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Territorial Evolution of Canada

With each province joining Confederation and then changes of the boundaries of each of those provinces, Canada has changed its boundaries many many times. On this page, you will find some of the benchmark changes of Canada's boundaries from 1783 until the most recent change in 1999. Maps of more of the changes are coming soon.


1. North America, Treaty of Versailles, 1783

By the Treaty of Versailles, 1783, the independence of the 13 colonies forming the United States was acknowledged. The boundary between the United States and British North America was to run, following various rivers, lakes and latitude 45, west to the Lake of the Woods and then to the Mississippi.

2. British North America, 1791

By the Constitutional Act of 1791 the province of Quebec was divided into Upper and Lower Canada. After the American Revolution many United Empire Loyalists left the United States and emigrated to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. The division into Upper and Lower Canada gave the Loyalists who settled west of the Ottawa River the chance to organize and develop along their own lines.

3. British North America, 1818

By the treaty of 1818 with the United States, the international boundary was to run from the northwest corner of the Lake of the Woods due south to the 49th parallel and along it to the Rocky Mountains.

4. British North America, 1849

By the treaty of 1842 the boundary between the United States and the British territories was settled in the east; and by the treaty of 1846 the 49th parallel was agreed upon as the boundary from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. In the east, in 1840, Upper and Lower Canada were reunited as the province of Canada.

5. British North America, 1866

British North America approaching Confederation (1867).

6. Dominion of Canada, 1873

In 1867 the British North America Act brought together the provinces of Canada, divided into Ontario and Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to form the Dominion of Canada. In 1869, having acquired the rights from the Hudson's Bay Company, the Dominion transformed the former Rupert's Land and the area beyond the Rocky Mountains into the North West Territories. In 1870, the old Red River settlement joined the Dominion as the province of Manitoba. In 1872 British Columbia joined the union. In 1873 Prince Edward Island joined Confederation.

7. Dominion of Canada, 1905

In 1905 Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces of the Dominion.

8. Dominion of Canada, 1949

The Province of Newfoundland joined Confederation on March 31, 1949.

9. Dominion of Canada, 1999

The Northwest Territories is divided in half, creating a new Territory of Nunavut on April 1, 1999.

10. Dominion of Canada, 2001

On December 6, 2001, an amendment to the Constitution Act officially approved a name change from the easternmost province of Newfoundland to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The move for change began in the early 1990s to provide "symbolic but important recognition of Labrador's status as a full and vital partner within the province, with its own unique geography, history and culture."

SOURCE: National Archives of Canada

Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt