Significant Events in Canadian History

The significance of an event cannot be measured scientifically. Every historian, journalist or student could make their own lists. This selection is meant to draw attention to a number of events in Canadian history that left an indelible mark on the lives of the people of the time and an indisputable memory in the minds of later generations.

Canada Day party decorations.

November 30, -1

Environment  Indigenous Peoples 

The Oka Crisis

The Oka Crisis is triggered by plans to expand a golf course and build luxury condominiums on disputed lands that include the burial grounds of the Mohawk people. A 78-day violent standoff follows between Mohawk protestors, police and the army in Oka, QC.

January 01, 985

Exploration & Settlement 

Bjarni Sights America

Bjarni Herjolfsson sighted mainland North America, probably Newfoundland, southern Labrador and Baffin Island. Bjarni was likely the first European to visit North America, and his discovery led to a brief Norse colonization of Newfoundland.

January 01, 1000

Exploration & Settlement  Indigenous Peoples 

Norse Explorers Meet Indigenous Peoples

Norse explorers meet Indigenous peoples (possibly Dorset, Inuit, Thule or Beothuk) on Baffin Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. They exchange goods, but hostility prevents lasting Norse settlement. L’Anse aux Meadows is believed to be the first European settlement in North America.

June 24, 1497

John Cabot

Exploration & Settlement 

John Cabot Claims Atlantic Coast

John Cabot landed on the Atlantic coast of North America, claiming it for England. Cabot's discovery led to England's interest in what is now Atlantic Canada, especially the fishery.

January 01, 1500

Indigenous Peoples 

Indigenous Population Ranges From 200,000 to 500,000

Estimates for the Indigenous population range from 200,000 to 500,000 people, though some suggest it was as high as 2.5 million, with between 300 and 450 languages spoken.

July 24, 1534

La Grande Hermine

Exploration & Settlement 

Cartier Lands at Gaspé

Jacques Cartier landed at Gaspé, placed a cross bearing the arms of France and made an official claim over the territory in the name of France.

January 01, 1600

Exploration & Settlement  Indigenous Peoples 

Fur Trade Becomes a Vast Commercial Enterprise

From the early 17th to the mid-19th centuries, the fur trade is a vast commercial enterprise across what is now Canada. Indigenous technology and knowledge are crucial to the competitive trade and to the survival of Europeans.

July 03, 1608

Habitation at Quebec

Exploration & Settlement 

Founding of Québec

Samuel de Champlain established a fortified trading post at Québec, the perfect location to foster the fur trade and to serve as the base for its founder's idea of colonizing the remote country.

July 30, 1609

Exploration & Settlement  Indigenous Peoples 

Samuel de Champlain and His First Nations Allies Battle the Haudenosaunee

Colonial administrator Samuel de Champlain explores the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee. On July 30, Champlain and his First Nations allies battle the Haudenosaunee, beginning 150 years of war between the Haudenosaunee and French colonial forces.

May 18, 1642

Exploration & Settlement  Indigenous Peoples 

Maisonneuve Founds Ville-Marie

Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve founded Ville-Marie, which was destined to become the most important trading post in New France and the future city of Montréal. Maisonneuve served as governor until 1665.

April 17, 1649


Indigenous Peoples 

Huronia Destroyed

Weakened by disease and cultural interference by the French, the Huron Nation was finally destroyed by the Iroquois. On Easter Day 1649 the last Huron band left Gahoendoe for the mainland and were either killed or assimilated into Iroquois tribes.

May 02, 1670

Exploration & Settlement  Science & Industry 

Hudson’s Bay Company is Established

The Hudson’s Bay Company is established, forming a monopoly and increasing the volume of goods in the fur trade. For centuries to come, blankets are widely traded, including the iconic HBC Point Blanket, first made in 1779 and still available today. Seen by some as an item of cultural importance, it reminds others of the forces of colonialism.

June 21, 1749

Edward Cornwallis, soldier and politician

Exploration & Settlement 

Founding of Halifax

Edward Cornwallis arrived in Chebucto harbour in advance of 2,567 settlers. Work began on the town of Halifax, which replaced Annapolis Royal as the capital of Nova Scotia and established a strong British foothold in Nova Scotia.

July 28, 1755

Acadian singer Jeanne (Doucet) Currie.

Exploration & Settlement 

Expulsion of the Acadians

Between 1755 and 1763, approximately 10,000 Acadians are deported after delegates refuse to take an oath of allegiance to Britain. Acadians, the first French community in Canada, are allies of the Mi’kmaq and possess a distinctive culture. Following the Acadian Expulsion, thousands die of disease or starvation.

September 13, 1759

“A View of the Taking of Quebec”, 13 September 1759.


Battle of the Plains of Abraham

On the night of Sept 12-13, General James Wolfe led his soldiers up an unguarded footpath and set for battle before the fortress walls. Montcalm attacked in the morning but his line broke, and Québec fell into British hands. Both generals perished.

May 09, 1763

Indigenous Peoples  Military/Rebellions 

Pontiac's War

An ally of the French, Ottawa chief Obwandiyag, whom the English called Pontiac, began a series of raids against English forts. Their attempt to drive the English away from the area killed both soldiers and settlers.

June 22, 1774


Quebec Act Passed

The Quebec Act was passed (effective 1 May 1775); it established French civil law, British criminal law, freedom of worship for Roman Catholics and government by appointed council. It extended the boundaries of the province to the Ohio Valley.

