A big part about knowing a country is learning about its roots. Here, we feature some of the great people who braved oceans, mountains and rivers to discover, form, and build a new nation that is to be Canada. These adventurers and nation-builders’ helped build and strengthen the foundation of this great country:
- Jacques Cartier (1491-1557)
Considered as the founder of “Canada,” Cartier was a navigator and explorer. He earned the distinction of being the first European to have accurately mapped the interior of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence River to Montréal. This part of the Americas later became the French axis of power in North America (the region immediately surrounding Québec).
The following video by Historica Canada depicts the explorer’s first meeting with the Iroquoian people and how (because of a mistake in translation) Canada got its name:
- Samuel de Champlain (c.1567 – 1635)
Best known for his role in founding “New France,” he was a known as an explorer, soldier, cartographer, and writer. Champlain was part of the founding of Port-Royal (now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia), the first French Colony in North America. He also founded a permanent settlement at Quebec City, which started the expansion of France into the New World.
- The Fathers of Confederation
Whenever the story is told about the birth of Canada as a country, we invariably hear about the Fathers of Confederation. Who exactly were they? Traditionally, they were the 36 men who represented the British North American colonies in a series of conferences that led to the Confederation on July 1, 1867. Later on, the term would be expanded to include those instrumental in the creation of Manitoba and Nunavut and bringing British Columbia and Newfoundland into Confederation.
The Fathers of Confederation were:
- Sir Adam George Archibald (Nova Scotia)
- George Brown (Ontario), Sir Alexander Campbell (Ontario)
- Sir Frederic Carter (Newfoundland and Labrador)
- Sir George – Étienne Cartier(Quebec)
- Edward Barron Chandler (New Brunswick)
- Jean-Charles Chapais (Quebec)
- James Cockburn (Ontario)
- George Coles (Prince Edward Island)
- Robert B. Dickey (Nova Scotia)
- Charles Fisher (New Brunswick)
- Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt (Quebec)
- John Hamilton Gray (New Brunswick)
- Thomas Heath Haviland (Prince Edward Island)
- William Alexander Henry (Nova Scotia)
- Sir William Pearce Howland (Ontario)
- John Mercer Johnson (New Brunswick)
- Sir Hector-Louis Langevin (Quebec)
- Andrew Archibald Macdonald (Prince Edward Island
- Sir John A. Macdonald (Ontario)
- Jonathan McCully (Nova Scotia)
- William McDougall (Ontario)
- Thomas D’Arcy McGee (Quebec)
- Peter Mitchell (New Brunswick)
- Sir Oliver Mowat (Ontario)
- Edward Palmer (Prince Edward Island)
- William Henry Pope (Prince Edward Island)
- John William Ritchie (Nova Scotia)
- Sir Ambrose Shea (Newfoundland and Labrador)
- William H. Steeves (New Brunswick)
- Sir Étienne-Paschal Tache (Quebec)
- Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley (New Brunswick)
- Sir Charles Tupper (Nova Scotia)
- Edward Whelan (Prince Edward Island)
- Robert Duncan Wilmot (New Brunswick)
- Sir John A. MacDonald (1815-1891)
He is regarded as the chief architect of Confederation and Canada’s first Prime Minister. As one of the country’s most important political figures, MacDonald was the main author of Canada’s constitution. He was also the main proponent of the transcontinental railway which led to the great era of Canadian immigration. An immigrant himself, MacDonald’s family moved from Glasgow, Scotland to Kingston, Upper Canada when he was five. From his humble roots (he started working at the age of 15), he became a lawyer, businessman, politician, and eventually, prime minister.
This video from Historica Canada is a dramatization of MacDonald’s relentless campaign towards uniting the colonies and territories from sea to sea:
- Louis Riel (1844-1885)
He is known as the founder of Manitoba. Louis Riel was a Metis leader, a politician, and one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history. Riel was first dismissed as an enemy of the government, a rebel, and a traitor. To the Metis of the Canadian prairies, he was a visionary and a hero of a downtrodden people. He led the opposition against the encroachment of Canadian representatives on their homeland (Canada was preparing to acquire the vast territory called Rupert’s Land from the Hudson Bay Company) and created a “provisional government” to negotiate with the authorities. This became known as the Red River Rebellion which led to the creation of the province of Manitoba in 1870. Riel was later elected as a member of the Parliament twice and continued to uphold the rights of his people. In 1885, as the defeated leader of the Northwest Rebellion (fighting for the rights of Metis from Saskatchewan), Riel was sentenced to death under the charge of treason.
Here is Louis Riel’s complicated life as well as pioneering work from Cable Public Affairs Channel (cpac):
Great Canadians in history
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