Canada, as anyone who’s attended grade school can attest, consists of ten provinces and three territories. At least one Prime Minister — Paul Martin, quoted in 2004 — has said we’ll “eventually” have thirteen of the former and none of the latter. However, the notion of territories becoming provinces is not one that much concerns the territories themselves — as Graham White of University of Toronto’s political science department says, this is a “classic Toronto question about the North.” What’s more important is the “devolution” of various governing powers currently held at the federal level, such as substantial ownership of land. And within the territories’ special set of economic conditions, provincehood — and the economic self-reliance that implies — may only become a goal in the distant future.
In the nineteenth century, the original North-West Territories — which draped most of modern Canadian land, except for BC, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and half of Ontario and Quebec — was managed directly by the federal government. These centralized powers gradually gave way to local separatist movements, and provinces slowly carved themselves out: first Manitoba (1871), then Alberta and Saskatchewan (1905), and finally parts of Ontario (1869, 1874, 1889, 1912) and Quebec (1898, 1912). The Yukon broke off in 1898, following the Gold Rush, and Nunavut a century and a year later. Even so, Saskatchewan and Alberta didn’t own their land or resources until a quarter of a century after becoming provinces. (more…)