Canadian History: 10 Key Events You Should Know

Canada, the land which is known for its beavers, snow, and maple syrup, is much more than just a serene nation. 

Its history timeline includes heroes, villains, tragedies, dramas, and much more. We’ve assembled the 10 most important events in Canadian History in a list according to their chronological order.

10 Most Important Events in Canadian History

Are you interested in knowing more about Canadian history? Don’t worry; we’ve got you all covered. The following article will give you a sneak peek into Canada’s vast history. 

1. Confederation, 1867

In the early 1860s, the land we now know as Canada was British North America. 

Back then, people were deeply divided over politics, language, and religion in the province of Canada. It was made up of seven colonies and two territories. Each colony had its own government, and all faced significant challenges. 

Confederation: The Creation of Canada

The government was deadlocked, and it was then that the maritime colonies had an idea, uniting to form a new country, and this plan came to be known as Confederation.

Under this plan, they decided that a full union would make all the colonies healthier and more prosperous. 

After days of peaceful debates, a series of conferences, and orderly negotiations, the group (better known as the Fathers of Confederation) came up with a list of resolutions that led to the birth of modern Canada.

2. The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912

We’ve all come across the Titanic’s fateful Voyage, so this is the next event on the list of the 10 most important events in Canadian history. 

The Titanic, regarded as one of the three Olympic-class ocean liners, was claimed to be unsinkable by many. 

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912

Still, it struck an iceberg on its very first Voyage and sank; to this day, it is one of the world’s worst marine disasters.

The captains gave out a distress call over the radio (soon after this accident) in hopes that there were other ships nearby. They ordered the Titanic’s passengers to board the lifeboats, but all in vain, since many passengers did not understand what was happening. 

Therefore, this haphazard led to the wastage of a lot of space on the first lifeboat. Some people pushed their way to the lifeboats, while others accepted their fate and stayed behind or gave up their spots to more vulnerable passengers. 

Therefore, around only 700 people could survive the disaster, with over 1500 people losing their lives. After this terrific incident, four Canadian vessels were dispatched to begin the search for bodies. 

Merely 59 frames were delivered to their families. The rest were buried at the Halifax cemetery.

3. The Battle of Vimy Ridge, 1917

Among all the battles Canadians fought in WWI, the Battle of Vimy Ridge is considered one of the greatest battles in Canada’s History. 

Hence, this is what reserves its spot in the list of the 10 most important events in Canadian history. It was the battle that changed Canada from a colony to a nation. 

It was the battle that the Canadian military achieved its highest point, and it was the battle that every Canadian is proud of. This epic battle was fought during WWI from 9 to April 12, 1917.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge 1917

 

The Canadians’ meticulous preparation for the war led to their grand victory. Before this historic battle, Canada was never seen as a separate nation, and the Canadians were supposed to be calm and composed. 

But at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Canadians proved their mettle by overcoming German forces and capturing the ridge.

This, in a way, led to the birth of Canadian national awareness, unity, and pride. Thus, it monumentally impacted Canada, and the Battle of Vimy Ridge became a landmark in the history of Canada.

4. Women at the Voting Booths, 1918

Canadian suffragists were inspired by the passion and success of their American and British counterparts. 

In the 19th century, many believed a woman’s only sphere of influence was the home-without the right to vote, her voice would not be heard. 

Women across Canada began their movement for the vote in the 1870s. Most Canadian suffragists employed peaceful tactics such as distributing pamphlets and hosting public meetings.

The History of The Vote - Women's Right to Vote

Keeping in mind the contribution of women in WWI, women could not be denied the right to vote, and therefore, women serving as nurses and enfranchised women who were close relatives of fighting men were granted the right to vote in 1917

On May 24, 1918, Canadian women over 21 were given the right to vote, but at this point, govt did not extend this right to all women. 

The road to vote was long and stretched on well past 1918 for many Canadian women, but it was fruitful, which is why this event is on the list of the 10 most important events in Canadian history.

5. Discovery of Insulin, 1922

The year was before 1921 when diabetes was considered a deadly disease.  For countless years, this illness was thought to be fatal. At the University of Toronto, Dr. John MacLeod, Dr. Charles, and Dr. Fredrick Banting improved the formula after years of testing, which resulted in the discovery of insulin.

100 Years Ago, a Miracle Drug Saved Millions of Children—and Created a Powerful Myth

Soon, patients from around the globe traveled to Toronto to seek this treatment. Their blood sugar dropped, leading to the procedure’s birth.

Years later, Drs. John MacLeod and Fredrick Banting shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing insulin. Many thousands of people have benefited from insulin today. 

Consequently, a room previously filled with death and gloom was transformed into an area filled with hope and joy as a result of this discovery.

