There have been people living in Canada since before recorded time. Archaeological evidences shows the first groups of hunters crossed into Canada from Siberia during the Wisconsin glaciation, then spread east and southward over time. As the climate stabilized, the indigenous groups diversified and specialized to their geographic regions. These aboriginal inhabitants (now called “First Nations” in Canada) included nations as diverse as the Cree, Hopewell, Inuit, Tlingit, Ojibwa, Haida, and Mi'kmaq, as well as countless other bands and nations over the ages.
First contact between the First Nations and Europeans was when the Vikings created small settlements along the Atlantic, though these settlements eventually failed, and control of the land reverted to the First Nations. John Cabot, sailing from England, arrived off the Atlantic provinces in 1497, but the first colonization efforts focused mainly on the rich offshore fisheries, rather than the mainland.
The French explorer Jacques Cartier claimed “Canada” in the name of Francis I in 1534, injecting French presence into what had previously been a mix of English and Portuguese claims into the area. Cartier attempted permanent French colonies at a number of locations, starting in 1541, and by the turn of the 17th Century, there were French trade and fishing settlements throughout the area, effectively cementing French control of the Canadian mainland.
The lucrative fur trade fueled the early colony through a robust system of trade with the First Nations and exploration and settlement of the St. Lawrence River region. During this time, the legendary coureurs des bois and voyageurs plied their canoes into the interior of the nation, establishing strong ties between the First Nations and the colonists from France. Intermarriage between settlers and First Nations led to a rising group of Metis—persons of mixed ancestry—whose interactions with the colonial government and First Nations would play important parts through Canadian history.
Tensions between France and England in Europe led to a series of wars in Canada as well, collectively called the French and Indian Wars, as the First Nations and settlers of New France were strongly allied in Acadia (the area around the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, extending to the Great Lakes). These came to a head during the Seven Years' War, as this European conflict quickly flashed over into Canada. French settlers in the English-controlled Maritime provinces were forcibly expelled from their homes, and most relocated to Quebec, the Caribbean, or the mouth of the Mississippi river, where “Acadian” became “Cajun.” France renounced its Canadian territorial claims in 1763, leaving the region under English rule. Canada was now under one rule, but possessed two distinct settler cultures and a significant First Nations presence.
During the American War of Independence, many Loyalists moved north to settle in Canada, and the Continental Army attempted a disastrous expedition, which was thoroughly routed. In what is surely one of the earliest expressions of American military hubris, James Madison authorized a military expedition to conquer Canada during the War of 1812, with former president Thomas Jefferson saying conquest would be a “mere matter of marching.” Two years later, the White House had been burned, the Americans had been stymied all along the frontier, and the American government gratefully accepted a status quo ante border in the peace.
Armed rebellions broke out in 1837 in response to a demand for political reforms and responsible government for Canada. Although the rebellions were suppressed, the British government's own report on the events recommended reforming the government of Canada. A series of incremental measures culminated in the Constitution Act of 1867, the act that created the basis of modern Canada.
The nation had continued to expand, but now the westward expansion of settlers became a flood. This brought new settlers into conflict with both First Nations and the Metis in competition for land and resources of the frontier. A series of numbered treaties with the First Nations transferred land for settlement, with the government making only token effort to honor the treaties, if not breaking them outright. The First Nations had undergone transformation through their interaction with the settlers, but this new flood threated to end traditional ways of living. The largest and most important conflict of this period was the North-West Rebellion in 1885. This rebellion by the Metis and their First Nation allies was an effort to secure political autonomy, led by the visionary Metis leader Louis Riel.
The Rebellion was suppressed, but the conflict had deepened long-existing divisions between Francophone and English-speaking Canadians. Minority groups (Francophone communities, the First Nations, and the Metis) saw the rising tide of dominant English Canadian culture as a threat to their own cultures, and in fairness, there was a strong tendency by the English Canadians to dismiss the minority groups as retrograde holdovers if not actively erase the groups. The matter is not entirely resolved to this day, although Canadians have made laudable efforts to debate this amongst themselves in a spirit of justice and dignity.
During World War I and World War II, Canada was one of the staunchest pillars of the Commonwealth forces in terms of human and material support, though conscription was deeply unpopular at home during both wars. After the World War II, Canada was an enthusiastic participant in international diplomatic efforts (Prime Minister Lester Pearson was awarded the Nobel Prize for his effort to resolve the Suez Crisis through the young United Nations).
The relatively young nation of Canada is the largest nation by size in North America. Its citizens have repeatedly chosen unity in a Canadian identity over a balkanization over ethnic and linguistic lines, even as they continue to work through the conflicts of Canada's history. We apologize that the scope of the Civilopedia does not allow us to recognize the nation's achievements in full, nor discuss its past in deeper detail. Sorry!