There has been human habitation in Canada for about 26,500 years. These early inhabitants of what would become Canada crossed to the country on the Bering land bridge from Siberia. They remained concentrated in the northernmost region of the landmass for several thousand years due to the Laurentide ice sheet, which covered most of Canada. It retreated about 16,000 years ago, and the people in the northern parts of the country began to migrate into the southern regions of the country. By 8000 BCE, the climate had largely stabilized, and the Aboriginal cultures took solid roots in Canada.
The first European alleged to have seen Canada was Bjarni Herjolfsson, who arrived there by mistake sometime between 985 and 986 CE. In 1001 it is believed that Leif Ericson arrived in Canada, where he established three colonies at Helluland, which is possibly Baffin Island; Markland, which is possibly Labrador; and Vinland, which is possibly Newfoundland. Evidence for an early Norse settlement was found at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. In 1497, Italian explorer John Cabot arrived on what has officially been declared to have been Newfoundland, the first European to do so since the Norsemen had abandoned their colonies some three centuries earlier. Two years later, the Portuguese explorer Joao Fernandes Lavrador arrived in the area, and charted the island of Labrador. Between 1501 and 1502 the region was explored by the Corte-Real brothers, who declared Newfoundland and Labrador as Portuguese territory. In 1506, the Portuguese king established tariffs on the bountiful cod fishing in the area, and fishing outposts were built along the Newfoundland coast by 1521.
In 1524 the French took an interest in the region. Ten years later, the French explorer Jacques Cartier claimed the Gaspé Peninsula, the border of the modern-day St. Lawrence River in Quebec, for France. Attempts to settle in the area were unsuccessful, though the fishing business was strong and the French traders maintained good relations with the Aboriginals in the area. In 1600 a trade fort was established at Tadoussac, but abandoned after a difficult winter left most of the settlers dead. In 1604 a fur trade monopoly sprung up under the French, and a settlement was established at St. Croix. Samuel de Champlain, a geographer on the expedition, made a major exploration effort of the coastline, and had the settlement relocated the following year, to Port Royal in Nova Scotia. It was abandoned two years later. The following year, Champlain founded modern-day Quebec City. From there, he began to explore the interior of the country. By 1615 he had managed to travel nearly to Lake Simcoe, near modern-day Toronto. During his expeditions he fought with the Hurons against the Iroquois, which would place the French and Iroquois at loggerheads for almost a hundred years.
In 1621 Scottish settlers were sent to establish a colony in Canada, but these attempts failed until 1629. By 1631 Nova Scotia had been returned to the French, who reclaimed total control over the region by the following year. In 1634 Trois-Rivieres was founded, the second permanent settlement in New France. The next year, de Champlain died, and the Jesuit ministry became the major power in New France. In 1642 the Jesuits funded an expedition further into the country, which established Ville-Marie, where Montreal would one day stand. The French continued to spread into present-day Ontario, but by 1670 the British had established a major foothold in the country via the possession of Hudson Bay and a large part of the surrounding land, known as Rupert's Land. They also established settlements in Newfoundland, and began to grow, while the French settlements remained thinly stretched across the areas they had claimed. By 1682, however, the French had taken a great deal of land around the Mississippi River, and had extended this into Canada, managing to capture some of the land around Hudson Bay.
In 1710, Queen Anne's War had been underway for eight years. In October of that year, the Conquest of Acadia occurred, wherein the British besieged, and took, the Acadian capital of Port Royal. Three years later, when the war ended, the Treaty of Ultrecht ceded most of Nova Scotia to the British, as well as the area around Hudson's Bay that had previously been taken by the French. In response to this loss of territory, the French established the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. This too was captured by British colonists in 1745, but soon after returned to French control. In 1755 the British expelled all of the Acadians from British-held territories in the pragmatically-named Expulsion of the Acadians. About 12,000 Acadians were forced from their homes, and those that managed to remain or return soon had their culture overwhelmed by settlers from New England. Despite the trouble suffered by the French settlements in the Maritimes, the French settlements in Quebec continued to flourish during this period. In 1754 the French and Indian War broke out in North America, an extension of the tensions of the Seven Years' War. By the end of the war in 1763, the British had seized control of Quebec City and Montreal. The Treaty of Paris (1763) effectively ceded a majority of the French territory in Canada to the British. The British, however, allowed the Canadiens living in the previously French-controlled regions to retain their language, culture, religion and law, which they maintain to this day. This was officially ratified in the Quebec Act of 1774.
In 1776 the Revolutionary War in the United States of America began. While there was some sympathy for the Americans in Canada, the Canadians remained firmly on the side of the British throughout the war. In 1775 an invasion of Canada was attempted by the Revolutionaries, but was ultimately put down the next year. In 1781 the British suffered a defeat at Yorktown that effectively signaled the end of the attempt to control the Revolutionaries. The Treaty of Paris 1783 ended the war, and established the border between America and Canada at the 45th parallel, later extended to the 49th parallel for the rest of the country. Around this time, several thousand Loyalists, citizens loyal to Britain living in America, fled the country to Canada, where they settled in droves in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which was created as a separate colony in 1784 to deal with the overwhelming number of immigrants. In 1791 Quebec was officially divided into the mainly French Lower Canada and the mainly English Upper Canada. in 1812 the USA and Canada again became embroiled in a conflict, the War of 1812. The war ended three years later with the Treaty of Ghent, which restored the status quo. Nonetheless, Canada began to experience republican sentiment among some factions.
