North America's Historical Geography:
Compared to European expansion in the United States, penetration of the Canadian interior lagged several decades behind. Canadian unification occurred in part due to fear that the United States might expand toward the north. Expansion to the west was delayed by the harsh environment and difficult physical barriers (such as the Rocky Mountains).
Modern Canada's evolution is also rooted in the bicultural division between French and English speakers in the eastern half of the country. It was the French not the English who settled and colonized Canada beginning in the 1500's. New France during the seventeenth Century encompassed the St. Lawrence Basin, Great Lakes Region and the Mississippi Valley. Eventually Canada was ceded to the British after several wars between th French and the British ended with Britain victorious. By the time the British took control, considerable French cultural imprints (Roman Catholicism, Ferch law and land-tenure systems had been established. With the loss of the American colonies, many British settlers migrated north into Canada exacerbating tensions between French and English speakers.
In order to prevent additional conflict, the British Parliament divided Quebec into two provinces [naqueont]; Upper and Lower Canada (respectively Ontario and Quebec). Ontario would become English- speaking and Quebec would become Frech-speaking. After several unsuccessful attempts at dividing the region, the British North American Act of 1867 established the Canadian Federation (upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia later to be joined by the other provinces and territories). Ontario and Quebec were once again separated with French civil code left intact and French language recognized by Parliament and the courts in Quebec.
[The text of the above was written by Scott Girhard, San Antonio College from his online course GEOG 1301 World Geography. Used with permission.]