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The Maritimes
Peggys Cove Harbour 01.jpg
Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia, an archetypal classic Maritime scene
Country  Canada
Area 130,017.11 km² (50,200 sq mi)
Population 1,813,606 (2016)
Density 14 /km² (36 /sq mi)

The Maritimes, also called the Maritime provinces or the Canadian Maritimes, is a region of Eastern Canada consisting of three provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The Maritimes had a population of 1,813,606 in 2016.

The Maritimes, along with a fourth province – Canada's easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador – make up Atlantic Canada.

Located along the Atlantic coast, various aquatic sub-basins are located in the Maritimes, such as the Gulf of Maine and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The region is located northeast of New England, southeast of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, and southwest of the island of Newfoundland. All three provinces are entirely south of the southernmost extremity of Western Canada, and are the only provinces of Canada without large and sparsely populated northern regions.

The notion of a Maritime Union has been proposed at various times in Canada's history; the first discussions in 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference contributed to Canadian Confederation which instead formed the larger Dominion of Canada.

The Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy people are indigenous to the Maritimes, while Acadian and British settlements date to the 17th century.


The Maritimes: New Brunswick (green), Nova Scotia (blue) and Prince Edward Island (red)

The word maritime is an adjective that simply means "of the sea", thus any land associated with the sea can be considered a maritime state or province (all provinces of Canada except Alberta and Saskatchewan border the sea). Nonetheless, the term "Maritimes" has historically been collectively applied to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, all of which border the Atlantic Ocean. In other provinces except Newfoundland & Labrador and British Columbia human settlement along the sea is sparse, since the Hudson Bay area is northerly and has a severe climate, with the majority of the populations of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba residing far inland.


Following the northerly retreat of glaciers at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation over 10,000 years ago, human settlement by First Nations began in the Maritimes with Paleo-Indians during the Early Period, ending around 6,000 years ago.

The Middle Period, starting 6,000 years ago, and ending 3,000 years ago, was dominated by rising sea levels from the melting glaciers in polar regions. This is also when what is called the Laurentian tradition started among Archaic Indians, existing First Nations peoples of the time. Evidence of Archaic Indian burial mounds and other ceremonial sites existing in the Saint John River valley has been uncovered.

The Late Period extended from 3,000 years ago until first contact with European settlers and was dominated by the organization of First Nations peoples into the Algonquian-influenced Abenaki Nation which existed largely in present-day interior Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and the Mi'kmaq Nation which inhabited all of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, eastern New Brunswick and the southern Gaspé. The primarily agrarian Maliseet Nation settled throughout the Saint John River and Allagash River valleys of present-day New Brunswick and Maine. The Passamaquoddy Nation inhabited the northwestern coastal regions of the present-day Bay of Fundy. The Mi'kmaq Nation is also assumed to have crossed the present-day Cabot Strait at around this time to settle on the south coast of Newfoundland but were in a minority position compared to the Beothuk Nation.

European contact

The Maritimes were the second area in Canada to be settled by Europeans, after Newfoundland. There is evidence that Viking explorers discovered and settled in the Vinland region around 1000 AD, which is when the L'Anse aux Meadows settlement in Newfoundland and Labrador has been dated, and it is possible that further exploration was made into the present-day Maritimes and northeastern United States.

Both Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) and Giovanni da Verrazzano are reported to have sailed in or near Maritime waters during their voyages of discovery for England and France respectively. Several Portuguese explorers/cartographers have also documented various parts of the Maritimes, namely Diogo Homem. However, it was French explorer Jacques Cartier who made the first detailed reconnaissance of the region for a European power, and in so doing, claimed the region for the King of France. Cartier was followed by nobleman Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts who was accompanied by explorer/cartographer Samuel de Champlain in a 1604 expedition where they established the second permanent European settlement in North America, following Spain's settlement at St. Augustine. Champlain's settlement at Saint Croix Island, later moved to Port-Royal, survived where the ill-fated English settlement at Roanoke did not, and pre-dated the more successful English settlement at Jamestown by three years. Champlain went on to greater fame as the founder of New France's province of Canada which comprises much of the present-day lower St. Lawrence River valley in the province of Quebec.


