Canada has existed long before confederation. While you celebrate the past 150 years, keep in mind all that came before them. Canada’s history is complex, as this compilation of our biggest fuck-ups and greatest victories will show. All events have been gathered and cross-checked from the following sources: a Canadian history timeline, the Canadian encyclopedia, Wikipedia (and its supporting articles), a second timeline of Canada, and other news articles.
July 1, 2017 — Canada celebrates 150 years since confederation. They also celebrate all the things that make it Canada: beavers, hockey, maple syrup, Tim Hortons, Rick Mercer, Shania Twain, and colonialism.
November 30, 2016 — Studies show 130 advisories against drinking the water in 85 different First Nations communities. The year before, there were 139 warnings that the drinking water was unsafe in 94 communities. This number does not account for water filtration systems in danger of failing.
May 18, 2016 — Justin Trudeau formally apologizes for the Komagata Maru incident.
May 1, 2016 — Fort McMurray is almost destroyed by wildfire.
December 8, 2015 — A national public inquiry is launched to investigate missing and murdered Indigenous women. This is the first formal action the Canadian government takes despite years of calls to action from various human rights and Indigenous rights groups. It is estimated that 4,000 Indigenous women went missing or were murdered between 1980 and 2012.
February 14, 2010 — Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada’s first gold medal on home soil during the 2010 Olympic games held in Vancouver.
June 11, 2008 — A formal apology for the treatment Indigenous children faced in residential schools is made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Next steps in reconciliation are slow and limited.
July 20, 2005 — Same-sex marriage is legalized in Canada.
April 18, 2002 — four Canadian soldiers are accidentally killed by a US bomber while serving in Afghanistan. Before then, the last Canadian soldiers killed in combat were during the Korean War (1950-1953).
April 1, 1999 — Nunavut is the last to join confederation.
May 1, 1996 — Human rights laws in Canada are updated to protect homosexuals against discrimination.
1996 — The last residential school is finally closed. Around 150,000 Indigenous children attended these schools, many suffering from abuse, malnutrition, and disease. 3,200 of these children died from neglect or illness. Some were used as subjects for experiments without their knowledge or consent. The effects this cultural genocide had on Indigenous culture is beyond measure.
1994 — Roméo Dallaire leads a UN Peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. Though he warns his superiors that a genocide is imminent, they order him to do nothing. He disobeyed his orders and helped save what lives he could. 800,000 people were killed during the Rwandan genocide. Dallaire would be haunted by his time there and the lack of support he received from the UN during the crisis. He has since become a humanitarian and an advocate against child soldiers.
June 25, 1993 — The first female (and currently only) Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, is sworn into office.
1992 — The Toronto Blue Jays are the first Major League Baseball team based outside the USA to win the World Series. They become back-to-back champions when they win again in 1993.
December 6, 1989 — 14 women are killed when a gunman open fires on them at Montréal’s École Polytechnique. The gunman specifically targeted them for being women in STEM. A memorial to these women has since been built just outside SFU’s Applied Sciences Building.
1988 — Abortion becomes legal in Canada following a Supreme Court verdict that deemed the denial of the service unconstitutional.
October 5, 1984 — Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian in space when he joins the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.
May 14, 1984 — Jeanne-Mathilde Sauvé becomes the first female Governor General of Canada (she was also the first female Speaker of the House of Commons in 1980).
April 17, 1982 — The Canadian Constitution is approved. The Constitution contains the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; a document intended to protect all Canadians’ human rights.
November 13, 1981 — The Canadarm is launched into space attached to Space Shuttle Columbia.
September 1, 1980 — Terry Fox has to stop running due to a cancer relapse. Despite vows to finish his marathon, he dies in hospital at 22.
April 12, 1980 — Terry Fox begins his Marathon of Hope: he plans to run across Canada on his artificial leg to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
February 1977 — Terry Fox, a first-year student, visits the SFU health centre for pain in his right knee. He is prescribed painkillers.
June 26, 1976 — The CN Tower opens. From the time it is built until 2007, it is the tallest free standing building on the planet.
1976 — Parliament abolishes the death penalty for civilians (members of the armed forces can still be executed until 1998 when Canada bans all forms of state execution). The last criminals executed in Canada are killed 14 years before this bill passes.
1971 — Pierre Trudeau (aged 52) married SFU alumna Margaret Sinclair (aged 24).
1971 — Pierre Trudeau creates a policy declaring Canada to be a multicultural nation. Whether this is actually true is still up for debate.
