Difference between Canadian Provinces and Territories1
The Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut are Canada's three territories. They are primarily North of 60º latitude. While they account for 40 % of Canada's land mass, they represent approximately 3 % of the Canadian population.
There is a clear constitutional distinction between provinces and territories. While provinces exercise constitutional powers in their own right, the territories exercise delegated powers under the authority of the Parliament of Canada.
Historically, this authority has meant that the North was largely governed by federal officials. However, over the past 40 years, major changes have occurred in the governance of the territories. Federal statutes have established a legislative assembly and executive council for each territory and province-like powers are increasingly being transferred or "devolved" to territorial governments by the Government of Canada. This process, known as "devolution", provides greater local decision-making and accountability.
Because of economic, social and demographic realities linked to their challenging geographical situation, a significant portion of the territories' financial resources comes from the federal government through a transfer program known as Territorial Formula Financing. This funding gives territorial residents access to a range of public services comparable to those offered by provincial governments, at comparable levels of taxation.
Shortly after Confederation in 1867, the Hudson's Bay Company agreed to sell Rupert's Land and the North Western Territory to Canada (1870) while Britain surrendered to Canada the Arctic Islands (1880) - some 36,500 islands which make up much of Northern Canada.
These new territories were thereafter known as the Northwest Territories. They had neither a legislative assembly nor an elected government and were administered directly by the Federal Government. For example, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), then known as the North West Mounted Police, was established in 1873 by an act of Parliament to maintain peace and order in the Northwest Territories.
Over the years, parts of the Northwest Territories became provinces (Manitoba, 1871, Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905) or were integrated into provinces (Manitoba in 1881,1912; Ontario, 1869, 1874, 1889, 1912; Québec, 1898, 1912).
In 1898, following the Gold Rush the Yukon was given a separate territorial administration. In 1999 Nunavut, whose population is more than 80 % Inuit, also became a separate territory with a separate territorial administration.