Canadian History For Dummies
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Any place as eclectic and mixed up as Canada will never be able to settle on a single unified, national history that will please everyone. But make no mistake: There is a Canadian history that we need to know. From the reigning French and British kings and queens and the 22 Canadian prime ministers, to the 13 provinces and territories and the year they joined Canada, here are some of the key facts you should know about Canadian history.

A timeline of important events in Canadian history

Canadian history is a lot of fun. There are heroes and villains, tragedies and triumphs, great battles and sudden betrayals, loyal refugees and long struggles for social justice.

The interpretation of Canadian history may vary ―radically, at times ―but there are still core events from our past that every Canadian should know. Brush up on your Canadian history with the following timeline of important events.

30,000–10,000 BC Prehistoric hunters cross over into Canada from Asia
circa 1000 AD Leif Ericsson leads a Viking expedition to the New World
1451 The Iroquois Confederacy is formed
1497 John Cabot reaches Newfoundland (or perhaps Cape Breton)
1534 Jacques Cartier first explores the St. Lawrence region
1608 Samuel de Champlain establishes a French colony at
Québec City
1670 Hudson’s Bay Company is formed
1755 Expulsion of the Acadians
1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham: Québec City is
1763 New France is formally ceded to Britain; Pontiac Rebellion
1783 Loyalist refugees begin arriving after the American
1812–14 War of 1812: U.S. invades Canada
1837–38 Rebellions against British rule in Upper and Lower Canada
1848 Responsible government is won, first in Nova Scotia, then in
1867 Confederation (first four provinces: Québec, Ontario,
N.S., and N.B.)
1870 Red River Resistance; province of Manitoba is created
1871, 1873 B.C. and P.E.I. join Canada
1885 North-West Rebellion; the Canadian Pacific Railway is
1905 The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are created
1914–18 World War I
1916 Women win the vote in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta
1919 The Winnipeg General Strike
1929–39 The Great Depression
1939–45 World War II
1949 Newfoundland joins Canada
1950–53 Korean War
1959 St. Lawrence Seaway (major transportation route) officially
1960 Québec’s Quiet Revolution begins; Native Canadians
given the vote
1967 Canada’s 100th birthday; Expo 67 World’s Fair in
1970 October Crisis: political kidnappings, Ottawa suspends civil
1980 Québec referendum on “sovereignty-association”
defeated 60% to 40%
1982 Constitution comes home — with a Charter of Rights and
1987–90 Meech Lake Accord is put forward — and collapses
1992 Charlottetown Accord is rejected by a national referendum
1995 Québec referendum on sovereignty is narrowly
1999 The new Arctic territory of Nunavut is created
2000 Clarity Bill outlines the terms of Québec
2003 Canada says “no” to joining the war in Iraq
2005 Former PM Jean Chrétien and sitting PM Paul Martin
testify at the Gomery Inquiry
2010 Canada sets record for gold medals at the Vancouver Winter
Olympic Games

The prime ministers of Canada

Some of the most notable Canadian prime ministers were John A. Macdonald, Robert Borden, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester “Mike” Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, and Brian Mulroney. But there were many others. From John Abbott to Stephen Harper, here’s a complete list of Canada’s 22 Prime Ministers and the political parties that they led.

1878–91 Sir John A Macdonald Conservative
1873–78 Alexander Mackenzie Liberal
1891–92 Sir John Abbott Conservative
1892–94 Sir John Thompson Conservative
1894–96 Sir Mackenzie Bowell Conservative
1896 Sir Charles Tupper Conservative
1896–1911 Sir Wilfrid Laurier Liberal
1911–20 Sir Robert Borden Conservative/Union
1920–21, 1926 Arthur Meighen Conservative
William Lyon Mackenzie King Liberal
1930–35 R.B. (Richard Bedford) Bennett Conservative
1948–57 Louis St. Laurent Liberal
1957–63 John Diefenbaker Conservative
1963–68 Lester “Mike” Pearson Liberal
Pierre Trudeau Liberal
1979–80 Joe Clark Conservative
1984 John Turner Liberal
1984–93 Brian Mulroney Conservative
1993 Kim Campbell Conservative
1993–2003 Jean Chrétien Liberal
2003–2006 Paul Martin Liberal
2006-present Stephen Harper Conservative

The kings and queens who ruled over Canada

The following list shows the reigning kings and queens of what ultimately would become Canada, before and after the conquest of New France in 1763.

French (1534–1763) British (1763–present)
Francis I (1515–47) George III (1760–1820)
Henry II (1547–59) George IV (1820–30)
Francis II (1559–60) William IV (1830–37)
Charles IX (1560–74) Victoria (1837–1901)
Henry III (1574–89) Edward VII (1901–10)
Henry IV (1589–1610) George V (1910–36)
Louis XIII (1610–43) Edward VIII (1936)
Louis XIV (1643–1715) George VI (1936–52)
Louis XV (1715–74) Elizabeth II (1952–present)

Provinces and territories and when they became part of Canada

Canadian confederation didn’t happen in a day. The provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were the first to come onboard in 1867, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the territory of Nunavut was created. For quick reference, here’s a handy list of Canadian provinces and the year in which each joined confederation.

1867 Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
1870 Manitoba
1871 British Columbia
1873 Prince Edward Island
1898 Yukon Territory
1905 Alberta, Saskatchewan
1949 Newfoundland
1999 Nunavut

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