Champlain's success in the region, which came to be called Acadie, led to the fertile tidal marshes surrounding the southeastern and northeastern reaches of the Bay of Fundy being populated by French immigrants who called themselves Acadien. Acadians eventually built small settlements throughout what is today mainland Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as Île-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Île-Royale (Cape Breton Island), and other shorelines of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in present-day Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec. Acadian settlements had primarily agrarian economies, although there were many early examples of Acadian fishing settlements in southwestern Nova Scotia and in Île-Royale, as well as along the south and west coasts of Newfoundland, the Gaspé Peninsula, and the present-day Côte-Nord region of Quebec. Most Acadian fishing activities were overshadowed by the comparatively enormous seasonal European fishing fleets based out of Newfoundland which took advantage of proximity to the Grand Banks.

The growing English colonies along the American seaboard to the south and various European wars between England and France during the 17th and 18th centuries brought Acadia to the centre of world-scale geopolitical forces. In 1613, Virginian raiders captured Port-Royal, and in 1621 Acadia was ceded to Scotland's Sir William Alexander who renamed it Nova Scotia. By 1632, Acadia was returned from Scotland to France under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and the Port Royale settlement was moved to the site of nearby present-day Annapolis Royal. More French settlers, primarily from the Vienne, Normandie, and Brittany regions of France, continued to populate the colony of Acadia during the latter part of the 17th and early part of the 18th centuries. Important settlements also began in the Beaubassin region of the present-day Isthmus of Chignecto, and in the Saint John River valley, and settlers began to establish communities on Île-Saint-Jean and Île-Royale as well.

In 1654, New England raiders attacked Acadian settlements on the Annapolis Basin, starting a period of uncertainty for Acadians throughout the English constitutional crises under Oliver Cromwell, and only being properly resolved under the Treaty of Breda in 1667 when France's claim to the region was reaffirmed. Colonial administration by France throughout the history of Acadia was contemptuous at best. France's priorities were in settling and strengthening its claim on New France and the exploration and settlement of interior North America and the Mississippi River valley.

Colonial wars

Over 74 years (1689–1763) there were six colonial wars, which involved continuous warfare between New England and Acadia (see the French and Indian Wars as well as Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War). Throughout these wars, New England was allied with the Iroquois Confederacy and Acadia was allied with the Wabanaki Confederacy. In the first war, King William's War (the North American theater of the Nine Years' War), natives from the Maritime region participated in numerous attacks with the French on the Acadia/ New England border in southern Maine (e.g., Raid on Salmon Falls). New England retaliatory raids on Acadia, such as the Raid on Chignecto (1696), were conducted by Benjamin Church. In the second war, Queen Anne's War (the North American theater of the War of the Spanish Succession), the British conducted the Conquest of Acadia, while the region remained primarily in control of Maliseet militia, Acadia militia and Mi'kmaq militia.

In 1719, to further protect strategic interests in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River, France began the 20-year construction of a large fortress at Louisbourg on Île-Royale. Massachusetts was increasingly concerned over reports of the capabilities of this fortress, and of privateers staging out of its harbour to raid New England fishermen on the Grand Banks. In the fourth war, King George's War (the European theater of the War of the Austrian Succession), the British engaged successfully in the Siege of Louisbourg (1745). The British returned control of Île-Royale to France with the fortress virtually intact three years later under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and the French reestablished their forces there.

In 1749, to counter the rising threat of Louisbourg, Halifax was founded and the Royal Navy established a major naval base and citadel. The founding of Halifax sparked Father Le Loutre's War.

A View of the Plundering and Burning of the City of Grymross, by Thomas Davies, 1758
St. John River Campaign: Raid on Grimrose (present day Gagetown, New Brunswick). This is the only contemporaneous image of the Expulsion of the Acadians

During the sixth and final colonial war, the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War), the military conflicts in Nova Scotia continued. The British Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. Over the next forty-five years the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During this time period Acadians participated in various militia operations against the British and maintained vital supply lines to the French Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour. The British sought to neutralize any military threat Acadians posed and to interrupt the vital supply lines Acadians provided to Louisbourg by deporting Acadians from Acadia.

The British began the Expulsion of the Acadians with the Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755). Over the next nine years over 12,000 Acadians were removed from Nova Scotia.

British burninng warship Prudent and capturing Bienfaisant. Siege of Louisbourg 1758. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, M55.7.1
Siege of Louisbourg (1758)

In 1758, the fortress of Louisbourg was laid siege for a second time within 15 years, this time by more than 27,000 British soldiers and sailors with over 150 warships. After the French surrender, Louisbourg was thoroughly destroyed by British engineers to ensure it would never be reclaimed. With the fall of Louisbourg, French and Mi'kmaq resistance in the region crumbled. British forces seized remaining French control over Acadia in the coming months, with Île-Saint-Jean falling in 1759 to British forces on their way to Quebec City for the Siege of Quebec and ensuing Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

The war ended and Britain had gained control over the entire Maritime region.

