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Natural Resources in Canada

Natural resources are aspects of the natural environment from which goods and services can be obtained and produced. They include air, sunlight, water, land, vegetation, animal life and geological resources. People can also value natural resources for their own sake or for their aesthetic qualities. Humans must manage natural resources to sustain the benefits they offer.

Canada is among the most resource-rich countries in the world. Its large and varied natural resources are essential to its economies and cultures. But there are ongoing debates about how to use, share and manage natural resources.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Hydroelectricity in Canada

Hydroelectricity is energy produced from flowing water. The amount of energy produced depends on volume and speed: the more water moving at a fast rate, the more energy produced. For this reason, many hydroelectric stations are built near waterfalls. To produce energy, water is directed toward turbines — sometimes with the help of a dam — causing them to spin. In turn, the turbines make electrical generators spin and electricity is produced. It is a renewable, comparatively nonpolluting energy source and Canada’s largest source of electric-power generation.

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Cod Moratorium of 1992

On 2 July 1992, the federal government banned cod fishing along Canada’s east coast. This moratorium ended nearly five centuries of cod fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador. Cod had played a central role in the province’s economy and culture.

The aim of the policy was to help restore cod stocks that had been depleted due to overfishing. Today, the cod population remains too low to support a full-scale fishery. For this reason, the ban is still largely in place.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

Article

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

The Trans Mountain Expansion is a project to build about 980 km of new pipe, most of which will run parallel to the existing Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The new line will carry diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. The expansion will increase the pipeline route’s overall capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

The project’s first owner, Kinder Morgan Canada, sold it to the Government of Canada in 2018. The Trans Mountain Expansion has been a focus of environmental and economic debates, as well as political conflicts. The $12.6 billion project is now under construction.

Article

Commodities in Canada

In commerce, commodities are interchangeable goods or services. Many natural resources in Canada are viewed as commodities. They are a major source of the country’s wealth. Examples of commodities include a barrel of crude oil, an ounce of gold, or a contract to clear snow during the winter. Commodity products often supply the production of other goods or services. Many are widely traded in futures exchanges (see Commodity Trading).

Article

Solar Energy

The energy contained in sunlight is the source of life on Earth. Humans can harness it to generate power for our activities without producing harmful pollutants. There are many methods of converting solar energy into more readily usable forms of energy such as heat or electricity. The technologies we use to convert solar energy have a relatively small impact on the environment. However, they each have disadvantages that have kept them from being widely adopted.

In Canada, the use of solar energy to generate electricity and heat is growing quickly and is helping reduce pollution related to energy production. Despite Canada’s cold climate and high latitudes (which get less direct sunlight than mid-latitudes), solar power technologies are used in many places, from household rooftops to large power plants. The Canada Energy Regulator (formerly the National Energy Board) expects solar power to make up 3 per cent of Canada’s total electricity generation capacity by 2040.

Article

Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone XL was a proposed 1,947 km long pipeline project that would have carried crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska. It was owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation. The pipeline was named XL for “export limited.” First proposed in July 2008, it was the prospective fourth phase of TC Energy’s existing Keystone Pipeline system. In Canada, Keystone XL had the support of both the federal and Alberta governments. However, the project faced significant opposition and legal challenges on environmental grounds. In January 2021, United States president Joe Biden cancelled its permit on his first day in office. On 9 June 2021, TC Energy and the Alberta government announced the termination of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Article

Resource Towns in Canada

Resource towns are small, isolated communities built around resource-based industries and transportation. They include mining towns, mill towns, railway towns and fishing villages. Resource development has long been a key factor in shaping the settlement and growth of communities. Some scholars have argued that all Canadian urban growth depends on the production of natural resources. (See also Staple Thesis.) Resource towns have been important agents in this production process. Because they depend on single industries, the economies of resource towns are often unstable.

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National Parks of Canada

Canada’s national parks are protected areas established under federal legislation to preserve Canada’s natural heritage. They are administered by Parks Canada, a government agency that evolved from the world’s first national parks service, the Dominion Parks Branch, established in 1911. The National Parks System Plan, developed in 1970, divided Canada into 39 natural regions and set the goal of representing each region with at least one national park. Canada now has 48 national parks and national park reserves in 30 of these regions. In total, the parks cover more than 340,000 km2, which is over 3 per cent of Canada’s landmass. They protect important land and marine habitats, geographical features and sites of cultural significance. National parks also benefit local economies and the tourism industry in Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about National Parks of Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see National Parks of Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)

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Forestry

Forestry is the science and practice of caring for forests. Both the meaning and practice of forestry in Canada have evolved over time.

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Fur Trade in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The fur trade began in the 1600s in what is now Canada. It continued for more than 250 years. Europeans traded with Indigenous people for beaver pelts. The demand for felt hats in Europe drove this business. The fur trade was one of the main reasons that Europeans explored and colonized Canada. It built relationships between Europeans and Indigenous peoples.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the fur trade. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Fur Trade in Canada.)

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James Bay Project

In 1971, Hydro-Québec and the government of Quebec initiated the James Bay Project, a monumental hydroelectric-power development on the east coast of James Bay. (See also Hydroelectricity in Canada.) Over the course of two phases, a total of eight generating stations were built, allowing for the pollution-free production of a significant portion of Quebec’s electricity. However, the project also profoundly disrupted the environment and the Indigenous communities living in the region, the effects of which are still being felt today.

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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development has been defined by the United Nations (UN) as development that “meets the needs of the present” while ensuring the future sustainability of the planet, its people and its resources. Meeting these needs often requires balancing three key features of sustainable development: environmental protection, economic growth and social inclusion. The goals of sustainable development are interconnected. The most successful sustainable development projects will include environmental, economic and social considerations in their final plan. These considerations must include the free, prior and informed consent of any Indigenous groups impacted by a sustainable development project.