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Fur Trade in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The fur trade began in the 1600s in what is now Canada. It continued for more than 250 years. Europeans traded with Indigenous people for beaver pelts. The demand for felt hats in Europe drove this business. The fur trade was one of the main reasons that Europeans explored and colonized Canada. It built relationships between Europeans and Indigenous peoples.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the fur trade. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Fur Trade in Canada.)

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Rupert's Land

Rupert’s Land was a vast territory of northern wilderness. It represented a third of what is now Canada. From 1670 to 1870, it was the exclusive commercial domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the primary trapping grounds of the fur trade. The territory was named after Prince Rupert, the HBC’s first governor. Three years after Confederation, the Government of Canada acquired Rupert’s Land from the HBC for $1.5-million. It is the largest real estate transaction (by land area) in the country’s history. The purchase of Rupert’s Land transformed Canada geographically. It changed from a modest country in the northeast of the continent into an expansive one that reached across North America. Rupert’s Land was eventually divided among Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Article

Fur Trade in Canada

The fur trade was a vast commercial enterprise across the wild, forested expanse of what is now Canada. It was at its peak for nearly 250 years, from the early 17th to the mid-19th centuries. It was sustained primarily by the trapping of beavers to satisfy the European demand for felt hats. The intensely competitive trade opened the continent to exploration and settlement. It financed missionary work, established social, economic and colonial relationships between Europeans and Indigenous people, and played a formative role in the creation and development of Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about the fur trade. For a plain-language summary, please see Fur Trade in Canada (Plain Language Summary).)

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History of Settlement in the Canadian Prairies

The Canadian Prairies were peopled in six great waves of migration, spanning from prehistory to the present. The migration from Asia, about 13,300 years ago, produced an Indigenous population of 20,000 to 50,000 by about 1640. Between 1640 and 1840, several thousand European and Canadian fur traders arrived, followed by several hundred British immigrants. They created dozens of small outposts and a settlement in the Red River Colony, where the Métis became the largest part of the population. The third wave, from the 1840s to the 1890s, consisted mainly but not solely of Canadians of British heritage. The fourth and by far the largest wave was drawn from many nations, mostly European. It occurred from 1897 to 1929, with a pause (1914–22) during and after the First World War. The fifth wave, drawn from other Canadian provinces and from Europe and elsewhere, commenced in the late 1940s. It lasted through the 1960s. The sixth wave, beginning in the 1970s, drew especially upon peoples of the southern hemisphere. It has continued, with fluctuations, to the present. Throughout the last century, the region has also steadily lost residents, as a result of migration to other parts of Canada, to the United States, and elsewhere.

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Economic History of Western Canada

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia constitute Western Canada, a region that accounts for 35 per cent of the Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). The economic history of the region begins with the hunting, farming and trading societies of the Indigenous peoples. Following the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century, the economy has undergone a series of seismic shifts, marked by the transcontinental fur trade, then rapid urbanization, industrialization and technological change.

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Hudson's Bay Company

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), chartered 2 May 1670, is the oldest incorporated joint-stock merchandising company in the English-speaking world. HBC was a fur trading business for most of its history, a past that is entwined with the colonization of British North America and the development of Canada. The company now owns and operates department stores in Canada, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Originally headquartered in London, England, its head offices are located in Brampton, Ontario. HBC is owned by NRDC Equity Partners, an American private investment firm that purchased the company in 2008. HBC operates the following retailers: Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks OFF 5TH, Galeria Kaufhof, Sportarena and Galeria INNO. In 2017, HBC registered $14.3 billion in revenue and held assets valued at $12.2 billion. It is a public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol HBC.

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Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938

Filmmaking is a powerful form of cultural and artistic expression, as well as a highly profitable commercial enterprise. From a practical standpoint, filmmaking is a business involving large sums of money and a complex division of labour. This labour is involved, roughly speaking, in three sectors: production, distribution and exhibition. The history of the Canadian film industry has been one of sporadic achievement accomplished in isolation against great odds. Canadian cinema has existed within an environment where access to capital for production, to the marketplace for distribution and to theatres for exhibition has been extremely difficult. The Canadian film industry, particularly in English Canada, has struggled against the Hollywood entertainment monopoly for the attention of an audience that remains largely indifferent toward the domestic industry. The major distribution and exhibition outlets in Canada have been owned and controlled by foreign interests. The lack of domestic production throughout much of the industry’s history can only be understood against this economic backdrop.

This article is one of four that surveys the history of the film industry in Canada. The entire series includes: Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938; Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973; Canadian Film History: 1974 to Present; Canadian Film History: Notable Films and Filmmakers 1980 to Present.