Saturday, 11 January 2014


Manitoba, province in south central Canada. Manitoba is the easternmost of Canada’s three Prairie provinces, the others being Alberta and Saskatchewan. Manitoba lies in the geographic center of Canada. It has been known as the Keystone Province ever since Canada’s governor-general Lord Dufferin described it in 1877 as “the keystone of that mighty arch of sister provinces which spans the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”
Much of the countryside in southern Manitoba is farmland and gives the impression of a vast plain with a perfectly level horizon as far as the eye can see. In the center of the province the flat farmland gives way to vast areas of forest interspersed with hundreds of lakes. In the extreme north the land is much the same as it was thousands of years ago and presents a bleak array of stunted trees, exposed rock, and swamps.
For centuries the fur trade was the dominant economic activity in the region known as Rupert’s Land—a vast area surrounding Hudson Bay that encompassed present-day Manitoba. Large numbers of settlers arrived in Manitoba during the 19th century and turned prairie grasslands into wheat farms. By the late 19th century, agriculture had surpassed the fur trade, and Winnipeg became an important terminus for the spreading railroads—the funnel through which the prairie harvest flowed eastward. In the 1940s and 1950s industry became the largest source of income in the province. Today, Manitoba still retains a strong agricultural sector, even as it has developed a diversified industrial base.
Manitoba has an area of 647,797 sq km (250,116 sq mi), including 94,241 sq km (36,387 sq mi) of inland waters. Manitoba measures 1,220 km (760 mi) from north to south. Along the southern border the distance from east to west is 450 km (280 mi), although at its widest point Manitoba measures 790 km (490 mi).
A Natural Regions
More than half of Manitoba lies within the Canadian Shield, a rugged, rocky, glacier-scoured plateau that crosses the province from northwest to southeast. This varied terrain abounds with scenic landscapes. Short, turbulent rivers connect and drain the innumerable lakes, which stretch to Hudson Bay in the far north. Most of Manitoba’s mineral wealth is found within the shield, which is underlain by hard crystalline rocks that are among the oldest in the world. The shield is also Manitoba’s main source of pulpwood and hydroelectric power.
At the edge of the shield in northeastern Manitoba is a narrow zone that is part of the region called the Hudson Bay Lowlands. It is a low plain of sedimentary rock, yet its surface features differ little from those of the shield.
To the south are the Interior Plains of Manitoba, which cover about one-third of the province. The Interior Plains can be divided into two major subdivisions. The much larger subdivision is the First Prairie Level, or the Manitoba Lowland. Its elevation ranges from 180 to 270 m (600 to 900 ft). The Manitoba Lowland encompasses the Red River Valley and the area of three large lakes—Winnipeg, Winnipegosis, and Manitoba. During glacial times the Manitoba Lowland was the site of a vast lake, called Lake Agassiz. Surface features and soils of the lowland reflect the various levels attained by that ancient lake. Some areas, for example, have gravelly beach deposits or sandy delta materials or even old dune belts. Others have fine soils formed in the deeper lake basins.
The second subdivision of the Interior Plains forms the southwestern corner of Manitoba. Commonly called the Second Prairie Level, this plain generally rises above the level of the Manitoba Lowland and has an average elevation of about 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level. The eroded east-facing edge of the Second Prairie Level is called the Manitoba Escarpment. The escarpment, a steep cliff, is capped by material left by the glaciers and is breached at several points by broad river lowlands. It occurs as a series of hilly uplands identified from south to north as the Pembina Mountains, Riding Mountain, Duck Mountain, and the Porcupine Hills. The Duck Mountain area includes Baldy Mountain, the highest point in the province at 832 m (2,730 ft).
B Rivers and Lakes
Manitoba is lower in elevation than areas to the east, west, and south, and serves as a drainage basin for several major rivers. These include the Saskatchewan River, which flows from the west and enters Lake Winnipeg via Cedar Lake; the Winnipeg River, a much shorter river that links Lake of the Woods in southwestern Ontario with Lake Winnipeg; and the Red River, which enters Manitoba from the south and is joined by the muddy Assiniboine at the city of Winnipeg. Below the city the Red River has been canalized to provide a navigation route to Lake Winnipeg. All these major rivers and many lesser ones converge on Lake Winnipeg, which in turn is drained through the Nelson River to Hudson Bay. South of the Nelson River is the Hayes River and its tributary system, and to the north is the Churchill River system, which also flows to Hudson Bay.
The largest and most important of Manitoba’s lakes is Lake Winnipeg, 428 km (266 mi) in length. Next in size are Lakes Winnipegosis and Manitoba.
