1215 – The Magna Carta (also known as the Great Charter of Freedoms) was signed in England.

1497 – John Cabot, an Italian immigrant to England, was the first to map Canada’s Atlantic shore, setting foot on Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island in 1497 and claiming the New Founde Land for England.

1534 – 1542 – Jacques Cartier made three voyages across the Atlantic, claiming the land for King Francis I of France.

1550s – The name of Canada began appearing on maps.

1604 – The first European settlement north of Florida was established by French explorers Pierre de Monts  and Samuel de Champlain, first on St. Croix Island (in present-day Maine), then at Port-Royal, in Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia).

1608 – Champlain built a fortress at what is now Québec City.

1610 – Beginning of the English settlement.

Early 1600s – English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard, eventually became richer and more populous than New France.

1670 – King Charles II of England granted the Hudson’s Bay Company exclusive trading rights over the watershed draining into Hudson Bay.

1701 – The French and the Iroquois made peace. Champlain allied the colony with the Algonquin, Montagnais and Huron, historic enemies of the Iroquois, a confederation of five (later six) First Nations who battled with the French settlements for a century.

1700s – France and Great Britain battled for control of North America.

1755 – 1763 – During the war between Britain and France, more than two-thirds of the Acadians were deported from their homeland. Despite this ordeal, known as the “Great Upheaval,” the Acadians survived and maintained their unique identity. Today, Acadian culture is flourishing and is a lively part of French-speaking Canada.

1759 – The British defeated the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at Québec City – marking the end of France’s empire in America.

1774 – To better govern the French Roman Catholic majority, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act.

1776 – The 13 British colonies to the south of Quebec declared independence and formed the United States.

1792 – Some black Nova Scotians, who were given poor land, moved on to establish Freetown, Sierra Leone (West Africa), a new British colony for freed slaves.

January 21, 1793 – The first elected Assembly of Lower Canada, in Québec City, debates whether to use both French and English.

Aboriginal Peoples

1763 – Territorial rights were first guaranteed through the Royal Proclamation by King George III, and established the basis for negotiating treaties with the newcomers – treaties that were not always fully respected.

1800s – 1980s – The federal government placed many Aboriginal children in residential schools to educate and assimilate them into mainstream Canadian culture. The schools were poorly funded and inflicted hardship on the students; some were physically abused. Aboriginal languages and cultural practices were mostly prohibited. In 2008, Ottawa formally apologized to the former students.

1970s – The term First Nations began to be used.

The Beginnings of Democracy

Democratic institutions developed gradually and peacefully.

1758 – The first representative assembly was elected in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1773 – Prince Edward Island.

1785 – New Brunswick.

1791 – The Constitutional Act divided the Province of Quebec into Upper Canada (later Ontario), which was mainly Loyalist, Protestant and English-speaking, and Lower Canada (later Quebec), heavily Catholic and French-speaking.

Abolition of Slavery

Late 1700s – The first movement to abolish the transatlantic slave trade emerged in the British Parliament.

1793 – Upper Canada, led by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, a Loyalist military officer, became the first province in the Empire to move toward abolition.

1807 – The British Parliament prohibited the buying and selling of slaves.

1833 – The British Parliament abolished slavery throughout the Empire.

1853 – Mary Ann Shadd Cary (an outspoken activist in the movement to abolish slavery in the U.S.A) became the first woman publisher in  Canada, helping to found and edit The Provincial Freeman, a weekly newspaper dedicated to anti-slavery, black immigration to Canada, temperance (urging people to drink less alcohol) and upholding British rule.

A Growing Economy

Late 18th and early 19th centuries – The first financial institutions opened.

1832 – The Montreal Stock Exchange opened.

Domestic War

1805 – Defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar.

June 1812 – United States launched an invasion to conquer Canada believing it would be easy, the Americans were mistaken.

1812 – 14 – British troops, First Nations and Canadian volunteers defeated the American invasion.

1813 – HMS Shannon, a Royal Navy frigate, leads the captured USS Chesapeake into Halifax harbor.

1813 – Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry and 460 soldiers, mostly French Canadiens, turned back 4,000 American invaders at Châteauguay, south of Montreal.

1813 – Laura Secord, pioneer wife and mother of five children, made a dangerous 19-mile (30-km) journey on foot to warn Lieutenant James Fitz Gibbon of a planned American attack. Her bravery contributed to victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams. She is recognized as a heroine to this day.

1813 – The Americans burned Government House and the Parliament Buildings in York (now Toronto).

1814 – In retaliation, Major-General Robert Ross led an expedition from Nova Scotia that burned down the White House and other public buildings in Washington. Ross died in battle soon afterwards and was buried in Halifax with full military honours.

1814 – The American attempt to conquer Canada had failed.

