Northern Canada
Northern Canada, colloquially the North, is the vast north
North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.North is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the top side of a map is north....

ernmost region
Region is most commonly found as a term used in terrestrial and astrophysics sciences also an area, notably among the different sub-disciplines of geography, studied by regional geographers. Regions consist of subregions that contain clusters of like areas that are distinctive by their uniformity...

 of Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 variously defined by geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 and politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

. Politically, the term refers to the three territories of Canada
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

: Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

, Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

, and Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

. Similarly, the Far North (when contrasted to the North) may refer to the Canadian Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

: the portion of Canada north of the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....


These reckonings somewhat depend on the concept of nordicity
Nordicity is the degree of northernness. The concept was developed by Canadian geographer Louis-Edmond Hamelin in the 1960s based on previous work done in the Soviet Union...

, a measure of northernness that other Arctic territories share. Canada, a country in northern North America
Northern America
Northern America is the northernmost region of the Americas, and is part of the North American continent. It lies directly north of the region of Middle America; the land border between the two regions coincides with the border between the United States and Mexico...

 whose population is concentrated along its southern frontier with the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, is frequently reckoned to not have a 'south.' As such, the 'South' is only perceived as a region when it is contrasted to or viewed from those in the North.


Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

, extending all the way north to the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

: all islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, also known as the Arctic Archipelago, is a Canadian archipelago north of the Canadian mainland in the Arctic...

 and Herschel
Herschel Island
Herschel Island is an island in the Beaufort Sea , which lies off the coast of the Yukon Territories in Canada, of which it is administratively a part...

, off the Yukon coast, form part of the region, are Canadian territory and the territorial waters
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

 claimed by Canada surround these islands. Views of territorial claims in this region are complicated by disagreements on legal principles. Canada and the USSR/Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 have long claimed that their territory extends according to the sector principle to the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

. The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 does not accept the sector principle and does not make a sector claim based on its Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

n Arctic coast. Claims that undersea geographic features are extensions of a country's continental shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

 are also used to support claims; for example the Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 claim on territory to the North Pole, some of which is disputed by Canada. Foreign ships, both civilian and military are allowed the right of innocent passage
Innocent passage
Innocent passage is a concept in admiralty law which allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state subject to certain restrictions. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines innocent passage as:...

 through the territorial waters of a littoral state subject to conditions in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea , which took place from 1973 through 1982...

. The right of innocent passage is not allowed however, in internal waters
Internal waters
A nation's internal waters covers all water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline from which a nation's territorial waters is defined. It includes waterways such as rivers and canals, and sometimes the water within small bays. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of...

, which are enclosed bodies of water or waters landward of a chain of islands. Disagreements about the sector principle or extension of territory to the North Pole and to the definition of internal waters in the Arctic lie behind differences on territorial claims in the Arctic
Territorial claims in the Arctic
Under international law, no country currently owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The five surrounding Arctic states, Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark , are limited to an exclusive economic zone of adjacent to their coasts.Upon ratification...

. This claim is recognized by most countries with some exceptions, including the United States; Denmark, Russia, and Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 have made claims similar to those of Canada in the Arctic and are opposed by the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 and the U.S.

This is especially important with the Northwest Passage
Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways amidst the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

. Canada asserts control of this passage as part of the Canadian Internal Waters
Canadian Internal Waters
Canadian Internal Waters is a Canadian term that refers to "...the waters on the landward side of the baselines of the territorial sea of Canada,..."....

 because it is within 20 km (12.4 mi) of Canadian islands; the U.S. claims that it is in international waters
International waters
The terms international waters or trans-boundary waters apply where any of the following types of bodies of water transcend international boundaries: oceans, large marine ecosystems, enclosed or semi-enclosed regional seas and estuaries, rivers, lakes, groundwater systems , and wetlands.Oceans,...

. Today ice and freezing temperatures makes this a minor issue, but climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 may make the passage more accessible to shipping, something that concerns the Canadian government and inhabitants of the environmentally sensitive region.

Similarly, the disputed Hans Island
Hans Island
Hans Island is a small, uninhabited barren knoll measuring , located in the centre of the Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait—the strait that separates Ellesmere Island from northern Greenland and connects Baffin Bay with the Lincoln Sea...

