Travels with Elizabeth Simcoe: A Visual Journey Through Upper and Lower Canada - Page Banner

Significant Events in the Early History of Canada


1497 - The New Found Land

John Cabot sails to an island off the coast of Canada, names it Newfoundland, and claims it for the King of England.

1534 - The French Arrive

Jacques Cartier arrives and claims territory for the King of France, Francis I.

1604 - Port Royal

In 1603, Samuel de Champlain and the French arrive in Canada. They explore the St. Lawrence area and settle in Port Royal, Acadia (now Nova Scotia) in 1604. Four years later, Champlain and the French settle and establish control of the territory in and around Quebec City. This colony is called New France.

1663 - New France

The French establish the seigniorial system of land tenure, the Catholic Church and fur trade in the new territory.

1756-1763 - The Seven Years' War

The British capture the fortress of Louisbourg and control the entrance to New France. This leads to the capture of Quebec and the rest of New France by the British. Prominent in this campaign was James Wolfe, a British army officer, who had seen active service in Europe before being transferred to North America during the Seven Years War. Participating in the 1758 expedition that captured Louisbourg, Wolfe proved to be an effective officer. He was therefore appointed commander of the British force that was sent to capture Quebec City the following year. Wolfe was fatally wounded during the battle on the Plains of Abraham, but the victory led to the capture of Quebec by his forces. Wolfe's Cove was named in honour of him.

1763 - The Royal Proclamation

King George III proclaims the formation of four colonies out of territories acquired during the Seven Years War: East Florida, West Florida, Grenada and Quebec. These colonies are to remain under British (political and religious) administration. The proclamation, however, contains a provision allowing for the formation of a civilian government as soon as conditions are favourable for such change.

1767 - Sir Guy Carleton's Proposal

Sir Guy Carlton, British Governor of the province of Quebec (later to be made Lord Dorchester) proposes to the British Government that the predominantly French population in Quebec and surrounding places should be governed according to French laws.

1774 - The Quebec Act

The Quebec Act changes the way the province of Quebec is governed. Though the French-speaking population is under English criminal law, it is able to practice French civil law and its Roman Catholic faith. The province's borders are also extended to include current southern Ontario.

1775 - The America Revolution

Americans attempt to overthrow British rule and the American Revolution begins. American army invades Canada, captures Montreal, besieges Quebec City.

1776 - Declaration of Independence

American army retreats from Quebec and Montreal. Americans break their ties with the British. Declaration of Independence is signed.

1777 - General Burgoyne Invasion

General Burgoyne invades American colonies from Montreal. His army is defeated and forced to surrender at Saratoga.

1777-1781 - Loyalist Military Operations

Loyalists regiments based at Montreal and Niagara conduct military operations against Northern and Western New York.

1783-1791 - Loyalist Immigration

American Revolution ends with the establishment of the border between Canada and the United States. Loyalists (those who remain loyal to Britain) migrate from the colonies to Canadian borders. General Frederick Haldimand, governor of Quebec, decides to open up lands in the West for Loyalists.

1791 - Upper and Lower Canada

Lord Dorchester suggests dividing the province into Upper and Lower Canada. Upper Canada would be modelled after British society and Lower Canada would maintain the French language civil law and religious institutions. The Constitutional Act, 1791, establishes this division allowing for the formation of local governments.

1791 - John Graves Simcoe

John Graves Simcoe is appointed first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. His wife, Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, and two of their six children accompany him on his duties to Canada.