American Revolution

Following the Seven Years' War, empty Acadian lands were settled first by New England Planters and then by immigrants brought from Yorkshire. Île-Royale was renamed Cape Breton Island and incorporated into the Colony of Nova Scotia.

Both the colonies of Nova Scotia (present-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and St. John's Island (Prince Edward Island) were affected by the American Revolutionary War, largely by privateering against American shipping, but several coastal communities were also the targets of American raiders. Charlottetown, the capital of the new colony of St. John's Island, was ransacked in 1775 with the provincial secretary kidnapped and the Great Seal stolen. The largest military action in the Maritimes during the revolutionary war was the attack on Fort Cumberland (the renamed Fort Beausejour) in 1776 by a force of American sympathizers led by Jonathan Eddy. The fort was partially overrun after a month-long siege, but the attackers were ultimately repelled after the arrival of British reinforcements from Halifax.

The most significant impact from this war was the settling of large numbers of Loyalist refugees in the region, especially in Shelburne and Parrtown (Saint John). Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Loyalist settlers in what would become New Brunswick persuaded British administrators to split the Colony of Nova Scotia to create the new colony of New Brunswick in 1784. At the same time, another part of the Colony of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, was split off to become the Colony of Cape Breton Island. The Colony of St. John's Island was renamed to Prince Edward Island on November 29, 1798.

The War of 1812 had some effect on the shipping industry in the Maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton Island; however, the significant Royal Navy presence in Halifax and other ports in the region prevented any serious attempts by American raiders. Maritime and American privateers targeted unprotected shipping of both the United States and Britain respectively, further reducing trade. New Brunswick's section of the Canada–US border did not have any significant action during this conflict, although British forces did occupy a portion of coastal Maine at one point. The most significant incident from this war which occurred in the Maritimes was the British capture and detention of the American frigate USS Chesapeake in Halifax.

19th century

In 1820, the Colony of Cape Breton Island was merged back into the Colony of Nova Scotia for the second time by the British government.

British settlement of the Maritimes, as the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island came to be known, accelerated throughout the late 18th century and into the 19th century with significant immigration to the region as a result of Scottish migrants displaced by the Highland Clearances and Irish escaping the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849). As a result, significant portions of the three provinces are influenced by Celtic heritages, with Scottish Gaelic (and to a lesser degree, Irish Gaelic) having been widely spoken, particularly in Cape Breton, although it is less prevalent today.

During the American Civil War, a significant number of Maritimers volunteered to fight for the armies of the Union, while a small handful joined the Confederate Army. However, the majority of the conflict's impact was felt in the shipping industry. Maritime shipping boomed during the war due to large-scale Northern imports of war supplies which were often carried by Maritime ships as Union ships were vulnerable to Confederate naval raiders. Diplomatic tensions between Britain and the Unionist North had deteriorated after some interests in Britain expressed support for the secessionist Confederate South. The Union navy, although much smaller than the British Royal Navy and no threat to the Maritimes, did posture off Maritime coasts at times chasing Confederate naval ships which sought repairs and reprovisioning in Maritime ports, especially Halifax.

The immense size of the Union army (the largest on the planet toward the end of the Civil War), however, was viewed with increasing concern by Maritimers throughout the early 1860s. Another concern was the rising threat of Fenian raids on border communities in New Brunswick by those seeking to end British rule of Ireland. This combination of events, coupled with an ongoing decline in British military and economic support to the region as the Home Office favoured newer colonial endeavours in Africa and elsewhere, led to a call among Maritime politicians for a conference on Maritime Union, to be held in early September 1864 in Charlottetown – chosen in part because of Prince Edward Island's reluctance to give up its jurisdictional sovereignty in favour of uniting with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into a single colony. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia felt that if the union conference were held in Charlottetown, they might be able to convince Island politicians to support the proposal.

