A chronology of key events:
1497 - Italian-born navigator John Cabot reaches the coasts of Newfoundland and Cape Breton.
Canada's capital Ottawa, known as "Silicon Valley North"
1855: Settlement of Bytown rechristened Ottawa
Name has Indian origins
1534 - Jacques Cartier explores the St Lawrence river, claims the shores of the Gulf of St Lawrence for France.
1583 - Newfoundland becomes England's first overseas colony.
1600s - Fur trade rivalry between the French, English and Dutch; the Europeans exploit existing rivalries between Indian nations to form alliances.
1627 - Company of New France established to govern and exploit "New France" - France's North American colonies.
1670 - Hudson's Bay Company established by London traders. The company holds trading rights for regions whose rivers drain into Hudson Bay.
1701 - Thirty-eight Indian nations sign a peace treaty near Montreal with the French, ending 20 years of diplomacy.
1756 - Seven Years' War begins, between New France and the larger and economically-stronger British colonies. After early French successes, the settlement of Quebec falls in 1759 and the British advance on Montreal.
1763 - Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain acquires all French colonies east of the Mississippi including New France, which becomes the colony of Quebec.
1774 - The Quebec Act recognises the French language and the Roman Catholic religion in the colony.
1776 onwards - Loyalist refugees from the American War of Independence settle in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.
1783 - Fur traders in Montreal set up the North West Company. The company builds up a network of trading posts across the west and north; its expeditions reach the Pacific coast.
1791 - Quebec divided into Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) and Upper Canada (present-day Ontario).
1800s - Immigration picks up. Thousands of newcomers from England, Scotland and Ireland arrive each year.
1812-14 - War of 1812 between the US and Britain, largely over the effects on the US of British blockades of French ports. Action includes naval battles in the Great Lakes and a US attack on York (present-day Toronto). But the US fails to realise its plans to invade Canada.
1821 - Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company merge, after years of bitter rivalry descend into bloodshed.
1837/8 - Armed rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada, caused by disaffection with the ruling elites, poverty and social divisions.
1841 - Formation of the United Province of Canada reunites Canada East (Lower) and Canada West (Upper) Canada.
Union of Canada
1867 - British North America Act unites Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the Dominion of Canada.
1870 - Manitoba becomes fifth province, followed by British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.
1885 - Canadian Pacific railroad is completed.
1898 - Gold rush along the upper Yukon River; Yukon Territory given separate status.
1905 - Alberta and Saskatchewan become provinces of Canada.
1914 - Outbreak of World War I. Canada fights on the side of Britain and France. Some French-speaking Canadians are wary of the move.
Autonomy from Britain
1931 - Statute of Westminster grants British dominions complete autonomy.
1939 - Outbreak of World War II: Canadian forces are active in Italy, Europe, the Atlantic and elsewhere.
1947 - Canada is declared to be of equal status with Great Britain within the Commonwealth.
1949 - Canada becomes founder member of Nato. Newfoundland, until then a British dominion, becomes a province of Canada.
1950 - War in Korea. Canadian forces participate in the United Nations war effort.
1965 - The present Canadian flag is adopted, replacing one which had incorporated the British flag.
1967 - Expo 67 in Montreal provides impetus to Canadian national identity. French President Charles de Gaulle visits and declares 'Vive le Quebec libre' (Long live free Quebec).
1968 - Pierre Trudeau of the Liberal party wins elections. Parti Quebecois (PQ) is formed to push for complete independence for Quebec.
1970 - Members of a radical Quebec separatist group, the Front de Liberation du Quebec, kidnap a British trade official and murder a Quebec minister.
1976 - PQ wins elections in Quebec.
1980 - A referendum on the separation of Quebec is defeated.
1982 - The UK transfers final legal powers over Canada. Canada is now completely free. The country adopts its new constitution, which includes a charter of rights.
1984 - Trudeau retires. Elections are won by the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney. Mulroney realigns foreign policy towards Europe and the US.
1985 - 329 people, including 280 Canadians, are killed in a bomb attack on an Air India jet travelling between Montreal and London.
1989 - Canada and the US agree to establish free trade.
1991 - Canadian forces participate in the Gulf War following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
1992 - Canada, US and Mexico finalise the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).
Conservatives' election disaster
1993 - Mulroney resigns as leader of the Progressive Conservatives in February but remains prime minister until June. He is succeeded by Kim Campbell, Canada's first female prime minister. The Canadian parliament ratifies Nafta. Campbell calls an election in October, but her party suffers a humiliating defeat, winning only 2 seats when previously it had held 169. Campbell resigns. Jean Chretien of the Liberals becomes prime minister.
1995 - A referendum in Quebec rejects independence by a margin of only 1%.