December 31, 1775


American Invasion Fails

American forces laying siege to Québec launched a desperate night attack. American general Richard Montgomery was killed as the attack was repulsed with heavy casualties. The French habitants had failed to support the Americans and Canada remained British.

April 01, 1776

Loyalists at the Site of Kingston

Exploration & Settlement 

First Loyalists Arrive

The first United Empire Loyalists — 1,124 refugees from New England — arrived in Halifax, NS. Another 40,000 or so followed them to NS and to Québec. The immigration resulted in the formation of New Brunswick and Upper Canada.

January 15, 1792

Exploration & Settlement  Social History 

Black Loyalists From Nova Scotia Set Sail for Sierra Leone

On January 15, about 1,200 Black Loyalists who had settled in Halifax board 15 ships for Sierra Leone, where they are offered free land. Thousands of enslaved Black people fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War, hoping to gain freedom. Over 3,000 settled in Nova Scotia and faced racial segregation, hostility and inequality.

July 21, 1793

Exploration, Western Interior

Exploration & Settlement 

Mackenzie Reaches the Pacific

Alexander Mackenzie party reached the Pacific via the Bella Coola River, the first explorer to complete the journey overland. Though a physical triumph, Mackenzie's achievement failed to provide the fur traders with a viable route.

June 12, 1811

Red River Colony

Exploration & Settlement  Indigenous Peoples 

Selkirk's Red River Grant

The HBC granted an area of about 185 000 km² to Lord Selkirk for formation of a colony at Red River. His first settlers arrived in the summer of 1812. Despite tribulations the settlement grew into the first European colony in the North-West.

June 18, 1812


War of 1812 Begins

The War of 1812, a military conflict between the United States and Great Britain, begins. The Coloured Corps, a militia company of about 50 Black men, serves throughout the war, including during the Battle of Queenston Heights. After the war, veterans of the Coloured Corps receive poor quality land and half that of their White counterparts.

October 13, 1812

Isaac Brock, military hero

Indigenous Peoples  Military/Rebellions 

Battle of Queenston Heights

Americans crossed the Niagara River and attacked the high ground of Queenston Heights. His sword drawn, Major-General Brock led troops into battle and was fatally wounded. The battle essentially lost, Grand River Mohawk warriors led by John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) prevented American forces from retreating for several hours until reinforcements led by Major-General Roger Sheaffe arrived and forced over 1,000 American soldiers to surrender.

February 15, 1815


War of 1812 Ends

The War of 1812 ends with the peace Treaty of Ghent. However, the First Nations allies of the British and Canadian cause suffered; they lost warriors (including the great Tecumseh), lost hope of halting American expansion in the west, and their contributions were quickly forgotten by their allies.

June 06, 1829

Arts and Culture  Indigenous Peoples 

Last Beothuk Shawnadithit Dies

On June 6, Shawnadithit, the last surviving member of the Beothuk of Newfoundland, dies of tuberculosis. Shawnadithit was captured by English colonial forces in 1823. Her drawings and descriptions of the Beothuk are valuable records of her people.

November 30, 1829

Flight Locks, Welland Canal

Environment  Science & Industry 

Welland Canal Opened

Two schooners passed from Port Dalhousie to Port Robinson, Upper Canada, symbolically opening the Welland Canal and linking Lakes Erie and Ontario for the first time. The canal opened the way to the west and countered the threat of the US Erie Canal.

January 01, 1831

Indigenous Peoples  Social History 

First Residential School Opens

The first residential school for Indigenous children, the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, ON, opens. By separating children from their families, the goal of residential schools is to assimilate children into European-Canadian society. For over a century, generations of students are subjected to emotional and physical abuse within the residential school system.

January 01, 1832

Science & Industry 

Cholera Epidemic Spreads

Grosse Île, near Québec, was opened as a quarantine station during the cholera epidemics and all ships stopped there for inspection. This station was a futile attempt by the government to control the disease that killed up to 10% of the population.

August 01, 1834

Politics  Social History 

Slavery Abolished in British Empire

The Slavery Abolition Act comes into effect on August 1, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire. The Act makes enslavement illegal in every province and frees the last remaining enslaved Black and Indigenous people in Canada.

March 03, 1835

Joseph Howe

Politics  Social History 

Howe Acquitted of Libel

Joseph Howe was acquitted of libel for publishing an article in his newspaper, The Novascotian, critical of Halifax's magistrates. The trial marked a turning point in the history of reform politics in Nova Scotia.

July 21, 1836

Science & Industry 

First Railway Opens in Canada

Canada's first railway, the Champlain and St Lawrence Railroad, officially opened; it began operations on July 25. The railway heralded the most important change in transportation in Canadian history.

November 16, 1837


Insurrection in Lower Canada

Governor Gosford issued warrants for the arrest of 26 Patriote leaders on charges of high treason, initiating the events of the Lower Canada Rebellion. Troops and Patriotes were in battle a few days later.

December 05, 1837

William Lyon Mackenzie


Rebellion in Upper Canada

William Lyon Mackenzie led a rag-tag contingent of 800 men down Yonge Street toward Toronto. Government loyalists dispersed the rebels with a few shots, ending Mackenzie's erratic attempt to overthrow the colonial government.

January 01, 1845

Arts and Culture  Social History 

Garneau Publishes Histoire du Canada

The first volume of François-Xavier Garneau's Histoire du Canada was published at Québec. It was the most outstanding history book for a century in Québec and an incentive to patriotism and pride.

