Canada (New France)

The colony of Canada was a French colony within the larger territory of New France. It was claimed by France in 1535 during the second voyage of Jacques Cartier, in the name of the French king, Francis I. The colony remained a French territory until 1763, when it became a British colony known as the Province of Quebec.[5][6][7][8]

The Royal Banner of early modern France or "Bourbon Flag" was the most commonly used flag in New France[1][2][3]
The lesser coat of arms of France
as used by the Government
Map of Canada after 1713. At its fullest extent, Canada extended from south of the Great Lakes to the Gulf of St Lawrence.
StatusColony of France within New France
Common languagesFrench
Catholic Church (state religion)[4]
 French territorial possession
 Founding of Quebec
 Founding of Trois-Rivières
 Founding of Montreal
CurrencyNew France livre
ISO 3166 codeCA
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Aboriginal peoples in Canada
Province of Quebec (1763–1791)
Today part ofCanada
United States

In the 16th century the word "Canada" could refer to the territory along the Saint Lawrence River[9] (then known as the Canada River) from Grosse Isle to a point between Québec and Trois-Rivières.[10] The terms "Canada" and "New France" were also used interchangeably.[11] French explorations continued west "unto the Countreys of Canada, Hochelaga, and Saguenay"[12] before any permanent settlements were established. In 1600 a permanent trading post and habitation was established at Tadoussac at the confluence of the Saguenay and Saint Lawrence rivers. However, because this trading post was under a trade monopoly, it was not constituted as an official French colonial settlement.

The first official settlement of Canada was Québec, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.[13][14] The other four colonies within New France were Hudson's Bay to the north, Acadia and Newfoundland to the east, and Louisiana far to the south.[15][16] Canada became the most developed of the five colonies of New France. It was divided into three districts, Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal, each with its own government. The governor of the District of Quebec also served as the governor-general for all of New France.[16]

The Seven Years' War of 1756–1763 saw Great Britain defeat the French and their allies, and take possession of Canada. In the Treaty of Paris of 1763, which formally ended the Seven Years' War, France ceded Canada in exchange for other colonies, with a large portion of Canada becoming the British colony of the Province of Quebec.[17]

Territorial evolution

In the 240 years between Verrazano's voyage of exploration in 1524 and the Conquest of New France in 1763, the French marked the North American continent in many ways. Whether it was through by land distribution and clearing, the establishment of villages and towns, deploying a network of roads and paths or developing the territory with various constructions, the French colonists transformed and adapted the environments according to their needs.

There are three major periods of expansion of the territory of Canada, mostly as a result of exploration efforts. First, the 1534–1603 period, in which Canada's territory comprised the coasts of Newfoundland, the entirety of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the coasts of New Brunswick, the Saint Lawrence River and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

Then 1603–1673, in which, due to westward expansion and conflicts with Great Britain, the Canada territory was now composed of the coasts of the Saint Lawrence River, of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and of the Great Lakes, as well as southern Ontario and northern New England.

Then, in the last period of 1673–1741, the Canada territory was composed of the coasts of the Saint Lawrence River, of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and of the Great Lakes, southern Ontario, southern Manitoba and the north-eastern Midwest. It is in this period that Canada was at its largest.[18]

Pays d'en Haut

Canada (in pink) in 1719

Dependent on Canada were the Pays d'en Haut (upper countries), a vast territory north and west of Montreal, covering the whole of the Great Lakes and stretching as far into the North American continent as the French had explored.[16] Before 1717, when it ceded territory to the new colony of Louisiana, it stretched as far south as the Illinois Country. In the Great Lakes area, a mission, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, was established in 1639. Following the destruction of the Huron homeland in 1649 by the Iroquois, the French destroyed the mission themselves and left the area. In what are today Ontario and the eastern prairies, various trading posts and forts were built such as Fort Kaministiquia in 1679 (at modern Thunder Bay, Ontario), Fort Frontenac in 1673 (today's Kingston, Ontario), Fort Saint Pierre in 1731 (near modern Fort Frances, Ontario), Fort Saint Charles in 1732 (on Lake of the Woods located on Magnusens Island on the Northwest Angle of Minnesota) and Fort Rouillé in 1750 (today's Toronto). The mission and trading post at Sault Ste. Marie (1688) would later be split by the Canada–US border.

The French settlements in the Pays d'en Haut among and south of the Great Lakes were Fort Niagara (1678) (near modern Youngstown, New York), Fort Crevecoeur (1680) (near the present site of Creve Coeur, Illinois, a suburb of Peoria, Illinois), Fort Saint Antoine (1686) (on Lake Pepin in Wisconsin), Fort St. Joseph (1691) (on the southernmost point of St. Joseph Island, Ontario on Lake Huron), Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit (1701) (today's Detroit, Michigan), Fort Michilimackinac (1715) (on the Straits of Mackinac at Mackinaw City, Michigan), Fort Miami (1715) (modern Fort Wayne, Indiana), Fort La Baye (1717) (today's Green Bay, Wisconsin), and Fort Beauharnois (1727) (in Florence Township, Goodhue County, Minnesota).

Today, the term Les Pays-d'en-Haut refers to a regional county municipality in the Laurentides region of the present Province of Quebec, north of Montreal, while the former Pays d'en Haut was part of the District of Montreal.