1815 –  The Duke of Wellington sent some of his best soldiers to defend Canada in 1814. He then chose Bytown (Ottawa) as the endpoint of the Rideau Canal, part of a network of forts to prevent the U.S.A. from invading Canada again. Wellington, who defeated Napoleon in 1815, therefore played a direct role in founding the national capital.


1830s – Reformers in Upper and Lower Canada believed that progress toward full democracy was too slow.  Some believed Canada should adopt American republican values or even try to join the United States. When armed rebellions occurred in 1837–38 in the area outside Montreal and in Toronto, the rebels did not have enough public support to succeed. They were defeated by British troops and Canadian volunteers. A number of rebels were hanged or exiled; some exiles later returned to Canada.

Responsible government

1840 – Upper and Lower Canada were united as the Province of Canada.

1847 – 48 – Nova Scotia was the first British North American colony to attain full responsible government.

1848 – 49 – The governor of United Canada, Lord Elgin, with encouragement from London, introduced responsible government.

1849 – Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, a champion of French language rights, became the first head of a responsible government (similar to a prime minister) in Canada.

1864 – 1867 – Representatives of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada, with British support, worked together to establish a new country. These men are known as the Fathers of Confederation.

1864 – Sir Leonard Tilley, an elected official and Father of Confederation from New Brunswick, suggested the term Dominion of Canada.

July 1, 1867 – The Fathers of Confederation established the Dominion of Canada, the birth of the country that we know today.

1867 – The British Parliament passed the British North America Act.

1867 – Sir John Alexander Macdonald, a Father of Confederation, became Canada’s first Prime Minister.

Expansion of the Dominion

1867 – Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick

1870 – Manitoba, Northwest Territories

1871 – British Columbia

1873 – Prince Edward Island

1880 – Transfer of the Arctic Islands (to N.W.T.)

1898 – Yukon Territory

1905 – Alberta, Saskatchewan

1949 – Newfoundland and Labrador

1999 – Nunavut

Challenge in the west

1863 – In Fort Garry, the flag of the Hudson’s Bay Company flew over Western Canada for 200 years before Confederation.

1869 – Canada took over the vast northwest region from the Hudson’s Bay Company and the 12,000 Métis of the Red River were not consulted. In response, Louis Riel led an armed uprising and seized Fort Garry, the territorial capital.

1870 – Ottawa sent soldiers to retake Fort Garry. Riel fled to the United States and Canada established a new province: Manitoba.

1873 – After the first Métis uprising, Prime Minister Macdonald established the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) to pacify the West and assist in negotiations with the Indians.

A Railway from Sea to Sea

1871 – British Columbia joined Canada after Ottawa promised to build a railway to the West Coast.

November 7, 1885 – A powerful symbol of unity was completed when Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona), the Scottish-born director of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) drove the last spike.

Moving westward

1890s and early 1900s – Canada’s economy grew and became more industrialized during the economic boom. One million British and one million Americans immigrated to Canada at this time.

The First World War

1850s – Canada’s soldiers began using the maple leaf.

1899 – 1902 – Over 7,000 volunteered to fight in the South African War popularly known as the Boer War, and over 260 died.

1900 – Canadians took part in the battles of Paardeberg (“Horse Mountain”) and Lillefontein, victories that strengthened national pride in Canada.

1914 – Germany attacked Belgium and France in 1914 and Britain declared war, Ottawa formed the Canadian Expeditionary Force (later the Canadian Corps).

1914 – 1920 – Regrettably, Ottawa interned over 8,000 former Austro-Hungarian subjects, mainly Ukrainian men, as “enemy aliens” in 24 labour camps across Canada, even though Britain advised against the policy.

1915 – Canadian medical officer Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae composed the poem “In Flanders Fields”.

April 1917 – The Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge, with 10,000 killed or wounded, securing the Canadians’ reputation for valour as the “shock troops of the British Empire.”

1918 – Under the command of General Sir Arthur Currie, Canada’s greatest soldier, the Canadian Corps advanced alongside the French and British Empire troops in the last hundred days.

August 8, 1918 – The victorious Battle of Amiens – which the Germans called “the black day of the German Army” – followed by Arras, Canal du Nord, Cambrai and Mons.

November 11, 1918 – With Germany and Austria’s surrender, the war ended in the Armistice.

Women get the vote

1916 – Manitoba became the first province to grant voting rights to women.

1917 – Thanks to the leadership of women such as Dr. Stowe and other suffragettes, the federal government of Sir Robert Borden gave women the right to vote in federal elections – first to nurses at the battle front, then to women who were related to men in active wartime service.

1918 – Most Canadian female citizens aged 21 and over were granted the right to vote in federal elections.

1921 – Agnes Macphail, a farmer and teacher, became the first woman MP.

1940 – Due to the work of Thérèse Casgrain and others, Quebec granted women the vote.

Between the wars

1929 – The stock market crash and led to the Great Depression or the “Dirty Thirties.”

1933 – Unemployment reached 27% and many businesses were wiped out. Farmers in Western Canada were hit hardest by low grain prices and a terrible drought.

