The United States can trace its foundation to the colonies of New England; Canada, meanwhile, was established as a northern rival, New France. Traces of this heritage still linger, especially in French-flavored Montreal and its small but stately sister, Quebec City, where English is considered a secondary language. Other colonial influences are still felt in eastern Canada, especially in the Maritime provinces, where European settlers and their descendents have honed their fishing skills for nearly four centuries. Indigenous people, including the Heron and Iroquois tribes, also left their mark on the nation, though their numbers dwindled as the colonial population increased.
Canada’s early colonies spread with the help of 17th-century fur traders and farmers, each group eager to move west and see more of this rugged new wilderness. Some significant explorers also lent a hand, with Samuel de Champlain and Captain James Cook among those taking mountain hikes, canoe journeys and months-long cruises to map new discoveries. As “New France” fell into British hands in the 18th century, colonials began to stake their claim on one of the most beautiful territories in North America: rugged British Columbia, a pristine, pine-covered land along the Pacific coast.
Canada flourished in the early 19th century as this up-and-coming country lured immigrants from Great Britain and western Europe. This led to unrest between the descendants of the first French inhabitants and encroaching British loyalists, but the unification of Canada under a democratic government, which began in 1865 and continued into the early 20th century, helped quiet old rivalries. So, too, did the growth of industry and the country’s heroic efforts in two World Wars. Both made Canada prosperous, and fostered a sense of nationalism in a country that, like its neighbor to the south, served as a “melting pot” of multiple cultures.