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Northwest Territories

A former territory in the United States is called Northwest Territory.

Northwest Territories
Territoires du Nord-Ouest
(In Detail) (In Detail)
Motto: None
Capital Yellowknife

 - Total
 - % fresh water
3rd largest
(2nd lgst terr.)

1 346 106 kmē

 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 11th
40 900
Admittance into Confederation

 - Date
 - Order
Hudson's Bay Company
cedes territory
to Canada

Time zone UTC -7
Postal information
Postal abbreviation
Postal code prefix
ISO 3166-2CA-NT

 Seats in the House
 Seats in the Senate

PremierJoe Handley
CommissionerGlenna Hansen
Government of the Northwest Territories

One of the territories of Arctic Canada, the Northwest Territories (NWT; French, les Territoires du Nord-Ouest) has a landmass of 1,171,918 square kilometres and a population of over 42,000.

Its capital has been Yellowknife since 1967; see also List of communities in the Northwest Territories.

The Northwest Territories are located east of Yukon, west of Nunavut, and north of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Geographical features include the vast Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, as well as the immense Mackenzie River and the canyons of the Nahanni River, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the Arctic Archipelago, the Northwest Territories includes Banks Island, Parry Peninsula, Prince Patrick Island, and parts of Victoria Island and Melville Island.

Unlike provincial governments, the Government of the Northwest Territories does not have political parties. It is a consensus government called the Legislative Assembly. This group comprises one democratically elected member from each of the nineteen constituencies. After each general election, the new parliament elects a premier and speaker by secret ballot. Seven MLAs are also chosen as cabinet ministers, with the remainder forming the opposition. The territory's most recent general election was on November 24, 2003.

The premier of the Northwest Territories is Joe Handley. The member of Parliament for the Western Arctic, the riding that comprises the Northwest Territories, is Ethel Blondin-Andrew.

Table of contents
1 Official languages
2 History
3 Politics
4 See also

Official languages

The territory's Official Languages Act recognizes eight official languages, more than any other political division in Canada:

Citizens of the NWT have a right to use any of the above languages: External link: Language Commissioner of the Northwest Territories


The Northwest Territories were created in 1870, when the Hudson's Bay Company transferred Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory to the government of Canada. These formed the Northwest Territories. This immense region comprised all of modern Canada except British Columbia, the coast of the Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence River valley and the southern third of Quebec, the Maritimes, Newfoundland, and the Labrador coast. It also excluded the Arctic Islands except the southern half of Baffin Island; these remained under direct British rule until 1880.

After the transfer, the Territories were gradually whittled away. The province of Manitoba was created in 1870, a tiny square around Winnipeg, and then enlarged in 1881 to a square region composing the modern province's south.

In 1876, the district of Keewatin, at the centre of the territory, was separated from it. In 1882 and again in 1896, the remaining portion was divided into the following districts (corresponding to the following modern-day areas):

Keewatin would be returned to the NWT in 1905.

In the meantime, Ontario was enlarged northwestward in 1882. Quebec was also extended, in 1898, and Yukon was created in the same year to deal with the Gold Rush. Alberta and Saskatchewan were created in 1905, and Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec acquired the last of their modern territories from the NWT in 1912. This left only the districts of Mackenzie, Franklin, and Keewatin. However, in 1925 the boundaries of the NWT were extended all the way to the North Pole on the sector principle, vastly expanding its territory onto the northern ice cap.

Between 1925 and 1999, the Northwest Territories measured 3 439 296 km² - larger than India.

Finally, on April 1, 1999, the eastern three-fifths of the Northwest Territories (including all of Keewatin district and much of Mackenzie and Franklin) became a separate territory called Nunavut.

There was some discussion of changing the name of the Northwest Territories after the separation of Nunavut, possibly to a term from an Aboriginal language. One proposal is "Denendeh" ("our land" in Dene). The idea is favoured by former premier Stephen Kakfwi among others, but a poll conducted prior to division showed strong support for retaining the name "Northwest Territories." (The second-place finisher was a joke entry, "Bob.") [1] [1]


As a territory, the Northwest Territories has fewer rights than the provinces do. During his term, Premier Kakfwi pushed to have the federal government accord more rights to the territory, including having a greater share of the returns from the territory's natural resources go to the territory. [1] Devolution of powers to the territory is an issue in the Northwest Territories general election, 2003.

The territory enjoys vast geological resources including diamonds, gold, and natural gas. In particular, NWT diamonds are touted as an ethical alternative that allays risks of supporting conflicts by purchasing blood diamonds.

However, their exploitation has raised environmental concerns, not least the potential havoc that a spill from tailings ponds would cause to unspoiled wilderness areas such as the Nahanni River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Aboriginal issues

Aboriginal issues in the NWT include the fate of the Dene Indians who, in the 1940s, were employed to carry radioactive uranium ore from the mines near Deline (then called Port Radium). Their cancer rates skyrocketed due to lack of safety procedures that were available to their white colleagues.

Another issue is historic racial tension based on the bloody history between the Dene and the Inuit, who nevertheless have taken recent steps towards reconciliation.

Land claims in the NWT culminated with the creation of the Inuit homeland of Nunavut, the result of the largest land claim in Canadian history.

Another land claims agreement with the Dogrib nation created a region within the NWT called Tli Cho, between Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, which will give the Dogrib their own legislative bodies, taxes, resource royalties, and other affairs, though the NWT will still maintain control over such areas as health and education. This area includes the only diamond mines in Canada.

See also