3 Galleries, 18 Stories
The Canadian History Hall is divided into three galleries, each focusing on a separate era of Canadian history. Together, the galleries present 18 significant and engaging stories that illuminate the richness and diversity of the Canadian experience.
Rossy Family Gallery
Early Canada: From Earliest Times to 1763, explores how First Peoples have created prosperous and vibrant societies, while confronting and adapting to European newcomers.
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History begins with the First Peoples.
Indigenous cultural traditions and archaeological research are our only ways of knowing the very ancient past. Together they tell the story of how the land took its present form and was first occupied by human beings.
Land and Peoples
First Peoples build enduring relationships with the natural world.
Archaeological evidence suggests that First Peoples began to spread all across North America as new
landscapes emerged after the last Ice Age. This meant adapting to a range of different environments.
Over thousands of years, First Peoples forged powerful and enduring spiritual bonds with the land and the animals that supported them.
First People build communities and nations.
By 500 years ago, Indigenous societies were thriving in every corner of what is now Canada.
Supported by productive economies and complex social structures, some Indigenous Peoples lived in large permanent villages. Others moved seasonally, across vast territories.
Many of the traditions established centuries ago continue today, linking First Peoples to their ancient culture, land and history.
The Arrival of Europeans
Indigenous peoples make first contact with Europeans.
Encounters between First Peoples and the newcomers were characterized by curiosity, mutual distrust and sometimes violence. Yet they sought and found ways to coexist. A permanent European colony was the result.
Trade, Disease, War
The arrival of the French disrupts life in North America.
More than sixty years of epidemics, warfare and diplomacy led to a redrawing of the map of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence valley. First Peoples tolerated, even welcomed, the French within their existing trade and political systems. However, European diseases brought suffering and death, which led to social strain and political instability.
The French establish a permanent presence in North America.
During the 1600s and 1700s, New France evolved from a fur-trade outpost into a permanent, agricultural society. As they adapted to local conditions, French settlers became Canadiens and Acadiens. They created a distinct culture that endures to the present day.
France and Britain compete for global dominance.
For over a century the two great powers vied for strategic and economic advantage, in North America and around the world. As competing trade networks expanded, North American colonists produced and consumed in a global marketplace. France and Britain also went to war in North America. Their conflicts culminated in the British conquest of New France.
Fredrik Eaton Family Gallery
Colonial Canada: 1763 to 1914, delves into how Canada became a nation within the British Empire.
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British North America
Living together in post-Conquest Canada.
Following the British conquest of Canada, France ceded nearly all of its North American possessions to the victorious British. The new British rulers, First Peoples and former French subjects had to adjust to new geopolitical realities. They achieved a level of uneasy accommodation that has endured up to the present.
English-speaking immigrants transform Canada.
Between 1776 and 1841, the non-Indigenous population of British North America increased from under 100,000 to over 1 million. Many newcomers settled in the new colony of Upper Canada, now Ontario. They transformed the region’s landscapes, politics, and social and cultural fabric.
Indigenous peoples adapt to an expanding fur trade.
From the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, Indigenous peoples adapted to and shaped a rapidly expanding fur trade.
They were proactive and creative. Some forged economic and social ties with Euro-Canadian newcomers. This interaction led to the emergence of a new nation: the Métis.
Making a Country
Canada becomes a self-governing, federal dominion.
British North America experienced dramatic growth and diversification in the mid-1800s. Colonial politicians negotiated an unprecedented degree of self-government and, ultimately, a confederation.
From Sea to Sea
Westward expansion makes Canada a transcontinental country.
Following Confederation, the Dominion of Canada began a dramatic westward expansion. This process drew Euro-Canadians, the Métis and First Nations into closer contact, sparking conflict over claims to land and resources in the West. By 1885, Euro-Canadians had the most control in these relationships owing to their larger population, powerful new technologies and expansionist culture. Under a new order, the Métis and First Nations experienced wrenching change.
Transforming a Dominion
Canada becomes a more urban and multi-ethnic country.
By the early 1900s, massive immigration and ongoing industrialization were transforming Canada. In the West, increased settlement led to the development of the Prairies for agriculture and created new communities. Rapid growth and industrialization established dynamic cities across the country. The Canada we know today was taking shape.
The Honourable Hilary M. Weston and W. Galen Weston Gallery
Modern Canada: 1914 to the Present Day looks at Canada during the 20th and 21st centuries, and how it has striven for prosperity, independence and increasing inclusiveness.
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Sovereignty and Prosperity
Canada strives for independence and prosperity.
During the 1900s, Canada asserted itself as an independent nation, made stronger by its wartime sacrifices and by political reforms. Canadians also worked to build a more prosperous society for all.
Indigenous peoples struggle for their rights and the preservation of their cultures.
By the end of the 1800s, federal policy toward Indigenous peoples centred on two main goals. One was to gain access to their lands and resources. The other was to reduce the number of legal and historical obligations, including treaty rights, the government had with them. Indigenous peoples responded to these threats through resistance, cultural affirmation and self-determination, and in so doing challenged and changed Canada.
Quebec nationalism transforms Quebec and Canada.
Contemporary Quebec evolved dramatically, leaving the rest of Canada struggling to understand. During the 1960s, the Quiet Revolution brought a series of rapid reforms. Since the 1970s, the debate on independence has divided Quebecers.
Diversity and Human Rights
Canada becomes a more inclusive and diverse society.
Political and social struggle, along with changing social norms, helped to broaden rights and social inclusion over the last century. The challenge of negotiating differences remains a constant in Canada today.
An International Canada
Canada takes its place on the world stage.
Canada became a significant international player as a result of the Second World War. Weighing the interests of its traditional allies against recent global challenges and its own national development, Canada became active in several associations for peace, democracy and human rights. It also accepted important defence obligations as part of a Western military alliance. Individual Canadians developed international networks in areas from humanitarian aid and law to arms control.