Home History of Canada

History of Canada

Historical Backdrop

The history of Canada spans over a period dating from the arrival of Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago to the present day. Ahead of the European colonization, present-day Canada was inhabited by the indigenous population for millennia. Their distinct business networks, spiritual beliefs, and styles of the social organization took precedence during the era.


Archaeological evidence is proof that North and South America were the last continents that saw human migration. During the Wisconsin glaciation, 50,000 – 17,000 years ago, the drop in sea levels allowed people to move gradually across the Bering land bridge (Beringia), from Siberia into northwest North America. By 16,000 years ago the glacial melt allowed people to move by land south and east out of Beringia, and into Canada.

The Aboriginal Canadians

The first ones surviving within the boundaries of present-day Canada constitute the Aboriginal Community. They comprise the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. These three distinctive groups of North America comprised of women, visible minorities, and people with disabilities. The First Nations people identify themselves by the nation to which they belong, for example, Mohawk, Cree, Oneida, and others. Old Crow Flats and Bluefish Caves are some of the earliest known human habitation sites in Canada.

The Canadian Aboriginal culture included permanent settlements, agriculture, civic and ceremonial architecture, complex societal hierarchies and trading networks. As per the 2016 Canadian Census, around 1,673,780 were enumerated as Aboriginal people in Canada. This total includes 977,230 First Nations people, 587,545 Métis, and 65,025 Inuit.

According to Section 91 (Clause 24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government is responsible for ‘Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians’. The government inherited treaty obligations from the British colonial authorities in Eastern Canada and signed treaties itself with First Nations in Western Canada (the Numbered Treaties).

The Treaties

The Numbered Treaties signify the series of eleven treaties signed between the Aboriginal People in Canada and the reigning monarch of Canada dating from 1871 to 1921. These treaties saw Canada’s Dominion through large tracts of land in exchange for promises made to the Aboriginal people of the area.

These treaties came in two waves—Numbers 1 through 7 from 1871 to 1877 and Numbers 8 through 11 from 1899 to 1921. In the first wave, the treaties were key in advancing European settlement across the Prairie regions as well as the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the second wave, resource extraction was the main motive for government officials.

The Canadians were the main front in the War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom. Peace came in 1815; no boundaries were changed. Immigration resumed at a higher level, with over 960,000 arrivals from Britain between 1815–50.

Native Tribes in Canada

Canada has more than 600 First Nations/Indian bands in Canada like the Musqueam Indian Band, in British Columbia, Sturgeon Lake First Nation, in Alberta, and Atikamekw of Manawan, in Quebec and over 60 Aboriginal languages reported by First Nations people – an indication of the diversity of First Nations people.

Among the major social tribes, the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Innu, Inuit, Métis and Non-Status Indians, and Urban Aboriginal People constitute the Indigenous population of Canada.

Treaty of Utrecht

The treaty of Utrecht happened on April 11, 1713, in the Netherlands, ending the war of the Spanish succession. The goals that Britain made were achieved because France was not allowed to the Spanish Netherlands and Italy, and also Spain and France will not be united together.

In the search to end the War of Spanish Succession, a preliminary agreement reached London in 1711, resulting in the meeting of a Congress at Utrecht by Great Britain, France, Savoy, Portugal, Prussian, the Dutch Republic and Spain in January of 1812.

Territorial Expansion and Dominion of Canada

The Canada Confederation was joined by Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905. Provinces including Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec were smaller than they are today during that time. Until 1905, the entire area west and north of Manitoba was referred to as Northwest Territories.

Present-Day Canada is composed of 10 provinces and 3 territories. However, with the British North America Act, 1867, there was a new Dominion of Canada with only four provinces being active – Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

Canada’s post-war economic growth, combined with the policies of successive Liberal governments, led to the emergence of a New Canadian Identity that was marked by the adoption of the Maple Leaf Flag in 1965. With the constitutional conferences that resulted in the Canada Act, the patriation of Canada’s constitution from the United Kingdom, concurrent with the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada had established complete sovereignty as an independent country, although the Queen retained her role as monarch of Canada.