Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

Posted by on Jul 7, 2017 in Top Stories, World
View of the Toronto skyline at the blue hour

Toronto sunset over lake panorama with urban skyline.

Last weekend, our neighbor to the north turned 150, celebrating with huge parades and festivals all over the country. Here, btw takes a brief look at the history of Canada.


Like the United States, Canada was once populated by tribes of Aboriginal people who were eventually displaced by European explorers. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier claimed the area for the French, establishing the colony of New France was in what is now present-day Canada. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded a permanent settlement called Quebec City, which eventually became the capital of New France.

In the United States, westward expansion was motivated largely by farmers. In Canada, however, colonial expansion was mostly caused by the fur trade and missionary efforts to convert the Aboriginal people. The French government took direct control of these colonies in 1663.

A century later, however, France lost to Britain in the Seven Years’ War (what we call the French and Indian War). The Treaty of Paris (1763) gave control of almost all French territory in North American to the British. The Treaty also officially established the borders between the United States and Canada, and gave all land south of the Great Lakes to the Americans. Canada and the U.S. faced each other again in the War of 1812, with many failed attempts by the Americans to invade and gain territory in Canada. The war ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, with no territory changes. Since then, the United States and Canada have enjoyed a peaceful relationship.

On July 1, 1867, the Province of Canada joined with two other British colonies, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to become a unified and self-governing nation, the Dominion of Canada. This process was called Confederation. July 1 is Canada’s “birthday”, called Canada Day, and is similar to July 4 in the United States. After Confederation, Canada continued to expand throughout North America. Today, the country consists of ten provinces and three territories.


Though Canada is an independent nation, it was still considered part of the British Empire. This meant that Britain continued to set the country’s foreign and defense policies until after World War I. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster established Canada’s legislative independence. Even after that point, however, the British parliament was still allowed to amend Canada’s constitution. The Constitution Act of 1982 gave Canada full sovereignty. The Act repatriated the Canadian constitution, meaning that the right to amend the constitution was taken away from the British parliament and Canada was no longer legally dependent on Britain.

Today, Canada is a parliamentary democracy, with Justin Trudeau as its prime minister. It also remains a constitutional monarchy. Even though Queen Elizabeth II is its official head of state, Canada is a fully sovereign nation.

Dig Deeper Using this article and other internet resources, create an annotated timeline of important dates and events in Canadian history. Based on what you’ve read, why do you think both French and English are spoken in Canada today?