Canada, which has been inhabited by aboriginal peoples, known in Canada as the First Nations, for about 10,000 years, was first visited by Europeans around 1000, when the Vikings briefly settled at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. More permanent European visits came in the 16th and 17th century, as the French settled there.
In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years' War, France chose to keep its Caribbean Islands and to leave its North American colony, New France, to Britain.
After the American Revolution, many British Loyalists settled in Canada.
On July 1, 1867, with the passing of the British North America Act, the British government granted local self-government to a federation of four provinces formed from three of its North American colonies, Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The former Province (colony) of Canada formed two provinces of the new Dominion of Canada, being partitioned into Quebec and Ontario along the old boundary between Lower and Upper Canada. The term Confederation refers to this act of union and is often used for the resulting federation.
Other British colonies and territories soon joined Confederation; by 1880 Canada included all of its present area except for Newfoundland and Labrador (which joined in 1949). Full control over the Dominion's affairs officially came in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster, and in 1982 with the patriation of Canada's constitution.
Canada fought on the side of the Allies in both World Wars.
In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec sought independence in two referendums held in 1980 and 1995. In both referendums, the separatist cause was defeated with 60% and 50.6% opposed to independence, respectively.
In 1995, the United States and Canada signed a liberalized aviation agreement, and air traffic between the two countries has increased dramatically as a result. U.S. immigration and customs inspectors provide preclearance services at seven airports in Canada, allowing air travelers direct connections in the United States. The two countries also share in operation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
The United States and Canada signed a Pacific Salmon Agreement in June 1999 that settled differences over implementation of the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty. In 2001, the two countries reached agreement on Yukon River Salmon, implementing a new abundance-based resource management regime and effectively realizing coordinated management over all West Coast salmon fisheries. The United States and Canada recently reached agreement on sharing another transboundary marine resource, Pacific Hake.
On December 12, 2003, Paul Martin became Canada's Prime Minister, succeeding Jean Chretien. A successful businessman in his own right, Martin has broad prior governmental experience, serving as Chretiens Minister of Finance from 1993-2002. On May 23, 2004 Martin announced that he would seek a fourth mandate for the Liberal Party in federal elections to be held on June 28, 2004.
Though the Liberal Party won a third victory in the November 2000 general elections, increasing its majority in Parliament to 172 of the 301 Parliamentary seats, the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada, led by Stephen Harper, made significant gains in the June 28 election leaving the liberal Party with a minority government.
U.S. defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense, established in 1940, provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters. The United States and Canada share NATO mutual security commitments. In addition, U.S. and Canadian military forces have cooperated since 1958 on continental air defense within the
framework of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 both tested and strengthened military cooperation between the United States and Canada. In December 2002, the two countries established a Binational Planning Group to develop joint plans for maritime and land defense and for military support to civil authorities
in times of emergency. Since 2002, Canada has participated in joint military actions in Afghanistan and, in early 2004, Canada assumed command of the International Security and Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Kabul. Canada has also contributed to stabilization efforts in Haiti, including by deploying over 500 Canadian troops.