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Canada was a French colony established on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain. Along with the colonies of Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Louisiana, Canada formed part of the French-controlled area of North America known as New France.

Canada supported itself through the fur trade with the Huron, Algonquin, and Montagnais tribes, which brought the colonists into conflict with the Iroquois. The population of Canada rose slowly, reaching 103 colonists in 1630 and 355 in 1640. Along with the original settlement at Quebec City, Canada expanded with the establishment of Trois-Rivières in 1634 and Montreal in 1642. A census conducted in 1666 found the population of Canada to be 3,215, with 2,034 men and 1,181 women. In order to strengthen the colony and reduce the disparity of the sexes, King Louis XIV initiated a program to send young single women, known as the King's Daughters, to Canada; approximately 800 arrived between 1663 and 1673.

Beginning in 1688, France fought a series of wars with Great Britain, which spread to their respective colonies in North America. During the last of these, known as the Seven Years' War of 1754 - 1763, British forces suffered several early defeats before carrying out a successful conquest of the Canadian settlements. The British conquered Quebec City in 1759, and Montreal in 1760. During negotiations for the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French agreed to relinquish their claim to Canada and Louisiana in return for the Caribbean islands of Guadeloup and Martinique which the British had captured during the war.

After the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the colony of Canada was reorganized by the British into the Province of Quebec. During the North American Rebellion of 1775 - 1778, rebel attempts to conquer Quebec in 1775 were unsuccessful, and contributed to the eventual failure of the rebellion.