 (with Denmark), in the Nares Strait
Nares Strait
Nares Strait is a waterway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland that is the northern part of Baffin Bay where it meets the Lincoln Sea. From south to north, the strait includes Smith Sound, Kane Basin, Kennedy Channel, Hall Basin and Robeson Channel...

 which is west of Greenland, may be a flashpoint for challenges to overall Canadian sovereignty in the North.

Topography (Geography)

While the largest part of the Arctic is composed of permanent ice
Sea ice
Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

 and tundra
In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr "uplands," "treeless mountain tract." There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine...

 north of the tree line, it encompasses geological regions of varying types: the Innuitian Mountains
Innuitian Mountains
The Innuitian Mountains are a mountain range in Canada's Arctic territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. They are part of the Arctic Cordillera and are largely unexplored, due to the hostile climate. They are named after the northern indigenous people, who live in the region. In some...

, associated with the Arctic Cordillera
Arctic Cordillera
The Arctic Cordillera is a vast, deeply dissected chain of mountain ranges extending along the northeastern flank of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from Ellesmere Island to the northeasternmost part of the Labrador Peninsula in northern Labrador and northern Quebec, Canada...

 mountain system, is geologically distinct from the Arctic Region (which consists largely of lowland
In physical geography, a lowland is any broad expanse of land with a general low level. The term is thus applied to the landward portion of the upward slope from oceanic depths to continental highlands, to a region of depression in the interior of a mountainous region, to a plain of denudation, or...

s). The Arctic and Hudson Bay Lowlands
Hudson Bay Lowlands
The Hudson Bay Lowlands is a large, poorly drained piece of wetlands wedged between the Canadian Shield and southern shores of Hudson Bay and James Bay. Many wide and slow-moving rivers flow through this area toward the salt water of Hudson Bay. Mosquitoes and black flies thrive here. This is a...

 comprise a substantial part of the geographic region often considered part of the Canadian Shield
Canadian Shield
The Canadian Shield, also called the Laurentian Plateau, or Bouclier Canadien , is a vast geological shield covered by a thin layer of soil that forms the nucleus of the North American or Laurentia craton. It is an area mostly composed of igneous rock which relates to its long volcanic history...

 (in contrast to the sole geological area). The ground in the Arctic is mostly composed of permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

, making construction difficult and often hazardous, and agriculture virtually impossible.

The Arctic watershed (or drainage basin)
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 drains northern parts of Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

, Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

 and British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, most of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut as well as parts of Yukon into the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

, including the Beaufort Sea
Beaufort Sea
The Beaufort Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, located north of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Alaska, west of Canada's Arctic islands. The sea is named after hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort...

 and Baffin Bay
Baffin Bay
Baffin Bay , located between Baffin Island and the southwest coast of Greenland, is a marginal sea of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is connected to the Atlantic via Davis Strait and the Labrador Sea...

. With the exception of the Mackenzie River
Mackenzie River
The Mackenzie River is the largest river system in Canada. It flows through a vast, isolated region of forest and tundra entirely within the country's Northwest Territories, although its many tributaries reach into four other Canadian provinces and territories...

, Canada's longest river, this watershed has been little used for hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

. The Peace
Peace River (Canada)
The Peace River is a river in Canada that originates in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia and flows to the northeast through northern Alberta. The Peace River flows into the Slave River, a tributary of the Mackenzie River. The Mackenzie is the 12th longest river in the world,...

 and Athabasca River
Athabasca River
The Athabasca River originates from the Columbia Glacier of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada...

s along with Great Bear
Great Bear Lake
Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely within Canada , the third or fourth largest in North America, and the seventh or eighth largest in the world...

 and Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake is the second-largest lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada , the deepest lake in North America at , and the ninth-largest lake in the world. It is long and wide. It covers an area of in the southern part of the territory. Its given volume ranges from to and up to ...

 (respectively the largest and second largest lakes wholly enclosed within Canada), are significant elements of the Arctic watershed. Each of these elements eventually merges with the Mackenzie so that it thereby drains the vast majority of the Arctic watershed.


With an area of 3921739 km² (1,514,191.9 sq mi), larger in size than India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 at 3287263 km² (1,269,219.3 sq mi), the North makes up 39.3% of Canada.

