Portal:History of Canada

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The History of Canada Portal
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Introduction

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The history of Canada begins with the arrival of Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago. Canada has been inhabited for millennia by Aboriginal peoples, who evolved trade, spiritual and social hierarchies systems. Some of these civilisations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European arrivals (c. late 15th - early 16th centuries), and have been discovered through archaeological investigations. Various laws, treaties, and legislation have been enacted between European settlers and the Indigenous populations.

Beginning in the late 15th century, French and British expeditions explored, and later settled, along the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763 after the Seven Years' War. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom. This widening autonomy was highlighted by the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and culminated in the Canada Act of 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.

Over centuries, elements of Aboriginal traditions and immigrant customs have integrated to form a Canadian culture. Canada has also been strongly influenced by that of its linguistic, geographic and economic neighbour, the United States. Since the conclusion of the Second World War, Canada has been committed to multilateralism abroad and socioeconomic development domestically. Canada currently consists of ten provinces and three territories, and is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.

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The constitutional history of Canada begins with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, in which France ceded most of New France to Great Britain. Canada was the colony along the St Lawrence River, part of present-day Ontario and Quebec. Its government underwent many structural changes over the following century. The British North America Act 1867 was the act that established the Dominion of Canada, by the fusion of the North American British colonies of the Province of Canada, Province of New Brunswick, Province of Nova Scotia. The former subdivisions of Canada were renamed from Canada West and Canada East to the Province of Ontario and Province of Quebec, respectively. Quebec and Ontario were given equal footing with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the Parliament of Canada. This was done to counter the claims of manifest destiny made by the United States of America, for the defense of Britain's holdings. American claims are evinced by the invasions of the Canadas during the British-American War (1812) and the British-American War (1776).Canada obtained legislative autonomy from the United Kingdom in 1931, and had its constitution (including a new rights charter) patriated in 1982. Canada's constitution includes the amalgam of constitutional law spanning this history.
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Halifax Explosion blast cloud restored.jpg
The Halifax Explosion occurred on Thursday, December 6, 1917, when the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, was devastated by the huge detonation of the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship, fully loaded with wartime explosives, which accidentally collided with the Norwegian SS Imo in "The Narrows" section of the Halifax Harbour. About 2,000 people were killed by debris, fires, or collapsed buildings and it is estimated that over 9,000 people were injured. This is still the world's largest man-made accidental explosion.

At 8:40 in the morning, the SS Mont-Blanc, chartered by the French government to carry munitions to Europe, collided with the unloaded Norwegian ship Imo, chartered by the Commission for Relief in Belgium to carry relief supplies. Mont-Blanc caught fire ten minutes after the collision and exploded about twenty-five minutes later (at 9:04:35 AM). All buildings and structures covering nearly 2 square kilometres (500 acres) along the adjacent shore were obliterated, including those in the neighbouring communities of Richmond and Dartmouth. The explosion caused a tsunami in the harbour and a pressure wave of air that snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, and carried fragments of the Mont-Blanc for kilometres.

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Agnes Macphail - PA-165870.jpg
Agnes Campbell Macphail (March 24, 1890 – February 13, 1954) was the first woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons, and one of the first two women elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Active throughout her life in progressive Canadian politics, Macphail worked for two separate parties and promoted her ideas through column-writing, activist organizing, and legislation.

As a radical member of the Progressive Party, Macphail joined the socialist Ginger Group, faction of the Progressive Party that later led to the formation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). She became the first president of the Ontario CCF in 1932. However, she left the CCF in 1934 when the United Farmers of Ontario pulled out due to fears of Communist influence in the Ontario CCF. While Macphail was no longer formally a CCF member, she remained close to the CCF MPs and often participated in caucus meetings. The CCF did not run candidates against Macphail in her three subsequent federal campaigns.

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Parliament buildings under construction. Ottawa, Canada, 1865.

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Winnipeg, photographed from top of Union Bank Building 1907
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