Northern Canada

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Northern Canada
Nord du Canada  (French)
Whitehorse Yukon.JPG
Downtown Whitehorse (the territories’ largest city), Yukon seen from the east side of the Yukon River
Northern territories in Canada.svg
Northern Canada, defined politically to comprise (from west to east) Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
CountryCanada
Territories
Largest city Whitehorse
Area
[1]
  Total3,535,263 km2 (1,364,973 sq mi)
Population
 (2016)
  Total113,604
  Estimate 
(2020 Q4) [2]
Increase2.svg126,535
  Density0.032/km2 (0.083/sq mi)

Northern Canada, colloquially the North or the Territories, is the vast northernmost region of Canada variously defined by geography and politics. Politically, the term refers to the three territories of Canada: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This area covers about 48 per cent of Canada's total land area, but has less than 1 per cent of Canada's population.

Contents

The terms "northern Canada" or "the North" may be used in contrast with the Far North, which may refer to the Canadian Arctic, the portion of Canada that lies north of the Arctic Circle, east of Alaska and west of Greenland. However, in many other uses the two areas are treated as a single unit.

Definitions

ClimatePoliticalHabitatNorthern development
Arctic.svg
Northern Canada.svg
Major habitat type CAN.svg
Canada North South Regions StatCan.png
Those parts of Northern Canada (dark green areas within the red line) considered to be part of the Arctic Region according to average temperature in the warmest month.Political definition of Northern Canada – the "territories" of Canada generally north of the 60th parallel [3] Barren Grounds and tundra are shown in light blue, and the taiga and boreal forest in dark blue.The three territories and northern portions of seven provinces are defined as northern Canada for northern development purposes by the Conference Board of Canada's Centre for the North, the Northern Development Ministers Forum, and Statistics Canada. [4]

Subdivisions

As a social rather than political region, the Canadian North is often subdivided into two distinct regions based on climate, the near north and the far north. The different climates of these two regions result in vastly different vegetation, and therefore very different economies, settlement patterns, and histories.

Near north

Outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Taiga in Yellowknife, NT.jpg
Outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Sheep Slot Rapids on the Firth River in the Yukon's Ivvavik National Park Sheep Slot Rapids, Firth River, Ivvavik National Park, YT.jpg
Sheep Slot Rapids on the Firth River in the Yukon's Ivvavik National Park

The "near north" or sub-Arctic is mostly synonymous with the Canadian boreal forest, a large area of evergreen-dominated forests with a subarctic climate. This area has traditionally been home to the Indigenous peoples of the Subarctic, that is the First Nations, who were hunters of moose, freshwater fishers and trappers. This region was heavily involved in the North American fur trade during its peak importance, and is home to many Métis people who originated in that trade. The area was mostly part of Rupert's Land under the nominal control of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) from 1670 to 1869 who regarded Rupert's Land as their proprietary colony.

In 1670, King Charles II of England in his grant creating the proprietary colony Rupert's Land defined its frontiers as all the lands adjudging Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay or rivers flowing into Hudson Bay, in theory giving control of much of what is now Canada to the HBC. [5] Under the royal charter of 2 May 1670, the HBC received the theoretical control of 1.5 million square miles making up 40% of what is now Canada. [6] Despite its claim that Rupert's Land was a proprietary colony, the HBC only controlled the areas around its forts (trading post) on the shores of James Bay and Hudson Bay, and never sought to impose political control on the First Nations peoples, whose co-operation was needed for the fur trade. For its first century, the HBC never ventured inland, being content to have the First Nations peoples come to its forts to trade fur for European goods. [7] The HBC only started to move inland in the late 18th century to assert its claim to Rupert's Land in response to rival fur traders coming out of Montreal who were hurting profits by going directly to the First Nations. [8]

The HBC's claim to Rupert's Land, which, as the company was the de facto administrator, included the North-Western Territory, was purchased by the Canadian government in 1869. [9] After buying Rupert's Land, Canada renamed the area it had purchased the Northwest Territories. Shortly thereafter the government made a series of treaties with the local First Nations regarding land title. This opened the region to non-Native settlement, as well as to forestry, mining, and oil and gas drilling. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon, leading to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896-1899 and the first substantial white settlements were made in the near north. To deal with the increased settlement in the Klondike, the Yukon Territory was created in 1898.

Today several million people live in the near north, around 15% of the Canadian total. Large parts of the near north are not part of Canada's territories, but rather are the northern parts of the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, meaning they have very different political histories as minority regions within larger units. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada reduced the size of the Northwest Territory by carving out new provinces out of it such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba together with the new territory of the Yukon while transferring other parts of the Northwest Territory to Ontario and Quebec.

