The Northwest Territories (NWT; French: les Territoires du Nord-Ouest, TNO) is a territory of Canada. With a population of 41,462 in 2011 and an estimated population of 43,537 in 2013, the Northwest Territories is the most populous territory in Northern Canada. Yellowknife became the territorial capital in 1967, following recommendations by the Carrothers Commission.
The Northwest Territories, a portion of the old North-West Territory, entered the Canadian Confederation July 15, 1870, but the current borders were formed April 1, 1999, when the territory was subdivided to create Nunavut to the east, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act. While Nunavut is mostly Arctic tundra, the Northwest Territories has a slightly warmer climate and is mostly boreal forest (taiga), although portions of the territory lie north of the tree line, and its most northern regions form part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
The present-day territory came under government authority in July 1870, after the Hudson's Bay Company transferred Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory to the British Crown, which subsequently transferred them to the government of Canada, giving it the name the North-West Territories. This immense region comprised all of today's Canada except that which was encompassed within the early signors of Canadian Confederation, that is, British Columbia, early forms of present-day Ontario and Quebec (which encompassed the coast of the Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence River valley and the southern third of Quebec), the Maritimes (PEI, NS and NB), Newfoundland, the Labrador coast, and the Arctic Islands, except the southern half of Baffin Island (the Arctic Islands remained under direct British claim until 1880).
After the 1870 transfer, some of the North-West Territories was whittled away. The province of Manitoba was created on July 15, 1870, at first a tiny square area around Winnipeg, and then enlarged in 1881 to a rectangular region composing the modern province's south. By the time British Columbia joined Confederation on July 20, 1871, it had already (1866) been granted the portion of North-Western Territory south of 60 degrees north and west of 120 degrees west, an area that comprised most of the Stickeen Territories.
In 1882, Regina in the District of Assiniboia became the territorial capital. Alberta and Saskatchewan were separated from the NWT to become provinces in 1905 (Regina became the provincial capital of Saskatchewan).
In 1876, the District of Keewatin, at the centre of the territory, was separated from the NWT. In 1882 and again in 1896, the remaining portion was divided into the following districts (corresponding to the following modern-day areas):
Keewatin was returned to the Northwest Territories in 1905.
In the meantime, the Province of Ontario was enlarged northwestward in 1882. Quebec was also extended northwards in 1898, and the Yukon was made a separate territory in that same year to deal with the Klondike Gold Rush, and also to remove the NWT's government from the burden of administering the sudden boom of population, economic activity, and the influx of non-Canadians.
The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created in 1905, and Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec acquired the last addition to their modern landmass from the NWT in 1912. This left only the districts of Mackenzie, Franklin (which absorbed the remnants of Ungava in 1920), and Keewatin within what was then given the name Northwest Territories. In 1925, the boundaries of the NWT were extended all the way to the North Pole on the sector principle, vastly expanding its territory onto the northern ice cap.
The reduced Northwest Territories was not represented in the Canadian House of Commons from 1907 until 1947, when the electoral district of Yukon—Mackenzie River was created. This riding only included the District of Mackenzie. The rest of the Northwest Territories had no representation in the House of Commons until 1962, when the Northwest Territories electoral district was created in recognition of the Inuit having been given the right to vote in 1953.
In 1912, the Parliament of Canada made the official name of these territories the 'Northwest Territories', dropping all hyphenated forms of it. Between 1925 and 1999, the Northwest Territories covered a land area of – larger than that of India.
On April 1, 1999, the eastern three-fifths of the Northwest Territories (including all of the District of Keewatin and much of that of Mackenzie and Franklin) became a separate Canadian territory named Nunavut.