Territorial evolution of Canada
The territorial evolution of Canada began when, on 1 July 1867, three colonies of British North America were united into the independent federal Dominion of Canada through Confederation. One of these colonies split into two new provinces, and three other colonies joined later. Canada continued to accrete new provinces and territories and evolved over decades into a fully sovereign nation.
Before being part of British North America, the constituents of the Dominion of Canada were part of the colonies of Canada and Acadia in New France, which were gradually ceded to Great Britain and later the United Kingdom after defeat in several wars. The French influence lived on, as the French language was common in the initial provinces of Canada, and remains one of the two official languages of the country.
The central expanse of Canada had been settled by the Hudson's Bay Company of the Kingdom of England, which had a royal monopoly over trade in the region; Rupert's Land was named after the company's first director, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The North West Company later moved into a large portion of the region, and competition and minor hostilities between the two companies forced their merger. What was to become the Colony of British Columbia was claimed as part of New Spain and Russian America, until 1793 and 1825 respectively, and was for a time shared with the United States as what was known to Americans as the Oregon Country, until in 1846 the border was extended west from the Rockies to the Pacific along the 49th Parallel.
Since it was formed, Canada's external borders have changed seven times, and it has grown from four provinces at Confederation to ten provinces and three territories. It has only lost significant territory in the border dispute with the Dominion of Newfoundland over Labrador, which later joined Canada as the 10th province.
- The Northwest Territories (NWT) have been made up of several districts, but one of these, the District of Keewatin, once had a higher status than the other districts. Because of this unique status, it is handled separately from the NWT on this list. After 1905 it no longer had any special status, and it was finally dissolved in 1999 when Nunavut was created.
- The maps used on this page, for simplicity, use the modern version of the borders of Labrador. For much of its history, Canada claimed Labrador extended only along the coast (the "Coasts of Labrador"), while Newfoundland claimed the larger area. It is Newfoundland's claim that is used.
- The Arctic Islands were still being explored and discovered throughout Canada's history; apart from the Sverdrup Islands, however, they were all claimed by Canada upon discovery, and to simplify the list the individual discoveries are omitted.
|July 1, 1867||The Dominion of Canada was formed from three provinces of British North America: the Province of Canada, which was split into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and the colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.|
|July 15, 1870||The United Kingdom transferred most of its remaining land in North America to Canada, with Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory becoming the North-West Territories. The Rupert's Land Act 1868 transferred the region to Canada as of 1869, but it was only consummated in 1870 when £300,000 was paid to the Hudson's Bay Company. The transfer of Rupert's Land is the largest land purchase in Canada's history. In 1870, the Manitoba Act took effect, and a large square area of the newly acquired region near the city of Winnipeg was made the province of Manitoba.|
|July 20, 1871||The Colony of British Columbia joined Canada as the sixth province. British Columbia joined the Canadian confederation following The Great Confederation Debates in the spring of 1870 and the Confederation Negotiations of the following summer and winter.|
|July 1, 1873||The British colony of Prince Edward Island joined Canada as the seventh province by an Imperial Order-in-Council (and, as part of the terms of union, was guaranteed a ferry link, a term which was deleted upon completion of the Confederation Bridge in 1997).|
|June 26, 1874||The borders of Ontario were provisionally expanded north and west. When the Province of Canada was formed, its borders were not entirely clear, and Ontario claimed to eventually reach all the way to the Rocky Mountains and Arctic Ocean. With Canada's acquisition of Rupert's Land, Ontario was interested in clearly defining its borders, especially since some of the new areas it was interested in were rapidly growing. After the federal government asked Ontario to pay for construction in the new disputed area, the province asked for an elaboration on its limits, and its boundary was moved north to the 51st parallel north.|
|October 7, 1876||The District of Keewatin was created by the passage of the Keewatin Act on October 7, 1876 in a central separate strip from the North-West Territories, in order to provide government for the growing area north of Manitoba and west of Ontario.|
|September 1, 1880||The United Kingdom transferred its Arctic Islands to Canada, and they were made part of the North-West Territories.|
|July 1, 1881||Manitoba's borders were expanded to a larger postage stamp province taking land easterly from the District of Keewatin to the western boundary of Ontario. Since the province's eastern border was defined as the "western boundary of Ontario", the exact definition of which was still unclear, Ontario disputed a portion of the new region.|
|May 7, 1886||The southwestern border of the District of Keewatin was adjusted to conform to the boundaries of the new provisional districts of the North-West Territories created in 1882, returning some land to the North-West Territories. The provisional districts were, the District of Alberta, the District of Athabasca, District of Assiniboia and the District of Saskatchewan, which all remained administrative areas of the North-West Territories unlike the District of Keewatin.|
|August 12, 1889||The dispute between Manitoba and Ontario ended as Ontario's borders were finalized in accordance with the Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889, which extended the province west to the Lake of the Woods and north to the Albany River.|
|October 2, 1895||Keewatin covered the portion of the North-West Territories north of Manitoba on the mainland, and all islands within Hudson, James, and Ungava Bays. The portion between the District of Keewatin, Ontario, and Hudson Bay was not in a district, and was assigned to the District of Keewatin by an Order of Council. Four additional provisional districts of the North-West Territories were formed, the District of Yukon, the District of Ungava, the District of Mackenzie, and the District of Franklin.|
