The Canadian province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory sit next to the Pacific Ocean. In the 18th century, these westernmost regions were not part of the nation of Canada, which became a country following confederation in 1867. The Pacific Northwest was still governed by the First Nations peoples when the expeditions of exploration arrived. Further east, Upper and Lower Canada were founded in the 18th century, encompassing the English and French speaking regions that are now the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Upper Canada was established to give British colonists and British Loyalists coming from the newly formed United States a society under British Law. The Catholic, French-speaking Lower Canadians had access to French civil law.
The French had established colonies in the early 1600s that combined First Nations and French interests into a unique local government. The fur trade drove the economy and took the French westward from the St. Lawrence River. The British-owned Hudson’s Bay Company also established fur trading interests in the east of what is now Canada. King Charles II gave them title and a trade monopoly in the watershed around Hudson Bay, which amounted to lands covering one third of modern Canada.The struggle between the French and British increased to armed conflict during the Seven Years War. This was fought from 1756-1763 between powers in Europe, and between the French and their First Nations allies against the English in North America. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris allocated much of “New France” to the British and to Spanish interests closer to Mexico. This left the Pacific Northwest open to claims and settlement by European and colonial powers.