The land that comprises what is now Nova Scotia has been inhabited by the indigenous Miꞌkmaq
people for thousands of years. In 1605, Acadia
's first New France
colony, was founded with the creation of Acadia's capital, Port-Royal
. Britain fought France for the territory on numerous occasions for over a century afterwards. The Fortress of Louisbourg
was a key focus point in the battle for control. Following the Great Upheaval
(1755-1763) where the British deported the Acadians
in mass, the Conquest of New France
(1758-1760) by the British, and the Treaty of Paris
(1763), France had to surrender Acadia to the British Empire
. During the American Revolutionary War
, thousands of Loyalists
settled in Nova Scotia. In 1848, Nova Scotia became the first British colony to achieve responsible government
, and it federated
in July 1867 with New Brunswick and the Province of Canada
) to form what is now the country of Canada.
Nova Scotia's capital
and largest city is Halifax
, which today is home to about 45 percent of the province's population. Halifax is the thirteenth-largest
census metropolitan area in Canada,
the largest city in Atlantic Canada, and Canada's second-largest coastal city after Vancouver
"Nova Scotia" means "New Scotland
" in Latin
and is the recognized English-language
name for the province. In both French and Scottish Gaelic
, the province is directly translated as "New Scotland" (French: Nouvelle-Écosse
. Gaelic: Alba Nuadh
). In general, Romance and Slavic languages use a direct translation of "New Scotland", while most other languages use direct transliterations of the Latin / English name.
Nova Scotia is Canada's second-smallest province in area, after Prince Edward Island
. The province's mainland is the Nova Scotia peninsula
, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and including numerous bays and estuaries. Nowhere in Nova Scotia is more than 67 km (42 mi) from the ocean. Cape Breton Island
, a large island to the northeast of the Nova Scotia mainland, is also part of the province, as is Sable Island
, a small island notorious for being the site of offshore shipwrecks,
approximately 175 km (110 mi) from the province's southern coast.
Topographic map of Nova Scotia
The province contains 5,400 lakes.
Nova Scotia lies in the mid-temperate zone and, although the province is almost surrounded by water, the climate is closer to continental climate
rather than maritime
. The winter and summer temperature extremes of the continental climate are moderated by the ocean.
However, winters are cold enough to be classified as continental—still being nearer the freezing point than inland areas to the west. The Nova Scotian climate is in many ways similar to the central Baltic Sea
coast in Northern Europe, only wetter and snowier. This is true although Nova Scotia is some fifteen parallels further south. Areas not on the Atlantic coast experience warmer summers more typical of inland areas, and winter lows are a little colder. On 12 August 2020, the community of Grand Étang, famous for its Les Suêtes
winds recorded a balmy overnight low of 23.3 Celcius
Described on the provincial vehicle licence plate as Canada's Ocean Playground, Nova Scotia is surrounded by four major bodies of water: the Gulf of Saint Lawrence
to the north, the Bay of Fundy
to the west, the Gulf of Maine
to the southwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for selected locations in Nova Scotia
family in Tuft's Cove
, 1871. The Mi'kmaq inhabited Nova Scotia when the first Europeans arrived.
The province includes regions of the Mi'kmaq
nation of Mi'kma'ki (mi'gama'gi
). (The territory of the Nation of Mi'kma'ki also includes the Maritimes, parts of Maine
and the Gaspé Peninsula
.) The Mi'kmaq people are among the large Algonquian-language family and inhabited Nova Scotia at the time the first European colonists arrived.
The first Europeans to settle in what is now Nova Scotia were the French, who arrived in 1604, and Catholic Mi'kmaq and Acadians formed the majority of the population of the colony for the next 150 years. In 1605, French colonists established the first permanent European settlement in the future Canada (and the first north of Florida
) at Port Royal
, founding what would become known as Acadia
Hostilities between the British and French resumed from 1702 to 1713, known as Queen Anne's War
. The British siege of Port Royal
took place in 1710, ending French-rule in peninsular Acadia. The subsequent signing of the Treaty of Utrecht
in 1713 formally recognized this, while returning Cape Breton Island
) and Prince Edward Island
) to the French. Despite the British conquest of Acadia
in 1710, Nova Scotia remained primarily occupied by Catholic Acadians and Mi'kmaq, who confined British forces to Annapolis and to Canso. Present-day New Brunswick then still formed a part of the French colony of Acadia. Immediately after the capture of Port Royal in 1710, Francis Nicholson
announced it would be renamed Annapolis Royal
in honour of Queen Anne
As a result of Father Rale's War
(1722–1725), the Mi'kmaq signed a series of treaties with Great Britain in 1725. The Mi'kmaq signed a treaty of "submission" to the British crown.
