Canada page6-14

The Land

The westernmost of Canada's three Prairie provinces,
Alberta lies between the 49th and 60th parallels,
at virtually the same latitude as the United Kingdom.
Alberta is 1217 km from north to south and
between 293 and 650 km in width from west to east.
Nearly equal in size to the state of Texas, the
province covers an area of some 661 185 km2.

Roughly half of the southwestern section of the province
is dominated by mountains and foothills - striking reminders
of the glaciers that, over millions of years, formed,
moved and receded in the area.
Peaks of the Rocky Mountains located in Alberta range
from 2130 to 3747 m in elevation.

The foothills, which form a gentle link between mountain
and prairie landscapes, feature heavily forested areas and
grasslands used for grazing cattle. Beneath their surface,
the foothills contain some of the province's richest
deposits of sour gas and coal.

The remainder of the province - approximately 90 percent of
the land area - forms part of the interior plain of North America.
The plains include the forested areas that dominate the
northern part of the province and the vast stretches of northern
muskeg that overlay much of Alberta's oil and gas deposits
and oil sands.

Alberta has what is known as a continental climate.
It is characterized by vivid seasonal contrasts in
which long, cold winters are balanced by mild to hot
summers and an unusually high number of sunny days,
no matter what the season.
Although cold air covers the whole province in winter,
it is frequently replaced in the southwest by a mild wind,
the "chinook," funnelling through the mountains from the
Pacific Ocean.


The History

The Aboriginal people, whose ancestors are thought to have crossed
the Bering Sea from Asia thousands of years ago, were the first
people to live in what is now Alberta.
The Blackfoot, Blood, Piegan, Cree, Gros Ventre, Sarcee, Kootenay,
Beaver and Slavey Indians, speaking a variety of Athapaskan
and Algonkian languages, were the sole inhabitants of what was
then a vast wilderness territory.

The early Albertans, particularly the woodland tribes of the
central and northern regions, became valuable partners of the
European fur traders who arrived in the 18th century.
The first European explorer to reach what is now Alberta was
Anthony Henday, in 1754.

Peter Pond, of the North West Company, established the first
fur-trading post in the area in 1778.
The Hudson's Bay Company gradually extended its control throughout
a huge expanse of northern North America known as Rupert's Land and
the North West Territory, including the region occupied by
present-day Alberta. From that time, the region was fought over
by the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company,
each of which built competing fur-trading posts.
The rivalry ended only in 1821, when the two companies merged.

Expeditions led by Henry Youle Hind and John Palliser found
parts of the region to have exceptionally good land for farming,
especially the fertile belt north of the Palliser Triangle,
a particularly arid zone.
As a result of these findings, the British decided not to
renew the licence of the Hudson's Bay Company and, in 1870,
the North West Territory was acquired by the
Dominion of Canada and administered
from the newly formed province of Manitoba.

Beginning with the arrival of the railway in 1883,
the population started to grow quickly.
Other factors that helped swell the population were the
discovery of new strains of wheat particularly suited to the
climate of the Canadian Prairies, the lack of new farmland
in the United States, and the end of an economic depression
throughout North America.

On September 1, 1905, Alberta, named for Princess Louise
Caroline Alberta, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria,
became a province of Canada with Edmonton as its capital city.
The province of Alberta was created by joining the
District of Alberta with parts of the districts of Athabasca,
Assiniboia and Saskatchewan.


The People

Tracing the roots of Alberta's 2.7 million people is an exercise
that begins with the province's Aboriginals and leads to virtually
every corner of the globe.
The province's Aboriginal people formed the bulk of the area's
population until the 1880s, when they were outnumbered by the
influx of Europeans.
In 1881, there were barely more than 1000 non-Aboriginal people
in the area that was to become the province of Alberta.
Ten years later, 17 500 people occupied the territory.
Immigrants from many countries came in response to the
Canadian government's aggressive efforts, between the 1890s
and the 1920s, to promote immigration and encourage
agricultural development.
By the end of the immigration push in 1921,
there were 584 454 Albertans.

After World War II, the pattern changed. From the 1960s on,
immigrants have come from all over the world, including the
Pacific Rim, Asia and the Caribbean.
Today, roughly 44 percent of Albertans are of British descent;
other large ethnic groups are the German, Ukrainian, French,
Scandinavian and Dutch.
In 1991, close to 150 000 people were of Indigenous or
Métis origin.
Smaller numbers of people, tracing their heritage to virtually
every country in the world, make up the remaining 24 percent
of the population.
English is the language of the vast majority of Albertans,
and most religious faiths are represented.

With two-thirds of the population under the age of 40,
the province has one of the youngest populations
in the industrialized world.
This is, in part, due to the high level of international
and interprovincial migration to Alberta over the past 25 years.
Approximately 80 percent of Albertans live in urban areas,
and more than half live in the two main cities of Edmonton,
the province's capital, and Calgary.


The Economy

Alberta has one of the world's most productive agricultural
economies, producing about 20 percent of the value of Canada's
annual output.
Approximately 22 million hectares of cultivated and uncultivated
land are used as pasture and forage for livestock.
While wheat remains the primary crop, the production of new
crops continues to expand as the industry diversifies.
The province maintains the largest livestock population in Canada.

Long known as Canada's "energy province," Alberta has more than
80 percent of the country's reserves of conventional crude oil,
over 90 percent of its natural gas, and all of its bitumen and
oil-sands reserves.
The oil and natural gas sector has responded successfully to
the challenges of unstable energy prices in the 1980s by
significantly reducing production and operating costs.

Over one-half of the province of Alberta, or approximately
350 000 km2, is covered by forests.
Of the total forest area, 216 000 km2 are classified as
commercially productive forest land and contain both
hardwood and softwood species.

Food and beverage processing remains the largest manufacturing
industry in Alberta in terms of both sales and employment.
Petrochemicals and plastics, forest products, metals and
machinery and refineries have become major success stories
in contributing to Alberta's diversification efforts over the
last several years. An increasing range of industrial products -
including aerospace and transportation equipment,
as well as industrial and specialty chemicals -
is also being manufactured in Alberta.

The service sector accounts for more than 60 per cent of
Alberta's gross domestic product.
More than two- thirds of Alberta's employment is found in
such industries as business and financial services,
transportation, retail trade, health and education services
and tourism.
The province offers a multitude of attractions to visitors,
and particularly prides itself on the magnificent
Rocky Mountains, especially the celebrated Jasper and
Banff national parks.


   Canada    Yukon
   Northwest Territories    Nunavut
   British Columbia    Alberta
   Saskatchwan    Manitoba
   Ontario    Quebec
   Newfoundland    New Brunswick
   Prince Edward Island    Nova Scotia



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