1583-1763: Much of what is now Canada is colonised by British and French settlers.
1763: France cedes control of its North American settlements to the British under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
1812: Canadian-British forces fight American invaders in the War of 1812.
1867: England signs the British North America act, confederating Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into a single dominion: Canada. Sir John. A Macdonald of the Conservative Party defeats the Liberal Party to become Canada's first Prime Minister.
1870: Manitoba joins confederation, becoming part of Canada.
1871: British Columbia joins confederation.
1873: Prince Edward Island joins confederation.
1989: The Yukon Territories join confederation.
1899: Canadian forces assist Britain by fighting in the Boer War.
1905: Saskatchewan and Alberta join confederation.
1914: Canada automatically enters World War I by way of Britain's declaration of war.
1939: Canada autonomously declares war on Nazi Germany, independent of Britain's declaration.
1942: The Conservative Party of Canada becomes the Progressive Conservatives.
1949: Canada becomes a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Newfoundland joins Confederation.
1951: Canada joins the Korean War, already in progress.
1960: Jean Lesage becomes Premier of Quebec, beginning the period known as Quebec's Quiet Revolution from a rural-religious to a secular society.
1961: The New Democratic Party (NDP) is formed by left-wing and organized labour interests.
1970: Prominent politicians are kidnapped, and one is murdered, by a separatist-terrorist group called the Quebec Liberation Front during the October Crisis. The Government responds by enacting the War Measures Act during peacetime.
1980: A referendum is held in Quebec regarding the issue of sovereignty from the rest of Canada. Roughly 59% of voters oppose the motion.
1982: The Constitution Act repatriates the Canadian constitution and introduces the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
1987: The Reform Party is founded.
1990: Canada deploys troops to participate in the Gulf War. The Meech Lake Accord is rejected, and the concessions contained therein to Quebec, the Territories, and certain aboriginal groups fail.
1991: The Bloc Quebecois is founded.
1995: A second referendum is held in Quebec regarding separation from the rest of Canada. A slim majority, roughly 51%, oppose the motion.
1999: Nunavut is officially separated from the Northwest Territories and joins confederation. Canadian Forces participate in NATO bombing campaign against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
2000: The Reform Party becomes the Canadian Alliance.
2001: Canada joins the American-led invasion of Afghanistan.
2003: The Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives merge to form the Conservative Party of Canada.
2006: Stephen Harper, of the Conservative Party, becomes the Prime Minister of Canada.
2010: David Johnston becomes the Governor General of Canada.
2011: Canada enters the final stages of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The NDP becomes the official Opposition for the first time in Canada's 41st Parliament, the Bloc Quebecois loses official party status, the Conservative Party wins a majority in parliament. NDP leader, Jack Layton, dies of prostate cancer. Canadian Forces assist NATO in a military campaign in Libya.
Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy, wherein the Head of Government is the Prime Minister who is elected for five-year terms. The ceremonial Head of State is the Governor-General, representing the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms. The Canadian Parliament consists of the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate, which together comprise the legislative branch of government. There is also an executive and judicial branch as well.
Canadian political culture is fairly moderate, with few supporters of either extreme conservatism or extreme liberalism. Canada has typically valued international law, peacekeeping, human rights, trade and multiculturalism, and has often had comparatively permissive attitudes towards immigration, and low tolerance for aggression.
Canadian electoral politics have featured many rising and falling political parties, however only a few have endured long enough to wield influence in Canada's political landscape:
The Conservative Party: A merger of the successors to the 1987 Reform Party and the original Conservative Party, this party has its roots in confederation. Ideologically, it is situated slightly to the right of centre, with somewhat more emphasis on fiscal conservatism and moderate traditionalism than the type of social conservatism found, for example, in the United States. It is currently led by the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and holds a majority of seats in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Party: This party has existed since Confederation. Sometimes referred to as Canada's “natural” party, it has governed Canada for more years than any other. Ideologically, it places itself slightly left of centre and focuses on aspects of social liberalism such as inclusiveness and international diplomacy, with centrist fiscal policies. The Liberal Party suffered its most crushing defeat ever in the 2011 federal elections, winning only 34 seats, approximately one tenth of the House of Commons. It is currently led by Bob Rae.
The New Democratic Party: Formed in 1961, the NDP is a left-wing party that values a high corporate tax rate, environmental protection, civil rights, labour interests, and social assistance programs. It has never been Canada's governing party, but has occasionally wielded influence during minority governments. In the 2011 federal election it enjoyed its greatest triumph, winning 101 seats, approximately one third of the House of Commons, at which point it became the Official Opposition for the first time in party history. It is currently led by Thomas Mulcair.
