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. ca. 1525: Deganawidah, a powerful Iroquoian leader, unites five separate Iroquois nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mowhawk) 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. 1534: 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) 1605: 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. 1610: The Brits 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. 1663-1673: 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. 1679: 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, 1/3 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 200 years. 1714: Britain takes Nova Scotia from France. 1755: 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: 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 surrendered 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. 1774: 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.
- 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 a elementary school student being shown these areas on a map.
- 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.
- To thank the fifteen thousand Chinese laborers who helped build the Canadian Pacific, 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.