Although vast, the entire region is very sparsely populated. As of 2006, only about 101,310 people lived there compared to 31,511,587 in the rest of Canada and 1,028,610,328 (2001) in India.

The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 for Northern Canada is 0.03 PD/sqkm (0.06 /sqkm for Yukon, 0.03 /sqkm for the NWT and 0.01 /sqkm for Nunavut) compared to 3.5 /sqkm for Canada and 312.91 /sqkm for India.

It is heavily endowed with natural resources and in most cases they are very expensive to extract and situated in fragile environmental areas. Though GDP per person is higher than elsewhere in Canada, the region remains relatively poor, mostly because of the extremely high cost of most consumer goods, and the region is heavily subsidised by the Government of Canada
Government of Canada
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...


As of 2006, 52.8% of the population of the three territories (25.1% in Yukon, 50.3% in the NWT and 85.0% in Nunavut) is Aboriginal
Aboriginal peoples in Canada
Aboriginal peoples in Canada comprise the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The descriptors "Indian" and "Eskimo" have fallen into disuse in Canada and are commonly considered pejorative....

, either Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

, First Nations
First Nations
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

 or Métis
Métis people (Canada)
The Métis are one of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada who trace their descent to mixed First Nations parentage. The term was historically a catch-all describing the offspring of any such union, but within generations the culture syncretised into what is today a distinct aboriginal group, with...

. The Inuit are the largest group of Aboriginal peoples in Northern Canada
Aboriginal peoples in Northern Canada
The Aboriginal peoples in Northern Canada consist of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit located in Canada's three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.-Inuit communities:* Inuvik, Northwest Territories* Paulatuk, Northwest Territories...

, and 61.5% of all Canada's Inuit live in Northern Canada, with Nunavut accounting for 52.8%. The region also contains several groups of First Nations, who are mainly Chipewyan
The Chipewyan are a Dene Aboriginal people in Canada, whose ancestors were the Taltheilei...

 peoples. The three territories each have a greater proportion of Aboriginal inhabitants than any of Canada's provinces. There are also many more recent immigrants from around the world; of the territories, Yukon has the largest percentage of non-Aboriginal inhabitants, while Nunavut the smallest.


For hundreds of years, this area had been considered the largest 'uncivilized' area in the world. However, within the last 20 years, specifically in the last 5 years, this area has started to boom with the rest of Canada. Although it has not been on the same scale, some towns and cities have seen population increases not seen for several decades before. Yellowknife has become the centre of diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

 production for all of Canada (which has become one of the top 3 countries for diamonds).

Also resulting from a diamond boom, the per capita income of the Northwest Territories is at almost $95,000.

In the Canada 2006 Census
Canada 2006 Census
The Canada 2006 Census was a detailed enumeration of the Canadian population. Census day was May 16, 2006. The next census following will be the 2011 Census. Canada's total population enumerated by the 2006 census was 31,612,897...

, the three territories posted a combined population of over 100,000 people for the first time in Canadian history.

See also

  • Geography of Canada
    Geography of Canada
    The geography of Canada is vast and diverse. Occupying most of the northern portion of North America , Canada is the world's second largest country in total area....

  • British Arctic Territories
    British Arctic Territories
    British Arctic Territories were territories claimed by Britain in North America, consisting of the islands of what is now known in Canada as the High Arctic....

  • Operation Hurricane (Canada)
    Operation Hurricane (Canada)
    Operation Hurricane is an annual month-long technical maintenance mission conducted by Canadian Forces personnel in the Canadian Arctic.Each summer, since 1982, Canadian military technicians and support personnel have been deployed by helicopters to repair and resupply the otherwise unattended High...

  • Nord-du-Québec
    Nord-du-Québec is the largest of the seventeen administrative regions of Quebec, Canada. With , of which are lakes and rivers, it covers much of the Labrador Peninsula and about 55% of the total land surface area of Quebec....

  • Arctic Policy of Canada
    Arctic Policy of Canada
    Arctic Policy of Canada refers to the foreign policy of Canada in regards to the Arctic region. In addition, Canada's domestic policy towards its Arctic territories. Canada has more Arctic land mass than any country, included within the provinces of Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon...

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