6. The Great Depression, 1929

It all started after the war when soldiers began returning from battle. It was a day that changed the world. On October 24, 1929, the stock market crashed, marking the beginning of perhaps the most significant ten years in Canada’s history.  

A watershed era that scarred and transformed the nation. It was on this day that the Great Depression began.

1929 Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression - Documentary

Beginning on Black Tuesday, when the value of the New York stock market fell drastically and ending in 1939, it was the time when Canadians suffered record-breaking levels of poverty due to unemployment. 

Life took an unprecedented turn for the Canadians as six months after the crash, over three or four million people became unemployed.

Canadians suffered immensely due to the Great Depression, and adding to their misery, a drought-plagued Western Canada during the dirty thirties. Canada breathed a sigh of relief in 1939, as it marked the ending of the Great Depression.

7. Second World War, 1939

Canada's Involvement In WW2

 

The traumatic experience changed Canada after the First World War. It is caused the Canadians to begin to see themselves as distinct from the British, resulting in one of the bloodiest wars in the country’s history, the Second World War.

Recollections of the First World War, which included the devastating loss of life, the significant debt incurred, and the pressure on the nation’s economy, caused the Canadians to second-guess their decision to enlist in world war ii. 

But owing to unanticipated circumstances, they were forced into the conflict against their will.

Both lives and property were significantly lost during the Second World War. Around 45,000 Canadians perished in this terrible conflict, and at one point, politicians began treating them like cannon fodder because of how materialistic life had become.

It was a pivotal moment in Canadian history because it turned a peaceful nation—as Canada was then—into an important player in the biggest conflict of the 20th century.

8. Women in Space, 1992

Roberta Lynn Bondar became the first Canadian woman in space by blasting off on the morning of January 22, 1992, on board the space shuttle discovery. 

Thousands of Canadians’ dreams, hopes, and good wishes went with her. It was an immensely proud moment for all Canadians, especially women. 

Dr. Roberta Bondar: Canada's First Lady of Space

As per Roberta Bondar, it was the most exciting day for her. For this Canadian scientist, it was the ultimate climax to a lifetime of dreams and years of tireless training.

On January 30, 1992, Bondar’s space shuttle touched down in California after 129 orbits around the planet. Bondar’s trip to space demonstrated that women can succeed in any area and are on par with men, which was an important step toward women’s emancipation.

And as a result, it deserves inclusion on this list of the ten most significant occasions in Canadian history.

9. Women’s Hockey Gold, 2002

The 2002 Women’s Hockey World Cup, the 10th edition of the World Cup, owns a significant spot in the list of the 10 most important events in Canadian history. 

The upper Canada Hockey Team snatched a memorable win to set up a clash with the United States hosts in the finals. They grabbed the winning title after mercilessly beating the Americans by 3-2 in the finals. 

2002 Olympic Hockey CANADA vs. USA Highlights

It was possibly one of the most exciting tournaments ever with the hosts. While the men won a gold medal the same year, the real test of the Canadian spirit played out on the women’s rink.

The United States had beaten Canada in the last eight back-to-back games, so they had a high chance of winning. 

But due to an important goal by Jayna Hefford, the team made it to the top of the podium. And hence, the Canadian women once again proved Roy’s saying that men and women are just the same; they are just as bad and good as each other.

10. Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage, 2005

10 Most Important Events In Canadian History
Photo by Mongkolchon Akesin from Shutterstock

Last but certainly not least, this one’s the most recent in the list of the 10 most important events in Canadian history. 

Marriage between two partners of the same gender, i.e., same-sex marriage, became legal in Canada on July 20, 2005. Ontario and British Columbia legalized the licensing of same-sex marriage in 2003 and were the first two provinces to do so. 

Liberals highlight video of Scheer anti-gay marriage speech from 2005

Since then, all the areas have followed in their footsteps and have recognized same-sex marriages.

Closing Thoughts

First, the British North America act, the Canadian pacific railway, Prince Edward Island, and the creation of the royal Canadian mounted police laid the foundation of Canadian society.

Then Canada became the first and foremost nation in the world that allow same-sex marriages between people that were not Canadian residents.  Different groups of people refer to transgender people, gender variance, or sexual identity using different terms that vary depending on their traditions and religion. 

In 2005, the long-awaited federal Civil Marriage Act came into force, making same-sex marriage legal across Canada and changing the definition of husband and wife to the spouse.

This was our list of the 10 Most Important Events In Canadian History.

There are many other notable events in Canadian history, like the french and Indian war, nova scotia, Hudson’s bay company, the Royal Canadian air force, and its relationship with the British empire in both upper and lower Canada.

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