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Geographic Characteristics of Canada


Discuss about the Comparative Theory of Locality in Migration.

Regions across the world have their own identity and unique characteristics which determines its national identity (Igartua, 2011). Canada located in the upper hemisphere of the earth experiences cold in most times of the year. Canadian identity consists of unique characteristics, culture and conditions represented by expressions and several symbols that distinguish the country from the world. Geography has a unique role in shaping of national as well as regional identities in particular ways. There has been pertinent research in the field to reflect on the ways that geographical identities have gone on to become a landscape element for a region.

The scope of this current essay evaluates the geographical features of Canada which contributes in its becoming a national identity. There are a number of regional and local characteristics of a geographic area of Canada which forms a part of the national identity. The geographical nature of the country being situated in the North of America is the terrain of lands that experiences extreme weather conditions most parts of the year. The primary aim of this study will evaluate the various geographical features of the country that shapes national and regional identity for Canada (Aronczyk, 2013). Thus, evaluating various national and regional identity of Canada with regards to its geographical features will help attain the central theme for the analysis. The scope of this analysis will precede with description of relevant facts and geographical aspects with evaluation and analysis of the same. The seven distinct regions according to geographical landforms is discussed in the essay.

The concept of national and regional identities was developed with a preconceived notion of geography. Canada has long international border with USA, with strikingly different physical geographic features, which enable it to establish it as a national identity. Canada was traditionally inhabited by indigenous people who were located in various parts of the country along its rivers (Finnegan, 2008). Canada occupies 3,855,105 square miles in area of which 91.05% constitutes land and only 8.95% is water. The country shares its borders with USA and it has a total border area covering 8,895 kilometers. Mostly inhabitants occupied southern parts of the country, northern parts being covered with ice, most of the times of the year. Inhabitants lived on animal produce and agriculture which they did mostly in summer months. In the early 17th century when French settlers came in and started occupying Acadia and St. Lawrence River Valley. Later Scottish and English occupants came post dominance of France (Beramendi, 2012Beramendi, P.).

In Canada mostly regional identities formed post settlement of Europeans in various parts of the country. The uneven development of national identity through expression or transmission of such can be explained by means of geography (Ford, 2008). Nationalism or regionalism is hence a geographical doctrine that aims to conjoin self-identified clusters of people to form a nation, a region or a state. Despite the sheer size of Canada, it is one of the world’s sparsely populated countries due to its grandeur of landscape. Such grandeur of geographical landscape depicts the rue sense of Canada’s national and regional identity as expressed by Anna Brownell Jameson. Canada since the early ages have welcomed various immigrants populations from other continents due to its vast natural resources and reservoir of intellectual capital. Canada was named by Jacques Cartier for referring the area around Quebec City including Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. 

Regional and National Identity Formation

Like other nations Canada too has its own articulators, who bundle together attributes such as to form a group, region or nation. Bundling of attributes might be language and religion, where Space holds the prime value (AlSayyad, 2013). Population by region and geographic conditions reflect Ontario to be having highest population in the entire country with Northwest Territories and Yukon having least amount of population. Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have created new regional identities to make a geographical image of their own. National or regional interpretation can also be developed from outside as British Columbia had its name from early settlements of British and Scottish people in the area post their domination of the French. Geographers establish important relationship between national identity and landscape (Allen, 2010). Each landscape image would have a narrative and elements that constitutes its national identity.

The Appalachian Mountains is a geographical landmark of Quebec. Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands is a geographic symbol for Ontario and Quebec. As rivers also often serves as national identity due to its vitality. Pre-1960 there was an Irish national identity in Quebec that was essential for its progress. A nation’s or a regions uniqueness is created by means of various landscapes that are displayed (Paasi, 2009). As for instance the Canada’s Artic with polar bears reflects the northern parts of Canada. Basic geographical features of Canada are well understood when narrated by means of geographic space. It provides a concrete framework for identifying an individual from a particular area as against the other.

Nationalism and regionalism of Canada is often identified with multiple scales, as continuum alternative needs to exists for having a distinguished geographic scale. The famous Niagara Falls is a predominant features that separates USA from Canada and helps it geographically establish as a separate nation (Forman, 2014). Niagara Falls being a geographic symbol is often displayed in entry points between USA to Canada.

