Canadian Provinces and the Confederation

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Canadian Confederation (Confédération Canadienne), the birth of Canada as a nation, took place on July 1, 1867. That is the date when the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united in one dominion. Today, Canada is composed of 10 provinces and three territories occupying the world's second largest country in area after Russia, which covers roughly the northern two-fifths of the North American continent.

These are the dates each of the Canadian provinces and territories joined the vast Confederation, from verdant British Columbia in the Pacific coast and Saskatchewan on the central plains, to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia on the rugged Atlantic coast.

Canadian Province / TerritoryDate Entered ConfederationCapital City
Alberta (AB)Sept. 1, 1905Edmonton
  • Alberta lies in the central plains of the North American continent. The northern half of Alberta is a boreal forest; the southern quarter is prairie, and in between is aspen parkland. Its western boundary lies within the Rocky Mountains. First Nations people known to have resided in Alberta were Plains and Woodland bands, ancestors of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Plains and Woodland Cree. Important cities include Calgary and Banff. 
British Columbia (BC)July 20, 1871Victoria
  • British Columbia runs the length of the western coast of Canada, and its geography varies widely, from dry inland forests to range and canyons, to boreal forest and subarctic prairie. First Nations people from BC include the Tsilhqot'in Nation. Its most important city is Vancouver. 
Manitoba (MB)July 15, 1870Winnipeg
  • Manitoba adjoins Hudson Bay to the east; its northernmost regions are in permafrost, and much of the southern part has been reclaimed from swampland. Its vegetation ranges from coniferous forest to musket to tundra. The Ojibwe, Cree, Dene, Sioux, Mandan, and Assiniboine First Nations people all established settlements here and its modern cities include Brandon and Steinbach. 
New Brunswick (NB)July 1, 1867Fredericton
  • New Brunswick is located on the Atlantic (east) side of the country, within the Appalachian mountain range. The upland soils are shallow and acidic, discouraging settlement; and most of the province was forested when Europeans arrived. At that time, the inhabitants of New Brunswick were the Mi'kmaq, the Maliseet, and the Passamaquoddy First Nations people. Cities include Moncton and Saint John. 
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)March 31, 1949St. John's
  • The province of Newfoundland and Labrador includes two main islands and over 7,000 neighboring smaller ones which lie off the northeastern coast of Quebec province. Their climate varies from polar tundra to humid continental climate. The first human inhabitants were Maritime Archaic people; beginning about 7000 BCE; at the time of European colonization, Innu and Mi'kmaq families lived in the region. 
Northwest Territories (NT)July 15, 1870Yellowknife
  • Northwest Territories make up the major piece of Canada in the north; its major geographical feature is Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake; its climate and geography varies widely: about half of the total area lies above the tree line. First Nations people make up over 50 percent of the modern population; there are only 33 official communities in the province and Yellowknife is the largest. 
Nova Scotia (NS)July 1, 1867Halifax
  • Nova Scotia is a maritime province on the Atlantic coast, made up of the island of Cape Breton and 3,800 other smaller coastal islands. The climate is mostly continental; the province includes areas belonging to the Mi'kmaq nation, who inhabited the region when European colonization began. 
Nunavut (NU)April 1, 1999Iqaluit
  • Nunavut is a massive sparsely populated territory in Canada, and as a remote region,  it only has a population of about 36,000, almost entirely Inuit or other First Nations ethnicity. The territory includes part of the mainland, Baffin Island, most of the Arctic Archipelago and all of the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Ungava Bay. Nunavut has a mostly polar climate, although the southernly continental masses are cold subarctic.
Ontario (ON)July 1, 1867Toronto
  • Ontario is located in east-central Canada, home to the nation's capital city of Ottawa, and the most populated city, Toronto. Three physical regions include the Canadian Shield, rich in minerals; Hudson Bay lowlands, swampy and mostly unpopulated; and southern Ontario, where most of the people live. At the time of European colonization, the province was occupied by Algonquian (Ojibwe, Cree, and Algonquin) and Iroquois and Wyandot (Huron). 
Prince Edward Island (PE)July 1, 1873Charlottetown
  • Prince Edward Island is the tiniest province in Canada, a Maritime Atlantic provides made up of Prince Edward Island and several much smaller islands. Two urban areas dominate the physical landscape, Charlottetown Harbour, and Summerside Harbour. The interior landscape is primarily pastoral, and the coastlines have beaches, dunes, and red sandstone cliffs. It was and is home to members of the Mi'kmaq First Nations. 
Québec (QC)July 1, 1867Québec City
  • Quebec is the second-most populated province after Ontario and the second largest province after Nunavut. It is the only one to be predominantly French-speaking, and about half of the French speakers live in and around Montreal; the Quebec region is sparsely occupied by First Nations people. The southern climate is four-season continental, but the northern portions have longer winter seasons and a tundra vegetation.
Saskatchewan (SK)Sept. 1, 1905Regina
  • Saskatchewan is located next to Alberta in the central plains, with a prairie and boreal climate. First Nations people own nearly 1,200 square miles, in rural and urban areas near Saskatoon. Most of the people live in the southern third of the province, which is mostly prairie, with a sand dunal area. The northern region is mostly covered by boreal forest. 
Yukon Territory (YT)June 13, 1898Whitehorse
  • Yukon is the third of the great territories of Canda, located in the northwest of the country and sharing an Arctic Ocean coastline with Alaska. Most of the territory lies within the watershed of the Yukon River, and the southern part is dominated by long narrow glacier-fed alpine lakes. The climate is the Canadian Arctic; most of the people are First Nation, Metis or Inuit.

British North America Act Creates the Confederation

The British North America Act, an act of the United Kingdom's Parliament, created the confederation, divided the old colony of Canada into the provinces of Ontario and Québec, gave them constitutions, and instituted a provision for the entry of other colonies and territories in British North America to the confederation.

Canada as a dominion achieved domestic self-rule, but the British crown continued to direct Canada's international diplomacy and military alliances. Canada became entirely self-governing as a member of the British Empire in 1931, but it took until 1982 to complete the process of legislative self-governance when Canada won the right to amend its own constitution.

The British North America Act, also known as the Constitution Act, 1867, conferred on the new dominion a temporary constitution “similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom." It served as Canada’s “constitution” until 1982 when it was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867 and became the basis of Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982, by which the British Parliament ceded any lingering authority to the independent Canadian Parliament.

Constitution Act of 1982 Creates an Independent Country

In today's world, Canada shares popular culture and a 5,525-mile-long border with the United States—the longest border in the world not patrolled by military forces—and most of its 36 million people live within 185 miles of this international border. At the same time, this officially bilingual French- and English-speaking country is influential in the Commonwealth and plays a leading role in the organization of French-speaking countries known as La Francophonie.

Canadians, who live in one of the world's most sparsely populated countries, have created what many consider a model multicultural society, welcoming diverse immigrant populations and embracing Inuit native Indians in the northern tundra to urbanites in Toronto's so-called "banana belt" of relatively mild temperatures. In addition, Canada develops and exports an embarrassment of natural resources and intellectual capital that few countries can equal.

Canadians Create a World Leader

Canadians may be close to the United States, but they are miles away in temperament. They prefer orderly central government and community over individualism; in international affairs, they are more likely to serve the role of a peacemaker rather than a warrior and, whether at home or abroad, they are likely to have a pluralistic view of the world.

They live in a society that in most legal and official matters resembles Britain in the English-speaking areas of the country, France in Québec, where French adaptations have embedded themselves into a vibrant culture.

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