Far north

A typical tundra landscape in Nunavut. Nunavut tundra -c.jpg
A typical tundra landscape in Nunavut.

The "far north" is synonymous with the areas north of the tree line: the Barren Grounds and tundra. This area is home to the various sub-groups of the Inuit, a people unrelated to other Indigenous peoples in Canada. These are people who have traditionally relied mostly on hunting marine mammals and caribou, mainly barren-ground caribou, as well as fish and migratory birds. The Inuit lived in groups that pursued a hunter-gather lifestyle, with a basic governmental system in which power was exercised by the local headman, a person acknowledged to be the best hunter, [10] and the angakkuq, sometimes called shamans. [11] This area was somewhat involved in the fur trade, but was more influenced by the whaling industry. [12] Britain maintained a claim to the far north as part of the British Arctic Territories, and in 1880 transferred its claim to Canada, who included the far north into the Northwest Territories. [12]

The Inuit were not aware of the existence of the British Arctic territory claim nor were they aware for some time afterwards that under international law their territories had just been included in Canada. [13] It was not until 1920 when detachments of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) started being sent into the far north to enforce Canadian law that Canadian sovereignty over the region became effective. [14] This area was not part of the early 20th century treaty process and aboriginal title to the land has been acknowledged by the Canadian government with the creation of autonomous territories instead of the Indian reserves of further south.

In 1982 a referendum was held to decide on splitting the Northwest Territories. This was followed by the 1992 Nunavut creation referendum with the majority of the people in far north voting to leave the Northwest Territories, leading to the new territory of Nunavut being created in 1999. Very few non-Indigenous people have settled in these areas, and the residents of the far north represent less than 1% of Canada's total population.

The far north is also often broken into the west and eastern parts and sometimes a central part. The eastern Arctic which means the self-governing territory of Nunavut (much of which is in the true Arctic, being north of the Arctic Circle), sometimes excluding Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk; Nunavik, an autonomous part of the province of Quebec; Nunatsiavut, an autonomous part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and perhaps a few parts of the Hudson Bay coast of Ontario and Manitoba. The western Arctic is the northernmost portion of the Northwest Territories (roughly Inuvik Region) and a small part of Yukon, together called the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and sometimes includes Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk. The central Arctic covers the pre-division Kitikmeot Region, Northwest Territories.

FlagArmsTerritoryCapitalAreaPopulation (2016) [15] Population density
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svg Coat of arms of Northwest Territories.svg Northwest Territories Yellowknife 1,346,106 km2 (519,734 sq mi)41,7860.031/km2 (0.080/sq mi)
Flag of Nunavut.svg Nunavut coat of arms.svg Nunavut Iqaluit 2,038,722 km2 (787,155 sq mi)35,9440.017/km2 (0.044/sq mi)
Flag of Yukon.svg Coat of arms of Yukon.svg Yukon Whitehorse 482,443 km2 (186,272 sq mi)35,8740.074/km2 (0.19/sq mi)

Territoriality

Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude, extending all the way north to the North Pole: all islands in the Arctic Archipelago and Herschel, off the Yukon coast, form part of the region, are Canadian territory and the territorial waters claimed by Canada surround these islands. [16] Views of territorial claims in this region are complicated by disagreements on legal principles. Canada and the Soviet Union/Russia have long claimed that their territory extends according to the sector principle to the North Pole. The United States does not accept the sector principle and does not make a sector claim based on its Alaskan Arctic coast. Claims that undersea geographic features are extensions of a country's continental shelf are also used to support claims; for example the Denmark/Greenland claim on territory to the North Pole, some of which is disputed by Canada.

Foreign ships, both civilian and military, are allowed the right of innocent passage through the territorial waters of a littoral state subject to conditions in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. [17] The right of innocent passage is not allowed, however, in internal waters, which are enclosed bodies of water or waters landward of a chain of islands. Disagreements about the sector principle or extension of territory to the North Pole and about the definition of internal waters in the Arctic lie behind differences in territorial claims in the Arctic. This claim is recognized by most countries with some exceptions, including the United States; Denmark, Russia, and Norway have made claims similar to those of Canada in the Arctic and are opposed by the European Union and the United States. This is especially important with the Northwest Passage. Canada asserts control of this passage as part of the Canadian Internal Waters because it is within 20 km (12 mi) of Canadian islands; the United States claims that it is in international waters. Today ice and freezing temperatures make this a minor issue, but climate change may make the passage more accessible to shipping, something that concerns the Canadian government and inhabitants of the environmentally sensitive region. [18]

Similarly, the disputed Hans Island (with Denmark), in the Nares Strait, which is west of Greenland, may be an indication of challenges to overall Canadian sovereignty in the North.