Domaine du roy

The Domaine du roy, established in 1652, was a vast region of New France, which stretched north from the St. Lawrence River to Hudson Bay. It was located between the eastern limit of the seigneurie of Les Éboulements and Cape Cormorant. The territory had an area of more than 460,000km2. After the Conquest of New France, the territory's name was changed to Rupert's Land.[19]

Population surveys

A population survey was done in 1740 to estimate Canada's population. The survey of the Saint Lawrence River valley counted about 44,000 colonists in total. The majority of them were born in Canada and lived in a rural environment. Of the colonists, 18,000 lived under the Government of Québec, 4,000 under the Government of Trois-Rivières and 22,000 under the Government of Montreal. As for colonists not living in the Saint Lawrence River valley, Île Royale (now Cape Breton) counted 4,000 inhabitants (of which 1,500 were in Louisbourg), and Île Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island) had 500 inhabitants.[20]

Successors and legacy

In 1791, the Province of Quebec was separated into Lower Canada (now Quebec) and Upper Canada (now Ontario). Lower Canada and Upper Canada were fused into the Province of Canada in 1841, before separating again into the modern-day provinces of Quebec and Ontario during the Confederation of Canada in 1867. Because of the historical and geographical continuity, as well as the continued use of the French language, civil law, customs, cultural aspects and the ruling power of the Catholic Church in government until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, the province of Quebec is considered by many to be the modern-day continuation of the Canada colony of New France.[21][22][23][24] Still today, the majority of the Quebec population is descended from the original French-speaking Canadien of Canada, and the cultural distinctiveness of Quebec from the rest of the country has led to the emergence of a Québécois identity and the Quebec sovereignty movement.[25] Descendants of the original Canadien of Canada (New France) living outside of Quebec are now often referred to by a name which references their province of residence (ex. Franco-Ontarian). Francophone populations in the Maritime provinces, however, are more likely to be descended from the settlers of the French colony of Acadia. They are therefore called Acadians.

See also


  1. New York State Historical Association (1915). Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association with the Quarterly Journal: 2nd-21st Annual Meeting with a List of New Members. The Association. It is most probable that the Bourbon Flag was used during the greater part of the occupancy of the French in the region extending southwest from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi, known as New France... The French flag was probably blue at that time with three golden fleur-de-lis ....
  2. "Fleur-de-lys | The Canadian Encyclopedia".
  3. "INQUINTE.CA | CANADA 150 Years of History ~ The story behind the flag".
  4. M. Gough, Barry (2021). Historical Dictionary of Canada. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 471. ISBN 9781538120347.
  5. Lamb, W. Kaye (19 March 2018). "Canada". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada.
  6. Conrick, Maeve; Regan, Vera (2007). French in Canada: Language Issues. Peter Lang. p. 11. ISBN 978-3-03910-142-9.
  7. Rayburn, Alan (2001). Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names. University of Toronto Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-8020-8293-0.
  8. Parkman, Francis (1996). Pioneers of France in the New World. University of Nebraska Press. p. 202. ISBN 0-8032-8744-5.
  9. Boswell, Randy (22 April 2013). "Putting Canada on the map". National Post.
  10. Cartier, Jacques (1993). Cook, Ramsay (ed.). Voyages of Jacques Cartier. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 43.
  11. Warkentin, Germaine; Podruchny, Carolyn (2001). Decentring the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1500-1700. University of Toronto Press. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-8020-8149-0.
  12. Cartier, Jacques (1993). Cook, Ramsay (ed.). Voyages of Jacques. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 96.
  13. New, William H. (2002). Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. University of Toronto Press. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-8020-0761-2.
  14. Kelley, Ninette; Trebilcock, Michael J. (2010). The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy. University of Toronto Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-0-8020-9536-7.
  15. "Canada at the Time of New France". Site for Language Management in Canada. University of Ottawa. 2004. Archived from the original on 2017-03-25. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  16. "Le territoire". La Nouvelle-France. Resources françaises. Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (France). 1998. Archived from the original on 17 August 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2008. La Nouvelle-France désignait l'ensemble des territoires de l'Amérique du Nord sous administration française, avant 1763. Dans sa plus grande dimension, avant le Traité d'Utrecht (1713), la Nouvelle-France comprenait cinq colonies possédant, chacune, une administration propre : le Canada, l'Acadie, la Baie d'Hudson, Terre-Neuve, la Louisiane.
  17. "His Most Christian Majesty cedes and guaranties to his said Britannick Majesty, in full right, Canada, with all its dependencies, as well as the island of Cape Breton, and all the other islands and coasts in the gulph and river of St. Lawrence, and in general, every thing that depends on the said countries, lands, islands, and coasts..." Treaty of Paris (1763)  via Wikisource.
  18. "Colonies et Empires-Expansion territoriale et alliances". Canadian Museum of History. 2021.
  19. Michel Lavoie (2010). Le Domaine du roi 1652-1859. Septentrion.
  20. "New France circa 1740". The Atlas of Canada. Natural Resources Canada. 6 October 2003. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  21. "Quebec". The Canadian Encyclopedia. April 2021. Government and Politics.
  22. "History Of Quebec". Britannica. April 2021. History Of Quebec.
  23. "Brève histoire du Québec". Histoire du Québec. 2019. La chute de la Nouvelle-France.
  24. "History of Québec and Canada-Social Sciences" (PDF). Government of Quebec. 2017. 1760-1791 The Conquest and the change of empire.
  25. "The story of New France: the cradle of modern Canada". National Geographic. 2020. The fall of New France.
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