Canada has been called the Peaceable Kingdom but has also been defined by war. After European contact six centuries ago, wars among Indigenous Peoples over territory and resources were replaced by wars between colonial powers, aided by Indigenous allies, over territory and resources. War has defined Canada’s boundaries and changed how the world views us. But peace shaped its people.
People first came to the land that would become Canada during the last great ice age. It took thousands of years for them to spread across North and South America, dividing into tribes with varied cultures, developing from hunter-gatherers into farmers. And warriors. Then Europeans arrived, and that changed everything.
Europeans traded with Indigenous people, but they also had colonial ambitions. Wars, alliances and treaties established the boundaries of the fledgling country, which came together under the promise of peace, order and good government.
Causing economic booms, relieving economic busts, war has played a big part in Canada’s development. The railway that ties the country together was motivated by the fear of war. Taxation was introduced to help pay costs of wars and funded social programs that developed afterward. Reconstruction following wars introduced new industries and growing prosperity.
Social barriers came tumbling down in Canada after both world wars as people of all classes and kinds joined together to contribute to the war effort. Canadians proved as willing to work for social improvement at home as they were to fight on foreign battlefields. The result was better conditions for workers, extension of the vote and citizenship, a diversity of political choice in elections and social programs to support the disadvantaged and promote equality.
Canadian citizens have benefited from many products and projects undertaken as part of defensive or war efforts—including canals and railways, communications, housing, medical discoveries and developments, and consumer goods that have made life safer, easier and more enjoyable.
Canadians are justifiably proud of our accomplishments, but not so proud that we can’t address grievous errors of our past and make reparation. Canadians crave peace but will fight when they must. Even though Canadian warriors and peacekeepers have responded to many international conflicts, the country has gained a reputation as a champion of peace and multiculturism, which has attracted millions of immigrants. Now Canadians of all races, ethnic origins and creeds are a vital part of the country’s evolution.