Topography (geography)

The western Canadian Arctic early June 2010. Spring in the Canadian Arctic.jpg
The western Canadian Arctic early June 2010.

While the largest part of the Arctic is composed of permanent ice and the Canadian Arctic tundra north of the tree line, it encompasses geological regions of varying types: the Innuitian Mountains, associated with the Arctic Cordillera mountain system, are geologically distinct from the Arctic Region (which consists largely of lowlands). The Arctic and Hudson Bay Lowlands comprise a substantial part of the geographic region often considered part of the Canadian Shield (in contrast to the sole geological area). The ground in the Arctic is mostly composed of permafrost, making construction difficult and often hazardous, and agriculture virtually impossible.

The Arctic watershed (or drainage basin) drains northern parts of Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, most of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut as well as parts of Yukon into the Arctic Ocean, including the Beaufort Sea and Baffin Bay. With the exception of the Mackenzie River, Canada's longest river, this watershed has been little used for hydroelectricity. The Peace and Athabasca rivers along with Great Bear and Great Slave Lake (respectively the largest and second largest lakes wholly enclosed within Canada), are significant elements of the Arctic watershed. Each of these elements eventually merges with the Mackenzie so that it thereby drains the vast majority of the Arctic watershed.

Climate

Overview

Under the Köppen climate classification, much of Northern Canada has a subarctic climate, with a tundra climate in most of the Arctic Archipelago and an Ice cap climate in the Arctic Cordillera. [19] [20] For more than half of the year, much of Northern Canada is snow and ice-covered, with some limited moderation by the relatively warmer waters in coastal areas with temperatures generally remaining below the freezing mark from October to May. [20] During the coldest three months, mean monthly temperatures range from −29 °C (−20 °F) in the southern sections to −34 °C (−30 °F) in the northern sections although temperatures can go down to −48 to −51 °C (−55 to −60 °F). [20] Owing to the dry cold air prevalent throughout most of the region, snowfall is often light in nature. [20] During the short summers, much of Northern Canada is snow free, except for the Arctic Cordillera which remains covered with snow and ice throughout the year. [20] In the summer months, temperatures average below 7 °C (45 °F) and may occasionally exceed 18 °C (65 °F). [20] Most of the rainfall accumulated occurs in the summer months, ranging from 25 to 51 mm (1 to 2 in) in the northernmost islands to 180 mm (7 in) at the southern end of Baffin Island. [20]

Demographics

Iqaluit, Nunavut is the capital, the only city and largest population centre in Nunavut Iqaluit-aerial.jpg
Iqaluit, Nunavut is the capital, the only city and largest population centre in Nunavut
Skyline of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Downtown Yellowknife 2.jpg
Skyline of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Using the political definition of the three northern territories, the north, with an area of 3,921,739 km2 (1,514,192 sq mi), makes up 39.3% of Canada. [21]

Although vast, the entire region is very sparsely populated. As of 2016, only about 113,604 people lived there compared to 35,151,728 in the rest of Canada. [15]

The population density for Northern Canada is 0.03/km2 (0.078/sq mi) (0.07/km2 (0.18/sq mi) for Yukon, 0.04/km2 (0.10/sq mi) for the NWT and 0.02/km2 (0.052/sq mi) for Nunavut) compared to 3.7/km2 (9.6/sq mi) for Canada. [22]

It is heavily endowed with natural resources and in most cases they are very expensive to extract and situated in fragile environmental areas. Though GDP per person is higher than elsewhere in Canada, the region remains relatively poor, mostly because of the extremely high cost of most consumer goods, and the region is heavily subsidised by the government of Canada.

As of 2016, 53.3% of the population of the three territories (23.3% in Yukon, [23] 50.7% in the NWT [23] and 85.9% in Nunavut [23] ) is Indigenous, Inuit, First Nations or Métis. The Inuit are the largest group of Indigenous peoples in Northern Canada, and 53.0% of all Canada's Inuit live in Northern Canada, with Nunavut accounting for 46.4%. [23] The region also contains several groups of First Nations, who are mainly Dene with the Chipewyan making up the largest sub-group. The three territories each have a greater proportion of Aboriginal inhabitants than any of Canada's provinces. There are also many more recent[ when? ] immigrants from around the world; of the territories, Yukon has the largest percentage of non-Aboriginal inhabitants, while Nunavut the smallest. [23]

As of 2016 census, the largest settlement in Northern Canada is the capital of Yukon, Whitehorse with 25,085. [24] Second is Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, which contains 19,569 inhabitants. [25] Third is Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, with 7,082. [26]

