The present territory of Canada was initially colonized by British and French emigrants from 1608. Britain gained full control in 1759. The Dominion of Canada was created on 2 July 1867, as a confederation of the four eastern provinces, with a Federal government in Ottawa.
By 1905 Canadian territory had expanded westwards to comprise 9 provinces and two territories. Canadians made a great contribution during the First World War, fighting in many famous actions and losing more men than the much larger United States. After the war, a developing ‘Canada first’ attitude led to an increasing distance between Canada and Britain.
In 1931, Canada was established as a sovereign state within the Commonwealth. Britain formally relinquished control of defence and foreign policy. During the Second World War, Canadians again fought with great distinction, particularly at Dieppe and the Normandy landings. Canada was a founder member of NATO on 4 April 1949. A tenth province, Newfoundland, also joined Canada in 1949.
Postwar, Canadians fought in the Korean War and provided peace-keeping forces for Cyprus, Suez and Indo-China. In 1965, the Maple-leaf flag was adopted as the national flag.
Since the 1960s, French Canadian separatism has become a prominent issue. Some 30 per cent of the population are of French descent, most living in the Province of Quebec. However, successive referendums and constitutional inquires have not resulted in any realistic moves towards independence.
A Free Trade Agreement was signed with the USA in 1988, and extended to include Mexico in 1992. Canada contributed air and naval forces to the Allied Coalition in the 1991 Gulf War.