1997 - Chretien is re-elected prime minister with a reduced majority.
1998 - Supreme court rules that if Quebec votes to secede, it can only carry out the policy with the federal government's consent. For its part, the federal government is obliged to negotiate on secession if a majority of Quebec's citizens desires it.
1999 - Territory of Nunavut is formed in the north-west. It is the first territory in Canada to have a majority indigenous population.
2000 - Chretien again elected prime minister. His Liberal Party picks up votes in Quebec, weakening support for Quebec separatists.
2001 April - Leaders of countries from across the Americas meet in Canada at the Summit of the Americas. They reaffirm their commitment to setting up the world's largest free trade zone by 2005.
2003 March - Canada opts not to join the US-led coalition against Iraq. The move sparks fierce domestic political debate, and Prime Minister Chretien comes under fire from Washington.
2003 March-April - Toronto is hit by the biggest outbreak of the flu-like Sars virus outside Asia.
2003 April - Liberal Party beats the Parti Quebecois in provincial elections in Quebec, ending nine years of rule by the pro-independence party.
2003 14 August - Biggest power cut in North American history hits Toronto, Ottawa and other parts of Ontario as well as cities in the US.
2003 December - Former finance minister Paul Martin is sworn in as prime minister. Jean Chretien retires after 10 years in office.
2004 February - Scandal erupts over misuse of government money intended for advertising and sponsorship. Prime minister orders inquiry.
2004 June - Prime Minister Paul Martin is returned to power in general elections, but his Liberal party is stripped of its majority.
2005 May - Government wins a confidence motion in parliament by just one vote. The opposition had been determined to defeat the government over the financial scandal.
2005 July - Senate approves a bill to legalise same-sex marriages.
2005 August - Canada sends naval vessels to Churchill, an Arctic port, for the first time in 30 years. The move is seen as a challenge to rival territorial claims and follows a spat with Denmark over an uninhabited island.
2005 November - A commission set up to investigate the scandal involving misspent government money exonerates PM Paul Martin, but criticises his predecessor Jean Chretien.
2005 November - Paul Martin's minority Liberal government is brought down in a vote of no confidence.
2006 January - Stephen Harper's Conservatives defeat Paul Martin in general elections, ending 12 years of Liberal government.
2006 May - MPs vote by a narrow margin to extend Canada's military deployment in Afghanistan until 2009.
2006 June - In a major anti-terror operation, 17 people are arrested in Toronto on suspicion of planning attacks. An official says the men were inspired by al-Qaeda.
2006 November - Parliament agrees that the Quebecois should be considered a "nation" within Canada. The proposal was put forward by PM Stephen Harper.
2007 March - The Action Democratic Party, which advocates more autonomy for Quebec but within a federal Canada, makes dramatic gains in provincial elections.
2008 June - Government apologises for earlier policy of forcing aboriginal children to attend boarding schools aimed at assimilating them. Most of the schools were closed in the 1970s.
2008 October - Conservatives improve their standing in early general election, but still fall short of gaining overall majority.
2008 December - Opposition parties unite to bring down the minority Conservative government over its response to the global economic crisis but PM Stephen Harper dodges a no-confidence vote by asking Governor-General Michelle Jean to suspend parliament until January.
2009 February - Parliament passes budget including major stimulus package, thereby ensuring survival of the Conservative minority government.
2009 December PM Stephen Harper prorogues parliament for two months, saying the government needs more time to adjust its budget. Opposition leaders accuse him of seeking to avoid a debate on the government's alleged complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees.
2010 January - Canada hosts Winter Olympics.
Suspected ringleader of Islamic extremist group is jailed for life for plot to bomb Toronto stock exchange.
2010 June - Rwandan jailed under Canada's new war crimes act allowing courts to consider war crimes committed abroad.
A Toronto policeman's remark linking rape to dressing like ''sluts'', sparked worldwide demonstrations
Truth and reconciliation commission begins hearings into policy which forced indigenous people to abandon their cultural identity.
2010 July - Political storm over plan to change national census.
2011 March - Opposition parties withdraw support from minority Conservative government in row over budget proposals. Government falls after losing no-confidence vote.
2011 May - Conservatives win third consecutive term in government, and a parliamentary majority. The elections shake up the opposition, with the Liberal Party slipping into third place for the first time.
2011 April - Toronto policeman's remark that women can avoid rape by avoiding dressing like ''sluts'', prompts a global phenomenon: a slutwalk protest.
2011 October - Supreme Court rejects bid to shut the Insite Centre, the only facility in North America where addicts may legally inject drugs
2011 November - Canada joins the US and Britain in tightening sanctions against Iran.
2011 December - Canada becomes the first country to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses.
2012 January - Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls for a fresh start in government relations with Canada's native people.