June 15, 1846

Cathcart, Charles Murray, 2nd Earl


Oregon Boundary Treaty

The Oregon Boundary Treaty was signed, establishing the boundary between British North America and the US at 49° north latitude, leaving Vancouver Island in British hands, and creating a settlement with which Canada and the US could live in harmony.

October 22, 1846

CPR Telegraph Office, 1887

Science & Industry 

First Telegraph in Canada

The Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara and St Catharines Telegraph Company was established, the first telegraph company in Canada. The first section was opened for use 19 Dec 1846 from Toronto to Hamilton. The telegraph profoundly altered 19th century life.

January 01, 1847

Social History 

Ryerson Publishes Report on Education

Egerton Ryerson published his Report on a system of public elementary instruction for Upper Canada describing an education system based on Christian faith, universal access and government support that would be a model for English-speaking Canada.

February 02, 1848

Responsible Government


Responsible Government in Nova Scotia

James Boyle Uniake became leader of a new Reform government. Nova Scotia was thus the first colony in the British Empire in which responsible government was in effect. Responsible government meant that a colony enjoyed complete self-government in domestic affairs and that a government ruled only with the support of the majority of the elected Assembly (the origins of today's cabinet government).

January 01, 1850

Social History 

The Underground Railroad

15,000 to 20,000 African American refugees reach the Province of Canada during the height of the Underground Railroad, the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America.

January 10, 1850

Sir John Franklin.

Exploration & Settlement 

Search for Franklin Begins

Robert McClure and Richard Collinson began the extensive search for Franklin, likely the greatest search mission in the history of exploration. In the process, more was revealed of the geography of the North than at any other time.

September 11, 1854

Sir Allan MacNab, politician


MacNab-Morin Coalition

Augustin Morin and Sir Allan MacNab formed a political coalition accomplished the secularization of the Clergy Reserves and the end to seigneurial tenure and provided the foundation for the future Conservative Party.

November 17, 1856

Grand Trunk Railway

Science & Industry 

Grand Trunk Completed

The Grand Trunk Railway was completed from Guelph to Stratford, Ont; the last stretch from St Marys to Sarnia was finished on November 21. The GTR was a significant factor in the economic development of Canada.

April 25, 1858

Thompson River Valley

Exploration & Settlement 

Fraser River Gold Rush

The first wave of miners from California arrived at Victoria, en route to the Fraser River Gold Rush. The Gold Rush caused a precipitous decline in the Native population and politically unified British Columbia.

November 09, 1859

George Brown


Great Reform Convention

A convention of scattered reform elements of Upper Canada met in Toronto. Under George Brown's leadership the convention voted to support a legislative union of the Canadas and set the stage for closer collaboration between English and French.

June 27, 1860


Queen's Plate First Held

North America's oldest continuously run horse race, the Queen's Plate, was first held at Toronto's Carleton Track. It was open to all horses bred in Upper Canada that had not yet won money and the prize was 50 Guineas.

September 01, 1864


Charlottetown Conference

The Charlottetown Conference was held in Charlottetown, PEI. At the conference Maritime union was virtually dropped, and the delegates agreed to meet a new conference in Québec to discuss a Canadian scheme for a union of all the colonies.

March 08, 1867


British North America Act

The British North America Act was passed by the British Parliament and given royal assent by Queen Victoria on 29 March. It came into effect on 1 July. The Act joined the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in one federal union. In 1949, Newfoundland becomes Canada’s newest province. In 1999, Nunavut becomes Canada’s newest territory. Its creation establishes self-governance for the region’s Inuit population.

November 02, 1869

Louis Riel and the Provisional Government

Indigenous Peoples  Military/Rebellions 

Red River Resistance

With 120 men, Louis Riel occupied Fort Garry in the Red River Colony to block the transfer of the Northwest from the HBC to Canada. The resistance resulted in the formation of the new province of Manitoba but Riel was exiled.

May 08, 1871


Treaty of Washington

The Treaty of Washington granted Americans fishing rights in Canadian waters and the use of Canadian canals and the St Lawrence River. Canadians were allowed to navigate Lake Michigan, the St Clair Flats Canal and Alaskan rivers.

August 03, 1871

Signing of Treaty No 1

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 1

The first post-Confederation treaty was signed at Lower Fort Garry, Man. The first of many “Numbered Treaties,” Treaty No. 1 was signed between the Crown and the Ojibwa and Swampy Cree Nations. The treaty included the provision of livestock, agricultural equipment and the establishment of schools in exchange for ceding large tracts of Aboriginal hunting grounds.

August 21, 1871

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 2

Treaty Number 2 was concluded with Chippewa of Manitoba, who ceded land from the mouth of Winnipeg River to the northern shores of Lake Manitoba across the Assiniboine River to the United States frontier.

May 23, 1873

Exploration & Settlement  Military/Rebellions 

North-West Mounted Police Established

As Canada assumes control of its newly acquired Western territory, the North-West Mounted Police is established to maintain order and assist settlers. The red-coated “Mountie” becomes a symbol of Canada. The force is renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920.

October 03, 1873

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 3

Treaty No. 3 was signed by the Saulteaux (Chippewa) of northwestern Ontario and of Manitoba. For the surrender of a tract comprising about 55,000 sq. miles, the Dominion Government reserved not more than one square mile for each family of five and agreed to pay $12 per head and an annuity of $5 per head.

September 15, 1874

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 4

Treaty No. 4 was signed at Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask, with Cree, Saulteaux (Chippewa) and other First Nations.

