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Important Moments in Canadian History

Compiled by Dr. Robert J. Belton

Prehistory to 1800


Note: Dates before 1497 are approximate.


9000 B.C.
Native peoples are living along the Eramosa River near what is now Guelph, Ontario.

5200 B.C.
The Sto:lo people are living alongside the Fraser River near what is now Mission, B.C. (Some say they may have been as early as 9000 B.C.)

5000 B.C.
Native peoples have spread into what is now Northern Ontario and Southeastern Québec.

2000 B.C.
Inuit peoples begin to move into what is now the Northwest Territories.

500 B.C.
Northwest Coast native peoples begin to flourish.

1000
Leif (the Lucky) Ericsson visits Labrador and L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.

1497
During a voyage underwritten by Bristol merchants, John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) claims Cape Breton Island or Newfoundland or Labrador for Henry VII of England (June 24).

1498
Cabot makes a second voyage to North America.

1534
Jacques Cartier visits the Strait of Belle Isle (Newfoundland), and charts the Gulf of St. Lawrence (landing in Gaspé, July 14). He takes two native Indians with him back to France.

1535
Cartier sails up the St. Lawrence River to Stadacona (Québec) and Hochelaga (Montréal).

1541
At the mouth of the Cap Rouge River, Cartier founds Charlesbourg-Royal, the first French settlement in America.

1542
Charlesbourg-Royal is abandoned. Cartier meets the sieur de Roberval, who was officially part of the same expedition, in Newfoundland.

1576
Martin Frobisher of England makes the first of three attempts to find a Northwest Passage, sailing as far as Hudson Strait. What he thought was gold discovered on his journey was later proven worthless.

1600
King Henry IV of France grants a fur-trading monopoly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to a group of French merchants.

1605
Samuel de Champlain and the sieur de Poutrincourt found Port Royal (Annapolis, N.S.).

1608
Champlain founds Québec (July 3), creating in effect the first permanent European settlement.

1609
Champlain supports the Algonquins against the Iroquois at Lake Champlain.

1610
Etienne Brûlé goes to live among the Huron and eventually becomes the first European to see Lakes Ontario, Huron and Superior. Henry Hudson explores Hudson Bay in spite of a mutinous crew.

1617
Louis Hébert, an apothecary who had stayed at Port Royal twice, brings his wife and children to Québec, thus becoming the first true habitant (permanent settler supporting his family from the soil).

1625
Jesuits begin missionary work among the Indians in the Québec area. Jean de Brébeuf founds missions in Huronia, near Georgian Bay.

1627
The Company of One Hundred Associates (a.k.a. the Company of New France) is given a fur monopoly and title to all lands claimed by New France (April 29). In exchange, they are to establish a French colony of 4000 by 1643, which they fail to do.

1629
The adventurer David Kirke takes Québec for Britain (July 19).

1632
The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye returns Québec to France.

1633
Kirke is knighted.

1634-40
The Huron nation is reduced by half from European diseases (smallpox epidemic, 1639).

1637
Kirke is named first governor of Newfoundland.

1642
The sieur de Maisonneuve founds Montréal (May 18).

1648-49
The Iroquois disperse the Huron nation.

1649
The Jesuit father Jean de Brébeuf is martyred during Iroquois raids on the Hurons at St-Ignace (March 16).

1659
François de Laval arrives in Québec as vicar general of the pope (June).

1660
Adam Dollard des Ormeaux and about sixty others withstand an attack by over 500 Iroquois at Long Sault (May). It is traditionally said that the small party fights so well that the Iroquois decide not to attack Montréal.

1663
Québec becomes a royal province. Laval organizes the Séminaire du Québec, a college of theology which eventually becomes Université Laval (1852).

1664
Hans Bernhardt is the first recorded German immigrant.

1665
Jean Talon becomes Québec's first intendant (administrative officer overseeing agriculture, education, justice, trade, and the like). The Carignan-Salières regiment is sent from France to Québec to deal with the Iroquois.

1666
The Carignan-Salières regiment destroys five Mohawk villages, eventually leading to peace between the Iroquois and the French.

1667
The result of Canada's first census is 3215 non-native inhabitants.

1668
The Carignan-Salières regiment is recalled to France, but several hundred choose to remain behind, many in return for local seigneuries.

1670
The Hudson's Bay Company is founded by royal charter and, underwritten by a group of English merchants, is granted trade rights over Rupert's Land -- i.e., all territory draining into Hudson Bay (May 2).

1672
Comte de Frontenac becomes governor general of New France, later quarrelling frequently with the intendant and the bishop.

1673
Frontenac sends Marquette and Jolliet to explore the Missippi.

1674
Laval becomes the first bishop of Québec.

1686
De Troyes and D'Iberville capture three English posts on James Bay (June-July).

1689
The Iroquois kill many French settlers at Lachine.

1690
Sent by Massachusetts, Sir William Phips captures Port Royal (May 11). Frontenac repels Phips' attack on Québec (October). These events are part of what is sometimes called King William's War.

1697
The Treaty of Ryswick assures that all captured territories in the struggle between England and France are returned.

1702
Having begun in Europe in 1701, The War of the Spanish Succession spreads to North America (Queen Anne's War) in Acadia and New England.

