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How Old is Canada as a country?

Canada is a nation that is known for its scenic beauty, diverse culture, and friendly people. But have you ever wondered how old Canada is as a country? In 2024, Canada is 157. Its age is counted since confederation in 1867, when it officially became a country. That said, the land known as Canada has a rich and fascinating history that dates back several millennia. From the Indigenous peoples who first settled on this land to the European colonists who later arrived, Canada's complex and diverse past has shaped the nation we know today.

Indigenous ceremony at the Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre

In this article, we will explore how old Canada really is, from the geological timeline to the arrival of the first humans. As you move forward, you'll delve into the significant events that have shaped Canadian history, including colonization, confederation, and the nation's growth. Additionally, we will discuss the challenges Indigenous peoples faced and the ongoing reconciliation process. By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the age and history of Canada.

Canada's Age Geographically: Tracing the Land's Ancient Past

Canada's age geographically can be traced back millions of years to the Precambrian era, when the Canadian Shield began to form from volcanic activity and tectonic forces. The Shield, which is the oldest part of the North American continent, spans almost half of Canada and is made up of igneous and metamorphic rocks that were formed more than 4 billion years ago. Other important geological events in Canada's history include the emergence of the Appalachian Mountains during the Paleozoic era, and the Rocky Mountains and Arctic Cordillera during the Cenozoic era.

Canada is also home to numerous historic sites, such as the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta and the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, which offer insights into the land's ancient past. The Mesozoic era, which lasted from about 252 million to 66 million years ago, saw the emergence of the Western Interior Seaway, which covered much of what is now western Canada.

You can see many significant geographically significant sights when you visit Canada, from the Canadian Shield to the Canadian Rockies.

This seaway was home to various marine reptiles, including mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. The Cenozoic era, which began about 66 million years ago and continues to the present day, saw the emergence of the Rocky Mountains and the Arctic Cordillera and the retreat of the glaciers that covered much of Canada during the last Ice Age. Let's take a look at other factors that help us determine how old is Canada as a country.

#1 Travel Tip: Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver

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Book a private tour led by a MOA Curator to learn more in depth on Indigenous history. You can also explore the massive carvings from northwest coast First Nations in The Great Hall.

Louise Weiss
Director of Legendary Hospitality

National Historic Sites

One of the best ways to experience Canada's ancient geology is by visiting its national historic sites. These sites offer a glimpse into Canada's geological history and the natural forces that shaped the land. For instance, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador is a UNESCO World Heritage site that showcases the unique geological formations of the Earth's mantle. The park's barren, rocky Tablelands offer a window into the Earth's mantle that is usually hidden beneath the Earth's crust.

World's Oldest Trees

Canada is also home to some of the oldest living trees in the world. The oldest known tree in Canada is a Bristlecone Pine in the alpine zone of the Rocky Mountains, over 1,000 years old. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region is home to some of the oldest known hemlock trees, some over 800 years old. These trees have survived various climatic changes and offer a glimpse into the ancient past of Canada's forests.

Ancient Icebergs

Another unique aspect of Canada's geography is the presence of ancient icebergs that can be found off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. These icebergs are formed from the glaciers that broke off from the Greenland ice sheet thousands of years ago. They can be up to 10,000 years old and offer a glimpse into the last Ice Age.

Canada's ancient geography is a testament to the natural forces that have shaped this land over millions of years. Visiting National Historic sites, exploring ancient forests, and witnessing icebergs can give you a unique perspective of Canada's geological history.

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A Journey Through Canadian History

Canada's history is a rich and complex story that begins long before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. Indigenous peoples have lived on this land for thousands of years and have shaped its history and culture in profound ways. The name "Canada" is believed to have originated from the indigenous word "Kanata", meaning village or settlement.

The first European explorers known to arrive in Canada were the Vikings, who established a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland in the 11th century. However, it wasn't until the 15th century that the first sustained European contact with Canada occurred, with the arrival of French and English explorers such as Jacques Cartier and John Cabot. In the 16th and 17th centuries, European powers such as France, England, and the Netherlands established colonies in Canada. These colonies, which were primarily focused on the fur trade, would eventually give rise to the modern provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and the Maritimes.

The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by intense geopolitical struggles between European powers for control of Canada. The French and British fought a series of wars, including the Seven Years' War, for control of Canada. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris granted control of Canada to the British. In 1867, the British North America Act was passed, creating the Dominion of Canada, which united the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The new country expanded over time to include the western provinces and territories, culminating in the addition of Newfoundland in 1949. You'll read more on this topic in the later section.

Canada's history in the 20th century was marked by significant social and political changes. The country played a key role in both World War I and World War II, with Canadian troops fighting on the front lines in Europe. Canada also underwent significant social and political changes during this time, including the women's suffrage movement, the establishment of a welfare state, and the adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy. In the latter half of the 20th century, Canada continued to evolve politically and socially. The country witnessed the rise of Quebec separatism, which culminated in the 1980 and 1995 referendums on independence. Canada also became a more diverse and multicultural society, with increasing immigration from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Today, Canada is a prosperous and democratic country with a rich history and a diverse population. Its journey from a collection of European colonies to a modern nation has been marked by struggle, conflict, and resilience, and its history continues to shape its identity and culture.

The British North American Act: A Turning Point in Canada's History

The British North American Act is a pivotal moment in Canada's history. It was an important step toward the country's evolution from a colony to a fully independent nation. The act was proposed in 1864 by the Fathers of Confederation, who were representatives from the British colonies in North America. Its main objective was to create a federal union of the British North American colonies.