The special and distinct attributes enable the people to measure themselves at a different scale to call themselves a nation, with dominant rationality. Autonomy of Canada arises from such distinct identities by recognition of their unique status. Canada’s regions though participate to call themselves a broader nation but each one has a competing identity of their own (Gilmartin, 2008). As Ontario and Quebec has strong regional identities in Canada, this is due to their distinctiveness in culture and social structure. Bordering regions of Canada can often blur national identity though regions never fail to do so.

The concept of geographic nationalism and regionalism are difficult to imagine without maps. Geographic maps marks spatial forms of communications as a required tool for marking of regional and national variations (Graham, 2016). Modern nationalism concepts are linked to maps as it enables to visualize a nation through natural boundaries that might include mountains, rivers, lakes and falls as in this case. In this case map can portray abstract geometric identities as latitudes separating USA with Canada. Map is a first step towards any claims of self-determination hence provides an outline. Mapping of national and regional territory are scientific documents that can depict borders of a nation (Fawn, 2009). Each of Canada’s regions are divided and sub-divided according to their physical geography of space. Space based similarity offers understanding of areas which have similar features or distinguished. Mapping of such spaces allows for proper plotting of areas such that their areas can easily be understood. 

Distinct Identities of Canadian Regions

Geographical narration, scaling and mapping are the three main ways used to depict Canada’s national and regional identities. While each area is unique in nature giving its regional identity together they represent Canada in totality (Jones, 2014). Canada shares 8895 kilometers long border with USA, which is one of the longest in the world and is not patrolled by military. The majority of Canada’s population lives within the 300 kilometers of the international border. Though there are certain similarities with USA yet its landscape is vastly different compared to USA. The landform of Canada includes thousands of surrounding islands especially near to Newfoundland and Artic Archipelago. The country is bounded by Artic Ocean to the north and Greenland to northeast, Atlantic Ocean in the east, USA in the south and Pacific Ocean and Alaska in the west. Due to predominance of physical geographies and discontinuous settlements there is a strong sense of regionalism along with nationalism in Canada. The vast geographical features of the country is responsible for its features.

Each method of explanation can be further understood by means of evaluating and discussing the relevant geographical features in the area. Evaluation with respect to its separate regions has been discussed in detail below;

The Pacific Coast, British Columbia coast has the best climates compared to any region in Canada. Vancouver island due to its coastal features receives rains forest climate. The island has some of the oldest and tallest trees in Canada (Wolfe, 2009).

The Cordillera, with rugged land features, here the Rocky Mountains and other prominent ranges of the country are present. The highest peak of the country St. Elias Mountains that reaches Alaska and Yukon is present here. Thus, the topography of the British Columbia is convoluted with alpine snowfields to hot and dry conditions. Fishing, mining and forestry are the key features of this region with coastal temperatures.

The Prairies, the region includes endless fields of wheat (Doloreux, 2008). The plains of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada represent itself through such geographical features.

The Canadian Shield, marks the heritage of Canada with huge inland sea. It is one of the largest physiographic region often referred to as the Precambrian Shield. This portion occupies majority of space of the country. The Hudson Bay extension into central parts of Canada forms a major national identity of the region. The rocky region surrounding the bay is referred to as the Coastal Shield is one of the most predominant national identity of the country (Schiller, 2009). The area has high mineral deposit of zinc, copper, aluminum, gold, silver and zinc. There is presence of large number of glaciers in the region with narrow long ridges. There are provides principle source of wealth for Canada due to presence of vast amounts of minerals hence has a unique regional identity. Most of the people living in the area are employed in mines and has higher income levels than other parts of the country.

The Artic, being the most formidable place to reach in the country which is now accessible due to advancement of communication and transportation. Often referred to as interior plains includes a number of lakes. The glacial beauty of the region predating human existence is a striking geographical feature separating the country and region with an identity (Hoffman, 2008). It consists of thousands of islands north of mainland of Canada. the Innuitian ranges are young mountains geologically compared to Western Cordillera. Most of region remains covered with snow peaks with ridges almost 3,100 meters high.

Geographic Nationalism and Regionalism

The Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Lowlands, includes Canada’s two largest cities Montreal and Toronto. Mostly populated regions in Canada where more than 55% population reside. the agricultural abundance due to geographical features and sugar maple leaves forms Canada’s national symbol. It is characterized by high rates of urbanization and industrialisation and has a fertile ground. Commonly called the interior plains which extends to the Arctic Ocean. three major large lakes situated in the area that creates its unique regional identity. 

