Canada is the world’s second largest country. Its territory extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Its vast lands stretch northward into the Arctic Ocean. It shares land borders with the United States to the south and northwest. Canada is a bilingual nation with both English and French as official languages. It is highly multicultural, composed of ten provinces and three territories.
Today, Canada is a technologically advanced and industrialized country, maintaining a diversified economy. Trade has long been one of the country’s strongest economic assets, relying on the abundance of its natural resources. Its name traces its origin from a First Nation’s word “kanata” which means “village” or “settlement”. But it was Jacques Cartier who first used the word ‘Canada’ to refer not only the villages but the entire area under Donnacona, the Chief at Stadacona.
The northern portion of North America is what is being largely occupied by Canada. It shares land borders with United States to the south as well as the US state of Alaska to the northwest. The country is considered as on the world’s wealthiest nations, it is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Group of Eight (G8). Canadian economy has steadily been growing with low unemployment and large government surpluses despite passing through a turbulent period. There had been an impressive growth in the mining, manufacturing and service sectors which transformed the country from a basically rural economy into an industrial and urban economy (See “Canada”).
I. The Prairie Province
The prairie region is composed of three provinces: Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. It is more accurate thou to refer to it as the “Western interior” or “Western Canada”. The reason of which comes from the fact that although much of the provinces are covered in prairies (hence the name), the region actually show different kinds of landscapes with half of its area covered in forest land. Similar patterns in climate, vegetation and topography in these areas are key factors on which these provinces were considered as one region.
The Prairie Province is a wide, open and treeless plain. It was flat and featureless which earned a great misconception to early explorers as a harsh, inhospitable land. The vast landscape seemed too overwhelming, causing many to think that it is unsuitable for habitation and economic activity is impossible, economic success unthinkable. However, this had been proven otherwise. Prior to European contact, a variety of Native people or referred as First Nations, lived in these region for 10,000 years. Their way of living was more nomadic, migrating from one place to another, often in adjustment to the harsh climate.
These seemingly “unwelcome” physical characteristics are one of the key factors contributing to the region’s development. It has good agricultural soil, and its lack of trees made it more suitable for land cultivation. In fact, people did begin to appreciate this feature, when they realized that they do not have to clear any trees prior to cultivation. The adequate moisture found in the parkland or aspen grove region allowed some tree growth, and because it has fine agricultural land, settlers came in great influx from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Agricultural development in the prairies province did not come about while fur trading still flourished. Fur trading was brought about after the first European contact. Furs from migrating bison herds created a lucrative economic activity. However, despite continual exploration for furs and trading routes, immigration was slow. It was not until 1812, when Lord Selkirk, of Scottish origin, started establishing agricultural-based communities near Winnipeg. This endeavor became fruitful, despite unfavorable reception by the early settlers such as the North West Company and the First Nations.
The Canadian government acquired Rupert’s Land and about this time that the province of Manitoba was created. Further development was encouraged upon the implementation of the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, the building of railroad structure, the treaties with the Indians. These brought a rapid increase in immigration, settlement and development of the land for agricultural settlers encouraged by the policies done by Clifford Sifton thru the Department of the Interiors. This then brought a dramatic rise in population. The immigrants are as varied as its landscape which included Britons, Germans and Ukrainians. Other people groups were Mennonites, Doukhobors, and Hutterites.
Special concessions were made to some groups by the government, to further land habitation. This part of Canada’s history is responsible for the prairies’ cultural diversity seen even today. Agriculture still plays an important contribution in the region’s economic growth in the 21st century. The prairies, particularly in Saskatchewan lead Canada’s wheat production. Other vital agricultural products are Canola, barley, livestock. But Manitoba has limited agricultural lands. The presence of transportation network hastened the marketing of agricultural products. Recent high costs of transportation of goods have forced cost cutting measures by the government and may have an adverse effect upon its future. Aside from agriculture, the “inhospitable” land contains a big reserve of energy resources.
Beneath this seemingly unproductive land is the rich reserve of energy resources. Beneath this seemingly unproductive land is the rich reserve of oil and gas which catapulted Alberta’s economic growth to a rapid rate increase during the energy crises in the 1970s. Oil was first discovered at Leduc, and now Alberta is responsible for more than 80% of Canada’s energy resources. Other minerals being retrieved by mining are potash, uranium and coal. Gold reserves are also being mined.
