Status: Federal Parliamentary Democracy
Location: Northern North America
Area: 3,855,103 sq. miles
Population: 35,881,659 (est 2018)
Currency: 100 Cents = 1 Dollar ($1 Canadian = 76¢ U.S.)
In 1497, barely five years after Columbus’ first voyage, John Cabot visited Newfoundland, which in 1583 became the first British possession in North America. In 1605, several hundred miles to the south, the French founded the colony of Acadia, the first permanent European settlement north of Florida. Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain led the French expansion up the St. Lawrence, where the small villages of Quebec (1608) and Montreal (1642) became the economic centers of New France, a vast fur-trading empire in the heart of the continent. The cod-rich Great Banks attracted fishing fleets from as far away as Portugal and Basque Spain. 17th century North America had become a major arena for the global Anglo-French competition.
The British prevailed in the Seven Years’ War and in 1763 they gained control of all French Canada except for St. Pierre and Miquelon. Acadia became the British colony of Nova Scotia in 1749. Prince Edward Island became a separate colony in 1769, and New Brunswick in 1784. The St. Lawrence settlements became “Canada.” To attract more settlers to this sparsely populated new land, the British granted considerable self-government to Nova Scotia and Canada. The Oregon Boundary agreement in 1846 paved the way for the western colonies of Vancouver (1849) and British Columbia (1858).
Prime Minister John Macdonald succeeded in the campaign to unite Canada despite strong U.S. opposition. On July 1, 1867, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined with Ontario and Quebec — created from the former province of Canada – in the confederation. In 1869, Hudson’s Bay Company ceded its rights over the vast Northwest Territories and Rupert’s Land. In 1871, the confederation gained British Columbia, and in 1873, Prince Edward Island. It was not until 1949 that Newfoundland and Labrador, under considerable pressure from Great Britain, joined Canada.
Early mail service to North America was casual. In 1839, the British appointed a postal official in Boston for North America. Later, Canada was serviced from New York. The French built a post road from Montreal to Quebec, but regular mail service had to await the British. Benjamin Franklin, as the colonial Deputy Postmaster General, visited Canada in 1763 and put Hugh Finlay of Montreal in charge of the post office. The American Revolution halted the New York-Montreal service in 1776 to 1783. An alternative route through Halifax was opened in 1787. Newfoundland got a postmaster in 1805. Its mail was routed through Halifax. Meanwhile, British Columbia’s mail was channeled through San Francisco, so much so that its post office also carried a stock of U.S. stamps.
In 1851, Britain gave Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick responsibility for their own postal affairs. Later that year, each issued postage stamps. Stamps were subsequently issued by Newfoundland (1857), Prince Edward Island (1861), and British Columbia (1860). Stamps of the individual colonies were replaced by those of Canada after they joined the confederation.