After much debate and negotiation, the act was passed in 1867, and it established the Dominion of Canada. This act united the colonies of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single entity, with its government and constitution. The act also provided for the division of powers between the federal government and the provincial governments. The significance of the British North American Act was that it laid the foundation for Canada's constitutional framework. The act established Canada as a self-governing entity and gave it greater control over its affairs. It also marked the beginning of Canada's move towards becoming a more democratic and inclusive society.

One of the positive effects of the act was that it helped foster a sense of national identity among Canadians. It also paved the way for the country's economic growth and development, as it facilitated the creation of a national infrastructure that helped to connect the different regions of the country. However, there were also some negative consequences of the act, such as the displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples, who were not included in the process of Confederation.

The British North American Act had a profound impact on Canada's infrastructure, geography, and industry. It helped create a more unified and integrated transportation network, facilitating the movement of goods and people across the country. It also had a positive effect on tourism, as the act helped to promote the development of national parks and historic sites.

Canada's First People

The history of the first people in Canada dates back to around 30,000 years ago when they migrated to the North American continent. These people are now known as Indigenous peoples and they include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The Indigenous peoples have a rich history and culture, including unique languages, traditions, and beliefs.

The Indigenous peoples in Canada settled in different parts of the country and adapted to their surroundings, through hunting, fishing, and farming. They have complex societies and cultures, with organized systems of governance and trade. Throughout history, the Indigenous peoples of Canada have faced many challenges, including colonization, forced assimilation, and the residential school system. They have also fought to maintain their traditions and cultures.

Today, the Indigenous population in Canada is around 1.7 million, which is about 4.9% of the total population. The majority of the Indigenous peoples live in Ontario and the Western provinces, with smaller populations in other parts of the country. The Indigenous peoples of Canada have made significant contributions to the country's culture and history. Their traditions and customs have been integrated into Canadian society, such as the use of totem poles and the celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their contributions to Canadian society. Efforts are being made to address Indigenous peoples' injustices and improve their living conditions, such as through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Canada is also home to a diverse population of people from around the world. According to the 2016 Census, the largest groups of immigrants come from countries such as China, India, the Philippines, and Pakistan. However, Canada has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

#2 Travel Tip: See dinosaur fossils

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The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta is a must-visit. Here you’ll see an incredible collection of dinosaur fossils and rock formations that are millions of years old.

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

Canada Day

Canada Day, also known as Dominion Day, is celebrated on July 1st every year to commemorate the establishment of the Dominion of Canada. The Dominion of Canada came into existence on July 1st, 1867, when the British North America Act united three colonies, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada, into a single country called Canada. The day was originally called Dominion Day, but it was later renamed Canada Day in 1982.

The celebrations of Canada Day vary across the country, but they usually involve fireworks, parades, and concerts. The largest celebrations are held in Ottawa, the national capital, where a large crowd gathers on Parliament Hill to enjoy the festivities. The day is also marked by raising the Canadian flag and singing the national anthem, "O Canada."

Canada Day is a statutory holiday in all Canadian provinces and territories, and it is an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate their national pride and identity. On this day, people wear red and white, the Canadian flag's colors, and participate in various activities such as picnics, barbecues, and family gatherings.

Here are some interesting Canada Day trivia facts:

  • Canada Day was originally known as Dominion Day until it was renamed in 1982.
  • The largest Canada Day celebration in the world is held in Ottawa, with over 500,000 people in attendance.
  • The Canadian flag was first raised on February 15, 1965, but it was not officially recognized until July 1, 1967.
  • Canada Day marks the beginning of National Fishing Week in Canada.
  • The Canadian national anthem, "O Canada," was first sung in Quebec City on June 24, 1880.

In recent years, Canada Day has also become a time of reflection, when some citizens consider the realities and outcomes of Canada's complex history. There has been a increased interest in examining elements of truth and reconciliation with the Indigenous people of Canada. 

Fun Facts about Canada

  • Canada is the second-largest country in the world by land area, covering over 9.9 million square kilometers.
  • The Canadian flag, also known as the Maple Leaf, was officially adopted on February 15, 1965.
  • Canada is the world's largest producer of maple syrup, producing around 71% of the world's supply.
  • The Canadian Rockies are some of the oldest mountains in the world, estimated to be between 75 and 100 million years old.
  • The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, is the country's most visited museum, attracting over 1.2 million visitors annually.
  • The Canadian dollar, also known as the loonie, was first introduced in 1987 to replace the one-dollar bill.
  • Canada is home to the longest coastline in the world, stretching over 202,080 kilometers.
  • Hockey is the national sport of Canada and is considered an integral part of the country's identity.
  • Canada has two official languages: English and French.
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to all Canadians.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Canada before 1867?

Before 1867, Canada was a collection of separate British colonies, including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and Newfoundland. These colonies were united under the British North America Act in 1867 to form the Dominion of Canada.

Who owned Canada first?

Before the arrival of Europeans, various Indigenous peoples inhabited the land that is now called Canada. There were several First Nations and Inuit groups across the country. Europeans first arrived in the 10th century, with the Norse exploring what is now Newfoundland and Labrador. The French and English established colonies in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, the British eventually gained control of Canada through the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

What was Canada's name before Canada?

Before the country was named Canada, the land was referred to by various names by Indigenous peoples, such as Turtle Island or Kanata. The name "Canada" comes from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word "Kanata," which means "settlement" or "village." French explorers used the word to refer to the area around present-day Quebec city and eventually, it became the name of the entire country.

Who owned Canada before the US?

Canada was never owned by the US. Canada has been a sovereign nation since 1867, before which it was a British colony. However, the US did invade and capture parts of Canada during the War of 1812, but they were eventually repelled and the borders were restored to their pre-war positions.

About the author: Louise Weiss is Director of Legendary Hospitality with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for more than 25 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in North Vancouver and has spent time... Read more

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