The history of Canada begins with aboriginal peoples (today called First Nations and Inuit) who inhabited this land since the Ice Age. Settlement on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia is considered the site of the longest continuous human occupation in Canada.
The first known European settlement in Canada was established by the Norse around the year 1000 AD, in what is now Newfoundland, but didn't last. Only over 500 years later did permanent European colonization of Canada begin with French and, later, British colonists arriving beginning in the early 1600s.
France and England fought and warred over North American territory for the next hundred and fifty years. However, in 1763 Britain gained control of the French colonies and split the territory into an English-speaking region and a Francophone region. These linguistically different regions still exist today, as the majority of French-Canadians live in the provinces of Québec and New Brunswick.
Eventually, in 1867, the federal Dominion of Canada was officially created, and included the provinces of Québec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Other provinces joined over time, and the creation of the last of the three northern territories occurred in 1999 when Nunavut was officially formed, resulting in Canada as it is today.
Canadian History Fast Facts
Norsemen arrive from Europe and set up temporary settlements on the northern tip of Newfoundland. At this time, the land that would become Canada supports 300,000 native people.
John Cabot lands on the coast (probably Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island) and claims the territory for King Henry VII of England.
Jacques Cartier lands in what is now the province of Quebec and claims it for France. The new colony, eventually called New France, included forts and settlements in what is now the maritimes and Quebec, which were the beginning of cities such as Quebec City (founded 1608) and Montreal.
Read more at our Canadian History Timeline.