How the Canadian History Shaped Our Identity

Subject: History
Pages: 5
Words: 1457
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: School


The Canadian identity refers to the many expressions, symbols, characteristics, unique culture, and conditions for being a Canadian. The most associated signs with the Canadian identity include the maple leaf, Canada, and Canadians. Canadian history has had a significant role in shaping the Canadian identity. It can get traced back to the seventeenth century, when the French and British cultures intermingled, giving birth to a unique national identity for the Canadian people (McDonald, 2021). The two fundamental themes that facilitated the emergence of the national identity include the complicated relationship between French and English Canadians and the close relationship between the British Empire and the English-speaking Canadians. Canada lost its political ties with the British Empire in the 20th century and became independent (Kymlicka, 2021). Immigrants from the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, and Africa have significantly reshaped their identity. The theme of multiculturalism emerges from the high recorded number of immigrants from diverse backgrounds associated with Canada. Canada is a highly diverse society due to the open immigration policy, the country’s large geographical size, the conquest of one European linguistic population by another, and the presence of indigenous people, thus complexing the possibility of having a more unified identity.

Cultural Life

In Canada, the indigenous people get divided into several ethnolinguistic groups, each having a vibrant developing society. The interaction with the European populations, mainly the British and the French, greatly affected all these unique developments. The linguistic groups involved include the Iroquois of central Canada, the Algonquian from the eastern, the Inuit from the north, the Salishan languages, the Athabaskan language groups, and the Cree from the northwest (McDonald, 2021). Canada gets regarded as being so diverse ethically and historically since no single national culture exists. The major influences resulting in its identity getting borrowed from the dominant languages. Despite French and English languages being official in Canada, particular cultures of different areas entirely depended on the reflection of the dominant language within. The Aboriginal people have maintained their distinctive culture while the immigrants have integrated into Canadian life (Doucerain, Amiot & Ryder, 2021). As a result, they both hold unique elements of their ancestral land, including celebrating Canada Day on July 1st to commemorate the country’s formation in 1867. The numerous First Nations and the diverse ethnic settlers in traditional Canada have made it hard to pinpoint the identity in the conventional sense. Fundamental social divisions like the separation of the immigrants from the second world war, the two solitudes, and the indigenous people from the European colonialists have led to Canada never achieving a single unified conception of the country (Hiranandani, 2019). From the historical happenings from the seventeenth century, Canadian culture became a mixture of American, British, and French influences. The three blend well and compete in every aspect of Canadian culture, from sports, to cooking, writing, and filmmaking. The government offers support to all ethnic groups to shape them to abide by the current Canadian identity. Canada adopted a multicultural national policy in 1971 to help the indigenous people and immigrants identify with the Canadian culture (Koggel, 2018). The economic growth since the mid-20th century has provided more excellent means for Canadians to practice and enjoy the arts, thus shaping the nation’s cultural identity (Hiranandani, 2019). The government declared the use of mass media to help facilitate the spread of relevant content ranging from books, local cultural products, and television programs, thus establishing a national identity.

French and British Settlement

Since the French started settling at Acadia, Canada, in 1605 and the establishment of the Quebec City in 1608, Canada got ruled and occupied by French colonialists who allied themselves with the indigenous people, especially in the west. It was after the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that led France gave up power to Great Britain. The claims to mainland Nova Scotia by France were given up to the British, and their settlement became more rampant, thus paving the way for the establishment of mainland Canada (Van Luijk, Giles &Millington, 2020). Before the American Revolution, the region was mainly occupied by New England planters who took them from the French-speaking Acadian population. In 1755, the Great Upheaval, one of the critical events in forming the Canadian identity, happened (Van Luijk et al., 2020). The forceful removal of the Acadian people by the British caused the death of many people. The Expulsion was part of the British military campaign against the French and occurred during the Indian and French wars. During the French dominance period, the French-speaking inhabitants were regarded as Canadien (Davis et al., 2021). Although the British officials opted to assimilate the conquered French speakers, it was impossible. The French were allowed to continue exercising the French culture and using the language. The most current Quebec identity is the determination of the French Acadians. They maintained their cultural and linguistic differences even in the face of the British, who had immigrated in high numbers and conquered the region. The American Revolution influenced the identity of English-speaking Canada (Davis et al., 2021). In English Canadian identity, the legacy of the Loyalists plays a significant role. Groups such as Americans and republicans marked the British of British North America as a distinguishable cultural existence for many generations (Hiranandani, 2019). American and British influences significantly affect the English-speaking portions of the country. As a result, they have strongly felt in the people’s day-to-day lives. The Quebec-French cultural identity is commonly distinguished through works of art, including music, architecture, and cuisine (Doucerain et al., 2021). Most meals prevalent in French areas, like poutine are uncommon in other regions with similar names but are present. The French and British cultures have integrated meals such as tandoori and pizza, being identified as national meals.

Migration to Canada and the 1812 War

Canada was the home of British loyalists of American origin during and after the American revolution. As a result, Canada became more adamant in its willingness to embrace republicanism. It was a destination for enslaved people from America and a refuge for American Vietnam war survivors (Kymlicka, 2021). Canada’s per capita immigration rate has been high due to the declining birth rate. It is believed that immigration to Canada has more positive impacts, thus identifying the culture as one that tolerates immigration, unlike other countries. Canada’s cultural identity has resulted from non-local immigrants like the French and British who came and settled in the region since the early sixteenth century. The government identified the 1812 war as the foundation for the emergence of Canada as a free and independent nation (McDonald, 2021). It became evident that Canada would not have succeeded had the American immigrants been able to overtake the city of Quebec. Winning the war against the immigrants ensured that Canadian society retained its linguistic and ethnic diversity. The achievement to date is the second most crucial part of the Canadian identity. Canada continuous accommodating of immigrants leads to multiculturalism and inter-ethnic relations getting experienced (Doucerain et al., 2021). As a result, the state accommodates all linguistic groups, giving birth to a diverse identity state. Cultural appreciation of ethnic diversity has promoted a higher willingness to endure differences. Multiculturalism is considered one of the most important accomplishments of the Canadian cultural identity (Davis et al., 2021). Critics have argued against multiculturalism’s role in Canada’s identity. Some arguments have been made against the assimilation of immigrants, as it is believed it weakens the national identity through functionalism.


Canada comprises various indigenous linguistics groups with their own cultural beliefs and identities. The forceful immigration of European and American immigrants altered the unique indigenous cultural practices. In the past, the numerous ethnic communities, not including the foreign powers, made it hard to pinpoint Canada’s exact identity. Since the onset of the events like the American Revolution and the Great Upheaval, Canadian culture got influenced and mixed with different ones brought by the Americans, British, and French. The French were the first to invade Canada and assimilate the people as they allied with them. After taking over the Acadia region and settling, the time came when the British invaded and overthrew the local French-speaking Acadians. The French gave up the land after losing the war to the British, who tried assimilating the locals but failed. They ended up allowing them to practice their language and culture, thus creating a multicultural society. The French Acadians maintaining their culture is considered an identity for the people in Quebec. Works of art in Quebec are used to identify the French-Canadian identity, while for the British Canadians, it is the result of the American Revolution. Canada experiences low birth rates, thereby replacing that with a high per capita immigration rate. Multiculturalism is said to be the most significant accomplishment of Canada’s identity.


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