 
Largest cities or towns in Northern Canada
Rank Territory Pop.Rank Territory Pop.
Sunset, in Whitehorse, Yukon 2013.jpg
Whitehorse
Downtown Yellowknife 2 second version.jpg
Yellowknife
1 Whitehorse Yukon 25,08511 Igloolik Nunavut 1,682 Iqaluit from Joamie Hill.JPG
Iqaluit
The High Rise in Hay River 02.jpg
Hay River
2 Yellowknife Northwest Territories 19,56912 Cambridge Bay Nunavut 1,619
3 Iqaluit Nunavut 7,08213 Pond Inlet Nunavut 1,617
4 Hay River Northwest Territories 3,52814 Pangnirtung Nunavut 1,481
5 Inuvik Northwest Territories 3,24315 Kinngait Nunavut 1,441
6 Fort Smith Northwest Territories 2,54216 Dawson City Yukon 1,375
7 Arviat Nunavut 2,51417 Fort Simpson Northwest Territories 1,202
8 Rankin Inlet Nunavut 2,44118 Gjoa Haven Nunavut 1,197
9 Behchokǫ̀ Northwest Territories 1,87419 Naujaat Nunavut 1,082
10 Baker Lake Nunavut 1,69020 Kugluktuk Nunavut 1,057

Recent

Although it has not been on the same scale, some towns and cities have experienced population increases not seen for several decades before. Yellowknife has become the centre of diamond production for Canada (which has become one of the top three countries for diamonds).

In the 2006 Canadian Census, the three territories posted a combined population of over 100,000 people for the first time in Canadian history. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Iqaluit Capital and largest city of Nunavut, Canada

Iqaluit is the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, its largest community, and its only city. It was known as Frobisher Bay from 1942 to 1987, after the large bay on the coast of which the city is situated. In 1987, its traditional Inuktitut name was restored.

Northwest Territories Territory of Canada

The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada. At a land area of approximately 1,144,000 km2 (442,000 sq mi) and a 2016 census population of 41,790, it is the second-largest and the most populous of the three territories in Northern Canada. Its estimated population as of 2021 is 45,504. Yellowknife is the capital, most populous community, and only city in the territory; its population was 19,569 as of the 2016 census. It became the territorial capital in 1967, following recommendations by the Carrothers Commission.

Pond Inlet Hamlet in Nunavut, Canada

Pond Inlet is a small, predominantly Inuit community in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada, located on northern Baffin Island. To the Inuit the name of the place "is and always has been Mittimatalik." The Scottish explorer Sir John Ross had named an arm of the sea that separates Bylot Island from Baffin Island as Pond's Bay, and the hamlet now shares that name. On August 29, 1921, the Hudson's Bay Company opened its trading post near the Inuit camp and named it Pond Inlet, marking the expansion of its trading empire into the High Arctic.

North-Western Territory Region of British North America (1670–1870)

The North-Western Territory was a region of British North America extant until 1870 and named for where it lay in relation to Rupert's Land.

Qikiqtaaluk Region Region of Nunavut, Canada

The Qikiqtaaluk Region, Qikiqtani Region or Baffin Region is the easternmost administrative region of Nunavut, Canada. Qikiqtaaluk is the traditional Inuktitut name for Baffin Island. Although the Qikiqtaaluk Region is the most commonly used name in official contexts, several notable public organizations, including Statistics Canada prefer the older term Baffin Region.

The vastness of Canada's Northwest Territories meant that for much of its history it was divided into several districts for ease of administration. The number and size of these territorial districts varied as other provinces and territories of Canada were created and expanded. The districts of the Northwest Territories were abolished in 1999 with the creation of the Nunavut territory and the contraction of the Northwest Territories to its current size.

Kitikmeot Region Region in Nunavut, Canada

Kitikmeot Region is an administrative region of Nunavut, Canada. It consists of the southern and eastern parts of Victoria Island with the adjacent part of the mainland as far as the Boothia Peninsula, together with King William Island and the southern portion of Prince of Wales Island. The regional centre is Cambridge Bay.

Whale Cove, Nunavut Place in Nunavut, Canada

Whale Cove, is a hamlet located 74 km (46 mi) south southwest of Rankin Inlet, 145 km (90 mi) northeast of Arviat, in Kivalliq Region, Nunavut, Canada, on the western shore of Hudson Bay.

Coral Harbour Hamlet in Nunavut, Canada

Coral Harbour, is a small Inuit community that is located on Southampton Island, Kivalliq Region, in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Its name is derived from the fossilized coral that can be found around the waters of the community which is situated at the head of South Bay. The name of the settlement in Inuktitut is Salliq, sometimes used to refer to all of Southampton Island. The plural Salliit, means large flat island(s) in front of the mainland.

