Northern Canada

Northern Canada
Northern Canada, defined politically to comprise (from west to east) Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Northern Canada, colloquially the North, 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. Similarly, the Far North (when contrasted to the North) may refer to the Canadian Arctic: the portion of Canada north of the Arctic Circle.

These reckonings somewhat depend on the concept of nordicity, a measure of northernness that other Arctic territories share. Canada, a country in northern North America whose population is concentrated along its southern frontier with the United States, is frequently reckoned to not have a 'south.' As such, the 'South' is only perceived as a region when it is contrasted to or viewed from those in the North.



Northern Canada (depicted to the left) on a map of the Arctic Circle.

Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W[1] longitude, extending all the way north to the North Pole: all islands in the Canadian 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. Views of territorial claims in this region are complicated by disagreements on legal principles. Canada and the USSR/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.[2] 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 to the definition of internal waters in the Arctic lie behind differences on 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 U.S.

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 U.S. claims that it is in international waters. Today ice and freezing temperatures makes 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.

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

Topography (Geography)

Downtown Whitehorse, Yukon seen from the east side of the Yukon River.
The western Canadian Arctic a few days after perpetual sunlight commenced for the entire region in 2010.

While the largest part of the Arctic is composed of permanent ice and tundra north of the tree line, it encompasses geological regions of varying types: the Innuitian Mountains, associated with the Arctic Cordillera mountain system, is 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.


Iqaluit, Nunavut is the capital and largest population centre in Nunavut.

With an area of 3,921,739 km2 (1,514,192 sq mi), larger in size than India at 3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219 sq mi), the North makes up 39.3% of Canada.[3][4]

Although vast, the entire region is very sparsely populated. As of 2006, only about 101,310 people lived there compared to 31,511,587 in the rest of Canada and 1,028,610,328 (2001) in India.[5][6]

The population density for Northern Canada is 0.03 inhabitants per square kilometre (0.078 /sq mi) (0.06 /km2 (0.16 /sq mi) for Yukon, 0.03 /km2 (0.078 /sq mi) for the NWT and 0.01 /km2 (0.026 /sq mi) for Nunavut) compared to 3.5 /km2 (9.1 /sq mi) for Canada and 312.91 /km2 (810.4 /sq mi) for India.[5][6]

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 2006, 52.8% of the population of the three territories (25.1% in Yukon,[7] 50.3% in the NWT[8] and 85.0% in Nunavut[9]) is Aboriginal, either Inuit, First Nations or Métis. The Inuit are the largest group of Aboriginal peoples in Northern Canada, and 61.5% of all Canada's Inuit live in Northern Canada, with Nunavut accounting for 52.8%.[7][8][9] The region also contains several groups of First Nations, who are mainly Chipewyan peoples. The three territories each have a greater proportion of Aboriginal inhabitants than any of Canada's provinces. There are also many more recent immigrants from around the world; of the territories, Yukon has the largest percentage of non-Aboriginal inhabitants, while Nunavut the smallest.[7][9]


Skyline of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Parts of the north have recently boomed due to the amount of natural resources and something of a population increase in cities.

For hundreds of years, this area had been considered the largest 'uncivilized' area in the world. However, within the last 20 years, specifically in the last 5 years, this area has started to boom with the rest of Canada. Although it has not been on the same scale, some towns and cities have seen population increases not seen for several decades before. Yellowknife has become the centre of diamond production for all of Canada (which has become one of the top 3 countries for diamonds).

Also resulting from a diamond boom, the per capita income of the Northwest Territories is at almost $95,000.

In the Canada 2006 Census, the three territories posted a combined population of over 100,000 people for the first time in Canadian history.[5]

See also


  1. ^ The Atlas of Canada - Territorial Evolution, 1927
  2. ^ United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
  3. ^ "Total Area of India" (PDF). Country Studies, India. Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. December 2004. Retrieved 3 January 2011. "The country’s exact size is subject to debate because some borders are disputed. The Indian government lists the total area as 3,287,260 km2 (1,269,220 sq mi) and the total land area as 3,060,500 km2 (1,181,700 sq mi); the United Nations lists the total area as 3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219 sq mi) and total land area as 2,973,190 km2 (1,147,960 sq mi)." 
  4. ^ Land and freshwater area, by province and territory
  5. ^ a b c Population and dwelling counts, for Canada provinces and territories, 2006 and 2001 censuses - 100% data
  6. ^ a b "India at a glance: Population". Census of India, 2001. Government of India. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c Yukon 2006 Aboriginal Population Profile
  8. ^ a b Northwest Territories 2006 Aboriginal Population Profile
  9. ^ a b c Nunavut 2006 Aboriginal Population Profile

Coordinates: 65°49′12″N 107°04′48″W / 65.82°N 107.08°W / 65.82; -107.08

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