However, conflict between the Acadians, Mi'kmaq, French, and the British persisted in the following decades with King George's War
The American Revolution
(1775–1783) had a significant impact on shaping Nova Scotia. Initially, Nova Scotia—"the 14th American Colony" as some called it—displayed ambivalence over whether the colony should join the more southern colonies in their defiance of Britain, and rebellion flared at the Battle of Fort Cumberland
(1776) and at the Siege of Saint John (1777)
. Throughout the war, American privateers
devastated the maritime economy by capturing ships and looting almost every community outside of Halifax. These American raids alienated many sympathetic or neutral Nova Scotians into supporting the British. By the end of the war Nova Scotia had outfitted a number of privateers to attack American shipping.
British military forces based at Halifax succeeded in preventing American support for rebels in Nova Scotia and deterred any invasion of Nova Scotia. However the British navy failed to establish naval supremacy. While the British captured many American privateers in battles such as the Naval battle off Halifax
(1782), many more continued attacks on shipping and settlements until the final months of the war. The Royal Navy struggled to maintain British supply lines, defending convoys from American and French attacks as in the fiercely fought convoy battle, the Naval battle off Cape Breton
After the Thirteen Colonies and their French allies forced the British forces to surrender (1781), approximately 33,000 Loyalists
(the King's Loyal Americans, allowed to place "United Empire Loyalist
" after their names) settled in Nova Scotia (14,000 of them in what became New Brunswick) on lands granted by the Crown as some compensation for their losses. (The British administration divided Nova Scotia and hived off Cape Breton and New Brunswick
in 1784). The Loyalist exodus created new communities across Nova Scotia, including Shelburne
, which briefly became one of the larger British settlements in North America, and infused Nova Scotia with additional capital and skills. There are also a number of Black loyalists buried in unmarked graves in the Old Burying Ground (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
However the migration also caused political tensions between Loyalist leaders and the leaders of the existing New England Planters
settlement. The Loyalist influx also pushed Nova Scotia's 2000 Mi'kmaq People to the margins as Loyalist land grants encroached on ill-defined native lands. As part of the Loyalist migration, about 3,000 Black Loyalists
arrived; they founded the largest free Black settlement in North America at Birchtown
, near Shelburne. Many Nova Scotian communities were settled by British regiments that fought in the war
During the War of 1812
, Nova Scotia's contribution to the British war effort involved communities either purchasing or building various privateer ships to attack U.S. vessels.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment in the war for Nova Scotia occurred when HMS Shannon
escorted the captured American frigate USS Chesapeake
into Halifax Harbour
(1813). Many of the U.S. prisoners were kept at Deadman's Island, Halifax
Thousands of Nova Scotians fought in the American Civil War
(1861–1865), primarily on behalf of the North
The British Empire (including Nova Scotia) declared itself neutral
in the conflict. As a result, Britain (and Nova Scotia) continued to trade with both the South
and the North. Nova Scotia's economy boomed during the Civil War.
in 1921. The racing ship became a provincial icon for Nova Scotia in the 1920s and 1930s.
Nova Scotia became a world leader in both building and owning wooden sailing ships in the second half of the 19th century. Nova Scotia produced internationally recognized shipbuilders Donald McKay
and William Dawson Lawrence
. The fame Nova Scotia achieved from sailors was assured when Joshua Slocum
became the first man to sail single-handedly around the world (1895). International attention continued into the following century with the many racing victories of the Bluenose
schooner. Nova Scotia was also the birthplace and home of Samuel Cunard
, a British
shipping magnate (born at Halifax
, Nova Scotia) who founded the Cunard Line
In April 2020, a killing spree
occurred across the province and became the deadliest rampage in Canada's history.
Population density map of Nova Scotia (c. 2016) with county and regional munipality borders shown.
According to the 2006 Canadian census
the largest ethnic group in Nova Scotia is Scottish
(31.9%), followed by English (31.8%), Irish (21.6%), French (17.9%), German (11.3%), Aboriginal origin
(4.1%), Black Canadians
(1.9%) Italian (1.5%), and Scandinavian
(1.4%). 40.9% of respondents identified their ethnicity as "Canadian".
The 2016 Canadian census
showed a population of 923,598. Of the 904,285 singular responses to the census question concerning mother tongue
, the most commonly reported languages were:
Languages in Nova Scotia:
red – majority anglophone, orange – mixed, blue – majority francophone
Figures shown are for the number of single-language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.
