Portal:History of Canada

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The History of Canada Portal
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Introduction

History by province or territory

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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Canadians (singular Canadian) are people who are identified with the place and country of Canada. This connection may be genetic, residential, legal, historical, cultural or ethnic. For most Canadians, several (frequently all) of those types of connections exist and are the source(s) of them being considered Canadians. Aside from the Aboriginal peoples, who according to the 2006 Canadian Census numbered 1,172,790, 3.8% of the country's total population, the majority of the population is made up of old world immigrants and their descendents. After the initial period of British and French colonization, different waves (or peaks) of immigration and settlement of non-aboriginal peoples took place over a period of almost two centuries and is currently ongoing. Elements of Aboriginal, French, British and more recent immigrant customs, languages and religions have combined to form the culture of Canada and thus a Canadian identity. Canada has also been strongly influenced by that of its linguistic, geographic and economic neighbour, the United States.

The Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946 took effect on 1 January 1947. Prior to that date, Canadians were British subjects and Canada's nationality law closely mirrored that of the United Kingdom. As Canadian independence was obtained incrementally over the course of many years since the formation of the Canadian Confederation in 1867, World War I and World War II in particular gave rise to a desire amongst Canadians to have their country recognized as a fully-fledged sovereign state with a distinct citizenship. Various legislation's since the mid 20th century represents Canadians' commitment to multilateralism and socioeconomic development.

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The October Crisis was a series of events triggered by two kidnappings of government officials by members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) during October 1970 in the province of Quebec. These circumstances ultimately culminated in the only peacetime usage of the War Measures Act in Canada's history, done on the advice of the prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, having been requested by the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau.

The invocation of the act resulted in widespread deployment of Canadian Forces troops throughout Quebec, and in Ottawa gave the appearance that martial law had been imposed, although the military remained in a support role to the civil authorities of Quebec. The police were also enabled with far-reaching powers, and they arrested and detained, without bail, 497 individuals, all but 62 of whom were later released without charges.

At the time, opinion polls throughout Canada, including in Quebec, showed widespread support for the use of the War Measures Act. The response, however, was criticized at the time and subsequently by a number of prominent leaders, including René Lévesque, Robert Stanfield, who believed the actions to be excessive and the precedent to suspend civil liberties dangerous. The criticism was reinforced by evidence that police officials had abused their powers and detained, without cause, prominent artists and intellectuals associated with the sovereignty movement.

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Lester B. Pearson with a pencil.jpg
Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson, PC, OM, CC, OBE (23 April 1897 – 27 December 1972) was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, and politician, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. He was the 14th Prime Minister of Canada from 22 April 1963, until 20 April 1968, as the head of two back-to-back minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.

During his time as Prime Minister, Pearson's minority government introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the current Canadian flag. During his tenure, Prime Minister Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. With these accomplishments, together with his groundbreaking work at the United Nations and in international diplomacy, Pearson is generally considered among the most influential Canadians of the 20th century.

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4TorontoFire,jpg Gimp Alinas PL.png
Front Street in Toronto after the fire of April 19, 1904.

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Waterfront view of the damage after the Halifax Explosion of 1917.
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