C Climate
The climate of Manitoba reflects both its northerly position and its interior location. The climate is typically continental, and the temperature varies dramatically with the seasons. Winters are quite cold throughout the province. Even Winnipeg, in the south, has January temperatures that average a high of -13°C (8°F) and a record low of -48°C (-54°F). Churchill, on Hudson Bay, has a January average of -28°C (-18°F). Summers, on the other hand, are rather warm. Winnipeg’s July average high is 26°C (79°F), and a high of 42°C (108°F) has been recorded. Summers become mild to cool in northern parts of the province. Churchill’s July average is 12°C (54°F), yet a high of 36°C (96°F) has been experienced there. Southern Manitoba has a fairly long frost-free season, consisting of between 120 and 140 days in the Red River Valley. This decreases to the northeast.
Precipitation is relatively light, and it decreases both to the west and to the north. The Red River Valley averages 560 mm (22 in) annually, while 460 mm (18 in) is received at the western boundary and 380 mm (15 in) in the far north. Snowfall is not usually heavy, but it tends to accumulate during the long severe winters and gives the impression of great abundance. Most of the moisture occurs as rain during the summer.
D Soils
The best soils for farming are in southern Manitoba. Fertile black soils occur in the Red River Valley and in the prairies of the southwest. Less fertile brown and gray soils are found in the parklands, between the prairie and the mixed-wood forest. Gray soils that require much fertilizer occur north of Winnipeg, around the major lakes. In the Canadian Shield region are infertile gray soils derived from hard granites and other rocks.
E Plant Life
Forests cover 66 percent of Manitoba. The main forest area is divided into the boreal forest and the mixed-wood forest. The boreal, or northern, forest contains coniferous (cone-bearing) trees, especially white and black spruce, balsam fir, and jack pine. South of the boreal forest is the mixed-wood forest, which contains conifers as well as such deciduous trees as white birch, aspen, poplar, and Manitoba maple. Prairie land is found in the southwest, where the natural vegetation is grass. Between the prairie and the mixed-wood forest are the parklands, where small prairie tracts are mingled with wooded areas containing aspen, birch, and poplar. In the far northeast is tundra; there the ground cover largely consists of mosses and lichens. Between the tundra and the boreal forest lies a belt of sparse and stunted coniferous trees that also contains large open areas of muskeg, or boglike spongy ground.
F Animal Life
The plains and forests of Manitoba contain a diversity of animals, including caribou, moose, deer, and elk. Coyotes and badgers are common in the open country, and the beaver, black bear, fisher, lynx, and marten inhabit the forests. In the far north live polar bears, wolverines, white foxes, and blue foxes. The north is also home to bison (commonly called buffalo), the animal that the province adopted as its emblem on its flag and seal. This variety is the wood bison, which lives in forests. The plains bison formerly roamed southern Manitoba in the millions but disappeared because of overhunting in the late 19th century.
Other species of fox are found throughout the province, as are mink, otter, weasel, and muskrat. Ducks and geese breed around Manitoba’s lakes, which contain whitefish, lake and speckled trout, pike, pickerel, tullibee, muskellunge, and bass.
G Environmental Issues
Water pollution and environmental problems associated with hydroelectricity development are among the most serious environmental problems of Manitoba. Water pollution in the province is caused mainly by the runoff of pesticides and fertilizer from cultivated fields, the discharge of municipal sewage, and manure from livestock (up sharply in the province since the mid-1990s due to the large increase in hog farming). Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and animal wastes has been linked to contaminated groundwater in some areas, especially in the southeast, which has the highest concentration of large livestock farms. It has also led to toxic algae blooms in lakes and threatened the health of such important bodies of water as Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.
Hydroelectricity development in Manitoba has required engineers to reroute and dam rivers and to flood large tracts of wetlands and forest. In some areas this has led to land erosion, damaged fish stocks, and compromised the quality of available drinking water. Further development of hydroelectricity, much of which is exported to the United States, has been vigorously opposed by some indigenous First Nations peoples and by environmental groups.
Manitoba adopted its first legislation to protect the environment in 1968. The comprehensive Environment Act that went into effect in 1988 requires that any environmental problems in the province that might be caused by any economic development project be identified and dealt with during the project’s initial planning stages. In 1990 Manitoba undertook the Protected Areas initiative, a commitment to establish a network of protected areas to preserve the rich biological diversity found in the province’s varied landscapes. Today, this network has expanded to include dozens of ecological reserves, wildlife management areas, provincial forests, and other sites across Manitoba.
The fur trade, the first major industry in Manitoba, dominated the local economy until the late 19th century, when it was replaced by agriculture. After 1875 wheat replaced beaver pelts as the chief export. Agriculture remained the most important economic activity in the province until the mid–20th century, when it was surpassed by manufacturing as a source of income. The decades after World War II (1939-1945) also witnessed rapid growth in service industries. Today, services provide the largest portion of Manitoba’s gross domestic product (GDP), followed by manufacturing, agriculture, hydroelectricity production, and mining. Hunting and trapping continues in the province to the present day. In 2006 Manitoba’s GDP was $C(Canadian)44.9 billion.