1970 — Canada begins converting to the metric system.
July 1, 1967 — Canada celebrates 100 years since confederation.
October 4, 1965 — The Peak publishes its first issue under the name The S. F. View.
September 9, 1965 — Simon Fraser University opens.
July 30, 1962 — The Trans-Canada highway is officially opened. The ceremony takes place at Roger’s Pass.
March 31, 1960 — First Nations peoples are granted the right to vote in federal elections.
1960 — The Canadian Bill of Rights is the first law passed by Parliament to protect human rights.
1956 — Lester B. Pearson proposes a United Nations Peacekeeping force as a way to resolve the Suez Crisis. Since then, the United Nations has engaged in 69 peacekeeping efforts thanks to Pearson’s proposal. He receives the Nobel Peace Prize for this in 1957.
1952–1953 — Lester B. Pearson is elected as the president of the United Nations General Assembly where he tries to find a resolution for the Korean War.
June 12, 1951 — Inuit peoples are enfranchised.
April 4, 1949 — Canada joins NATO as one of its founding members.
April 1, 1949 — Japanese Canadians are allowed to return to the west coast of Canada.
March 31, 1949 — Newfoundland and Labrador enter confederation.
June 15, 1948 — Asian Canadians are given the right to vote.
Late 1945 — Japanese Canadians being held in internment camps are forced to either move East or “voluntar[ily]” move to Japan. 4,000 who did not make the choice in time were deported.
December 14, 1945 — A Nazi general gives execution orders for Canadian prisoners of war that are still held captive. The general is later tried and found guilty of war crimes by a Canadian court and is imprisoned.
September 2, 1945 — The Japanese surrender, ending the war in the Pacific and World War Two overall. 41,992 Canadians were killed in the six years of fighting.
August 9, 1945 — The second and final atomic bomb of the war is dropped on Nagasaki. This essentially ends the war and begins both the arms race and the Cold War era.
August 6, 1945 — The atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. 130,000 people are presumed dead.
June 26, 1945 — Canada joins the newly formed United Nations.
May 7, 1945 — Germany signs the surrender documents. They are ratified the next day. War is over in Europe and soldiers celebrate Victory in Europe Day. In Halifax, thousands of servicemen riot.
June 6, 1944 — 14,000 Canadians soldiers land on Juno beach as part of the D-Day campaign. 359 are killed and 715 are injured.
Summer 1942 — The Canadian government took control of a mine near Great Bear Lake that has uranium in it to help support the development of the atomic bomb. There are no public records of whether the uranium was ultimately used in the bombs that were dropped on Japan.
January–February 1942 — Due to anti-Japanese paranoia, all people with Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes in British Columbia following two bills passed by Parliament. Many men were sent to work camps, families were often split up, and those who rebelled in any way were sent to a prisoner of war camp.
December 1941 — Hong Kong falls to Japan. Canadian soldiers are captured as prisoners of war. Many die in the camps.
April 4, 1940 — Quebec allows women to vote in provincial elections. They are the last province to make this change.
September 10, 1939 — Canada declares war on Germany following a vote in Parliament and enters the Second World War. Later in the month, Parliament would pass a law forcing the conscription of many Canadian men. One purposeful exclusion was that of Asian men because Parliament feared it would give them a valid argument for enfranchisement.
December 11, 1931 — The Statute of Westminster grants Canada autonomy.
1929 — The stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins. The 1930s are often credited as beginning the process of social welfare programs in Canada.
1923 — Canadian doctors Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod win the Nobel Prize for their discovery of insulin.
November 11, 1918 — World War One ends. 60,661 Canadians are dead as a result of the war. Most who returned were never the same, either due to injury or what was then known as shell shock.
1918 — Most women gain the right to vote in federal elections. Asian people and Indigenous peoples were noticeably excluded. Following the abolishment of slavery, there were no laws banning African Canadians from voting; however, it is important to note that unofficial discrimination did stop many from exercising their right to vote.
October 1917 — Canadian troops arrive at the Battle of Passchendaele. A survivor credits it as “one of the Muddy-est, Bloody-est, of the whole war.” Canadians experienced over 15,600 casualties as a result.
June 7, 1917 — Louise McKinney of Alberta wins a seat in the Legislative Assembly and becomes the first woman in the entire British Empire to be elected to a legislature.
