The Europeans are known to have colonized the East and African countries throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. But little do we know that they spread out in the West as well and established rules in countries like Canada as well. That too for almost 400 years! This article takes you through the entire history of Canada and how they gained independence from the British.
How did Canada get colonized?
The first Europeans to make contact with Canada were the Norse settlers also called the Vikings who came in around 1000 AD and settled in the easternmost province which is now called Newfoundland. Under the orders of King Henry VII of England, John Cabot became the second European to ever set foot in Canada, in 1497. The English, however, did not intend to make a permanent colony.
John Cabot along with his continued exploring the rest of the continent and many other Europeans started setting sail to this newfound land. The Spanish and the Portuguese claimed territories during this period, but soon shifted their focus on South America.
A French maritime explorer named Jacques Cartier put a Cross in Gaspe Peninsula in 1534 which is in present-day Quebec to mark the French claim and called it Canada. The French tried to establish a permanent settlement under many explorers but failed every time. Although they did manage to set up ‘fishing fleets’ and make trading alliances with the indigenous people living there also known as the First Nations. It was due to French claims and relations with the colony that put Canada on the map and gave the country a name.
The capital of New France was Quebec City and it became an administrative hub for trade and other activities. The French Crown took over the settlement from the Company of New France in 1663. But not many people were interested in migrating to Canada and settle, thus the population of the French was quite less.
As the French were building upon their business, the British were also getting ahead on their settlements in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Hudson Bay. Their colonies were based mainly on agricultural lands.
Due to some overseas tensions, the English and French were involved in a power struggle which led to many wars between the two. The French were outnumbered by the British and allied with the Aboriginals. In 1763 the war ended with the Treaty of Paris and the French had to secede Canada to the British.
Under the British, the Canadian economy was thriving not only on agriculture but also through the export of natural resources mainly timber and fur. Since it came under the British Crown, it served as extra territory for the American Revolution and the war between the Americans and the Loyalists. The people who were loyal to the British Crown came to be known as the Loyalists. The British army was defeated in the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 which forced them to flee New York in 1783. They took the Loyalists in and provided them refuge in Quebec. Since many others were arriving on the shores of St John River, a new colony, New Brunswick was created.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 marked the end of the war between the US and the British and a clear border was demarcated between Canada and the United States. The land that laid south to the 5 Great Lakes was formerly a part of Quebec and was now ceded to America.
Also known as the Canadian Revolution, the rebellions of 1837 were started against the British rule and the imposition of their political reforms. Protests broke out in both Lower and Upper Canada, leading to many arrests and even arson. The British sent Lord Durham, a colonial administrator, to examine the situation in the colony. He recommended a more responsible government and thus the two Canada’s were merged into the United Province of Canada under the 1840 Act of Union.
The Canadian Confederation
It was the process by which three Canadian colonies- Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the United Province of Canada were to be merged into a federation. The London Conference of 1866 led to the formation of the Dominion of Canada on 1st July 1867. The word ‘dominion’ was used for the first time as a description of a self-governing colony of British.
The Dominion kept consuming more and more land and expanded the confederation from the Pacific on the west to the Atlantic on the east. It was still in the British Crown and had not attained full autonomy yet.
However, after the Alaska Border Dispute which was related to the purchase of Alaska post gold being discovered there, the Canadians were upset with the British for the lack of their support to their colony and betrayal in the form of extension of support to America.
In 1905, Saskatchewan and Alberta were added as provinces. There was a rapid growth in the economy due to a growth in agriculture and increased migration. Wilfrid Laurier the 7th Prime Minister of Canada had signed a deal with the US to lower taxes on both sides. But Robert Borden the then leader of the Conservative party and the 8th Prime Minister wanted to integrate with the US economy and cut loose all ties with the British.
Cutting Loose the British
It was in 1931 when the British finally let Canada be a fully autonomous country and this could happen due to the Statute of Westminster which gave it full legal freedom and equal standing with England. However, the British still had the power to amend the Canadian constitution. In the meanwhile, Canada started to adopt its own identity with national symbols like a new flag.
It took a lot longer than expected for Canada to be fully independent of the British. The Canadian House of Commons and Senate passed a resolution asking Britain to revoke their constitutional amendments and let Canada be fully independent. It was in 1982 through the Canada Act when they were able to adapt their constitution. Canada is still a part of the British Commonwealth and the Queen of England is technically still the monarch of Canada.
Sources: Referred to Wikipedia
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An aspiring civil servant, a curious mind but also an avid binge watcher- Prerna is currently pursuing BA Prog in English and Political Science from Kirori Mal College. She belongs to Chandigarh but really enjoys the hustle of Delhi. Her favourite pastime is taking naps and recognises herself as a pro at it.