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Canadamarker became an independent nation in 1867 when three provinces of British North America were 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 Kingdommarker soon after it formed. Before 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 Britainmarker and the United Kingdom after defeat in several wars. The Frenchmarker 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 Statesmarker 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 seven 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 Territoriesmarker (NWT) 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 handled separately from the NWT on this list. In 1905, it was absorbed into the NWT, and no longer had any special status; it was finally dissolved in 1999 when Nunavutmarker was created.
  • The maps used on this page, for simplicity, use the modern version of the borders of Labrador. For much of its history, Canada 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 Statesmarker is not included; it would appear as a very thin strip on the map.


July 1, 1867
The Dominion of Canada was formed from three provinces of British North America: the Province of Canada, which was split into the provinces of Ontariomarker and Quebecmarker, and the colonies of New Brunswickmarker and Nova Scotiamarker.

July 15, 1870
The United Kingdommarker ceded most of its remaining land in North America to Canada, with Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory becoming the North-West Territoriesmarker. The Rupert's Land Act 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 the newly acquired region surrounding the city of Winnipegmarker was made the province of Manitobamarker.

July 20, 1871

The Britishmarker colony of British Columbiamarker joined Canada as the sixth province. British Columbia joined the Canadian confederation following the The Great Confederation Debates in the spring of 1870 and the Confederation Negotiations of the following summer and winter.

July 1, 1873

The British colony of Prince Edward Islandmarker joined Canada as the seventh province by an Act of Parliament (and, as part of the terms of union, was guaranteed a ferry link, a term which was deleted upon completion of the Confederation Bridgemarker in 1997).

July 26, 1874

The borders of Ontariomarker were provisionally expanded north and west. When the Province of Canada was formed, its borders were not entirely clear, and Ontario claimed to eventually reach all the way to the Rocky Mountains and Arctic Oceanmarker. With Canada's acquisition of Rupert's Land, Ontario was interested in clearly defining its borders, especially since some of the new areas it was interested in were rapidly growing. After the federal government asked Ontario to pay for construction in the new disputed area, the province asked for an elaboration on its limits, and its boundary was moved north to the 51st parallel north.

April 12, 1876

The District of Keewatin was created by the passage of the Keewatin Act on April 12, 1876 in a central separate strip from the North-West Territoriesmarker, in order to provide government for the growing area north of Manitobamarker and west of Ontariomarker.

September 1, 1880

The United Kingdommarker ceded its Arctic Islands to Canada, and they were made part of the North-West Territoriesmarker.

July 1, 1881

Manitobamarker's borders were expanded to a larger postage stamp province taking land easterly from the District of Keewatin to the western boundary of Ontario. Since the province's eastern border was defined as the "western boundary of Ontariomarker", the exact definition of which was still unclear, Ontario disputed a portion of the new region.

May 7, 1886

The southwestern border of the District of Keewatin was adjusted to conform to the boundaries of the new provisional districts of the North-West Territories created in 1882, returning some land to the North-West Territoriesmarker. The provisional districts were, the District of Albertamarker, the District of Athabasca, District of Assiniboia and the District of Saskatchewan, which all remained administrative areas of the North-West Territories unlike the District of Keewatin.

August 12, 1889

The dispute between Manitobamarker and Ontariomarker ended as Ontario's borders were finalized in accordance with the Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889, which extended the province west to the Lake of the Woodsmarker and north to the Albany River.

October 2, 1895
Keewatin covered the portion of the North-West Territories north of Manitobamarker on the mainland, and all islands within Hudson, James, and Ungava Bays. The portion between the District of Keewatin, Ontariomarker, and Hudson Baymarker was not in a district, and was assigned to the District of Keewatin by an Order of Council. Four additional provisional districts of the North-West Territories were formed, the District of Yukon, the District of Ungava, the District of Mackenzie, and the District of Franklin.

The borders of the District of Keewatin were adjusted. Southampton Islandmarker, Coats Islandmarker, Mansel Islandmarker, Akimiski Islandmarker, and other islands were transferred to Keewatin.

[[Image:Canada provinces 1898-1901.png|alt=Map of the country of Canada on June 13, 1898, depicting the larger postage stamp sized province of Manitoba along with the provinces of Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, in the colour white. The disputed area between Manitoba and Ontario is resolved, Ontario expands west to the Lake of the Woods and north to the Albany River.The North-West Territories is separate from the District of Keewatin. Territories are depicted in the colour pink; the northern arctic islands are a part of the NWT. The District of Keewatin now has a geographically shaped border to encompass the eastern borders of the newly formed provisional districts of the NWT. Yukon Territory is now formed from the NWT. The area called Newfoundland, Labrador, and Alaska are depicted in bluish grey colour, and are not a part of Canada.|right|250px]]
June 13, 1898
Yukon Territorymarker was created from the District of Yukon in the northwestern part of the North-West Territoriesmarker, and the Quebec Boundary Extension Act, 1898 expanded the borders of Quebecmarker north to the Eastmain River.

May 23, 1901
The eastern border of Yukon Territorymarker was adjusted to the Peel Rivermarker, so that the borders would not cross a watershed, and also to include some more islands.

September 1, 1905
The provinces of Albertamarker and Saskatchewanmarker were created from the North-West Territoriesmarker. Saskatchewan's western border and Alberta's eastern border run concurrent with the 4th meridian or the 110°W longitude. Saskatchewan's eastern border is not a meridian, but instead follows a staircase-shaped Dominion Land Survey range line. Alberta's southern and northern borders are the same as Saskatchewan's: the southern border is the Canada – United States border or the 49th parallel and the northern border is the 60th parallel. Alberta's western border runs along peaks of the Rocky Mountain ridge then extends north to the 60th parallel.

The Northwest Territories Act was passed 1906, and at this time District of Keewatin was reassigned back to the North-West Territories, and the hyphen is no longer used in the name of the territory, becoming the Northwest Territories.

May 15, 1912
Manitobamarker, Ontariomarker, and Quebecmarker were all expanded into their present-day boundaries. The Northwest Territories is now only situated north of the 60th parallel (except Hudson Bay and James Bay islands) with three districts, Keewatin, Mackenzie and Franklin.

The boundaries of the Northwest Territories expand, and they now extend north to the North Polemarker.

March 11, 1927
A Britishmarker Privy Council of 1927 decided the issue of the border between Labrador and Quebecmarker in Labrador's favour, transferring a small portion of land from Canada to the Dominion of Newfoundland.

November 11, 1930
Sverdrup Islandsmarker are ceded to Canada by Norway, in exchange for British recognition of Norway's soveriegnty over Jan Mayanmarker

March 31, 1949
The Dominion of Newfoundland and its dependency of Labrador joined as the tenth province, named Newfoundlandmarker as proclaimed by the British North America Act 1949.

April 1, 1999
The territory of Nunavutmarker was created from the Northwest Territoriesmarker. The provisional districts are no longer administrative areas of the Northwest Territories.

December 6, 2001
The province of Newfoundland was renamed Newfoundland and Labradormarker by the Constitution Amendment 2001 (Newfoundland and Labrador).

April 1, 2003
The name of Yukon Territory became simply Yukonmarker.


  • Ken S. Coates and William R. Morrison (1988). Land of the Midnight Sun: A History of the Yukon. Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton. ISBN 0-88830-331-9

  1. Coates and Morrison, p.103

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