April 9–12, 1917 — The Battle of Vimy Ridge becomes one of Canada’s greatest military achievements. 10,500 Canadians were injured or killed for what was the greatest territorial gain the Allies had so far in the war.
November 26, 1917 — The National Hockey League (NHL) is formed in Montreal.
1916 — The Battle of the Somme. 801 Canadian were there on the first day, all members of the First Newfoundland Regiment. Only 68 reported back at the end of the day. Most Canadian regiments joined the battle in the final three months of what would be a five-month conflict. Over 24,700 Canadians were lost.
April 22–May 25, 1915 — Canadians fight in their first major battle: Second Battle of Ypres. It is the first large chlorine gas attack (more than 160 tonnes of the gas was released on the first day alone). Over 6,500 Canadians were injured, captured, or killed. This is also the battle during which John McCrae writes his famous poem “In Flanders Fields.”
August 4, 1914 — Britain declares war on Germany. As a British colony, Canada is automatically at war as well. 630,000 men and women serve during the war.
May 29, 1914 — The sinking of Empress of Ireland becomes the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history. 1,012 out of 1,477 passengers are killed when the ship sinks in 14 minutes.
May 1914 — The Komagata Maru incident begins. Over 300 South Asian immigrants on the Komagata Maru were denied entry into Canada due to discriminatory regulations such as blocking people not on a continuous trip from their home country and any Asian who arrived with less than $200 (around $4,828 in today’s dollars). Immigration officers tried to force passengers to leave voluntarily by limiting their ability to communicate with the outside world — which effectively blocked their ability to take their case to a Canadian court — and denying the ship food and water unless it was absolutely necessary. Eventually, the case was taken to court and the decision supported the Canadian government. Upon returning to India, passengers of the Komagata Maru were seen as dangerous revolutionaries. Several were arrested and 20 were killed upon docking in India.
April 1912 — The Titanic sinks 640 kilometers of the coast of Newfoundland. Four Canadian ships including CS Mackay-Bennett carried undertakers and embalming supplies to gather victims of the wreck and bring them back to Halifax, where many were buried. Only 333 out of 1500 bodies were ever found.
1909 — The Grey Cup is awarded for the first time to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
1908 — Anne of Green Gables is first published.
September 1, 1905 — Saskatchewan and Alberta enter confederation.
June 13, 1898 — Yukon Territory joins confederation.
1893 — The Stanley Cup is awarded for the first time to the Montreal HC.
November 16, 1885 — Louis Riel is publicly hung in Regina.
1885 — Louis Riel leads a second Métis rebellion.
1881 — The Canadian Pacific Railway company is founded. The company builds a railroad connecting British Columbia to the rest of Canada and is completed in 1885. 15,000 Chinese labourers work in dangerous conditions to complete the railroad. It is estimated that at least 600 died during construction.
~1880 — The first residential schools open.
August 1876 — First “long-distance” telephone call took place between inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s home and Brantford, Ontario six kilometers away.
1875 — Jennie Kidd Trout graduates from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and passes the Ontario exam to become Canada’s first licensed female doctor. She would later help fund the Women’s Medical College in Kingston, Ontario.
July 1, 1873 — Prince Edward Island becomes a member of confederation.
July 20, 1871 — British Columbia enters confederation.
July 15, 1870 — Manitoba and Northwest Territories join confederation.
1869–1870 — Louis Riel leads a Métis (the children of Indigenous and European parents) rebellion in Red River area of Montreal.
July 1, 1867 — Confederation: Canada becomes a country and recognizes the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec. John A. Macdonald becomes the first prime minister.
1850–1869 — Gold is found in British Columbia. Multiple gold rushes occur in this time period in different areas, drawing thousands to the area. The first Chinese immigrants come to British Columbia during this time.
1840 — Cunard Line (a major shipping and cruise ship line) is founded by Halifax-born Samuel Cunard.
July 21, 1836 — First Canadian railroad (Champlain and Saint Lawrence Railroad) opens. The line travels from La Prairie to St. Johns.
1833 — Slavery Abolition Act is passed, abolishing slavery in most British Colonies.
June 1832 — A ship arriving in Quebec brings Cholera to Canada, killing thousands.
October 28, 1830 — Josiah and Nancy Henson, escaped slaves from America, reach Canada. They will eventually create a settlement in Canada called Dawn: a community for escaped slaves.
1815 — War of 1812 ends. Canada returns all captured territory to America.
August 24, 1814 — Canadian forces burn most of Washington, D.C. including the Presidential Mansion, or, as it’s known today, the White House.
1813 — Americans capture and burn York.
June 18, 1812 — America declared war on Canada, marking the beginning of the War of 1812. Though the majority of fighting was done by black Canadians, British military, and Indigenous peoples, there has been a persistent myth that most of the fighting was done by civilians.
August 27, 1793 — York (now Toronto) is established.
July 9, 1793 — Upper Canada (Ontario) passes an anti-slavery law that bans slave importation and demands that children born into slavery must be freed when they turn 25. This effectively makes Canada a safe haven for slaves escaping America.
June 1792 — Captain Vancouver becomes the second European to sail into what he named the Burrard Inlet.
1789 — The North West Company, Hudson’s Bay’s biggest rival, is founded. Many who worked for the North West Company were Scottish highlanders who had emigrated to Canada following the highland clearances.
1786 — Molson brewing company is founded.
1783 — British loyalists start moving into Canada from the new United States.
1775–1783 — The American Revolutionary War causes chaos to Canadian colonies including several attacks on Quebec after they decided not to join the revolution.
June 22, 1774 — The Quebec Act receives royal assent, guaranteeing freedom to practice Catholicism and use French law in civil matters.
September 8, 1760 – British forces capture Montreal during the Seven Years War, effectively gaining control of the entirety of New France. Three years later, on February 10, the conquest is formalized through the Treaty of Paris and New France becomes Quebec.
1755–1757 — Smallpox epidemic occurs. It’s considered to be the worst epidemic in French Canada.
March 23, 1752 — Canada’s first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, prints its first issue.
1749 — Halifax is founded, violating a treaty with the Mi’kmaq peoples.
1741 — The first Europeans report seeing the Rocky Mountains.
1713 — The Treaty of Utrecht is signed, giving Newfoundland, Hudson Bay, and what is modern day Nova Scotia over to British possession.
1701 — The Iroquois peoples sign a treaty with Britain, selling their land in the Great Lakes region for protection. They also sign a treaty with France formalizing peace between the two groups.
1698 — New France Governor Frontenac raids Iroquois groups, destroying food stores and villages. This effectively ends the Iroquois raids on New France.
August 5, 1689 — Lachine Massacre (the Mohawk against a French settlement) begins a new set of attacks between the Iroquois peoples and French colonists.
May 2, 1670 — The Hudson’s Bay Company is created via royal charter, making it “the oldest incorporated joint-stock merchandising company in the English-speaking world” according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.
1648–1649 — Iroquois disperse Huron living along the St. Lawrence. They also begin attacking New France (Quebec).
1644 — First hospital in Canada, Hotel-Dieu, opens.
~1640 — Low numbers of beaver and otter in Iroquois land lead to the beginnings of the “Beaver Wars.” This ongoing conflict between the Iroquois peoples and other Indigenous groups in the area followed from a growing dependence on colonists for their resources and a demand for beaver pelts back in Europe. The war permanently displaced or destroyed several Indigenous groups.
1639 — Smallpox epidemic kills 50% of the Huron peoples.
May 22, 1611 — The first Jesuits arrive in Canada, hoping to bring Christianity to the “lost souls.”
1611 — Henry Hudson’s mutinous crew sets him adrift in James Bay with his son and several other men. They are never seen again.
1610 — Etienne Brule, who lived among the Huron peoples, is the first European to see three of the Great Lakes: Lake Ontario, Lake Superior, and Lake Huron.
July 30, 1609 — Champlain becomes the first colonist to use firearms against Indigenous peoples.
July 3, 1608 — Quebec City is founded by Samuel de Champlain.
1606 — First play is performed in Canada.
~1580 — The fur trade begins.
1576 — First attempt to find the Northwest Passage.
1535 — Jacques Cartier names areas of modern-day Quebec Canada after the word ‘kanata’: an Iroquois word for ‘settlement.’
June 24, 1497 — John Cabot arrives on the east coast of Canada and claims it for England.
~1100 AD — Five Iroquois nations form the Haudenosaunee, creating stability and trade relations in the Great Lakes area.
1000 AD — Leif Eriksson lands in Newfoundland, creating a short-lived viking community in what is now L’Anse aux Meadows.
1000 AD — The Thule people travel across Northern Canada, eventually settling in areas now inhabited by their descendants, Canada’s Inuit peoples.
~30,000–15,000 BCE — First Indigenous peoples cross a bridge of ice from Siberia into Canada.