A Agriculture
Manitoba’s early farmers settled in the fertile Red River Valley, and other agricultural settlements gradually spread outward from there. Because poor, sandy soils were encountered in the forests to the east and north, the main thrust of settlement was westward and to the south. The black and brown soils of the prairies and the parklands proved the most productive.
Farmland occupies about 14 percent of Manitoba’s land, and crops are raised on 61 percent of the farmland. In 2006 there were 19,054 farms in Manitoba, with an average farm size of 405 hectares (1,001 acres). This represents nearly a 30 percent decline in the number of farms in Manitoba since 1981; at the same time, the average farm size has risen by nearly 40 percent. About three-quarters of all Manitoba farms specialize in wheat, other grains and oilseeds, and livestock.
The black soil of southwestern Manitoba is part of an area of exceptionally fertile soil that extends over the Prairie provinces. Many farms in Manitoba’s black-soil belt are devoted solely to wheat, the most important crop in the province. Most wheat farmers grow varieties of hard red spring wheat.
Manitoba produces several other grain crops, including barley, oats, and rye. Flax has been an important crop since the mid-20th century, but other oilseed crops have since risen in importance, including canola and sunflowers. Manitoba also produces potatoes, mushrooms, fruit, and a variety of vegetables. Specialty crops include soybeans, mustard seed, and grain corn, which is used as a livestock feed.
Livestock is the leading source of farm income in Manitoba. Manitoba’s beef cattle herd is among the largest in Canada. During the 1990s the swine industry grew significantly, and today the value of hog production generally exceeds that of cattle. Other animals raised include sheep, chickens, and turkeys, as well as less conventional animals such as bison, geese, and wild boar. Dairy cattle provide Manitoba with fresh milk and cream. Chicken eggs are an important export.
Among the more unusual agricultural activities in Manitoba are the gathering of wild rice and medicinal herbs by indigenous First Nations peoples. The wild rice grows in marshes in the southeastern part of the province, particularly in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
B Fisheries
In 1880 Icelandic settlers in the interlake region north of Winnipeg started the Lake Winnipeg pickerel and whitefish industry. The large southern lakes were long the major source of Manitoba’s commercial fish harvest, but the catch there has declined because of pollution and overfishing. Today, a growing proportion of the catch comes from the cleaner northern lakes, from which the fish are transported by air.
About 15 varieties of fish are sold commercially, mostly in the United States. Walleye, pickerel, mullet, whitefish, northern pike, sauger, and carp are the main species caught. The entire commercial freshwater fish catch in Manitoba is marketed and processed by the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, a crown corporation with headquarters and processing facilities in Winnipeg. The corporation also maintains operations in northwestern Ontario and the Northwest Territories.
C Furs
Since the late 19th century the fur trade has been of limited significance to Manitoba’s economy, partly because of a loss of interest by the public in beaver hats and partly because of the depletion of fur-bearing animals. By the early 20th century, the beaver was almost extinct in Manitoba. Government-backed conservation measures eventually made it possible to resume the harvesting of wild fur. Beaver, marten, muskrat, mink, and fisher are the most valuable wildlife fur sources. Ranch-raised mink and fox account for approximately one-third of the value of Manitoba’s production of pelts.
D Forestry
Although about half of Manitoba’s land area is forested, only three-fifths of the forestland is productive, or suitable for regular harvest. Nearly all of this productive forestland is located in the area adjacent to the large lakes and to the lower Saskatchewan River; more than 90 percent of it is owned by the provincial government. Because of the small size of the trees on the productive forestland and the predominance of spruce and pine trees, three-fifths of the timber cut in the Manitoba forests is converted to wood pulp. Lumber and pulpwood processing operations are located near The Pas. A mill at Pine Falls produces newsprint and a plant at Minitonas makes oriented strand board.
E Mining
Deposits of metallic ores are found in a number of places within the Canadian Shield—a mineral-rich plateau occupying northern and central Manitoba. The first large discovery was the rich ore of the Flin Flon area, in 1915. The ore yielded gold, silver, copper, and zinc, and mining and smelting operations began after a railroad line was built into the Flin Flon area after 1928. In 1953 nickel operations began at Lynn Lake, north of Flin Flon, and subsequently at Thompson, northeast of Flin Flon. Nickel is Manitoba’s most valuable metallic ore. Copper, zinc, cobalt, and gold are also important. In the area near Thompson there is a fully integrated nickel-producing facility, where mining, concentration, smelting, and refining are carried out. Manitoba contains the only commercial tantalum mine in North America. It is located in the southeast at Bernic Lake, near the Oiseau River.
The most important nonmetal is petroleum. The province’s oil reserves, which occur in sedimentary rocks of the Mississippian Period, are concentrated in the southwest. The principal oil center is Virden. Construction materials, including gypsum, cement, sand, gravel, and building stone, are also mined in Manitoba.
F Manufacturing
Manufacturing is important in Manitoba. The chief products are processed foods and beverages; transportation equipment; wood products, including pulp and paper and furniture; machinery, especially farm implements; primary and fabricated metals; chemicals; and plastics. About half of all manufactured goods are exported, mostly to other areas in Canada.