The Rebellions of 1837 took place in both Upper and Lower Canada. Both rebellions had been put down by 1838. After the leaders were tried and the rebellious sentiment had died down somewhat, more moderate reformers began to rise to prominence in Canadian politics. This resulted in the recommendation of the British Lord Durham, who recommended that the colonies be granted responsible government. In 1840, the Act of Union merged The Canadas into the United Province of Canada. In 1848, responsible government was granted to the United Province. The Colony of British Columbia was officially created in 1858. Two conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec began the idea of federation between all the British North American colonies. On July 1st, 1867 the Dominion of Canada was officially created as its own federated kingdom, containing the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. In 1869 the North-West Rebellion, led by Louis Riel, resulted in the founding and confederation of Manitoba in 1870. In 1873 the Colony of British Columbia, which had merged with the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1866, was admitted into the new country. This was followed two years later by Prince Edward Island, which had initially resisted confederation. The modern-day Royal Canadian Mounted Police were created that same year to enforce Canadian sovereignty on the vast expanse of land known as the North-West Territories. In the 1890s, gold was discovered in the Yukon, leading to a gold rush in the region. In 1905, the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were admitted into the country.
In 1914 the Canadian Forces fought alongside the British Army in the First World War, which fostered good relations between the two countries. A sense of Canadian identity was also bolstered by the war, as the country united against the external threat. After the war, Canada became less beholden to Britain, and participated as a separate entity in the League of Nations. In 1931, it adopted the Statute of Westminster, later referred to as the point at which Canada declared independence. Canada, and especially Western Canada, was hit quite hard by the Great Depression, and remained economically unstable until 1939. During this time new social and political movements arose, including the Communist Party of Canada, which was banned in 1940, the Social Credits movement, and the On-to-Ottawa Trek. On September 10th, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. The Canadians played a large part in the fighting in Europe and in the Atlantic theatre.
After the war, Canada saw a massive upswing in its economic status. During this period universal health care was developed, as were old age and veteran pensions. In 1949 the Dominion of Newfoundland joined Canada, the last province to do so. In the following years, Canada was involved in the Cold War on the side of the Americans. It joined NATO in 1949. In 1956, during the Suez Canal Crisis, future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson conceptualized the peacekeeping force for which Canada would become well-known throughout the world. In the 1960s, the Quiet Revolution took place in Quebec. It overthrew the traditional Roman Catholic power structure, and aided in the modernization of the economy and Quebec society. Quebec nationalists began to demand independence, culminating in the October Crisis of 1970, when two government officials were kidnapped and violence spilled onto the Quebec streets. The Parti Quebecois came to power in 1976, and this resulted in a 1980 referendum on the separation of Quebec from the remainder of Canada, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
In 1982 the Constitution of Canada was officially patriated under the Constitution Act. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added simultaneously. Through the 1980s attempts to draw the country closer together, particularly the west and Quebec were more or less unsuccessful, while relations with America began to grow stronger. A Free Trade Agreement was adopted between the two countries in 1989, despite opposition within Canada. In 1990 there were also tensions with Aboriginal groups in Canada. In 1995 another referendum on Quebec sovereignty was barely rejected. In 1998 unilateral secession by a province was deemed unconstitutional. The territory of Nunavut officially separated from the Northwest Territories in 1999, becoming its own territory within Canada. In 2001, Canada became involved in the War in Afghanistan, but refused to be involved in the invasion of Iraq two years later. Beginning in 2003, legislation was passed to allow same-sex marriage in eight of the provinces and one of the territories. This resulted in the passage of the Civil Marriages Act in 2005, legalizing same-sex marriage in the whole country. Canada was the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
Canada is a country that takes up the northern portion of the continent of North America. It is the second-largest country in the world, covering just under 10,000,000 kilometres squared. It shares land borders to the south and northwest with the United States of America, and is bounded to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, and to the north by the Arctic Ocean. Canada is divided into ten provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; and three territories: the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The capital of Canada is located in Ottawa, Ontario, which is located near the border between Ontario and Quebec.
There are approximately 34,380,000 people in Canada. A small majority of the population reports their ethnic origin as Canadian, about 32%. This is followed by the English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, Aboriginal, Ukrainian and Dutch. Almost one in five Canadians is foreign-born, and Canada has one of the largest per-capita immigrant populations in the world, and a growing population of visible minorities. Christianity is the largest religion in Canada, with 77% claiming some denomination at the last census. Other religions, prominent among them Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, make up a further 6.7% of the population. 16.5% of the population claims no religion.
Canada has two official languages, English and French. A majority of the population speaks English, while a minority speaks French. Most of the Francophone population is limited to Quebec. There are also a number of recognized Aboriginal languages.
Canada has a rich history, some of which has made its way into comics. Because it is so closely tied, physically, economically and culturally, with its American neighbour, Canada frequently makes appearances as a foreign country that provides little culture shock for readers or characters.