September 20, 1875

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 5

Treaty No. 5 was concluded at Lake Winnipeg ceding an area of approximately 100,000 sq. miles inhabited by Chippewa and Swampy Cree (Maskegon) of Manitoba and Ontario.

January 01, 1876

Indigenous Peoples  Politics 

Indian Act

Building upon existing legislation, the Indian Act gives the federal government extensive power to govern the lives of Indigenous peoples. Personal rights are severely restricted in order to assimilate Indigenous peoples into European-Canadian society. Among its devastating effects, the Act bans many traditional ceremonies.

August 23, 1876

Cree Encampment

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 6

Treaty No. 6 was signed at Carlton and at Fort Pitt with the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree and Assiniboine. It ceded an area of 120,000 sq. miles of the plains of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

May 01, 1877

Exploration & Settlement 

First Japanese Immigrant in Canada

Manzo Nagano becomes the first recorded Japanese immigrant in Canada. He settles in Victoria, BC, and runs several businesses.

September 22, 1877

Red Crow

Indigenous Peoples  Politics 

Treaty No. 7

Treaty No. 7 was signed at Blackfoot Crossing in southern Alberta by the Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan, Sarsi and Stoney. Canadian officials understood that by the treaty First Nations surrendered some 35,000 sq miles of land to the Crown in return for reserves, payments and annuities.

September 01, 1880

Claiming the Archipelago, 1909

Exploration & Settlement  Indigenous Peoples 

Arctic Sovereignty

British sovereignty over the Arctic Islands passed to Canada.

November 15, 1880

Ned Hanlan, rower


Hanlan World Champ

Edward Hanlan defeated E.A. Trichett of Australia for the world's championship of singles rowing on the Thames River course made famous by the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. Hanlan was Canada's first world sports champion.

July 20, 1885


Chinese Immigration Act

The Chinese Immigration Act reduces Chinese immigration to Canada following the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Immigrants are charged a punitive head tax to enter the country. A virtual ban on Chinese immigration occurs between 1923 and 1947. The federal government apologizes for the head tax in 2006.

November 07, 1885

The Last Spike

Science & Industry 

Last Spike Driven for CPR

The last spike was driven by Donald Smith at Craigellachie, BC, at the western entrance to Eagle Pass, in a ceremony marking the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR provided a transportation link from Atlantic to Pacific.

November 16, 1885

Louis Riel Trial

Indigenous Peoples  Military/Rebellions 

Louis Riel Hanged

Louis Riel was hanged for treason at the Regina jail. He had been convicted after a trial held in Regina from 28 July to 1 August. Macdonald's refusal to grant leniency made Riel a symbol of English-Canadian oppression.

March 31, 1890


Manitoba School Act

The Manitoba School Act abolished publicly funded support for separate schools for Catholics. The aggrieved French minority argued that the Act violated the agreements under which Manitoba entered Confederation.

March 22, 1894

Stanley Cup


First Stanley Cup Awarded

The Stanley Cup, donated by Governor General Lord Stanley, was first awarded to the Montreal AAA hockey team. Montreal defeated the Ottawa Generals 3-1.

January 01, 1896

Exploration & Settlement 

Sifton Encourages Immigration

Clifford Sifton removed red tape, broadened the selection of potential immigrants and offered incentives to those who would come to settle the Canadian West, "the last, best West." The result was an influx of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe that changed the composition of the Canadian population forever.

June 23, 1896

Sir Wilfrid Laurier Campaigning


Liberal Victory, Laurier PM

In the federal election, the Liberals defeated the Conservatives with 118 seats to 88. Wilfrid Laurier became Canada's first French-Canadian prime minister and marked a turning point in Canadian politics after years of Conservative Party rule.

August 17, 1896

Klondikers Buying Miners' Permits

Environment  Exploration & Settlement  Science & Industry 

Klondike Gold Rush Begins

George Washington Carmack, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie discovered gold on Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River. During the Klondike Gold Rush from 1897 to 1899 at least 100,000 people stampeded to the gold fields.

June 21, 1899

Pitikwahanapiwiyi (Poundmaker), Plains Cree Chief, 1885

Indigenous Peoples 

Treaty No. 8

Cree, Beaver, Chipewyan and Slavey First Nations ceded territory south and west of Great Slave Lake in northern Alberta to the federal government in Treaty No. 8.

August 26, 1905

Roald Amundsen

Exploration & Settlement 

Amundsen Completes Passage

Roald Amundsen, travelling west of King William Island, sighted an American whaling ship that had come from San Francisco. At this point, he knew that he had achieved the Northwest Passage, a quest that had obsessed explorers for nearly 400 years.

September 01, 1905

Laurier, 1905

Exploration & Settlement  Politics 

Alberta and Saskatchewan Become Provinces

Alberta and Saskatchewan entered Canada as the 8th and 9th provinces by two federal Acts which received royal assent on 20 July. Alberta's boundary with Saskatchewan was set at 110°, though Albertans wanted 107°. The Acts (Autonomy Bills) declared that the West was to have non-denominational schools.

May 14, 1906

Beck, Adam

Science & Industry 

Ontario Hydro Created

The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario was created, with Adam Beck as chairman. It was the first publicly owned electric utility in the world.

January 01, 1907

Environment  Exploration & Settlement 

Charles Saunders Develops Marquis Wheat

Charles Edward Saunders completed the development of Marquis wheat, a fast-maturing variety suited to the Prairies. It was first distributed to farmers in 1909 and greatly extended the area in which wheat could be grown. By 1920 it comprised 90% of the wheat grown on the Prairies.

