The Fur Trade and the Opening of Canada: 1400 - 1867
Across the future Canada, communities of Aboriginal Peoples inhabit a land of lakes and rivers. They hunt beaver and other fur-bearing animals. European explorers, searching for a shortcut to China, encounter an unknown continent. Cabot reaches Newfoundland. Iroquois leader Donnacona leads Cartier up the St. Lawrence River to his kanata where there is an abundance of beaver. The furs become a fashion rage in Europe. To meet growing demand, Champlain builds a settlement at Quebec and explores inland. The Algonquin and Huron exchange fur pelts with coureurs-de-bois for goods made of iron. The Great Lakes basin is mapped.
Radisson and des Groseilliers, working for the English king, plan to ship furs out of Hudson Bay and the Hudson's Bay Company is born. The French, led by La Verendrye, counter with a string of posts stretching west from Lake Superior. The struggle for empire between France and England leads to the Seven Years' War. Wolfe defeats Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham and New France becomes a British colony. English merchants take over the French fur trade and create the North West Company. Exploration reaches the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. For almost 250 years, the fur trade drives the economy and opens up a country called Canada.
The Call of Empire: 1914 - 1916
Peace reigns across the vast Dominion of Canada. Railroads tie the country together and disperse a flood of immigrants. Europe, where the Triple Alliance opposes the Triple Entente, is a powderkeg ready to explode. The fuse is lit when the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary is assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. The Great War ignites. Germany’s assault on France through neutral Belgium pulls the British Empire, including Canada, into the war.
Canada answers The Call of Empire by authorizing the Canadian Expeditionary Force. 33,000 recruits train at Camp Valcartier. Sailing for France amid great fanfare, the First Canadian Division enters the trench lines in the dangerous Ypres Salient in early 1915. The untested Canadians face horrific conditions and choking chlorine gas. Lt.-Col. John McCrae pens his iconic poem, In Flanders Fields. At home, Canadian industry shifts to war production. Munitions factories send a million shells a month to the Western Front. Farm production soars and Canada supplies food to her allies. Some 4,000 Aboriginal Peoples leave reservations to volunteer. Visible minorities also enlist – among them are 2,600 African Canadians. In 1916, epic battles are fought at Verdun and at the Somme. After two years of staggering casualties and dreaded telegrams, the stark reality of total war hangs heavily on Canadians.
Ordeal by Fire: 1916 - 1918
The Western Front remains deadlocked. The technology of warfare is advancing rapidly, especially in the development of aircraft. Canadian aces, like Billy Bishop, duel in dogfights high over the Western Front. The Allied situation in Europe is deteriorating fast. But a significant victory occurs when the Canadians capture the bastion of Vimy Ridge. The sacrifices of young Canadians overseas encourage even more sacrifices on the Home Front. Workers are told to produce more. Food rationing begins. People cultivate backyard gardens. To pay for the war, the first ever income tax is introduced. The endless slaughter on the Western Front causes the number of recruits to dwindle. Prime Minister Borden passes the Military Service Act making overseas military service compulsory for all men aged 20 to 45. Conscription sets off a firestorm of protest, especially in Quebec. It is the central issue in the election of 1917. A massive explosion levels large sections of Halifax, killing 2,000.
Amid a quagmire of mud, the Canadians take Passchendaele Ridge in yet another Ordeal by Fire. In 1918, Russia pulls out of the war. Germany unleashes all its forces along the Western Front. The great German attack falters and the Allies launch a grand offensive. Time and again, the Canadian Corps provides the shock troops. It is Canada’s Hundred Days – victory follows victory. On the verge of collapse, the Germans sue for peace. The Kaiser abdicates. An Armistice ends the war on November 11, 1918. Four years of mass slaughter come to an end.