered physical, emotional, and in some cases sexual abuse in these schools, and a great deal of cultural heritage was lost as the kids never learned their own culture or language. In 2008, the Prime Minister formally apologized
for the tragedy, and in 2009 the Governor General reintroduced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
to collect stories from survivors of the residential school system and aid in healing.
April 1, 1999:
Canada's newest political entity, the Territory of Nunavut, is founded in the eastern half of the Northwest Territories. Meaning "Our Land" in Inuktitut, it is created in response to the land claims of the Inuit, one of the northern Aboriginal populations.
September 11, 2001:
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, all air traffic in Canada and the United States is grounded. 238 flights were diverted from US airspace and forced to land at Canadian airports. While not the largest recipient of diverted flights, Gander International Airport in Newfoundland is noteworthy for its ratio of arriving passengers and crew to population: 38 flights and nearly 7,000 on board, all of whom had to be housed in a city of about 9,000. The generous response of the town's residents to the "plane people" over the following days is the subject of the Broadway musical Come From Away
Canada invades Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission to capture Osama bin Laden
in retaliation for 9/11. For the next ten years, Canadian troops were mostly based around Kandahar.
Amidst pressure from the States, Canada refuses to participate in military action in Iraq. One noted Canadian political figure remarks, "Iraq and Afghanistan are dangerous enemies, but the United States is a dangerous ally."
The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada merges with the Canadian Alliance, a party formed by breakaway PC politicians in 1987, to form the Conservative Party of Canada.
July 20, 2005:
Canada becomes the fourth country to legalize gay marriage. Eight provinces had already done so. The political support proved so powerful that when the new Conservative Party formed a government under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper six months later, he staged a free vote in Parliament on the issue in anticipation of it going against him in order to move past the issue without alienating his base as fast as he could.
June 22, 2006:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly (and in Cantonese) apologizes for the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants early in the country's history and announces that the survivors and their families will receive compensation for the head tax.
February 12 - 28, 2010:
Vancouver hosts the XXI Winter Olympic Games. Alexandre Bilodeau breaks his home country's winter gold drought and sparks a gold rush to put Canada at the top of the medals ranking with fourteen gold medals, more than any other host country, capped with a spectacular overtime win in men's ice hockey. The closing ceremonies feature always-enjoyable giant inflatable beavers and possibly the densest concentration of Canadian stereotypes and tropes yet achieved.
July 6, 2013:
A runaway freight train carrying crude oil
derails and explodes in the small town of Lac Mégantic, Québec, killing 47 and obliterating the downtown area.
October 19, 2015:
After nearly ten years of hard-right rule (for Canada) by the Conservative Party under PM Stephen Harper, the party was toppled from power. The new PM is Pierre Trudeau's eldest son, Justin Trudeau, who helped leapfrog the Liberal Party of Canada from third place to the governing one with a strong majority in Parliament.note
This kind of victory has not happened since 1925 and it is the first time that the child of a Canadian Prime Minister has won the position himself.
May 3, 2016:
A wildfire south of the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, hotbed of tar-sands-oil-based development, surges out of control to jump two rivers and surround the town, forcing a mass evacuation of over 88,000 people. The fire, nicknamed "The Beast" by firefighters for its tendency to be savage and unpredictable, destroyed over 2,400 homes (10% of the town) before being turned away, though the dedicated action of the firefighters resulted in zero deaths from the fire (two people died in a car accident while evacuating). As well, firefighters were able to save all significant infrastructure allowing residents to return home starting June 1. This was the largest mass evacuation in Alberta's history and the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history according to the Canadian Insurance Bureau.
August 20, 2016:
The Tragically Hip play the final show
in their Man Machine Poem tour in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Frontman Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma (a rare form of brain cancer)note
earlier in the year, but the band decided to go ahead with the tour as a final farewell and celebration. National broadcaster CBC cancels all other programming (during the Olympics) to play the concert with no commercial breaks, and towns and cities across the country host livestream events. An estimated 11.7 million people watch, making it the second most watched moment in Canadian broadcast history.
January 29, 2017:
Six worshippers are killed and another nineteen injured when a lone gunman opens fire at a mosque in Québec City; the shooter is apprehended and charged with murder.