|December 18, 1897||The borders of the provisional districts of the Northwest Territories and the District of Keewatin were re-adjusted, due to unclear descriptions of the original district boundaries. Southampton Island, Coats Island, Akimiski Island, and other islands were transferred to Keewatin.|
|June 13, 1898||Yukon Territory was created from the District of Yukon in the northwestern part of the North-West Territories, and the Quebec Boundary Extension Act, 1898 expanded the borders of Quebec north to the Eastmain River.|
|May 23, 1901||The eastern border of Yukon Territory was adjusted to the Peel River, so that the borders would not cross a watershed, and also to include some more islands.|
|October 20, 1903||The Alaska boundary dispute was resolved primarily in the favor of the United States.|
|September 1, 1905||The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created from the North-West Territories. Saskatchewan's western border and Alberta's eastern border run concurrent with the 4th meridian[A] or the 110°W longitude. Saskatchewan's eastern border is not a meridian, but instead follows a staircase-shaped Dominion Land Survey range line. Alberta's southern and northern borders are the same as Saskatchewan's: the southern border is the Canada–United States border or the 49th parallel and the northern border is the 60th parallel. Alberta's western border runs along peaks of the Rocky Mountain ridge then extends north to the 60th parallel and the District of Keewatin was dissolved.|
|1906||The Northwest Territories Act was passed in 1906, removing the hyphen from the name of the territory.|
|May 15, 1912||Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec were all expanded into their present-day boundaries. The Northwest Territories is now only situated north of the 60th parallel (except Hudson Bay and James Bay islands) with three districts, Keewatin, Mackenzie and Franklin.|
|1915||Brock Island, Borden Island, and Mackenzie King Island were discovered and added to the Northwest Territories.|
|June 13, 1916||Meighen Island was discovered and annexed to the Northwest Territories.|
|August 1916||Lougheed Island was discovered and annexed to the Northwest Territories.|
|1925||The boundaries of the Northwest Territories expand, and they now extended north to the North Pole.|
|March 11, 1927||The Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council decided the Labrador boundary dispute between the Dominion of Canada and the Dominion of Newfoundland, in favour of Newfoundland. Canada had argued that Labrador was only a short strip of land along the coast, and that the rest of the area claimed by Newfoundland was part of the Canadian province of Quebec. Newfoundland argued that the boundaries of Labrador went far inland. The Judicial Committee ruled in Newfoundland's favour, based on the definition of the boundary set out in British legislation in the early 19th century. The government of Quebec, however, still refuses to recognize the 1927 border delineation.|
|November 11, 1930||Sverdrup Islands were ceded to Canada by Norway, in exchange for British recognition of Norway's sovereignty over Jan Mayen.|
|1948||Air Force Island, Prince Charles Island, and Foley Island were discovered and added to Northwest Territories.|
|March 31, 1949||The Dominion of Newfoundland and its dependency of Labrador joined as the tenth province, named Newfoundland, as proclaimed by the British North America Act 1949.|
|April 1, 1999||The territory of Nunavut was created from the Northwest Territories. The provisional districts were no longer administrative areas of the Northwest Territories.|
|December 6, 2001||The province of Newfoundland was renamed Newfoundland and Labrador by the Constitution Amendment 2001 (Newfoundland and Labrador).|
|April 1, 2003||The name of the Yukon Territory became simply Yukon.|
- Former colonies and territories in Canada
- List of areas disputed by Canada and the United States
- List of Hudson's Bay Company trading posts
- List of French forts in North America
- Proposed provinces and territories of Canada
- Territorial claims in the Arctic
- Territorial evolution of North America since 1763
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- Rupert's Land Act, 1868. Wikisource. July 31, 1868.
- Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory Order. Wikisource. June 23, 1870.
- Manitoba Act, 1870. Wikisource. May 12, 1870.
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- Prince Edward Island Terms of Union. Wikisource. June 26, 1873.
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- Mills, David (1877). Report on the Boundaries of the Province of Ontario. Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co. p. 347.
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- "Keewatin". The Daily Free Press. December 1, 1876. p. 1.
- "Who Named the North-Land?". Manitoba Free Press. August 19, 1876. p. 3.
- "Keewatin". Manitoba Free Press. April 1, 1876. p. 1.
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- "Manitoba's Boundaries". Association of Manitoba Land Surveyors. Archived from the original on July 22, 2007. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
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- Parliament, Canada (1893). Report of the Dominion Fishery Commission on the Fisheries of the Province of Ontario. p. 36.
- Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act 1889. Wikisource. August 12, 1889.
- Keltie, J. Scott, ed. (1899). The Statesman's Year-Book. London: MacMillan & Co. p. 223.
- "Territorial Evolution, 1895". GeoGratis. Natural Resources Canada. January 8, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
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- Extract from Order in Council (Dominion) of the 18th December, 1897, Establishing Provisional Districts in the Unorganized Portions of Canada (PDF). The Labrador Boundary Dispute Documents (Report). Volume VIII. pp. 4012–4013. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- Yukon Territory Act. Wikisource. June 13, 1898.
- Yukon Territory Act, S.C. 1901, c. 41, s. 14
- Alberta Act. Wikisource. July 20, 1905.
- Saskatchewan Act. Wikisource. July 20, 1905.
- Thomson, Malcolm M.; Tanner, Richard W. (April 1977). "Canada's Prime Meridian". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Toronto. 71: 204. Bibcode:1977JRASC..71..204T.
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- "History of the Name of the Northwest Territories". Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
- "Henri Dorion debunks the Ten Great Myths about the Labrador boundary". Quebec – National Assembly – First Session, 34th Legislature. October 17, 1991. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
- Newfoundland Act. Wikisource. March 23, 1949.
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