Geography of Canada: Lecture 4
• Three influential events have shaped Canada’s history:
The arrival of the first people in North America
The colonization of North America by France and England
The influx of people from eastern Europe
Arrival of the First People
• Hunters from the Old World (the Eastern Hemisphere) were the first to arrive about
40,000 years ago.
• There are two theories that explain how the first people arrived to Canada.
1. They crossed the Bering Land Bridge that connects Siberia to Alaska. This land
was exposed because sea level was much lower at this time (more ice 40,000
2. As the ice in North America began retreating 15,000 years ago, descendants of
the hunters pushed further south. They travelled along an ice free corridor that
developed along the Rocky Mountain Foothills (ice melted quickest in Rain
shadow regions (prairies) Thinner ice in this area. These first people were known
as Paleo Indians Note: Above map shows the possible migration route of the first people.
• They were descendents of the Old world hunters.
• They commonly hunted mammoths with pointed spears
• As mammoths became extinct, Paleo-Indians began shifting to a diet mixed with meat
(buffalo and caribou), fish, and plants.
• The revised diet allowed them to remain in a specific geographic location.
• This marked the beginning of more social units that became the forerunners of N.A
• Trade among groups began about 10,000 years ago; from this point onward, people
were referred to as Indians. Arctic Migration
• The Laurentide Ice Sheet began retreating from Arctic Canada about 5000 years ago.
• After this point, groups of Arctic sea hunters were able to advance eastward.
• Diet changed to walrus, seat (as ice retreated, able to hunt in open water)
• The Thule people settled in what is now Nunavut about 10 000 years ago. They are
ancestors of the current Inuit people
First Contact with Europeans
• European explorers considered the New World (the Western Hemisphere) terra nullius
• The first contact between Europeans and Natives occurred from the late 1400s through
• At first contact, there may have been as many as 500,000 Native people living in
• Native people dropped by up to 80% as a result of conflict and disease brought by
Second People of Canada
• The Second People were of French or British descent.
• France established a settlement at Quebec City in 1608.
• The area became known as New France and had a population of 60,000 before the
arrival of the British in the mid 1700s.
• After the British Conquest of New France in 1759 (KNOW DATE), British immigrants
began to move to the area.
• After the battle of the plains of Abraham (KNOW), it was French controlled.
• First wave: British Loyalists supported Britain during the American War of Independence
(1775-83). Many settled in Nova Scotia or Southern Ontario.
• Second wave: During the early 1800s, one million people migrated from the British Isles
to ‘British North America’. This resulted from a deteriorating economy in England. Canada at Confederation
• In 1867 (KNOW DATE), the population of British North America (Canada) was 3 million.
• 80% lived in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Lowlands and 20% lived in Atlantic
• 60% of the European population was English speaking.
• In the Red River area, the Metis people (mix of Native/European descent) were the
• Canada became a country in 1867 when four small British
colonies united (below are the first four provinces):
Upper Canada (Ontario)
Lower Canada (Quebec)
• Note: Upper Canada refers to Ontario and lower Canada
refers to Quebec. They were named this way because of the direction that the St
• Britain was eager for the colonies to form a union to withstand annexation by the United
The Third People of Canada
• In 1870, Ottawa obtained the land of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
• Encouraging settlement of this land was important because:
It would diminish the threat of American settlers annexing the land.
Transport of grain would provide freight for the newly completed Canadian Pacific
Railway. • Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior) was assigned the task of settling Western
• Immigrants were attracted from Eastern Europe. Russia, Scandinavia, and Ukraine.
• The majority of them arrived from 1895–1915.
• Many of the settlers came from cold grassland environments similar to the Prairies.
• Thus, a new dimension was added to Canada’s population: People with neither a French
nor a British background.
• The majority of these new immigrants lived in homesteads
• The impact on the landscape was enormous.
• This area had only previously been occupied by Buffalo and semi-Nomadic Indians.
Territorial Evolution of Canada
• Canada’s history as a nation began with the British North America Act passed on July 1,
1867 (KNOW DATE). There were only 4 provinces on this day.
• This act united the four original colonies.
• In 1870, vast areas of land owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company were transferred to
the federal government. This area was originally named the North-West Territories.
• The following provinces were then added to the Dominion of Canada:
Alberta & Saskatchewan (1905) (Delayed joining because population was too
Newfoundland (1949) (Wasn’t called Newfoundland & Labrador at the time)
• After Confederation, changes in internal boundaries were frequent.
One of the greatest disputes was between Quebec and Newfoundland over the
boundary of Labrador. In 1927, this dispute was settled by the British
government. All land that drained into the Atlantic Ocean was awarded to
Labrador. Quebec has not formally accepted this ruling. Note: This image shows Canada's internal boundaries in 1873
Note: This image shows Canada's internal boundaries in 1905. Note: This image shows Canada's internal boundaries in 1927. As of today, almost
nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that Nunavut did not join until
• Tensions in Canada arise among regions or between regions and the federal
• The challenge of the Federal government is to seek a balance between regional needs
• Their efforts rarely satisfy all regions of Canada.
Tensions to National Unity
• Regions are separated by great distances making trade and commerce difficult
• Regions compete for federal dollars
This is because health, education and social services are expensive
• Geography encourages some regions to align with regions in the United States Faultlines in Canada
• There are four major faultlines:
1. Centralist / Decentralist
2. Aboriginal / Non-Aboriginal
4. French / English
• This is based on Canada’s vast size.
• Linking the country has always been a challenge.
A railroad was built to B.C to the rest of Canada
Voting times were shifted so B.C would not hear of the results before the polls
Schools of Thought
• Centralist: One who seeks to ensure there is a great deal of power, strength, and
control in Ottawa and the core.
• Decentralist: One who wants to strengthen the powers of the provinces and the
periphery. Conservative government favours this.
The National Policy
• An economic initiative introduced by Ottawa in 1879.
• Objective: Protect Canada’s manufacturing industries from foreign goods.
• High tariffs were used to encourage the purchase of Canadian goods.
• The policy ensured Canada was divided into an economic core surrounded by a weaker
• The periphery was selling raw materials on the world market but buying domestic
• This translated into “selling low” and “buying high”
• Implication: It strengthened manufacturing in the core and was seen as a great benefit
to Central Canada Where is Central Canada?
• This area is not the true geographic centre of the country.
• It refers to the heavily populated Southern Ontario and Southern Quebec corridor.
Regional Tensions Increase
• Atlantic Canada
Geography prevented manufacturers there from reaching markets in Central
Canada or the West.
They were not able to sell goods to nearby New England because of the high
New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Conneticut,
Massachusettes, Rhode Island
This stalled economic development in the Maritimes.
• Prairie Provinces
Farmers were forced to purchase expensive machinery from Central Canada.
The cost of transporting grain to foreign markets was very high.
To alleviate this, a rail line was built to Churchill (on Hudson Bay). However, high
marine insurance costs discouraged transport by boat.
• British Columbia
The economy was driven by exports of fish, timber, and minerals to overseas
This led to its feeling as an outcast.
B.C remained beyond the economic influence of Central Canada but resented
paying high prices for goods from Central Canada.
• Territorial North
This area was ignored and treated as remote wilderness until resources (gold)
The federal government subsidized the building of highways leading to
In the 1950s, this was commonly known as the “roads to resources” program Core Dominance
• Along with economic dominance, the core exhibits political dominance over the
• The 308 seats currently in the House of Commons are determined by population.
• Each seat represents an electoral riding.
• Up to 30 more seats may be added to the House of Commons prior to the next Federal
Representation of the House of Commons