America’s History of Aggression Against Canada

Amy Shira Teitel
20 min readDec 4, 2022

We don’t usually think of Canada when discussing America’s military past. But the US has invaded Canada numerous times without ever gaining a foothold in the Great White North. And since the countries share the longest land border in the world at 5,525 miles (8,891 km), border disputes nearly became full-blown military events over the years. And some of them were downright weird!

Before we get into it, we need a little primer on the relevant events in Canadian history.

Oh, Canada!

Canada’s history, much like America’s, is steeped in colonization by European powerhouses. In this case, England and France.

England was the first to plant its flag on territory that is modern-day Canada. In 1497, Italian explorer John Cabot reached Newfoundland and Labrador on behalf of King Henry VII. But Cabot never managed to set up a strong foothold for England. He left that door open for French explorer Jacques Cartier (September 23, 1491 — September 1, 1557) sailing on behalf of King François I (ruled January 1, 1515 — March 31, 1547).

Cartier made three trips between 1534 and 1541. Travelling down the St. Lawrence River, the major waterway from the Atlantic that leads into inner Canada, he got as far as the Lachine Rapids, which is close to modern-day Montréal. He reported to François that the land he found was massive, rich in fish and wildlife, and the indigenous people were willing to trade.

A bit of a sidebar, Carter is also credited with naming the country. The story goes that when he first met Iroquois, he misinterpreted the word “kanata,” which means village, as referring to the whole region. That name was later expanded to the entire country. It’s also worth noting that Cartier’s good relations with the Iroquois broke down when his men captured their chiefs, took them to France, and forced them to guide subsequent expeditions.

Those subsequent expeditions set up small camps along the St. Lawrence River in modern-day Quebec, but it wasn’t until King Henri IV’s rule (August 2, 1589 — May 14, 1610) that France established a firm foothold in Canada. Hoping to exploit the financial opportunity, he…

Amy Shira Teitel

Historian and author of Fighting for Space (February 2020) from Grand Central Publishing. Also public speaker, TV personality, and YouTuber. [The Vintage Space]