Manufacturing in Manitoba began with the milling of flour at the Red River settlement in 1825, but major manufacturing did not develop until the Canadian Pacific Railway crossed the province in 1882. Food processing industries were stimulated by Manitoba’s central location and by the demands of the growing western market, and food processing has remained the most important industry.
Winnipeg’s early start as the urban center of the province gave the city and its surrounding area a commanding lead as a manufacturing center. The ample supply of inexpensive electricity and the city’s location where the transcontinental railroads cross the Red River Valley also helped Winnipeg’s industries prosper. The city has the greatest concentration of industry in the province. Other important industrial centers include Brandon, the home of Manitoba’s chemical industry; Thompson, a center for nickel refining; and Flin Flon, a metal processing center.
G Electricity
The vast majority of Manitoba’s electricity comes from hydroelectric plants, most of which are owned and operated by Manitoba Hydro, a province-owned utility. Winnipeg’s urban core is served by a separate municipal utility, Winnipeg Hydro.
Until the 1960s the Winnipeg River supplied most of the province’s electricity. Thereafter, the electrical needs of new mining communities in the north led to the Nelson River power project. A huge power plant at Kettle Rapids, on the Nelson River, was completed in 1975. In 1992 the Limestone Generating Station, Manitoba Hydro’s fifth and largest station on the Nelson River, was opened. Today, Manitoba Hydro operates 12 hydroelectric generating stations in the province. The corporation also maintains two coal-burning electricity plants to supplement power during peak usage. Manitoba sells much of its surplus power to other provinces and to the United States.
H Transportation
Located at the geographic heart of Canada, Manitoba has long been an important transportation center. Manitoba is traversed by trunk lines of both the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and the Canadian National (CN). Both lines have extensive rail yards and repair facilities at Winnipeg, Canada’s chief midcontinent rail center. These facilities include CN’s sprawling Symington Yard, one of the world’s largest and most modern rail yards. Winnipeg is also connected by rail with the U.S. cities of Chicago, Illinois, and Saint Paul, Minnesota. Canada’s passenger train service, VIA Rail Canada, uses CN and CPR rail lines to provide regional and intercontinental service. The province has about 2,900 km (about 1,800 mi) of operated railroad track.
A railroad from The Pas to Churchill, originally called the Hudson Bay Railroad, was completed in 1929. It became part of the Canadian National system in 1958. Spurs reach Flin Flon, Snow Lake, Lynn Lake, and Thompson. The railroad transports fuels for aircraft and ships to the Hudson Bay area and provides access to and from the mineral-rich areas of the Canadian Shield. It also carries prairie grains to Churchill for export to foreign markets.
Crossing southern Manitoba in an east-west direction are several major highways, including the Trans-Canada Highway, which was opened in 1962. The Yellowhead Route diverges from the Trans-Canada Highway at Portage La Prairie and crosses the prairies to the north of the Trans-Canada. Most of Manitoba’s major highways converge on Winnipeg, which is an important trucking center. Trunk highways link northern and southern population centers. Manitoba has 19,000 km (11,806 mi) of highways, roads, and streets under provincial jurisdiction. In addition, there are many roadways under municipal jurisdiction.
In northern Manitoba, air transportation makes up for a lack of extensive railroads and highways. Several small regional carriers serve most northern areas. Other airlines, including Air Canada, operate a regular service from Winnipeg to major centers throughout Canada and selected American and European cities.
Manitoba shares in a vital pipeline system that services all three Prairie provinces. The system carries crude oil to refineries that are located as far west as Vancouver and as far east as Toronto.
I Trade
Winnipeg is one of Canada’s leading grain markets. It is also a center for the trade in livestock and a major distribution center for farm and factory products of the Prairie provinces.
Much of the grain from the Prairie provinces moves east through Winnipeg by rail to the Great Lakes port of Thunder Bay, Ontario. From there it goes through the lakes and by canal or rail to New York or out through the St. Lawrence Seaway to Europe. A great deal of grain also moves west across the prairies to the port of Vancouver.
The railroad line to Churchill makes possible the shipping of grain through Hudson Bay, a shorter route than the traditional ones through the Great Lakes. However, Churchill can only be used between July and October because of the risk of ice damage to ships in cold weather. Because of the uncertain shipping season and the consequent high insurance rates, the port of Churchill receives few inbound cargoes.
A Population Patterns
According to the 2001 national census, Manitoba had a population of 1,119,583, an increase of 2.5 percent over the 1991 figure of 1,091,942. The average population density was 2.1 people per sq km (5.5 per sq mi). However, nearly all residents—about 95 percent of the population—are concentrated in the southern part of the province, a land area that amounts to less than one-third of the total area. Residents of cities and towns account for 72 percent of the population, and more than half the population lives in the city of Winnipeg.