The Atlantic Province-Appalachian Region, including some of the smallest Canadian provinces consisting of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Most parts of the region is encompassed by the Great Banks that includes 400 kilometers extension of east coast where ocean currents mix (Florida, 2008). The area is well-known worldwide for being rich fishing grounds.

Physical geography plays a role in landforms and regionalization. Geologic structures, distribution of permafrost and position of treeline help in developing physiographic attributes. Combination of these factors help generate emphasis on regional specific deliverables of Canada. the vast different types of physical and geographical structures present in Canada, are visible from satellite and they do not include continental shelves or territorial ocean water limits. The ecozones of Canada based on its land mass provides further a system of classification. The various regions in Canada are divided such that each represents some space or the other and can correlate to physical geography. Canada’s faultlines due to movement of Earth’s tectonic plates has contributed in such vast regional and national difference leading to divided in their features. Canada’s physical base which provides reasoning for physical geography attributes along with population distribution and core regional development. The complex structure of geological formation impacts its landforms as well as climatic conditions, which is rugged and rolling in nature. Each area has their own specific features which provides them an identity for its region.


Canada is not only a vast country but also has diversified and versatile geographic landforms and features. Canada’s geographical attributes and features which are varied amongst different regions helps it provide national and regional identities. Great population mobility with rise in globalization, modern communication techniques with pluralistic make-up of state population makes it important to depict national as well as regional identities. While geographic form of identity development allows for scope of development and further research in the area, such depiction also creates divisions within regions. Group of people need to maintain their geographical regional identity while maintaining their scope for national identity. Canada with its striking geographical features in each and every area enhances the scope of creating distinct and unique identity of their regions. The vast landforms of Canada are developed from its positioning on tectonic plates which has led to creation of rugged and rolling features. The Pacific Ring of Fire also provides the unique regional feature of volcano in the region. Thus, along with being a congressional nation consisting of geographic features, its regional features are also odd in nature that can be used to distinguish one region from another.

Reference Lists

Allen, J. &. (2010). Assemblages of state power: topological shifts in the organization of government and politics. Antipode, 1071-1089.

AlSayyad, N. (2013). Consuming tradition, manufacturing heritage: global norms and urban forms in the age of tourism. Routledge.

Aronczyk, M. (2013). Branding the nation: The global business of national identity. Oxford University Press.

Beramendi, P. (2012Beramendi, P.). The political geography of inequality: regions and redistribution. Cambridge University Press.

Doloreux, D. &. (2008). Is regional innovation system development possible in peripheral regions? Some evidence from the case of La Pocatière, Canada. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 259-283.

Fawn, R. (2009). ‘Regions’ and their study: wherefrom, what for and whereto?. Review of International Studies, 5-34.

Finnegan, D. A. (2008). The spatial turn: Geographical approaches in the history of science. Journal of the History of Biology, 369-388.

Florida, R. G. (2008). The rise of the mega-region. Cambridge Journal of Regions. Economy and Society, 459-476.

Ford, J. D. (2008). Climate change in the Arctic: current and future vulnerability in two Inuit communities in Canada. The Geographical Journal, 45-62.

Forman, R. T. (2014). Land Mosaics: The Ecology of Landscapes and Regions (1995). Island Press.

Gilmartin, M. (2008). Migration, identity and belonging. Geography Compass, 1837-1852.

Graham, B. A. (2016). A geography of heritage. Routledge.

Hoffman, M. T. (2008). Geographic locality and host identity shape fungal endophyte communities in cupressaceous trees. Mycological research, 331-344.

Igartua, J. E. (2011). The other quiet revolution: national identities in English Canada. UBC Press., 1945-71.

Jones, M. J. (2014). An introduction to political geography: space, place and politics. Routledge.

Paasi, A. (2009). The resurgence of the ‘region’and ‘regional identity’: Theoretical perspectives and empirical observations on regional dynamics in Europe. Review of international studies, 121-146.

Schiller, N. G. (2009). Towards a comparative theory of locality in migration studies: Migrant incorporation and city scale. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 177-202. (Retrieved on 24th April 2017). Geographic Map of Canada.

Wolfe, D. A. (2009). 21st century cities in Canada: the geography of innovation. . In Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada. (Retrieved on 25th April 2017). Niagara Falls .

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