Canada Through the Centuries


This year marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation for Canada, Although it’s a young country the history of Canada goes a bit further back than that. I thought it might be interesting to take a look back through the Centuries so here goes:

One Hundred Years Ago – 1917

Canada was engaged in a bloody war with ever greater sacrifices – Vimy, Passchendaele, The Hundred Days – yet to come. In 1917 Canada was a self-governing Dominion of 9 provinces (Newfoundland was still an independent Dominion.) Canada was still very much part of the Empire though – it had to say “Ready. Aye. Ready.” when Great Britain got into World War 1.

Military and Food Production were major preoccupations and with many men in uniform women increasingly took up roles as factory workers.

Canada was primarily a rural and small town society in 1917. Industry was still powered by steam and waterfall although electricity was making its way on the scene slowly. Long distance travel was by steam traction on the rails.

The photo above was taken at Ypres where Canadians had already suffered and died a couple of years before 1917.

Two Hundred Years Ago – 1817

Canada was comprised of two provinces – Lower Canada was the former New France and Upper Canada was largely English speaking. The Loyalists had come after the American Revolution and a fair number of British Soldiers remained after the War of 1812. The majority settled in Upper Canada.

The Major cities were Quebec, Montreal and York (later Toronto.) The Bank of Montreal got started in 1817.

Most of the inhabitants lived within shouting distance of the St Lawrence and the Great Lakes. My town of Almonte didn’t exist as yet and Sir John A. Macdonald still lived in Glasgow. Travel was by ship on the lakes, or by horse and buggy. Canals were mostly in the future. So was Confederation.

Three Hundred Years Ago – 1717

Canada was New France – a French colony. It’s main cities were Quebec and Ville-Marie (later Montreal.) It had only been 15 years since the Iroquois wars had ended. The Plains of Abraham were over 40 years in the future. Outside of the major cities there were a few outposts to the west and of course Acadia further east. Travel was by horse and cart and sailing ship. Farming and the fur trade were big occupations back then.

Four Hundred Years Ago – 1617

Champlain had completed his explorations of the Great Lakes and Louis Hebert became the first permanent resident of New France. That can arguably be the point at which Canada got started as a country. Travel was hazardous and mostly by canoe or sail as there weren’t many roads back then. Champlain had already started 90 years of French – Iroquois warfare by shooting the more aggressive natives during an Algonquin – Iroquois battle in 1609. Talk about picking the wrong side.

On a personal note my family got started in New France back in the 1640s. Others arrived with the Loyalists in 1784 and the final group got here in the 1840s. So we’ve been here a while I guess. Long enough to celebrate the 150 years of the “official” Canada.


Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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