British Arctic Territories Former British territory

The British Arctic territories, now known as the Arctic Archipelago were claimed by the United Kingdom in North America. The region was part of British North America.

History of the Northwest Territories

The history of the Northwest Territories covers the period from thousands of years ago to the present day. Prior to European colonization, the lands that encompass present-day Northwest Territories were inhabited for millennia by several First Nations. European explorers and fur traders began to explore the region since the late-16th century. By the 17th century, the British laid claim to both the North-Western Territory and Rupert's Land; and granted the Hudson's Bay Company a commercial fur trade monopoly over the latter region.

History of Nunavut

The history of Nunavut covers the period from the arrival of the Paleo-Eskimo thousands of years ago to present day. Prior to the colonization of the continent by Europeans, the lands encompassing present-day Nunavut were inhabited by several historical cultural groups, including the Pre-Dorset, the Dorsets, the Thule and their descendants, the Inuit.

The Canadian territory of Nunavut covers about 1.9 million square kilometres of land and water including part of the mainland, most of the Arctic islands, and all of the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Ungava Bay which belonged to the Northwest Territories. This makes it the fifth largest country subdivision in the world. If Nunavut were a country, it would rank 13th in area, after the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nunavut has land borders with Manitoba, the Northwest Territories on several islands as well as the mainland, and a tiny land border with Newfoundland and Labrador on Killiniq Island.

Nunavut Territory of Canada

Nunavut is the largest and northernmost territory of Canada. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, which provided this territory to the Inuit for independent government. The boundaries had been drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's political map since the province of Newfoundland was admitted in 1949.

Geography of Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories is a territory in Northern Canada, specifically in Northwestern Canada between Yukon Territory and Nunavut including part of Victoria Island, Melville Island, and other islands on the western Arctic Archipelago. Originally a much wider territory enclosing most of central and northern Canada, the Northwest Territories was created in 1870 from the Hudson's Bay Company's holdings that were sold to Canada from 1869-1870. In addition, Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed from the territory in 1905. In 1999, it was divided again: the eastern portion became the new territory of Nunavut. Yellowknife stands as its largest city and capital. It has a population of 42,800 and has an area of 532,643 sq mi (1,379,540 km2). The current territory lies west of Nunavut, north of latitude 60° north, and east of Yukon.

Milne Inlet inlet at confluence of Eclipse Sound and Navy Board Inlet in Nunavut

Milne Inlet is a small, shallow arm of Eclipse Sound which, along with Navy Board Inlet, separates Bylot Island from Baffin Island in Nunavut's Qikiqtaaluk Region. Milne Inlet flows in a southerly direction from Navy Board Inlet at the confluence of Eclipse Sound. Milne Inlet is shallow and has high tides and strong winds. It only has 90 days where it is ice-free—from August to October. The hamlet of Mittimatalik —Pond Inlet which is 92% Inuit, is the gateway to many tourist attractions in the region, and is 80 km from Milne Inlet. The region is part of the Arctic Cordillera, with one of Canada's most inhospitable climates—with long, dark winters and temperatures averaging −35 °C (−31 °F).

Inuvialuit Settlement Region Region in Canada

The Inuvialuit Settlement Region, abbreviated as ISR, located in Canada's western Arctic, was designated in 1984 in the Inuvialuit Final Agreement by the Government of Canada for the Inuvialuit people. It spans 90,650 km2 (35,000 sq mi) of land, mostly above the tree line, and includes several subregions: the Beaufort Sea, the Mackenzie River delta, the northern portion of Yukon, and the northwest portion of the Northwest Territories. The ISR includes both Crown Lands and Inuvialuit Private Lands.

Inuit Nunangat Inuit Regions of Canada in Northwest Territories Nunavut Nunavik Nunatsiavut

Inuit Nunangat is the homeland of the Inuit in Canada. This Arctic homeland consists of four northern Canadian regions called the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, the territory Nunavut (ᓄᓇᕗᑦ), Nunavik (ᓄᓇᕕᒃ) in northern Quebec and Nunatsiavut of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Arctic policy of Canada includes both the foreign policy of Canada in regard to the Arctic region and Canada's domestic policy towards its Arctic territories. This includes the devolution of powers to the territories. Canada's Arctic policy includes the plans and provisions of these regional governments. It encompasses the exercise of sovereignty, social and economic development, the protection of the environment, and the improving and devolving of governance.

References

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Further reading

Coordinates: 65°49′12″N107°04′48″W / 65.82000°N 107.08000°W / 65.82000; -107.08000