In 1870, when Manitoba became a province, a partial census was taken. Indigenous peoples of unmixed ancestry were excluded, so the enumerated population mainly comprised settlers of Scottish origin and the mostly French-speaking Métis, a nation of mixed indigenous and European ancestry. The 12,000 inhabitants who were counted, together with an estimated 13,000 indigenous peoples, gave Manitoba a population of about 25,000. During the next three decades, this population was increased by Icelandic settlers, by Mennonite colonists from Russia, by Ukrainian settlers, and by migration from Ontario. The census of 1901 showed a population of about 255,000.
During the 20th century Canada encouraged immigration from Europe and the United States, and this policy helped quadruple Manitoba’s population between 1901 and 1976. In recent decades population growth has slowed, as immigration to Manitoba has declined and large numbers of people—especially the young—have left the province in search of opportunities elsewhere. In 2001 Manitoba received less than 2 percent of all Canadian immigrants, down from 4 percent in 1981. Attracting newcomers remains an important challenge for Manitoba as it attempts to offset the exodus of young people and provide an adequate supply of labor for economic growth.
Manitoba’s ethnic composition reflects immigration patterns. More than 15 percent are descendants of British settlers and migrants. Roughly 9 percent are of German origin, about 7 percent of Ukrainian origin, and about 5 percent have predominantly French ancestry. There are substantial numbers of Dutch and Scandinavians, and about 57,000 descendants of the Métis. People of the Sioux, Cree, Salteau, Chipewyan, Ojibwa, and other North American indigenous nations number more than 90,000. Most live on reservations.
B Principal Cities
Winnipeg’s population was 633,451 in 2006, and its metropolitan area totaled 706,700 in 2006. Winnipeg is the oldest city in the Prairie provinces. In addition to being the capital of Manitoba, Winnipeg is also a leading transportation and trading center for the grain originating in all three Prairie provinces. It is the site of one of the world’s leading commodity exchanges, the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange. Winnipeg produces most of Manitoba’s manufactured goods, and some two-thirds of all retail sales in the province occur in the city. Recent years have seen the emergence of new industries, including telecommunications and medical research. Winnipeg was greatly enlarged in 1972 when 11 suburbs, among them Saint Boniface, Saint James-Assiniboia, Transcona, East Kildonan, and West Kildonan were merged with the city.
Saint Boniface, on the east bank of the Red River, has a strongly French character. Saint Boniface was one of the leading areas of French settlement in Canada outside Québec. In 1818 the first Roman Catholic mission in western Canada was constructed there. Today, it is a residential, retail, and industrial center and is home to Symington Yard, a major railroad switching yard.
Brandon, Manitoba’s second largest city, had a population of 41,511 in 2006. Brandon lies to the west of Winnipeg on the Assiniboine River. Both of Canada’s major railroads enter the city, and it is at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and the route north to Flin Flon. Major industries include fertilizers and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and farm equipment. Health care, education, and government administration are also important.
Thompson, founded around a nickel mine in 1956, is a mining, communications, transportation, and retailing center for northern Manitoba. A short rail spur connects it to the Hudson Bay Railroad. The city is highly dependent on world demand for nickel, and downturns in demand have led to population fluctuations. In 2006 its population was 13,446.
Portage La Prairie had a population of 12,728. It is located in the heart of some of the richest agricultural land of Manitoba, called the Portage Plains, and is noted for its grain elevators, agricultural machinery manufacturing, and brickyards.
C Religion
The major religious groups in Manitoba are the Roman Catholic Church, with 27 percent of the population as members; the United Church of Canada, with 19 percent; and the Anglican Church, with 9 percent. There are also substantial numbers of Mennonites (including Hutterites), Lutherans, Ukrainian Catholics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and Eastern Orthodox.
A Education
Since 1890 Manitoba has provided free public schools. The public school system is nondenominational and is supported by local taxation and government grants. The province also funds private and private church-affiliated schools that meet certain standards. Religious education is optional. School attendance is compulsory for all children from the ages of 7 to 16. These and similar policy decisions are made by the provincial department of education. To administer local matters, such as the hiring of teachers and property maintenance, each of the several dozen school divisions in the province elects its own school board. In an effort to trim operating costs, the provincial government in 2002 implemented an amalgamation policy to reduce the number of school divisions by one-third.
A1 Higher Education
The University of Manitoba, located in the Fort Garry section of Winnipeg, is Manitoba’s largest university. The university and all the colleges on the Fort Garry campus use English as the language of instruction. These colleges form the constituent called University College, which is nondenominational and coeducational. University College has four affiliated colleges: Saint Andrew’s, which trains the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and is also the center for Ukrainian-Canadian studies; Saint John’s, which is Anglican; Saint Paul’s, which is under the direction of Roman Catholic Jesuits; and Saint Boniface, which is also Roman Catholic, is located in the Saint Boniface section of Winnipeg, and uses French as the language of instruction.
Other degree-granting institutions in Manitoba are the nondenominational Brandon University, in Brandon, and the University of Winnipeg, in Winnipeg.
