Canada: The Story of Us Episodes

Episode 1: Worlds Collide (pre-1608 – 1759)

Hundreds of Indigenous nations with advanced cultures already live in Canada when French and English colonizers arrive and fight for land claims. Indigenous people suffer as a result of first contact.

Indigenous communities perish as France and England compete for a stronghold on Canada.

Jean Talon, Indendant of New France, oversees the marriage of one of the Filles du Roi, Elizabeth Aubert, to farmer Aubin Lambert. (Canada: The Story of Us)

Hundreds of Indigenous nations with advanced cultures already live in Canada when French and English colonizers arrive and fight for land claims. Indigenous people suffer as a result of first contact.

Turtle Island (Pre-1608)

Over the course of 12,000 years, the North American continent evolves into a place populated by millions of Indigenous people living in hundreds of different nations. These diverse cultures range from the Wendat, a nation of farmers who lived in what is now Southern Ontario, to the Inuit hunters of the far north. These nations have advanced cultures, economies and spiritual traditions. Through diplomacy and trade, these nations grow and thrive on Turtle Island, the continent we now know as North America.

Samuel de Champlain builds the first European settlement (July to December 1608)

Samuel de Champlain attempts to establish a settlement in Innu territory in 1608. He's racing against time: if he and his men don't finish building the settlement before the start of the brutal winter, they will all die. While the settlement is being built, he discovers a conspiracy to assassinate him, orchestrated by Jean Duval. Desperate to retain control and dissuade any other would-be challengers to his command, Champlain deals out brutal justice, executing Duval. Only seven of Champlain's original 27-man crew are still alive at the end of the winter. Champlain is successful  in completing Habitation, his fortified settlement, which will eventually become Quebec City.

Champlain tips the balance in the war between the Wendat and the Haudenosaunee (Summer 1609)

Two of Eastern North America's most powerful Indigenous confederacies, the Wendat and the Haudenosaunee, are locked in a brutal war for control of the fur trading routes. Chief Oschasteguin, leader of the Wendat Confederacy's Arendaenronnon nation, decides to enter into an alliance with Champlain and the French settlers. The French will get the exclusive rights to sell the Wendat's furs in Europe. In return, the French will supply the Wendat with manpower and weapons in their fight against the Haudenosaunee. One of those weapons is the arquebus, the forerunner to the modern rifle. Champlain uses the arquebus to kill three Haudenosaunee chiefs at a battle in what is now upstate New York, killing two of them with one shot and causing the rest of the Haudenosaunee to retreat. This alliance between settlers of New France and the Wendat will be profitable for both parties — and deadly to their enemies — for years to come.

The Filles du Roi arrive in New France (1660 - 1670)

By the 1660s, the population of New France has stagnated. The British colonies to the south, meanwhile, are booming. A large part of the problem is that the French settlers are overwhelmingly male. To prevent the French from being pushed out by the English, French King Louis XIV sends some of France's poorest young women, mostly orphans, to New France. Their role: marry the settlers and produce large families. The women become known as "Filles du Roi".

One of these women is Elisabeth Aubert, an orphan from Paris who arrives in 1670. She will marry farmer Aubin Lambert and will go on to have 10 children by 1689. Approximately 800 women come from France to Canada from 1665 to 1673; the population of the colony explodes as a result. Two-thirds of French Canadians can still trace their ancestry to one of the original Filles du Roi.

Pierre Espirit Radisson & Medard des Groseilliers make a deal with the English (1659-1670)

With the beaver population of New France decimated by the fur trade, two French traders — Pierre Espirit Radisson and Medard des Groseilliers — set out for new trapping territory. On the south shore of Lake Superior, they meet with Cree traders who show them some of the finest furs they've ever seen. The Cree traders explain that these furs come from an area to the north, on the shore of Hudson Bay, and provide a route to get there.

When des Groseilliers and Radisson demonstrate this new source of rich furs to the administrator of New France, he refuses their plan and briefly jails them for not coming to him earlier. Des Groseilliers and Radisson travel across the Atlantic ocean to take their proposal to the British, who enthusiastically agree to finance them. King Charles II unilaterally grants the Hudson's Bay Company control over a third of what is now Canada,

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham (September 1759)

After decimating the French settlements on the Atlantic coast during the Seven Years War, the British, led by General James Wolfe, move inland, looking to take the fortified city of Quebec in 1759. Wolfe uses the element of surprise in attacking French, striking at night and leading his men straight up the cliff face next to the city. He forces the French, lead by Louis-Joseph Montcalm, to face him on the Plains of Abraham — with deadly results. The British are victorious, but both Wolfe and Montcalm are killed in the battle.

New France falls and the British take over its territory, but need to win the co-operation of the thousands of French Canadians who remain.  Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples suffer greatly as a result of European contact, faced with new diseases brought over by the settlers. Within 100 years of contact, the 90 per cent of the Indigenous population had died.

Featured interviews 
Adrienne Clarkson, Ann-Marie MacDonald Christopher Plummer, Colm Feore, Duane Howard,  Duncan McCue, Georges St-Pierre, Hayden King, Jennifer Podemski, Jim Balsillie, John English, Joseph Boyden, Lorne Cardinal, Louise Lecavalier, Missy Peregrym, Paul Gross, Rick Hansen, Rick Hillier, Robert Bothwell, Roberta Jamieson, Sook-Yin Lee, Wade Davis


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