June 01, 1908

Arts and Culture 

Anne of Green Gables is Published

Written by Prince Edward Island native Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables is a bestseller in North America. Now translated into over 36 languages with over 50 million copies sold worldwide, the novel remains an iconic piece of Canadian literature.

February 23, 1909

Silver Dart

Science & Industry 

Silver Dart Flies

John Alexander Douglas McCurdy (1886-1961) flew the aircraft the Silver Dart for about one kilometer at Baddeck, NS. It was the first powered flight of a heavier-than-air machine in Canada and the British Empire.

May 21, 1914

Politics  Social History 

Sikh Passengers Denied Entry into Canada

The SS Komagata Maru, a vessel carrying mainly Sikh passengers, arrives in Vancouver. All but 22 of the 376 passengers are refused entry due to restrictive immigration laws. After sitting in harbour for two months, the ship is forced to return to India, where it is greeted with violence; 20 passengers are killed and all but 27 are imprisoned. Canada apologizes for its actions in 2016.

August 04, 1914

Military/Rebellions  Social History 

World War One Begins

Canada participates in the First World War. It takes the lives of more than 60,000 Canadians and impacts virtually every Canadian in some way. At home, the 1917 Halifax Explosion, the largest human-made explosion at that time, kills nearly 2,000 people.

April 09, 1917

Vimy Ridge


Battle of Vimy Ridge

On Easter Monday, four Canadian divisions and one British brigade captured Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France, with a loss of 3578 killed and 7000 wounded. It was a brilliant victory for the Canadians, who sensed a new national awareness.

May 18, 1917

Borden, Sir Robert Laird


Borden Announces Conscription

Sir Robert Borden announced his decision in Parliament to implement Conscription. The imposition of conscription on reluctant French Canadians was a failure and bitterly divided the country along French-English lines.

December 06, 1917

Halifax Explosion

Exploration & Settlement  Military/Rebellions  Social History 

Halifax Explosion

At Halifax, the French munitions ship Mont Blanc collided with the Belgian relief ship Imo. The resulting explosion, the largest before the advent of the atomic bomb, killed more than 1,600 people and injured 9,000 in Canada's worst disaster.

September 08, 1918

Science & Industry 

Spanish Influenza Epidemic

Possibly the most devastating epidemic in human history, which may have originated in Funston, Kansas, spread through Europe and the world, killing some 30 million people, including about 50 000 Canadians. The virus arrived with servicemen on board the ship Araguaya at Halifax. The first civilian outbreak in Canada occurred on September 8, 1918.

May 15, 1919

Winnipeg General Strike

Social History 

Winnipeg General Strike Begins

The Winnipeg General Strike, the largest strike in Canadian history, occurs. Between May 15 and June 25, more than 30,000 workers leave their jobs. The strike does not immediately improve job conditions, but it unites Canada’s working class.

May 07, 1920

Group of Seven Members

Arts and Culture 

Group of Seven Exhibit

The first exhibition of the Group of Seven was put on display at the Art Gallery of Toronto. The Group articulated a sense of a distinctly Canadian art, rooted in the Canadian landscape.

July 27, 1921

Charles Herbert Best, physiologist

Science & Industry 

Banting and Best Isolate Insulin

Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto first isolated insulin. The first diabetes patient was treated on 11 January 1922. Banting and J.J.R. Macleod received the Nobel Prize for their achievement.

December 06, 1921


Agnes Macphail Becomes the First Woman MP

Agnes Macphail becomes the first woman elected to the House of Commons. She champions prison reform, suggesting more education and less corporal punishment. Later, as a provincial legislator, Macphail successfully lobbies for Ontario’s first pay equity legislation, which passes in 1951.

August 27, 1927


The Persons Case

The Famous Five, a group of five women activists, petition the federal government to ask the Supreme Court if it is constitutionally possible to appoint female senators, as laws traditionally define a “person” as male. The Court rules that women are not ‘persons’ in this sense, but its decision is reversed in 1929. The Persons Case marks a milestone in the fight for women’s rights.

March 08, 1928

Exploration & Settlement 

Pier 21 Opens

Pier 21, the “Gateway to Canada,” opens. The immigration depot on Halifax harbourfront welcomes more than a million immigrants into Canada between 1928 and 1971, when the Pier closes.

October 24, 1929

Social History 

The Stock Market Crash of 1929

The collapse of the American stock market begins the Great Depression, which ravages the Canadian economy during the “Dirty Thirties.” Life is especially harsh in the Prairies, where drought worsens conditions. The crisis inspires the creation of social welfare programs.

December 11, 1931


Statute of Westminster Passes

The Statute of Westminster received royal assent after being passed by the British Parliament. By establishing complete legislative equality between the parliaments of Britain and Canada, it is the closest Canada has come to a declaration of independence.

May 26, 1932

Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Exterior

Arts and Culture 

CRBC (future CBC) Established

Parliament passed an Act establishing the publicly funded Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, the forerunner of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp of 1936. Before the CRBC almost the only programs available to Canadians were from the US.

August 01, 1932

James Shaver Woodsworth, Methodist minister, politician

Politics  Social History 

CCF Founded

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was founded in Calgary. Led by J.S. Woodsworth, the CCF was the first major democratic socialist movement in Canada and went on to have a profound effect on the Canadian political landscape.

September 21, 1934

Leonard Cohen

Arts and Culture 

Birth of Leonard Cohen

Poet, novelist, singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen was born in Westmount, Québec. Cohen was one of the most iconic Canadian artists of the 20th century. A sage, mystic, bohemian and romantic, he built an acclaimed body of literary work and a revered career in pop music.

