The Real First Permanent European Settlement in Canada: Port Royal, Nova Scotia

I read the following article today and was appalled at what the CBC miniseries Canada: The Story of US is attempting to do: manipulate history. The article begins:

The new CBC miniseries Canada: The Story of Us has caused an uproar in a small Nova Scotia town after claiming that the first permanent European settlement was close to what is now Quebec City, not Port-Royal.

Annapolis Royal Mayor Bill MacDonald posted on Facebook this week that he was “very troubled that the CBC has misrepresented Canadian history in the first episode of its television miniseries.”

The location of Port-Royal is not far from modern-day Annapolis Royal and is a national historic site. Samuel de Champlain helped establish the settlement in 1605, although it was temporarily abandoned by the colonists in 1607.

“Annapolis Royal is the cradle of our nation, and this erroneous representation of history is disrespectful — as it erases (in a national broadcast) the true origins of our country,” MacDonald said.

“This misrepresentation of Canadian history warrants a campaign to set the record straight.”

I completely agree with Mayor MacDonald. The producers are wrong and the record needs to be set straight.

Welcome to Port Royal

The reason behind the producers choosing Quebec City over Port Royal was, “they decided to define permanence as a continuous, year-round population,” so they, “settled on Champlain’s 1608 settlement in what is now Quebec”. This in spite of Port Royal being settled in 1605 and still settled to this day.

It appears they arbitrarily decided to make the definition to suit their needs because they wanted to choose Quebec City. Perhaps they could have defined the first European settlement as the first place more than two individuals from Europe slept on land. If they were partial to Vikings, they could have stipulated the first settlement had to contain a type of structure—which would put L’anse Meadows, Newfoundland, in contention.

Or perhaps they could have chosen the first settlement where they spoke French…or English…or Gaelic. Or where the first European woman gave birth.

I’m sure the First Nations people are laughing at the fuss of Europeans debating their first permanent settlement, since they had settlements—permanent, though many seasonal—across the country.


Port Royal – still here after all these centuries.

Yet, there really is no debate. Port Royal is and always will be the first permanent European settlement in Canada, bar none. This CBC document—which was probably financed with tax-payers’ money—is spreading misinformation. It should be taken back to the cutting room, corrected and re-aired with the note the producers were in error. Nothing short of that will do.

Port Royal – Established in 1605


Sadly, those who lack common knowledge of Port Royal will believe the slop the creators of this miniseries is serving up, erasing the original settlement from its well-deserved status.

Also, knowing how biased and distorted the creators’ views were on our history, it leaves me to question everything else in the documentaries. How many other misrepresentations and errors will they contain?

The full article Why ‘Canada: The Story of US’ has angered a Nova Scotia town can be read on the CBC website.

UPDATE (Friday March 31, 2017; 7:55 pm): I was just alerted to the following article, also on the CBC website: CBC’s Port-Royal snub headed to House of Commons, Nova Scotia’s premier wants omission fixed.

UPDATE: (Friday March 31, 2017; 8:06 pm): This article published online by Annapolis County Spectator contains many comments that support my view of Port Royal being the first permanent European settlement in Canada: What You Said: Readers step up with their thoughts on Port-Royal and CBC.

UPDATE: (Saturday April 1, 2017; 7:05 am): Joseph Gagné, author of Electronic New France website, provides more insight into what is wrong with this mini series. Although he mentions—in general—there were many mistakes presented, he doesn’t single out the error of Port Royal’s not being names as the first permanent European settlement in Canada . Read “The Story of Us” is Not Quite Our Story

11 thoughts on “The Real First Permanent European Settlement in Canada: Port Royal, Nova Scotia

    • That would certainly grab their attention. I’m not aware of any campaign Mayor MacDonald has started, but I hope he starts one. They can also put up a sign at Port Royal stating the site is the first permanent European settlement.

  1. Once again let’s not offend Quebec, even if the facts say otherwise. No wonder Atlantic Canadians think the rest of Canada is biased.

    • I hadn’t thought of that, but there’s probably some truth to it. No one wants to offend anyone these days. Well, I think Nova Scotia is offended by this theft.

      There’s a saying out there that goes something like this, “The truth can’t be told without offending someone.”

  2. Pingback: This week’s crème de la crème — April 1, 2017 | Genealogy à la carte

  3. Your description of First Nations settlements across the country as “permanent though seasonal” is not far short of “slop” either. From Nova Scotia through the Great Lakes, across the southern prairies, into the Yukon and along the BC coast First Nations people have settlements that were permanently occupied, not seasonally but year-round, some continuously for as much as 11,000 years and still occupied. Stack that up against Port Royal, or Quebec, or any European settlement in the Americas for that matter.

    • Thanks for your input. Obviously, there is no comparison: permanent settlements were here long before Port Royal and Quebec City. From what I’ve read, they were here long before the First Nations too, but that’s just theory until more evidence is found.

  4. its all “slop”…we are one people descended from one people…the genome record has proven this…the minute we say “we’re, better or first…or that our religion is the only one” then that is the second that humans start treating others as “others” …That is the second we start building walls, raising flags, and murdering each other….we are one people! put all the Racism to bed now!

    • Thank you for your comment, but please take your labels elsewhere. I have no tolerance for them. There is no racism here. Debating where the first permanent European settlement was in Canada is NOT racist.

      And sadly, humans will continue to fight amongst themselves until their resources are depleted. It seems to be human nature, one that is self-destructive. Nothing you or I say will change that.

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