1934 – The Bank of Canada, a central bank to manage the money supply and bring stability to the financial system, was created.

The Second World War

1939 – The Second World War began in 1939 when Adolf Hitler, the National Socialist (Nazi) dictator of Germany, invaded Poland and conquered much of Europe. Canada joined with its democratic allies in the fight to defeat tyranny by force of arms.

1941 – The Canadians fought bravely and suffered losses in the unsuccessful defence of Hong Kong (1941) from attack by Imperial Japan.

1942 – Canadian forces suffered losses again in a failed raid on Nazi-controlled Dieppe on the coast of France.

1943 – 44 – In order to defeat Nazism and Fascism, the Allies invaded Nazi-occupied Europe. Canadians took part in the liberation of Italy.

June 6, 1944 – In the epic invasion of Normandy in northern France, known as D-Day, 15,000 Canadian troops stormed and captured Juno Beach from the German Army.

1944 – 45 – The Canadian Army liberated the Netherlands.

May 8, 1945 – The Canadian Army helped force the German surrender, bringing to an end six years of war in Europe.

August 14, 1945 – Japan surrendered for the end of four years of war in the Pacific.

Trade and Economic Growth

1940 – Unemployment insurance (now called “employment insurance”) was introduced by the federal government.

1947 – The discovery of oil in Alberta began Canada’s modern energy industry.

1951 – For the first time, a majority of Canadians were able to afford adequate food, shelter and clothing.

1950 – 53 – Canada participated in the UN operation defending South Korea in the Korean War.

1960s – Quebec experienced an era of rapid change known as the Quiet Revolution. Many Quebecers sought to separate from Canada.

1963 – Parliament established the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. This led to the Official Languages Act (1969), which guarantees French and English services in the federal government across Canada.

1970 – Canada helped found La Francophonie, an international association of French-speaking countries.

1980 – The movement for Quebec sovereignty gained strength but was defeated in a referendum in the province.

1982 – After much negotiation, the Constitution was amended without the agreement of Quebec.

1988 – Canada enacted free trade with the United States.

1994 – Mexico became a partner in the broader North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

1995 – Though sovereignty was again defeated in a second referendum, the autonomy of Quebec within Canada remains a lively topic – part of the dynamic that continues to shape our country.

2006 – The House of Commons recognized that the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada.

A Changing Society

1948 – The Japanese-Canadians gained the right to vote. Most Canadians of Asian descent had in the past been denied the vote in federal and provincial elections.

1960 – Aboriginal people were granted the vote. Today every citizen over the age of 18 may vote.

1960s – One-third of Canadians had origins that were neither British nor French, and took pride in preserving their distinct culture in the Canadian fabric. Today, diversity enriches Canadians’ lives, particularly in our cities.

Arts and culture in Canada

1920 – In the visual arts, Canada is historically perhaps best known for the Group of Seven, founded in 1920, who developed a style of painting to capture the rugged wilderness landscapes.

1950sLes Automatistes of Quebec were pioneers of modern abstract art.


1800s – Ice hockey was developed in Canada.

1891 – Basketball was invented by Canadian James Naismith.

1892 – The National Hockey League plays for the championship Stanley Cup, donated by Lord Stanley, the Governor General.

1972 – Paul Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada in the Canada-Soviet Summit Series.

1979 – 1988 – One of the greatest hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretzky, played for the Edmonton Oilers.

1996 – At the Olympic Summer Games, Donovan Bailey became a world record sprinter and double Olympic gold medallist.

1980 – Terry Fox, a British Columbian who lost his right leg to cancer at the age of 18, began a cross-country run, the “Marathon of Hope,” to raise money for cancer research. He became a hero to Canadians. While he did not finish the run and ultimately lost his battle with cancer, his legacy continues through yearly fundraising events in his name.

1985 – Fellow British Columbian Rick Hansen circled the globe in a wheelchair to raise funds for spinal cord research.

2005 – The Clarkson Cup, established by Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th Governor General (and the first of Asian origin), is awarded for women’s hockey.

Science and technology

1989 – The Canadian Space Agency and Canadian astronauts have participated in space exploration, often using the Canadian-designed and built Canadarm.

Canadian Symbols

1834 – The beaver was adopted centuries ago as a symbol of the Hudson’s Bay Company. It became an emblem of the St. Jean Baptiste Society, a French-Canadian patriotic association, in 1834.

1948 – Quebec adopted its own flag, based on the Cross and the fleur-de-lys.

1965 – A new Canadian flag was raised for the first time (red-white-red pattern).

1967- After using British honours for many years, Canada started its own honours system with the Order of Canada, the centennial of Confederation.

Parliament buildings

1860s – The Parliament buildings were completed.

1916 – The Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings was destroyed by an accidental fire and rebuilt in 1922. The Library is the only part of the original building remaining.

1927 – The Peace Tower was completed in memory of the First World War.