1710
Francis Nicholson captures Port Royal for England.

1713
The Treaty of Utrecht ends Queen Anne's War, confirming British possession of Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Acadia (except l'Ile- Royale [Cape Breton Island]). France starts building Fort Louisbourg near the eastern tip of l'Ile-Royale.

1730s
The Mississauga drive the Seneca Iroquois south of Lake Erie.

1731-43
The La Vérendrye family organize expeditions beyond Lake Winnipeg and direct fur trade toward the east.

1740s
The Mandan Indians west of the Great Lakes begin to trade in horses descended from those brought to Texas by the Spanish. Itinerant Assiniboine Indians bring them from Mandan settlements to their own territories southwest of Lake Winnipeg.

1744
Having begun in Europe in 1770, The War of the Austrian Succession spreads to North America (King George's War).

1745
Massachusetts Governor William Shirley takes the French fortress of Louisbourg.

1748
Louisbourg and l'Ile-Royale are returned to France by the Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle.

1749
Britain founds Halifax to counter the French presence at Louisbourg.

c. 1750
The Ojibwa begin to emerge as a distinct tribal amalgamation of smaller independent bands. German immigrants begin to arrive in numbers at Halifax.

1752
Canada's first newspaper, the weekly Halifax Gazette, appears (March 23).

1754
Beginning of the French and Indian War in America, though not officially declared for another two years.

1755
Britain scatters the Nova Scotia Acadians throughout other North American colonies. The first post office opens in Halifax.

1756
The Marquis de Montcalm assumes a troubled command of French troops in North America. (The Seven Year's War between Britain and France begins in Europe).

1758
Generals Jeffrey Amherst and James Wolfe take Louisbourg.

1759
Wolfe takes Québec by defeating Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham (Sept. 13), but both generals are killed.

1760
The British Conquest. General James Murray is appointed first British military governor of Québec.

1763
France cedes its North American possessions to Britain by the Treaty of Paris. A royal proclamation imposes British institutions on Québec (Oct.). Western Cree and Assiniboine traders who had benefited from agreements with the French begin to lose profits to the British.

1764
Murray becomes civil governor of Québec, but his attempts to appease French Canadians are disliked by British merchants.

1768
Guy Carleton succeeds Murray as governor of Québec.

1772
The Hudson's Bay Company opens Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan.

1774
Carleton's recommendations are instituted in the Québec Act, which introduces British criminal law but retains French civil law and guarantees religious freedom for Roman Catholics. The Act's geographical claims were so great that it helped precipitate the American Revolution.

1775
The American Revolution begins. Americans under Richard Montgomery capture Montréal (Nov. 13) and attack Québec (Dec. 31), where Montgomery is killed.

1776
Under Carleton, Québec withstands an American siege until the appearance of a British fleet (May 6). Carleton is later knighted.

1778
On the last of three voyages to the west coast, Captain James Cook travels as far north as the Bering Strait and claims Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island for the British (Mar. 29-Apr.26).

1783
In Montréal and Grand Portage (in present-day Minnesota), the North West Company is formed by a group of trading partners. The American revolutionary war ends. The border between Canada and the U.S. is accepted from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake of the Woods. In the area around the mouth of the Saint John River in Nova Scotia, thousands of United Empire Loyalists arrive to settle, with some heading on to Quebec. Loyalists are identified as those American colonists of British, Dutch, Irish, Scottish and other origins, and others who had remained loyal to their King during the American Revolution and were behind British lines by 1783. (Those who arrive after 1783 are called Late Loyalists.) Pennsylvania Germans begin moving into modern-day southwestern Ontario, then southwestern Québec. [Corrections here and below on the Loyalists were submitted by Bill Daverne, March 1999].

1784
With the Loyalists swelling the northern Nova Scotia population, Nova Scotia is partitioned and the the province of New Brunswick is created. Thousands of Loyalists land in modern-day Ontario -- then part of Québec -- along the St. Lawrence River, the Bay of Quinte and at Niagara, establishing permanent settlements and the multicultural roots of modern-day Ontario.

1785
The city of Saint John, N.B. is incorporated. Fredericton opens a Provincial Academy of Arts and Sciences, the germ of the University of New Brunswick (1859).

1789
At the behest of the North West Company, Alexander Mackenzie journeys to the Beaufort Sea, following what would later be named the Mackenzie River.

1791
With western Québec filling with English-speaking Loyalists, the Constitutional Act of 1791 divides Québec into Upper and Lower Canada (modern-day Ontario and Quebec).

1792
George Vancouver begins exploration of the Pacific coast.

1793
Mackenzie reaches the Pacific at Dean Channel.

1794
An American diplomat, John Jay, oversees the signing of Jay's Treaty (Nov. 19) between the U.S. and Britain. It promises British evacuation of the Ohio Valley forts and marks the beginning of international arbitration to settle boundary disputes.

1796
York becomes the capital of Upper Canada.

1797
Having worked for the Hudson's Bay Company since 1784, David Thompson joins the North West Company as a surveyor and mapmaker, eventually surveying hundreds of thousands of square miles of western North America.

1798
A new fur-trading company is formed to compete with the North West Company. Confusingly called the New North West Company, it is nicknamed the XY Company from the way it differentiates its bales from those of its competitor.

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:15:39 PM