B Museums and Libraries
A variety of museums in the province preserve Manitoba’s natural and human history. Most provincial museums are in Winnipeg, including the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, which offers interactive exhibits that explore the environment, space, science, and history; the Musée de Saint-Boniface (Saint Boniface Museum), which focuses on Manitoba’s French-Canadian and Métis cultures; the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, which preserves the records of the company and its subsidiaries; and the Living Prairie Museum, an interactive display that preserves a tract of the endangered tall-grass prairie ecosystem. The Manitoba Agricultural Museum and a restored pioneer village is located in Austin, and the Heritage North Museum, in Thompson, features exhibits on mining, the fur trade, and natural history.
Manitoba has 38 public libraries, including regional and municipal systems. The Winnipeg Public Library has 21 branches. The province is home to a number of academic libraries, including the University of Manitoba Library system—one of the major institutional libraries in the province. The Legislative Library of Manitoba, which contains official publications and government records, is in Winnipeg.
C Communications
Manitoba has 5 daily newspapers, the best-known being the Winnipeg Free Press. The province also has a variety of foreign-language periodicals.
In 2002 the province had 19 AM and 11 FM radio stations and 2 television broadcasters. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation transmits radio and television programs to the communities of northern Manitoba. The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) began broadcasting from its studios in Winnipeg in 1999. Available to subscribers of basic cable throughout Canada, APTN is the world’s first national network devoted to aboriginal programming.
D Arts
Manitoba has a variety of cultural institutions, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (founded in 1939), Canada’s oldest professional ballet company, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, one of the country’s finest orchestras. These and other cultural institutions and activities in the province are supported by the federally funded Canada Council and the provincially funded Manitoba Arts Council. The Manitoba Centennial Centre complex, in Winnipeg, includes a planetarium, a concert hall, the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, and the Manitoba Theatre Centre. The Winnipeg Art Gallery has notable exhibits, particularly featuring Canadian artists and containing the world’s largest collection of Inuit art.
A National Parks
One of Manitoba’s chief tourist attractions is Riding Mountain National Park (established in 1929), developed on one of the forested segments of the Manitoba Escarpment, which rises some 460 m (1,500 ft) above the prairie countryside. Within the park are camping facilities and lakes for swimming. Wapusk National Park (established in 1996) is located on the western shore of Hudson Bay. The park encompasses a vast expanse of tundra, muskeg, and lakes, and is home to polar bear, caribou, and many other animals. A third national park, the Manitoba Lowlands National Park, has been proposed for the sensitive ecological region that lies between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Winnipegosis in central Manitoba.
The federal government has also set aside five national historic sites in Manitoba. Lower Fort Garry, on the Red River near Winnipeg, is a stone fort constructed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1830s. Prince of Wales Fort near Churchill contains the ruins of another Hudson’s Bay Company fort that was built in the 18th century and is now partly restored. Riel House, in Winnipeg, is the fully restored and furnished wood-frame home of Métis leader Louis Riel, a founder of Manitoba. St. Andrew's Rectory, on the lower Red River, preserves a historic church and grounds. The Forks is an expanse of parkland in the heart of Winnipeg that for thousands of years served as an important meeting place for indigenous peoples.
In the south of the province, at the geographic center of the continent, is the International Peace Garden. A joint United States-Canadian enterprise, it extends from the international border into Manitoba and North Dakota.
B Provincial Parks
Manitoba maintains dozens of provincial parks. The largest are Atikaki, Whiteshell, Grass River, Nopiming, Duck Mountain, Clearwater, Spruce Woods, Hecla Island, and Paint Lake. Whiteshell, the most popular park, encompasses more than 200 lakes and streams and also contains the resort town of Falcon Lake, which has recreational facilities. In addition to the provincial parks, Manitoba maintains a variety of ecological reserves, wildlife management areas, heritage rivers, and other sites.
C Annual Events
Manitoba is home to dozens of art and cultural festivals year-round. The Trappers’ Festival, featuring a dogsled derby and other activities, is a gala affair at The Pas in February. The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair enlivens Brandon in March. July events include a Trout Festival in Flin Flon, the Winnipeg International Folk Festival at Birds Hill Park, and Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival at Dauphin. Later in summer is the week-long Folklorama festival in Winnipeg, the world’s largest festival celebrating different ethnic cultures. Folklorama typically attracts half a million visitors.
D Sports and Recreation
Hunting and fishing, though carefully controlled by the government, are popular on Manitoba’s numerous lakes and streams, which attract many visitors to the province. Other popular summer activities include camping and boating. The province also has several ski areas. The most popular team sport, here as elsewhere in Canada, is ice hockey.
Manitoba, like the other provinces and territories within Canada’s federal system, is authorized to collect taxes and enact laws regulating provincial affairs. Provincial jurisdiction specifically covers property, education, health, public welfare, natural resources, and direct taxation within its borders. All citizens 18 years of age or older may vote in elections.