The Charlottetown Conference, as it came to be called, was also attended by a slew of visiting delegates from the neighbouring colony of Canada, who had largely arrived at their own invitation with their own agenda. This agenda saw the conference dominated by discussions of creating an even larger union of the entire territory of British North America into a united colony. The Charlottetown Conference ended with an agreement to meet the following month in Quebec City, where more formal discussions ensued, culminating with meetings in London and the signing of the British North America Act. Of the Maritime provinces, only Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were initially party to the BNA Act, Prince Edward Island's reluctance, combined with a booming agricultural and fishing export economy having led to that colony opting not to sign on.

Major population centres

The major communities of the region include Halifax and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton in New Brunswick, and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island.


Maritimes koppen
Köppen climate types of the Maritimes

In spite of its name, The Maritimes has a humid continental climate of the warm-summer subtype. Especially in coastal Nova Scotia, differences between summers and winters are pretty narrow compared with most of Canada. The inland climate of New Brunswick is in stark contrast during winter, resembling more continental areas. Summers are somewhat tempered by the marine influence throughout the provinces, but due to the southerly parallels still remain similar to more continental areas further west. Yarmouth in Nova Scotia has significant marine influence to have a borderline oceanic microclimate, but winter nights are still cold even in all coastal areas. The northernmost areas of New Brunswick are only just above subarctic with very cold continental winters.

Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for selected locations in The Maritimes
Location Province July (°C) July (°F) January (°C) January (°F)
Halifax NS 23/14 73/58 0/−8 32/17
Sydney NS 23/12 73/54 −1/−9 30/14
Fredericton NB 25/13 78/55 −4/−15 25/5
Saint John NB 22/11 72/53 −2/−13 27/8
Moncton NB 24/13 76/53 –3/–14 25/7
Charlottetown PEI 23/14 74/57 –3/−12 26/10
Yarmouth NS 21/12 69/55 1/−7 33/19
Campbellton NB 23/10 74/51 –9/–20 16/–4

Society and culture

Provinces maritimes langues
Map showing the mother tongue of people in the Maritimes. Red represents areas with a majority of Anglophones and less than 33% Francophones, Orange, a majority of Anglophones and more than 33% Francophones. Blue shows a Francophone majority with less than 33% Anglophones and green a Francophone majority with more than 33% Anglophones.
HFX Waterfront
Halifax skyline from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Maritime society is based upon a mixture of traditions and class backgrounds. Predominantly rural until recent decades, the region traces many of its cultural activities to those rural resource-based economies of fishing, agriculture, forestry, and coal mining.

While Maritimers are predominantly of west European heritage (Scottish, Irish, English, and Acadian), immigration to Industrial Cape Breton during the heyday of coal mining and steel manufacturing brought people from eastern Europe as well as from Newfoundland. The Maritimes also have a black population who are mostly descendants of African American loyalists or refugees from the War of 1812, largely concentrated in Nova Scotia but also in various communities throughout southern New Brunswick, Cape Breton (where the black population is largely of West Indian descent), and Prince Edward Island. The Mi'kmaq Nation's reserves throughout Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and eastern New Brunswick dominate aboriginal culture in the region, compared to the much smaller population of the Maliseet Nation in western New Brunswick. New Brunswick, in general, differs from the other two Maritime Provinces in that its French population plays a significant role in the everyday cultural experience. Being the only officially bilingual province in Canada, many of New Brunswick's inhabitants speak both French and English, especially in Moncton and the capital region of Fredericton.

Skyline of Saint John, New Brunswick as of Summer 2002

Cultural activities are fairly diverse throughout the region, with the music, dance, theatre, and literary art forms tending to follow the particular cultural heritage of specific locales. Notable Nova Scotian folklorist and cultural historian Helen Creighton spent the majority of her lifetime recording the various Celtic musical and folk traditions of rural Nova Scotia during the mid-20th century, prior to this knowledge being wiped out by mass media assimilation with the rest of North America. A fragment of Gaelic culture remains in Nova Scotia, specifically on Cape Breton Island. PEI and New Brunswick share this historical tie to Gaelic culture with Nova Scotia but it plays a far less significant role in their respective public provincial images.

Monctonskyline 857
Skyline of Moncton, New Brunswick

Canada has witnessed a "Celtic revival" in which many Maritime musicians and songs have risen to prominence in recent decades. Some companies, particularly breweries such as Alexander Keith's and Moosehead have played up a connection between folklore with alcohol consumption during their marketing campaigns. The Maritimes were among the strongest supporters of prohibition (Prince Edward Island lasting until 1949), and some predominantly rural communities maintain "dry" status, banning the retail sale of alcohol as a vestige of the original temperance movement in the region.

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