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Home > Countries > Geography > Province and Territory Compared

Difference Between Province and Territory

Province vs Territory

Canada, which is the second largest country in the world in terms of the area, is made up of provinces and territories. Canada is a perfect example of administration of large territories through a central government. With just 13 administrative units, of which 10 are provinces and 3 are territories, Canada is doing well in comparison to countries having a large number of states and provinces. However, for many, differences between provinces and territories are an enigma as they cannot understand this dichotomy. This article tries to find out subtle differences between provinces and territories through acts and laws that led to their creation and jurisdictional powers.

Let us first talk about territories, which are three in number and are The Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon. Despite being 40% of the area of the country, these territories have just 3% of Canada’s population. These territories are created by federal laws and thus, the federal government has more direct control, power and jurisdiction over these territories. In comparison, provinces have governments in place that have more autonomy, rights and competences. Another way to look at these differences is through constitutional powers that provinces have while territories enjoy powers that are delegated to them by the parliament of Canada.

Lying in the north of the country with all 10 provinces lying down south, territories have had federal control and influence all trough their existence. However, things have changed a bit in the last 40 years and governance of territories has also undergone a lot of changes. Not only have legislative assemblies and executive councils been set in place in territories, powers for administration similar to provincial governments are also being developed for territories by the central government. This is a process that is being called devolution and aims to grant more decision making powers as also accountability to local administration.

Territories are not so developed socially and economically like provinces, a major portion of their financial resources are generated with the help of the central government. On the other hand, provinces are more developed and have their own resources to exploit for financial help. To someone who is an outsider, it is easy to deduce that provinces have more autonomy than territories. There is more central interference in case of territories than provinces.

For those who know a bit about the history of Canada, the states of Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan were once parts of the North West territory. But as these parts grew and had a sizeable population, they opted out of this huge territory and chose to become a province. The same may happen to other parts of these territories and they may also become provinces in future.

What is the difference between Province and Territory?

• Differences between territories and provinces pertain to governance and autonomy.

• There are 3 territories in Canada, while the provinces are 10 in number.

• Territories lie in the Northern area, while provinces are in the south of Canada

• There are provincial governments in place, while there is federal influence in Canada’s territories.

• Some of the provinces today such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan were once a part of the North West territory.


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