A National Representation
Manitoba is represented in the Canadian Parliament by 14 elected representatives in the House of Commons and by six senators who are appointed by the federal government.
B Executive
The nominal head of government is a lieutenant governor, representing the British crown and appointed by the federal government. However, real political power rests with a premier, who is the leader of the party that commands a majority in the legislature, and a cabinet chosen by the premier. The premier and cabinet must resign if they lose the confidence of a majority in the legislature.
C Legislature
The unicameral (single-chamber) Legislative Assembly consists of 57 members. Each is elected from a single-member district for a five-year term. However, the premier may call an election before the term has expired.
D Judiciary
Manitoba has two higher courts, whose members are appointed by the federal government. These are the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals of cases tried by lower courts, and the Court of Queen’s Bench, which is Manitoba’s highest trial court; the court hears major civil and criminal cases. All but the most serious criminal matters, however, are heard first in provincial courts, whose members are appointed by the Manitoba government.
E Politics
The political parties of significance in Manitoba are the Progressive Conservative Party; the New Democratic Party (NDP), of moderate socialist orientation; and the Liberal Party.
Before World War I (1914-1918) the Conservative Party (a predecessor of the Progressive Conservatives) governed Manitoba in most years, apart from 1888-1900, when the Liberals were in power. The Liberals achieved power again from 1915 to 1922. The United Farmers of Manitoba (UFM), organized in 1920 by a farmer’s movement, dominated the provincial legislature from 1922 until 1958. From 1958 to 1969, the main contenders for power were the Progressive Conservatives and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a socialist party founded in 1932. In 1961 the CCF became a part of the newly formed New Democratic Party, and the NDP governed Manitoba from 1969 until 1977. The Progressive Conservatives led Manitoba for two periods during the late 20th century, from 1977 to 1981 and from 1988 to 1999. The NDP governed during the interim, from 1981 to 1988, and it was returned to power in 1999 and in 2003.
Before European exploration and settlement, the Chipewyan people roamed the tundra and the northern woodlands of Manitoba, and the Cree people hunted and trapped in the great central forests, swamps, and plains. The Assiniboine lived farther south, along the river that bears their name.
In 1612, two years after Europeans explored the Hudson Bay, Captain Thomas Button, an Englishman, landed near the mouth of the Nelson River, thus becoming the first European to set foot in the region. During the next 20 years other explorers made voyages along the shoreline, but each sought the Northwest Passage, a route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and none ventured inland.
A Exploration
In the late 17th century, exploration of the region, which was named Rupert’s Land and included the land surrounding Hudson Bay, was begun by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Financed by the English on the advice of two French explorers, the company first established a post on the Nelson River in 1670 and then built another on the Churchill River in 1688. For three years, Henry Kelsey, an agent of the company, explored the interior, going north into the tundra and south and west as far as the Saskatchewan River. However, the company’s profitable monopoly on the fur trade with the indigenous peoples soon made extensive journeys inland unnecessary.
In the 1730s Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye, a French Canadian explorer, commanded an expedition that built a series of outposts and forts from Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods westward to the upper Missouri River. The expedition explored the Red River Valley, building a fort near Lake Winnipeg. Fort La Reine on the Assiniboine River (at the site of the present city of Portage La Prairie) became the headquarters for the expedition. Other French explorers established trading centers that were accessible to the indigenous peoples.
The Hudson’s Bay Company responded by moving inland to build new trading posts. However, its monopoly had been successfully challenged. Even when the French and Indian War resulted in the British conquest of France’s land in North America in 1763, unlicensed French fur traders remained, to be joined by Scots and Americans. Within 30 years the Montréal-based North West Company became the principal competitor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the fur trade.
B Settlement
In 1812 Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, a major stockholder in the Hudson’s Bay Company, brought a group of Scottish emigrants into the fertile Red River Valley to settle near Lake Winnipeg. The North West Company considered this territory its own and feared that settlement, particularly settlement sponsored by its archrival, would endanger its fur trade. The governor of the settlement, then called Assiniboia, claimed all hunting and trapping rights in the area and demanded the evacuation of North West Company trading posts. A struggle that included violent clashes and seizures of men and goods began between the two companies. The struggle, however, was indecisive. It ended in 1821, when the companies merged.
C Annexation to Canada
Canadian annexation of the northwestern territory was strenuously and violently opposed by the Métis, descendants of mixed indigenous and European ancestry. They maintained that they were a nation and had prior rights in Assiniboia. In 1869, when Canada prepared to take it over, the Métis, under the leadership of Louis Riel, resisted, sparking the Red River Rebellion. The Métis convinced the Canadian government to issue the Manitoba Act of 1870, which created the province of Manitoba. Manitoba was a small province of 36,000 sq km (14,000 sq mi) that included the Red River settlement of some 12,000 Scots and Métis. As a province, Manitoba obtained more privileges and greater autonomy than if it had been annexed as a territory.
