Territorial evolution of Canada

Territorial evolution of Canada

This is a timeline of the territorial evolution of the borders of Canada, listing each change to the internal and external borders of the country.

Canada became an independent nation in 1867 when three provinces of British North America united to form the new nation. One of these colonies split into two new provinces, three other provinces joined later, and three new provinces were carved from the large interior of the country that was ceded to Canada by the United Kingdom soon after it formed. Prior to being part of British North America, the provinces that made up the new nation of Canada were part of the colonies of Canada and Acadia in New France, which were gradually ceded to Great Britain and 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 was originally 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. The western colony of British Columbia was for a time shared with the United States as Oregon Country, until the border was fixed at the 49th parallel north. French influence on the western regions of Canada was far less than in the east.

Since it was formed, Canada's external borders have changed six times, and it has grown from four provinces to ten provinces and three territories. It has only lost territory in the small border dispute with the Dominion of Newfoundland over Labrador, which joined Canada some time later.


*The Northwest Territories 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 marked independent of the Northwest Territories on this list. In 1905, it was absorbed in to the NWT, and no longer had any special status; 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, Quebec 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 Alaska Boundary Dispute with the United States is not included; it would appear as a very thin strip on the map.


;July 1 1867The 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 1870The United Kingdom ceded most of its remaining land in North America to Canada: Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory became the North-West Territories. The Rupert's Land Act of 1868 transferred the region to Canada as of 1869, but it was only consummated in 1870 when £300,000 were paid to the Hudson's Bay Company. At this time, the Manitoba Act took effect, and a small square of this surrounding the city of Winnipeg was made the province of Manitoba.

;July 20 1871The British colony of British Columbia became a province.

;July 1 1873The British colony of Prince Edward Island became a province.

;1874The borders of Ontario were provisionally expanded north and west, anticipating future development and population growth.

;April 12 1876The District of Keewatin was created in a central strip of the North-West Territories.

;September 1 1880The United Kingdom ceded its Arctic Islands to Canada, and they were made part of the North-West Territories.

;July 1 1881
Manitoba's borders were expanded, but a large portion was disputed, as Ontario also claimed the land.

;1886The southwestern border of the District of Keewatin was adjusted.

;1889The disputed area between Manitoba and Ontario was awarded to Ontario, whose borders were expanded to the west and north.

;1895The District of Keewatin was enlarged to the east.

;June 13 1898
Yukon Territory was created from the northwesternmost area of the North-West Territories, and the borders of Quebec were expanded towards the north.

;1901The eastern border of Yukon Territory was adjusted.

;September 1 1905The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created from the North-West Territories and District of Keewatin, the remainder of the latter being reassigned back to the North-West Territories.

;May 15 1912
Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec were all expanded into their present-day boundaries. Also, sometime in 1912 the official name of the North-West Territories lost the hyphen, becoming the Northwest Territories, and in 1907, the British colony of Newfoundland was granted independence.

;March 11 1927A British court decided the issue of the border between Labrador and Quebec in Labrador's favour, transferring a small portion of land from Canada to the Dominion of Newfoundland.

;March 31 1949The Dominion of Newfoundland and its dependency of Labrador joined as the province of Newfoundland.

;April 1 1999The territory of Nunavut is split from the Northwest Territories. Also, on December 6 2001, the name of the province of Newfoundland became Newfoundland and Labrador, giving the present-day situation of Canada.


*Cite web |url=http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/historical/territorialevolution |work=The Atlas of Canada |title=Territorial Evolution |author=Government of Canada |publisher=Natural Resources Canada |date=March 23, 2004 |accessdate=2006-12-07

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