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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
: 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.
Britain takes Nova Scotia from France.
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.
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 Loyalists flee America, where 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 a elementary school student 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
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 unlike the Yanks, the Brits have upheld their side of many of the treaties they'd made with the First Nationsnote
. 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, carefully
. A British soldier does not loot without orders, I shall have you know!
- 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 Metis 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 (June 19, 1816) when the new governor finds out. He gets himself killed for it (might have something to do with being outnumbered 3 to 1) and the Metis define themselves as a nation, complete with their own flag. (The battle site is at 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, that is 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 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 US. 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.
May 23, 1873:
John A. Macdonald celebrates the formation of the Northwest Mounted Police 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. Prince Edward Island joins Confederation, and John A. Macdonald celebrates by getting drunk.
With the world rapidly becoming smaller, railway surveyor (for both the Intercolonial and Canadian Pacific railways) Sanford Fleming first proposes a system of standard time zones. 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. However, the Canadian Militia uses the partially built (and all but broke) transcontinental railway to get the rebels 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 railroad national 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 aManitoba 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, 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.
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. Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier is elected, finally ending a weird period of Canadian politics which saw five Prime Ministers in five years.
June 13, 1898:
The Yukon Territory is established to get a better handle on the Gold Rush.
PM Wilfred Laurier declares the 20th century as the century of Canada. No one else notices.
September 1, 1905:
Alberta and Saskatchewan, created from the Northwest Territories, join the Confederation.
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.
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. 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 munitions ship Mont Blanc
collides with Norwegian vessel Imo
in Halifax Harbour. She burns for twenty-five minutes before she explodes, levelling two square kilometres and killing over 2,000 people. Until the Trinity test, this was the largest man-made explosion at the time.
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 1960's and 70's. (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.
Statute of Westminster: Canada made 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.
November 2, 1936:
The Canadian Broadcasting Act creates the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canada makes their sovereignty official by voting to go to war against Germany independent of 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:
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. By 1961 all provinces have adopted the health care plan.
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).
1958 - 1959:
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 in Montreal. 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 fist 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 Québecois nationalist group Front de Liberation du Québec
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 invokes the War Measures Act 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 against the Soviet Red Army team. After losing Game Four 5-3 in Vancouver
, Phil Esposito delivers an emotional outburst delivered toward the Canadian public, perceived 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. Canadians across the country celebrate; any Canadian who grew up in that period can tell you where he was when Henderson scored.
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.
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.
1983: Gord Downie
founds the rock band The Tragically Hip. They will become universally adored heroes in their home country, but will not even 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
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. 20 years later, his sister publishes a book
detailing her own journey for understanding and forgiveness.
March 1, 1994:
Justin Drew Bieber was born. Do you think that asks for 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%.
The last residential school
closes in Saskatchewan. Since the 1800's 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 realizes the serious problems with this policy and begins shutting down the schools int 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 re-introduced 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.
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."
July 20, 2005:
Canada becomes the fourth country to legalize gay marriage. Eight provinces had already done so.
June 22, 2006:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly (and in Cantonese) apologizes for the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants earlier 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.