The possible deposits of diamonds are also being explored. Safety concerns regarding the mining and trading of uranium is still widely debated. Initially, forest industry was scarce. But the advancement of technology brought an increase in the production of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) plants using the poplar resource, the trembling aspen. The 1920s saw more importance in manufacturing than its agricultural industry. Manitoba’s strategic location in relation to transportation routes had greatly fostered the region’s progress.
II. British Columbia
This is the westernmost of Canada’s provinces and also referred to as B.C. or BC. and known for its natural beauty. British Columbia is dotted with various display of landscape from 6,000 islands, coastlines stretching for more than 27,000 kilometers, and rugged coastal mountains of volcanic origin most of which are uninhabited. Its climate and vegetation is as varied as its landscape. Considerable amount of rainfall allows rainforest-like vegetation. Since its climate is moderate, compared to other forested regions in Canada trees grow faster and larger. The soil however, is less suitable for agriculture accounting only 3% of the area.
The coast of British Columbia was also first inhabited by First Nations enticed by the rich marine resources abundant in these lands. Economic activity developed upon the first European contact. The trading of furs and gold played an important role in its early development. The mid 1800s witnessed the growth upon the subsequent joining of the colonies of Vancouver Island and New Westminster with Victoria as the capital. Whereas mountainous barriers at first hampered transportation and settlement, the completion of the CPR boosted rapid growth. Mining, agriculture and lumbering already existed along the coastal region before the completion of the CPR. Construction of railways ushered in more entrepreneurs and settlers. Other significant sign of growth were the establishment of sawmills and salmon canneries.
Expansion continued after the 1st World War especially in fishing and agricultural industries with farmers started using irrigation. But it was not until after WW II that British Columbia dramatically grew. Forestry was the primary industry, followed by mining and agriculture. Other significant factors of the province’s success are hydroelectric developments, fishing and new technologies in fish packaging. British Columbia owns the honor of having one of the nation’s highest rates of earnings per year.
III. The Territorial North
This region is composed of the arctic and sub arctic portions, representing 40% of the country’s total area. The Territorial North is represented by portions of the Canadian Shield, the Arctic Coastal Plains, Western Interior Plains, and the Cordillera. The arctic is treeless tundra, bitter climate with continuous permafrost, and it has a low elevation.
This land’s coastal marine ecosystem has rich deposits. The definition of the North by Environment Canada goes beyond to include the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, and Labrador boundaries. This is in conjunction with the eight northern primary ecozones on the north which also includes Taiga, and the Hudson Plains (See “Environment Canada’s North”). The sub arctic on the other hand is characterized by boreal forest and discontinuous permafrost. The Boreal Forest region stretches in a broad band across the nation. The Canadian Shield is a plateau with rugged surface. Soils are almost non existent, with long winter and short summers. Conifer trees comprise much of its forest.
The fur trade also flourished in the sub arctic for 200 years. The trader’s exploration for further trading routes led them on the arctic region. The trade also further opened the relation of the Natives with the outside world. Both traditional and industrial economy coexisted together in bringing its economy’s growth. Traditional economy is labor-intensive. The wage economy comprises the development of resources; and the multinational corporation’s developing the oil, gas and mineral reserve. This also provides the linkage to other regions. The two economies would sometimes pose conflicts in terms of land use. White population is located in the Mackenzie Valley sub region while Canada’s Inuit settlements are found in the arctic portions of the Northwest Territories.
Development in the 20th century saw sporadic prospecting, exploration and more on speculation on its resources and yet no concrete plans were set. Morris Zaslow, a historian, commented that “the discovery phase was largely completed except for part of the Arctic Archipelago, while much of the Subarctic was being occupied by modern industries striving to exploit the agricultural, forestry, hydro-electric, and mineral resources of the land.” (cited by T. Novosel. “Northern Research Portal: Resources”)
There was massive damage caused by flooding and chemical pollution of soils, waters and air during the 1970s. This was largely due to man’s ignorance and carelessness. Responsibility for the land’s preservation is shared by the government with the Natives. The north’s contribution to Canada’s strong and vibrant economy is evident in the presence of pulp and paper mills, hydro-electric dams, mills, and oil wells which help sustain the country’s manufacturing sector in the south. The Diefenbaker government sees it as the nation’s economic future.