Provinces of Canada

Provinces and Territories of Canada with their Capital Cities
Provinces and Territories of Canada with their Capital Cities. E Pluribus Anthony

Canada is composed of 10 provinces and three territories occupying the world's second largest country in area after Russia. The country covers roughly the northern two-fifths of the North American continent.

Fast Facts: Canadian Provinces and Territories

  • Canada has 10 provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan.
  • There are three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon Territory.
  • Provinces and territories get their powers from the Canadian government. 
  • The last major change to the Canadian map was the creation of Nunavut from the Northwest Territories.

Forming the Canadian Provinces

The main difference between the two types of regions in Canada is a political one. Provinces get their authority to run their governments in Canada from the Constitution Act of 1867, and the territories are given their power by the Parliament. The first four provinces were created by the British North America Act in 1867, and included Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The first territories annexed into the Canadian Union were Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory in 1870. The last major change to the Canadian map was the creation of Nunavut, a territory organized from the Northwest Territories in 1993. 

The table below includes area, population, capital city, physical nature, and ethnic diversity of each of the territories and provinces in 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.

Alberta (AB)

  • Founding Date: Sept. 1, 1905
  • Capital: Edmonton
  • Area: 255,545 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 4,286,134

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 peoples known to have resided in Alberta prior to European colonization were Plains and Woodland bands, ancestors of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Plains and Woodland Cree. Important cities include Calgary and Banff. Today, 76.5% of Albertans are native English speakers, 2.2% speak French, 0.7% speak aboriginal languages (mostly Cree), and 23% speak immigrant languages (Tagalog, German, Punjabi). 

British Columbia (BC)

  • Founding Date: July 20, 1871
  • Capital: Victoria
  • Area: 364,771 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 4,817,160

British Columbia runs the length of the western coast of Canada. Its geography varies widely, from dry inland forests to range and canyons, to boreal forest and subarctic prairie. 

Its most important city is Vancouver. British Columbia was inhabited primarily by the Tsilhqot'in Nation before the European colonization. Today, a total of 71.1% of people in British Columbia speak English, 1.6% French, 0.2% aboriginal (Carrier, Gitxsan), and 29.3% speak immigrant languages (Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin). 

Manitoba (MB

  • Founding Date: July 15, 1870
  • Capital: Winnipeg
  • Area: 250,120 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 1,338,109

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 peoples all established settlements here. The region's modern cities include Brandon and Steinbach. Most Manitobans speak English (73.8%), 3.7% speak French, 2.6% speak aboriginal languages (Cree), and 22.4% speak immigrant languages (German, Tagalog, Punjabi). 

New Brunswick (NB) 

  • Founding Date: July 1, 1867
  • Capital: Fredericton
  • Area: 28,150 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 759,655

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 peoples. Cities include Moncton and Saint John. Today, approximately 65.4% of people in New Brunswick speak English, 32.4% French, 0.3% Aboriginal (Mi'kmaq), and 3.1% immigrant languages (Arabic and Mandarin). 

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

  • Founding Date: March 31, 1949
  • Capital: St. John's
  • Area: 156,456 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 528,817

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. Today, 97.2% of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador are native English speakers, 0.06% speak French, 0.5% Aboriginal languages (mostly Montagnais), and 2% speak immigrant languages (mostly Arabic, Tagalog, and Mandarin). 

​Northwest Territories (NT)

  • Founding Date: July 15, 1870
  • Capital: Yellowknife
  • Area: 519,744 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 44,520

Northwest Territories make up the major piece of Canada in the north. The province's 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 peoples make up over 50% of the modern population; there are only 33 official communities in the province and Yellowknife is the largest. The largest percentage of today's population speaks English (78.6%), 3.3% speak French, 12% speak aboriginal languages (Dogrib, South Slavey), and 8.1% speak immigrant languages (mostly Tagalog). 

Nova Scotia (NS)

  • Founding Date: July 1, 1867
  • Capital: Halifax
  • Area: 21,346 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 953,869

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. Today, 91.9% of the population speak English, 3.7% speak French, 0.5% Aboriginal languages (Mi'kmaq), and 4.8% immigrant languages (Arabic, Mandarin, German).

Nunavut (NU)

  • Founding Date: April 1, 1999
  • Capital: Iqaluit
  • Area: 808,199 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 7,996

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 southerly continental masses are cold subarctic.

Most (65.2%) of the people in Nunavut speak aboriginal languages, mostly Inuktitut; 32.9% speak English; 1.8% French; and 2.1% immigrant languages (mostly Tagalog).

Ontario (ON)

  • Founding Date: July 1, 1867
  • Capital: Toronto
  • Area: 415,606 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 14,193,384

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) peoples. Today, a total of 69.5% of the people in Ontario are native English speakers, 4.3% French, 0.2% Aboriginal languages (Ojibway), and 28.8% immigrant languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian, Punjabi). 

Prince Edward Island (PE)

  • Founding Date: July 1, 1873
  • Capital: Charlottetown
  • Area: 2,185 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 152,021

Prince Edward Island is the tiniest province in Canada, a Maritime Atlantic region 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.

Prince Edward Island is home to members of the Mi'kmaq First Nations. Today, a total of 91.5% of the population are English speakers, 3.8% French, 5.4% immigrant languages (mostly Mandarin), and under 0.1% Aboriginal languages (Mi'kmaq).

Québec (QC)

  • Founding Date: July 1, 1867
  • Capital: Québec City
  • Area: 595,402 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 8,394,034

Quebec is the second most populated province after Ontario and the second largest province after Nunavut. The southern climate is four-season continental, but the northern portions have longer winters and a tundra vegetation.

Quebec is the only province 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 peoples. About 79.1% of Quebecois are French speakers, 8.9% English, 0.6% Aboriginal (Cree), and 13.9% immigrant languages (Arabic, Spanish, Italian). 

Saskatchewan (SK) 

  • Founding Date: Sept. 1, 1905
  • Capital: Regina
  • Area: 251,371 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 1,163,925

Saskatchewan is located next to Alberta in the central plains, with a prairie and boreal climate. First Nations peoples 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 dune area. The northern region is mostly covered by boreal forest. 

A total of 84.1% of people in Saskatchewan are native English speakers, 1.6% French, 2.9% aboriginal (Cree, Dene), 13.1% immigrant languages (Tagalog, German, Ukrainian). 

Yukon Territory (YT) 

  • Founding Date: June 13, 1898
  • Capital: Whitehorse
  • Area: 186,276 sq mi
  • Population (2017): 38,459

Yukon is the third of the great territories of Canada, 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 residents of Yukon speak English (83.7%), about 5.1% speak French, 2.3% speak Aboriginal languages (Northern Tutchone, Kaska), and 10.7% speak immigrant languages (Tagalog, Geman). Most of the people describe themselves as ethnically First Nations, Metis or Inuit.

Creating a Country

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. 

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. As a dominion, Canada 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.

Sources and Further Information 

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Munroe, Susan. "Provinces of Canada." ThoughtCo, Nov. 7, 2020, thoughtco.com/entry-of-provinces-into-canadian-confederation-510083. Munroe, Susan. (2020, November 7). Provinces of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/entry-of-provinces-into-canadian-confederation-510083 Munroe, Susan. "Provinces of Canada." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/entry-of-provinces-into-canadian-confederation-510083 (accessed January 26, 2021).