Territorial evolution of Canada

The Dominion of Canada was formed on July 1, 1867, when the British colonies of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were merged to form a single Dominion within the British Empire. Canada continued to expand across North America as other British colonies and territories joined with or were ceded to Canada, eventually growing from four provinces to ten provinces and three territories. Politically, Canada gained increasing independence in the 20th century, eventually becoming a fully sovereign state in 1982.

Timeline

Date Event Change
July 1, 1867 The Dominion of Canada was formed by the United Kingdom from three provinces of British North America:[1]

The capital was established at Ottawa.

Canada inherited territorial disputes with the United States over Machias Seal Island and North Rock.

Map of the change to Canada on July 1, 1867

Disputes:
Map of the international disputes involving Canada from July 1, 1867, to July 15, 1870
July 15, 1870 The United Kingdom transferred most of its remaining land in North America to Canada, with Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory becoming the North-West Territories. Rupert's Land was transferred to Canada in 1869,[2] but the transfer was only consummated in 1870 when £300,000 was paid to the Hudson's Bay Company.[3] Due to a lack of quality surveying, a boundary dispute with the United States existed in the far southwestern corner of the transferred region.[4] Canada disagreed with the United Kingdom over the extent of Labrador that remained with Newfoundland Colony, citing the historical use of the term "Coasts of Labrador."

An area of the newly acquired region near the city of Winnipeg, bounded by the 96th and 99th meridians west, 50°30′ north, and the United States, was made the province of Manitoba.[5]

Map of the change to Canada on July 15, 1870

Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on July 15, 1870
July 20, 1871 The British colony of British Columbia joined Canada as the sixth province.[6] The province brought along its dispute with the United States over the San Juan Islands,[7] as well as its portion of the Alaska boundary dispute.[4] Map of the change to Canada on July 20, 1871

Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on July 20, 1871
October 21, 1872 The dispute with the United States over the San Juan Islands was resolved in favor of the United States claim.[7] Map of the change to Canada on October 21, 1872

Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on October 21, 1872
July 1, 1873 The British colony of Prince Edward Island joined Canada as the seventh province, Prince Edward Island.[8] Map of the change to Canada on July 1, 1873
June 26, 1874 The borders of Ontario 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 Ocean. 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, and west to a line running north from Hunter's Island.[9] Map of the change to Canada on June 26, 1874
October 7, 1876 The District of Keewatin was created from a central strip of the North-West Territories to provide government for the growing area north of Manitoba and west of Ontario; while the North-West Territories consisted of several districts, Keewatin had an elevated status and many sources note it distinct from the rest of the North-West Territories. It was defined as the mainland area west of Ontario and Hudson Bay; east of Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Cedar Lake, and a line north from Cedar Lake; and north of the United States.[10][11] Map of the change to Canada on October 7, 1876
September 1, 1880 The United Kingdom transferred its Arctic Islands to Canada, where they were made part of the North-West Territories.[12] The archipelago was still being explored and new islands discovered, but the United Kingdom and Canada had claimed the whole archipelago, so new discoveries are not noted unless disputed. Map of the change to Canada on September 1, 1880
December 23, 1881 Manitoba was expanded, gaining land from the District of Keewatin and North-West Territories to the west, north, and east. Since the province's new eastern border was defined as the "western boundary of Ontario", the exact definition of which was still unclear, Ontario disputed a portion of the new region.[13][14][15] Map of the change to Canada on December 23, 1881
May 7, 1886 The southwestern border of the District of Keewatin was adjusted to conform to the boundaries of the provisional districts of the North-West Territories, returning land west of the Nelson River and Lake Winnipeg, and south of a line extending east from the northern border of the District of Saskatchewan, to the North-West Territories.[16] Map of the change to Canada on May 7, 1886
August 12, 1889 The dispute between Manitoba and Ontario ended as Ontario's borders were finalized, extending the province west to the Lake of the Woods and north to the Albany River.[17] Map of the change to Canada on August 12, 1889
October 2, 1895 The District of Keewatin was expanded to the portion of the North-West Territories north of Ontario.[18][19] Map of the change to Canada on October 2, 1895
December 18, 1897 Southampton Island, Coats Island, Akimiski Island, and other islands were transferred from the North-West Territories to the District of Keewatin, and some mainland peninsulas were transferred from the District of Keewatin to the North-West Territories.[20][21] Map of the change to Canada on December 18, 1897
June 13, 1898 Yukon Territory was created from the District of Yukon in the northwestern part of the North-West Territories to supply a more local government to the explosive growth in population due to the Klondike Gold Rush. Quebec was enlarged north to the Eastmain River.[22] Map of the change to Canada on June 13, 1898
May 23, 1901 The eastern border of Yukon Territory was adjusted to the Peel River, so that the borders would not cross a watershed, and also to include some more islands, thus exchanging some area with the North-West Territories.[23] Map of the change to Canada on May 23, 1901
October 20, 1903 The Alaska boundary dispute was resolved, generally in favor of the United States claim.[4] Map of the change to Canada on October 20, 1903

Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on October 20, 1903
September 1, 1905 The provinces of Alberta (act) and Saskatchewan (act) were created from the North-West Territories. The provinces consisted of the area between British Columbia, Manitoba, the 60th parallel north, and the United States, with Alberta west of the 4th meridian of the Dominion Land Survey and Saskatchewan east of it. The status of the District of Keewatin was lowered back to the other districts of the North-West Territories.[24][25][26][27][28][29] Map of the change to Canada on September 1, 1905
1906 The North-West Territories were renamed the Northwest Territories.[30][31] Map of the change to Canada in 1906
September 26, 1907 The Newfoundland Colony became a dominion of the United Kingdom, inheriting the Labrador boundary dispute. Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on September 26, 1907
April 11, 1908 A boundary treaty redefined the maritime border with the United States.[32] Among other changes, this "de-enclaved" Horseshoe Reef in Lake Erie by making the water around it contiguous with the water on the American side of the border.[33][34] no change to map
August 20, 1910 A boundary treaty with the United States addressed a slight uncertainty in the maritime border in Passamaquoddy Bay between New Brunswick and the United States.[35][36] The border was adjusted to run east of Pope's Folly Island, which previously lay on the border line, and had been the subject of some debate for many years.[37][38] Map of the change to Canada on August 20, 1910
May 15, 1912 Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec (act) were all expanded northward into land from the Northwest Territories.[30] Quebec was expanded north to fill the mainland, Manitoba extended north to the 60th parallel north, and the new border between Manitoba and Ontario ran northeast from the previous northeastern corner of Manitoba.[39] Map of the change to Canada on May 15, 1912
June 1, 1925 The maritime boundaries of the Northwest Territories were extended to the North Pole.[30] no change to map
July 17, 1925 The border with the United States was adjusted in several places.[40][41] The only change to a land border redefined how the border between the Lake of the Woods and the Rocky Mountains should be considered; previously, the border followed the curve of the parallel between each border monument, while the treaty changed this to straight lines between each monument. Through this, the United States netted a gain of between 30 and 35 acres of land. Due to the extremely small shift, the lack of specific documentation of where the changes occurred, and the lack of any human impact, this change is not mapped. There was also a change to the border in the Lake of the Woods; due to inaccurate surveying, the previous border intersected itself several times in the lake, creating enclaves of United States water surrounded by Canadian water. The treaty changed the border to use the southernmost intersection as the northwestern point of the Lake of the Woods. Finally, the maritime border in the Bay of Fundy was adjusted, netting Canada roughly 9 acres of water. too small to map
March 11, 1927 The Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council decided the Labrador boundary dispute with the Dominion of Newfoundland in favour of Newfoundland.[42] Quebec has occasionally indicated it does not recognize this border, but has not actively disputed the matter.[43] Map of the change to Canada on March 11, 1927

Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on March 11, 1927
November 11, 1930 Norway ceded its long-dormant claim to the Sverdrup Islands to Canada, in exchange for British recognition of Norway's sovereignty over Jan Mayen. Disputes:
Map of the change to the international disputes involving Canada on November 11, 1930
December 11, 1931 The Statute of Westminster 1931 largely grants Canada independence from the United Kingdom. no change to map
March 31, 1949 The Dominion of Newfoundland joined as the tenth province, Newfoundland.[44][45][46] Map of the change to Canada on March 31, 1949
March 13, 1974 The maritime border with Denmark was defined, notably "skipping" Hans Island which lies directly between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, and which is technically on neither side of the border.[47] no change to map
March 1, 1977 The United States claimed maritime borders west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, within the Dixon Entrance, and in the Beaufort Sea that conflicted with claims of Canada.[48] no change to map
April 17, 1982 The Constitution Act, 1982, via the Canada Act 1982, makes Canada completely independent of the United Kingdom, removing the requirement to involve the British parliament in amending the Canadian constitution. no change to map
October 12, 1984 The International Court of Justice decided the maritime border with the United States in the Gulf of Maine.[49] No land changed hands, and the scope of the case did not include the sovereignty of Machias Seal Island.[48] no change to map
April 1, 1999 The territory of Nunavut was created from roughly the eastern half of the Northwest Territories.[50][51] Map of the change to Canada on April 1, 1999
December 6, 2001 The province of Newfoundland was renamed Newfoundland and Labrador.[52] Map of the change to Canada on December 6, 2001
April 1, 2003 Yukon Territory was renamed Yukon.[53] Map of the change to Canada on April 1, 2003