August 22, 1935

Aberhart, William


Social Credit Victory in Alberta

Charismatic Bible-thumping William Aberhart led the Social Credit Party to victory in the Alberta provincial elections. He was sworn in on September 3. The party dominated Alberta politics until 1971.

May 02, 1939

Arts and Culture 

National Film Board Created

The National Film Act created the National Film Board, headed by Scots film producer John Grierson. The NFB pioneered developments in social documentary, animation, documentary drama and direct cinema. Its films have won hundreds of international awards.

June 06, 1939

Social History 

Jewish Refugees Are Denied Entry into Canada

On June 6, 907 Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis are denied entry into Canada. The ship returns to Europe, where 254 of its passengers perish in the Holocaust. During Second World War, Canada admits the lowest number of refugees among developed nations. Canada apologizes for its actions in 2018.

September 10, 1939


Canada Declares War on Germany

Canada declared war on Germany, 7 days after Britain and France. The first Canadian troops left for England in December. Although "obliged to go to war at Britain's side," King's delay of a week was a symbolic gesture of independence.

December 17, 1939


Air Training Plan Established

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was established. Operating from 1940–45 the BCATP trained some 131,000 airmen — one-half the total Commonwealth aircrew — a decisive Canadian contribution to victory in the Second World War.

February 26, 1942

Japanese Evacuation, 1942.  Image: Erindale College Photo Collection.

Exploration & Settlement  Military/Rebellions 

Japanese Relocation

Following the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbour, the federal government interns 22,000 Japanese men, women and children in British Columbia for the remainder of the war. The government apologizes for Japanese internment in 1988. Similar actions had taken place in 1914, with the internment of nationals from Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish Empires.

August 19, 1942

Dieppe Raid


Dieppe Raid

Canadian and British troops raided the French port of Dieppe to test German defences. The raid lasted only 9 hours, but of the nearly 5000 Canadian soldiers involved, more than 900 were killed and 1874 taken prisoner.

June 06, 1944

Juno Beach


Normandy Landings (D-Day)

The 3rd Canadian Division and 2nd and 3rd Armoured Brigades landed on the beaches at Courcelles, St Aubin and Bernières-sur-Mer on the Normandy Coast as part of the invasions that led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.

November 08, 1946

Social History 

Viola Desmond is Dragged Out of a Nova Scotia Movie Theatre

Viola Desmond is dragged out of a Nova Scotia movie theatre and charged by police after she refuses to move from the main floor of the theatre to the balcony, where Black patrons were segregated. Her decision to fight her charges raises awareness of the racism experienced by Black Canadians. The Nova Scotia government posthumously pardons her in 2010.

February 13, 1947

Leduc oil discovery

Environment  Science & Industry 

Hunter Strikes Oil at Leduc

Vern "Dry Hole" Hunter struck oil near Leduc, Alta. The discovery ended a long decline in the Alberta oil industry, began an era of prosperity for the province and spared Canada dependence on foreign oil.

July 22, 1947

Science & Industry 

Canada's First Nuclear Reactors

The NRX reactor, the ancestor of Canada's unique CANDU reactors, "went critical" at Chalk River, Ont. The NRX was based on Canada's first nuclear reactor, ZEEP (1 watt of power), which was built at Chalk River in 1945.

March 31, 1949


Newfoundland Becomes Province

Newfoundland entered the Dominion of Canada as the 10th province through an Act of Westminster. The first session of the legislature was held at St. John's on 13 July.

April 04, 1949

Politics  Science & Industry 

North Atlantic Treaty (NATO)

Canada, along with 11 other countries, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC. The NATO treaty marked a new era of ties with the United States and of distance from Great Britain and spelled out the importance of economic collaboration.

October 31, 1950

Gas pipeline construction

Environment  Science & Industry 

Pipeline Completed

The 1770 km oil pipeline from Edmonton to the Great Lakes was completed, linking Canada's gas fields with the markets of central Canada. In 1958 Alberta gas finally reached Toronto and imports of Texas gas ended.

June 01, 1951

Massey, Vincent

Arts and Culture 

Massey Report Tabled

The report of the Massey Commission was tabled in the House of Commons; among its recommendations was the creation of the Canada Council.

September 04, 1951

Indigenous Peoples 

The Sixties Scoop Begins

The “Sixties Scoop” begins after amendments to the Indian Act give provinces jurisdiction over Indigenous child welfare. Over the following decades, more than 20,000 First Nation, Métis and Inuit children are “scooped” from their homes and adopted into predominantly non-Indigenous families, leaving many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity.

January 01, 1955


Arts and Culture 

Gould Records Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould made his Washington and New York debuts. He made his first recording of the Bach Goldberg Variations later that year (released 1956), one of the most famous recordings of the century.

November 04, 1956

Pearson, Lester B.


Pearson's Peace Plan

L.B. Pearson and his colleagues at the United Nations won General Assembly support for an international force to secure the cessation of hostilities in the Suez Canal crisis in Egypt. Canadian General E.L.M. Burns was named commander of the UN Emergency Force. This establishes Canada’s reputation as a peacekeeping nation and earns Pearson a Nobel Peace Prize.

April 01, 1959

St Lawrence Seaway, Map

Environment  Science & Industry 

St Lawrence Seaway Formally Opened

The St Lawrence Seaway was opened to commercial shipping. Queen Elizabeth II and President Eisenhower dedicated it on June 26. The Seaway provided transportation for ocean going vessels from Lake Superior to Montréal.

March 31, 1960

Indigenous Peoples 

First Nations Peoples Receive the Right to Vote

Changes to the Indian Act allow First Nations peoples the right to vote without losing their Indian status or treaty rights. Removing these conditions had been previously discussed in 1950 when Inuit received the vote.

June 22, 1960

Jean Lesage


Liberals Win Québec

The Liberals under Jean Lesage won the Québec provincial election, finally breaking the hold of the Union Nationale, and signalling a time for change and reform that has become known as the Quiet Revolution. Lesage was sworn in as premier on 5 Jul.

August 04, 1960

Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights

Politics  Social History 

Canadian Bill of Rights Approved

The House of Commons approved the Canadian Bill of Rights, which received royal assent on August 10. Although the Bill did not bind the provinces, it obliged the federal government to gurantee civil rights and freedoms to all Canadians.

July 01, 1962

Doctors' Strike 1962

Science & Industry 

Medicare in Effect: Doctors Strike

When the Saskatchewan Medicare Act came into force, most Saskatchewan doctors closed their offices. The Medical Care Insurance Commission brought doctors from out of province to meet the emergency.

July 19, 1963


The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is Established

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism explores the socioeconomic and cultural status of anglophones and francophones in Canada. In 1969, the Official Languages Act makes Canada a bilingual nation.

January 01, 1964

Social History 

The City of Halifax Demolishes Africville

The City of Halifax demolishes the once-prosperous African Canadian community of Africville, in what many say is an act of racism. In the 1950s, the six-decade-old Métis community of Rooster Town had been bulldozed and burned by the City of Winnipeg. Similarly, the immigrant community of Hogan’s Alley, known for its African-Canadian population, is destroyed by the City of Vancouver in 1967.

December 15, 1964

Unveiling the New Flag

Arts and Culture  Politics 

New Flag Adopted

A new national flag of Canada was adopted after much debate. The Senate gave its approval on 17 December. Queen Elizabeth signed the royal proclamation on 28 January and the new flag, with its red maple leaf and side bars, flew officially for the first time on 15 February 1965.

February 15, 1965

First raising of the new Canadian Flag, Centre Block, Parliament Buildings


Flag of Canada Raised

The Flag of Canada was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

July 01, 1967

Social History 

100th Anniversary of Confederation

Canada celebrates the 100th anniversary of Confederation. The main event is Expo 67, a fair welcoming the world to Montreal.

September 28, 1972

Winning Goal, 1972


Henderson's Goal in Moscow

Paul Henderson scored the dramatic winning goal with 34 seconds left as Canada defeated the Soviet Union 6–5 in the final game of the Summit Series.

November 09, 1972

Science & Industry 

Anik A-1 Launched

Canada launched the world's first geostationary domestic satellite, Anik A-1

April 20, 1973

Science & Industry 

Anik A-2 Launched

The telecommunications satellite Anik A-2 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. With its launch, Canada became the first country in the world to employ satellites for domestic communications.

May 01, 1975

Science & Industry 

Anik A-3 Launched

Communications satellite Anik A-3 was launched.

July 17, 1976


Montreal Hosts Summer Olympics

Montreal becomes the first Canadian city to host the Summer Olympics. While Canada finishes 27th in the medal count, the Games demonstrate that Canada is capable of hosting a global sporting event. Subsequently, the Winter Olympics are hosted by Calgary (1988) and Vancouver-Whistler (2010).

July 18, 1979

Politics  Social History 

Vietnamese Refugees Arrive in Canada

Canada announces it will admit 50,000 refugees from Vietnam. The Vietnamese “boat people” are among the more than a million who risk their lives escaping by sea following the Vietnam War. A sponsorship program for refugees provides support, such as language classes and access to health care.

April 12, 1980

Terry Fox, philanthropist and marathon runner


Terry Fox Begins Run

Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope in St. John's, NL, to raise money for cancer research. The run ended on 1 September in Thunder Bay, ON, after cancer was discovered in his lungs. Within days the marathon had raised over $10 million.

May 20, 1980


Québec Referendum

In the Québec referendum on sovereignty-association, Quebeckers voted 60 per cent against giving the provincial government the right to negotiate sovereignty.

February 05, 1981

Social History 

Toronto Bathhouse Raids

Four Toronto bathhouses are raided by police, who lay charges against nearly 300 men. Tired of being targeted by law enforcement, Toronto’s gay community marches through the city’s downtown to protest police brutality. It is a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ2S rights and inspires Pride celebrations across the country.

March 08, 1982


Canada Act Passed

The British House of Commons passed the Canada Act of 1982. It was adopted by the House of Lords on March 25. The Act ended British legislative jurisdiction over Canada. Queen Elizabeth II signed the proclamation in Ottawa on April 17.

April 17, 1982

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Charter Comes Into Effect

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. The Charter guarantees all Canadians fundamental rights, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, equality rights and linguistic rights.

January 01, 1989

Politics  Science & Industry 

Free Trade Goes Into Effect

The Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the US went into effect. The pact, later expanded through NAFTA, would profoundly alter the economic relationship between Canada and the United States.

June 23, 1990

Elijah Harper

Indigenous Peoples  Politics 

Meech Lake Accord Collapses

The Meech Lake Accord collapsed after the self-imposed deadline passed. The collapse owed much to Premier Clyde Wells' blockage in Newfoundland and failure to pass in Manitoba thanks to MLA Elijah Harper. It led to further constitutional wrangles and the renewal of the separatist movement in Québec.