The Bloc Quebecois: Founded in 1991, this party only runs candidates in Quebec ridings. Its platform is based on representing Quebec-specific interests at the Federal level, and has typically championed the cause of Quebec sovereignty from the rest of Canada. Some of its other policies are ideologically left of centre, including an emphasis on social assistance programs. The Bloc has never governed Canada or been the Official Opposition, though it has often wielded political influence during minority governments. In the 2011 Federal Election, the Bloc suffered a catastrophic defeat, losing all but four seats and thereby losing official party status, though it remains a registered party. It is currently led by Daniel Paillé.
The Green Party: The Green Party of Canada is a left of centre party that supports environmentalism, social assistance programs, personal freedoms and high corporate taxes. It has never wielded significant political influence or attained official party status, though it is a registered party. In the 2011 federal election it achieved its greatest victory, winning a seat in the House of Commons. It is currently led by Elizabeth May.
Canada is a wealthy country, enjoying the 14th largest GDP in the world and a GDP per capita growth rate of roughly 2.5% a year. It has an enormous service sector, like many other developed countries, which is a primary driver of the domestic economy. Canada is a major trader, but unlike most developed countries, it has a considerable raw-goods export sector. Canada is an ardent supporter of free trade, and in addition to pursuing bilateral trade agreements with many nations, is a member of NAFTA. Canada is very well endowed with natural resources, and in particular, with oil and natural gas deposits, as well as lumber. It also possesses a substantial amount of freshwater, which many have speculated might become increasingly valuable in the coming decades.
The vast majority of Canada's trade and a significant portion of its overall economy is connected directly with the United States. Approximately three quarters of Canadian exports are to - and three fifths of its imports are from - the United States. This special relationship is a source of great strength and prosperity for Canada, though some nationalists have often warned against the political leverage it gives the Americans, frequently urging Canadian leaders to diversify in order to prevent trade dependence from dictating other areas of Canadian policy. In addition to trade, Canada and the United States invest heavily in one another directly.
Though Canada has suffered from the global economic downturn of recent years, it has been fortunate relative to some other developed countries. That it was spared the extent of recession suffered elsewhere is largely credited to the conservative and restrained nature of Canadian banks and investments. Consequently, other developed countries are beginning to examine the Canadian model more closely.
Canadian monetary policy more closely resembles the American system than what is often employed by other affluent nations - the Bank of Canada typically adopts policies which keep inflation quite low but allow higher levels of unemployment than is common in much of the developed world.
Canada's military is known as the Canadian Forces (CF), which, like most modern militaries, includes an army, navy, and air force. As of Spring 2012, most domestic and overseas CF activities are, for the purposes of cutting costs, coordinated under a single institution, the Canadian Joint Operations Command. However, certain specialized military assets, such as Canada's highly classified elite counter-terrorism unit, the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), are coordinated by an independent command, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. The commander-in-chief of the CF is the Governor General of Canada, though this position is largely ceremonial and most military decisions are made by the Chief of the Defence Staff – currently, General Walt Natynczk. The Canadian Forces are under the jurisdiction of the Department of National Defence, a civilian department managed by the Minister of National Defence – currently, Peter MacKay.
Though military policy has seldom been a high-priority issue for Canadian voters, the CF often plays a role in major international conflicts. A founding member of collective-defence coalition the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Canada has, in recent years, deployed its military to support allied campaigns in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya, and other theatres. Canada's current military policy is based largely around the Department of National Defence's 2008 document, the Canada First Defence Strategy. This document stresses Canada's commitment to provide military support to allies in honour of NATO obligations, to assert Canada's sovereignty over disputed Arctic territory, and to generally enhance CF flexibility and responsiveness by streamlining command structures and upgrading CF equipment, much of which has become aged and obsolete.
By and large, Canadians have preferred to think of their military as primarily a provider of peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, or disaster relief. Canada is not viewed as an aggressive or overly war-mongering country, and Canadians have generally been indifferent to military matters, content with their relatively minor (and steadily shrinking) military capabilities. Bordering only its closest ally, the United States, national defence has rarely been a pressing concern. Canada defers much of its air defence to the United States through the joint, though primarily American, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Some recent events suggest that this pattern may be changing. The release of the Canada First Defence Strategy, the government's intended purchase of state-of-the art F-35 Stealth fighters, and the pro-military government of Stephen Harper may alter the CF's status, discarding the image of an ageing, primarily relief force, and characterizing the CF instead as a more modern and conventional military. However, military matters routinely fail to gain traction as electoral issues, so it is doubtful that these changes will significantly impact the way Canadians view the CF.