Early history and European colonisation

  • Indigenous peoples have lived in what is now Canada for thousands of years. Today's indigenous population in Canada includes descendants of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
  • 1534: In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, European explorers, including John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) from Italy and Jacques Cartier from France, arrive in Canada.
  • 1608: Samuel de Champlain establishes a settlement in the area now known as Quebec, which becomes the capital of New France.
  • 1756: The French and British fight for control of Canada in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, with the British ultimately gaining control after the Seven Years' War (1756–1763).
  • In 1759, British forces under General James Wolfe defeated French forces in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, leading to British control of Quebec.
  • 1763: The Royal Proclamation of 1763 establishes British control over much of North America and recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples.
  • 1774: The Quebec Act of 1774 grants religious and language rights to French-speaking Catholics in Quebec, but also expands Quebec's boundaries to include the Ohio River Valley, angering American colonists.
  • 1775-1783: The American Revolution leads to an influx of loyalist refugees to Canada, particularly to Nova Scotia and what is now Ontario.
  • 1791: The Constitutional Act created Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) and grants limited representative government.
  • 1812: The War of 1812, fought between the United States and Britain, has significant battles take place in Canada and contributes to a growing sense of Canadian nationalism.
  • 1831: The first Church-run Indian residential school is opened. This was the beginning of what would become the Canadian-Indian Residential School System, a network of boarding schools designed to isolate indigenous children from their cultures and families with the goal of assimilating them into the dominant national culture.
  • 1840: The Act of Union merges Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada, with a single government and legislature.
  • The 1840s saw a wave of immigration to Canada, particularly from Ireland and Scotland, as well as the beginning of railway construction and the growth of industrialisation.
  • 1867: On 1 July 1867, with the passage of the British North America Act, the Dominion of Canada is officially established as a self-governing entity within the British Empire, uniting the three British-held territories in North America (namely Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) into one entity named Canada. 1 July will later become known as Canada Day.
  • 1885: The Northwest Rebellion breaks out in late March, led by Louis Riel and the Métis people. Numerous battles occur, but ultimately the Métis people are outnumbered by government forces and surrender by early June.
  • 1885: The Canadian Pacific Railway is completed, connecting the country from coast to coast.
  • 1894: Attendance at day schools, industrial schools or residential schools becomes compulsory for children of indigenous families. Owing to how communities were structured, residential schools were the only option for most. The Indian Residential School era lasts over 150 years, with the last school closing in 1997. Estimated residential school fatalities throughout this time range from 3,200 to possibly more than 30,000. Most deaths were due to diseases such as tuberculosis, which was spread through poorly ventilated buildings and a lack of medical screenings.
  • 1896: Gold is discovered in Yukon, leading to the Klondike Gold Rush. Roughly 100,000 prospectors migrate to the area over the next two years in search of gold.

20th century

  • 1905: Saskatchewan and Alberta became the newest provinces of Canada.
  • 1914-1918: The First World War sees significant Canadian involvement, with thousands of soldiers fighting in Europe and the Canadian Corps achieving major victories at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. More than 620,000 Canadians serve in the war. The country suffers a loss of 60,000 soldiers, with 170,000 wounded.
  • The 1920s saw a period of economic growth and social change, including the introduction of women's suffrage and the rise of jazz and other cultural movements.
  • The Great Depression hits Canada, leading to mass unemployment and poverty throughout the 1930s.
  • 1931: The Statute of Westminster grants Canada and other Dominions legislative independence, allowing them to make laws without British approval.
  • World War II: Canada joins the war effort, with over 1 million Canadians serving in the military. 44,000 Canadian lives were lost.
  • 1949: Canada becomes a founding member of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In the same year, Newfoundland becomes the 10th and final province to join Canada.
  • The 1950s and 1960s see significant social and cultural changes, including the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, the introduction of universal healthcare, and the growth of the civil rights movement.
  • 1960: The Canadian Bill of Rights is passed, which affirms fundamental rights and freedoms for Canadians.
  • 1980: Quebec holds a referendum on independence, with 60 percent of votes indicating the population's preference to remain part of Canada.
  • 1982: The Constitution Act is passed, patriating Canada's constitution and establishing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • 1987: Canada signs the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement.
  • 1995: A second independence referendum is held in Quebec. Again, the campaign to remain part of Canada wins, but the margin of victory is much narrower at 50.5 percent of votes.

21st century

  • 2001: Canada joins the United States-led war in Afghanistan, committing 2,500 troops to the conflict.
  • 2005: Same-sex marriage is legalised in Canada, making it the fourth country in the world to do so.
  • 2008: The Canadian government issues a formal apology for the creation of Indian residential schools, as well as the resultant pain and suffering caused. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is established to document the lasting impact of residential schools on the indigenous population.
  • 2011: Canada becomes the only country to repudiate the Kyoto Accord meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 2015: Canada celebrates 150 years of Confederation. Justin Trudeau becomes Canada's Prime Minister, leading a government focused on issues such as climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and diversity and inclusivity.
  • 2017: The Canadian government agrees to pay reparations to indigenous people who were taken away from their families as children and placed into Indian residential schools. 
  • 2018: Canada becomes the first G7 country to legalise recreational marijuana use.
  • 2019: Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party is re-elected to a minority government.
  • 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic hits Canada, killing more than 51,000 and leading to lockdowns and significant damage to the economy.

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