January 01, 1996

Indigenous Peoples 

Gordon's Residential School Closes

The last residential school closes. Demands for recognition and compensation result in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2007 and a formal apology by the federal government in 2008. In total, an estimated 150,000 First NationMétis and Inuit children attended residential schools.

July 27, 1996

Bailey, Donovan (4 X 100 Relay)


Bailey Wins 100 Metres

Sprinter Donovan Bailey established a new world record and earned himself a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The victory set off an outburst of national pride in winning the glamour event of the Olympic Games.

April 01, 1999

Exploration & Settlement 

Nunavut Becomes Canada's Newest Territory

Nunavut officially becomes Canada’s newest territory. Established through a federal Act, it is made up of what was formerly the eastern section of the Northwest Territories. Its creation results from negotiations to settle land claims and establish self-governance for the region’s Inuit population.

July 20, 2005

Politics  Social History 

Same Sex Marriage is Legalized in Canada

The Ontario Court of Appeal declares that laws stating marriage must be between a man and a woman violate equality rights. Federal legislation passed in 2005 makes Canada the fourth nation to recognize same-sex marriages.

February 25, 2010


Women's Hockey Team Wins Third Olympic Gold

Canada's women's hockey team won its third Olympic gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, defeating the US 2-0. The team was later chastised by the media for taking its victory party on to the ice after the fans had left the building.

February 28, 2010

2010 Olympic Gold


Men's Hockey Team Wins Olympic Gold

The Canadian men's hockey team won the Olympic gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, defeating the US 3-2 in overtime when centre Sidney Crosby, assisted by Jarome Iginla, scored against the US. Crosby's goal is considered one of the greatest in the history of Canadian hockey.

November 01, 2012

Indigenous Peoples 

Idle No More Movement Begins

Four women start Idle No More as a national (and online) movement of marches and teach-ins, raising awareness of Indigenous rights and advocating for self-determination.

September 09, 2014

Sir John Franklin.

Exploration & Settlement 

Franklin Expedition Ship Discovered

The HMS Erebus, one of Sir John Franklin's expedition ships, was found submerged off the coast of King William Island. The ship was part of Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia.

November 24, 2015


Canada Welcomes Syrian Refugees

In reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Canada commits to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Between November 2015 and February 2016, over 25,000 people are brought to Canada through government assistance and private sponsorships.

December 15, 2015

Indigenous Peoples  Politics 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Publishes Final Report

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada provides a detailed account of the abuse endured by Indigenous people at residential schools. It includes 94 calls to action that direct governments to adjust policies in order to repair the legacy of harm.

February 11, 2016

Indigenous Peoples 

Last Fluent Nuchatlaht Speaker Dies

Alban Michael, the last fluent speaker of the Nuchatlaht language, died in Campbell River, British Columbia, at age 89. Raised on Nootka Island, Michael spoke only Nuchatlaht until he was forced to learn English at a residential school in Tofino as a child. He nevertheless maintained his fluency in Nuchatlaht so that he could speak with his mother, who did not speak English.

August 20, 2016

The Tragically Hip

Arts and Culture 

The Tragically Hip’s Final Concert

Beloved Canadian rockers The Tragically Hip played their final show to a hometown crowd at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario. It was the last stop on the band’s Man Machine Poem tour, announced in the wake of frontman Gord Downie’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer in December 2015. More than 11 million people — nearly a third of the Canada’s population — tuned in to the live CBC broadcast on television, radio and online. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the audience members present at the “national celebration,” in which the band played from its 30-year catalogue for nearly three hours. (See also A Place to Happen.)

September 12, 2016

Exploration & Settlement 

Discovery of HMS Terror

A team from the Arctic Research Foundation (founded by Jim Balsillie) announced that they had found the second lost ship of the Franklin expedition, HMS Terror, in Nunavut’s Terror Bay, north of where the Erebus was found in 2014. The discovery was confirmed by Parks Canada on 26 September 2016.

November 07, 2016

Leonard Cohen performs in Florence

Arts and Culture 

Death of Leonard Cohen

Poet, novelist, singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen died in Los Angeles, California, at age 82. Born in Westmount, Québec, Cohen was one of the most iconic Canadian artists of the 20th century. A sage, mystic, bohemian and romantic, he built an acclaimed body of literary work and a revered career in pop music.

January 16, 2019

Science & Industry 

BC Fossils Helps Solve Evolutionary Riddle

The fossilized soft tissue of agnostids found in the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale deposit helped researchers prove a connection between the bug-like creatures and trilobites, adding a new branch to the evolutionary tree of life.

February 08, 2019

Prison Bars

Social History 

Serial Killer Bruce McArthur Sentenced to Life in Prison

After pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, Bruce McArthur was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The 67-year-old former landscaper took his victims from Toronto’s gay village, dismembered them and hid the remains in yards and planter boxes owned by his clients.

February 08, 2019


Social History 

Quebec City Mosque Shooter Sentenced to Life in Prison

Alexandre Bissonnette, who shot and killed six men at a mosque in Quebec City on 29 January 2017, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years.

May 25, 2019


Toronto Raptors make it to NBA final

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks to advance to the 2019 NBA finals.

June 03, 2019

Indigenous Peoples 

Final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Released

The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reveals that persistent and deliberate human rights violations are the source of Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people. The report gives 231 calls for justice to governments, police forces and institutions.