During its first decade as a province, Manitoba’s population increased rapidly. The fertile prairies produced a premium grade of spring wheat. Homesteaders from Ontario and immigrants from Iceland, Russia, Germany, and eastern Europe were attracted to the Canadian west. By 1881 the population of Manitoba had increased fivefold.
The French-speaking inhabitants, who had been equal in numbers to the English-speaking settlers when the province was formed, became a small minority. In 1890 when the provincial legislature replaced the dual system of Roman Catholic and Protestant schools with a single system of tax-supported nondenominational education, the French inhabitants felt that their cultural identity was endangered. At the same time the use of French as a language of instruction was prohibited. These acts aroused a bitter controversy known as the Manitoba schools question. The federal government debated the issue and supported the 1890 statutes, abolishing the dual educational system.
D Agrarian Prosperity
At the turn of the century, world demand for wheat was growing, and Manitoba prospered. New immigration followed, and expansion of the railroads began in earnest. In 1912 the borders of the province were extended northward, tripling its area and gaining it a coastline on Hudson Bay and a rich mining region. The growing population of the southern farmland region, as well as improved transportation links, enlarged the local market for industrial goods. Winnipeg became a major Canadian distribution center and one of the world’s great wheat markets, with huge rail yards and railcar factories, as well as important stockyards and meatpacking plants.
World War I (1914-1918) brought further prosperity to Manitoba. The province produced grain, livestock, and manufactured goods at a rate never before achieved. However, war also brought inflation, and peace brought widespread unemployment and popular unrest. After the war, wages dropped, working conditions worsened, and movements for reform emerged among farmers and urban workers. In 1919 labor leaders organized a general strike in Winnipeg. The most famous strike in Canadian history, the Winnipeg General Strike brought the city to a halt for over a month. In 1920 farming interests joined together as the United Farmers of Manitoba (UFM) to gain political power, and in 1922 they formed a government. They retained power for more than three decades. World War II (1939-1945) increased demand for Manitoba’s agricultural output, and it also stimulated the development of industry.
E Postwar Manitoba
Manitoba remained prosperous during and after the war, avoiding wartime inflation and later, postwar depression. In the 1950s the development of rich mineral deposits in the north, especially nickel, led to the establishment of northern mining communities, including the city of Thompson in 1956. During this time, technological improvements in farming made larger farms more profitable. The number of farms declined as smaller holdings were incorporated into larger units, and many agricultural workers left to seek jobs in urban areas. In 1957 the electoral districts of Manitoba were redrawn to reflect the population shift from rural to urban areas, particularly to the city of Winnipeg and towns in the south, and also to the northern mining communities.
In 1958 Dufferin Roblin, an advocate of active government stimulation of private enterprise, led the Progressive Conservative Party to an electoral victory. Over the next 11 years, the government spent vast sums on highways, hydroelectric power, and flood control and promoted the development of diverse industries. Manitoba had long sought such diversification as a way to ease the impacts of cyclical downturns in the agricultural sector.
The election of 1969 brought the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) to power for the first time in Manitoba, an event that foreshadowed a major realignment of provincial politics. Led by premier Edward Schreyer the NDP government enacted a variety of social and economic reforms, including placing Manitoba’s telephone and power systems under public control and introducing a government-run automobile insurance program. Throughout the remainder of the 20th century, the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives would alternate in power; by 1990, the Liberal Party had been reduced to a minor third party in the province. Government involvement in the economy generally expanded under periods of NDP rule (1969-1977, 1981-1988, 1999- ) and declined under the Progressive Conservatives (1977-1981, 1988-1999).
When the NDP was returned to power in 1981, the administration’s main challenge was to deal with the language problem in Manitoba. In 1979 a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada invalidated the 1890 Manitoba statute that had designated English as the sole official language. The government feared an adverse decision in a second lawsuit that was challenging all provincial laws passed since 1890 on the ground that they were printed only in English. The government proposed legislation to make Manitoba officially bilingual, but this proposal aroused serious opposition, and in 1984 it was abandoned. In 1994, however, the Supreme Court of Canada instructed Manitoba to grant French-speaking citizens exclusive control over French-language education. The court ruled that Manitoba’s School Act of 1871 violated minority language rights guaranteed by Canada’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In recent decades Manitoba has continued to promote economic diversification of the economy, which remains vulnerable to shifting demand for agricultural products and minerals, especially nickel. These efforts have included the promotion of light industries, such as Winnipeg’s garment industry, and the construction of new hydroelectricity-generating facilities (such as the Limestone Generating Station on the Nelson River in the early 1990s) to encourage the sale of hydroelectric power to the United States. At the same time, Manitoba has encouraged the expansion of traditional industries, such as hog production, which increased by more than 40 percent from 1996 to 2001. An important issue facing Manitoba’s efforts to promote economic growth in the early 21st century is a shortage of labor, a consequence of slowing immigration and the departure of young, working-age people from the province.

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