Nova Scotia is home to the largest Scottish Gaelic
-speaking community outside of Scotland, with a small number of native speakers in Pictou County
, Antigonish County
, and Cape Breton Island
, and the language is taught in a number of secondary schools throughout the province. In 2018 the government launched a new Gaelic vehicle licence plate to raise awareness of the language and help fund Gaelic language and culture initiatives. They estimated that there were 2,000 Gaelic speakers in the province.
In 1871, the largest religious denominations were Protestant with 103,500 (27%); Roman Catholic with 102,000 (26%); Baptist with 73,295 (19%); Anglican with 55,124 (14%); Methodist with 40,748 (10%), Lutheran with 4,958 (1.3%); and Congregationalist with 2,538 (0.65%).
According to the 2011 census, the largest denominations by number of adherents were Christians with 78.2%. About 21.18% were non-religious and 1% were Muslims
, and Sikhs
constitute around 0.20%.
Nova Scotia's per capita GDP
in 2016 was CA$44,924, significantly lower than the national average per capita GDP of CA$57,574.
GDP growth has lagged behind the rest of the country for at least the past decade.
As of 2017, the median family income in Nova Scotia was $85,970, below the national average of $92,990;
in Halifax the figure rises to $98,870.
Lobster traps on a dock in Sheet Harbour
. The province is the world's largest exporter of lobsters.
The province is the world's largest exporter of Christmas trees
, and wild berries
Its export value of fish exceeds $1 billion, and fish products are received by 90 countries around the world.
Nevertheless, the province's imports far exceed its exports. While these numbers were roughly equal from 1992 until 2004, since that time the trade deficit has ballooned. In 2012, exports from Nova Scotia were 12.1% of provincial GDP, while imports were 22.6%.
Nova Scotia's traditionally resource-based economy
has diversified in recent decades. The rise of Nova Scotia as a viable jurisdiction in North America, historically, was driven by the ready availability of natural resources, especially the fish stocks
off the Scotian Shelf
. The fishery
was a pillar of the economy since its development as part of New France
in the 17th century; however, the fishery suffered a sharp decline due to overfishing
in the late 20th century. The collapse of the cod stocks
and the closure of this sector resulted in a loss of approximately 20,000 jobs in 1992.
Other sectors in the province were also hit hard, particularly during the last two decades: coal mining in Cape Breton and northern mainland Nova Scotia has virtually ceased, and a large steel
mill in Sydney
closed during the 1990s. More recently, the high value of the Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar has hurt the forestry industry, leading to the shutdown of a long-running pulp and paper mill
. Mining, especially of gypsum
and salt and to a lesser extent silica
, is also a significant sector.
Since 1991, offshore oil and gas
has become an important part of the economy, although production and revenue are now declining.
However, agriculture remains an important sector in the province, particularly in the Annapolis Valley
Nova Scotia's defence and aerospace sector generates approximately $500 million in revenues and contributes about $1.5 billion to the provincial economy each year.
To date, 40% of Canada's military assets reside in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia has the fourth-largest film industry
in Canada hosting over 100 productions yearly, more than half of which are the products of international film and television producers.
In 2015, the government of Nova Scotia eliminated tax credits to film production in the province, jeopardizing the industry given most other jurisdictions continue to offer such credits.
The province also boasts a rapidly developing Information & Communication Technology
(ICT) sector which consists of over 500 companies, and employs roughly 15,000 people.
In 2006, the manufacturing sector brought in over $2.6 billion in chained GDP, the largest output of any industrial sector in Nova Scotia. Michelin
remains by far the largest single employer in this sector, operating three production plants in the province. Michelin is also the province's largest private-sector employer.
A cruise ship docked at the Port of Halifax
. The port sees more than 200,000 cruise passengers each year.
The Nova Scotia tourism industry includes more than 6,500 direct businesses, supporting nearly 40,000 jobs.
Cruise ships pay regular visits to the province. In 2010, the Port of Halifax
received 261,000 passengers and Sydney 69,000.
This industry contributes approximately $1.3 billion annually to the economy.
A 2008 Nova Scotia tourism campaign included advertising a fictional mobile phone called Pomegranate
and establishing website, which after reading about "new phone" redirected to tourism info about region.
Acadian Skies and Mi'kmaq Lands is a starlight reserve in southwestern Nova Scotia. It is the first certified UNESCO
-Starlight Tourist Destination. Starlight tourist destinations are locations that offer conditions for observations of stars which are protected from light pollution.
Government and politics
The province's revenue comes mainly from the taxation of personal and corporate income, although taxes on tobacco and alcohol, its stake in the Atlantic Lottery Corporation
, and oil and gas royalties are also significant. In 2006–07, the province passed a budget of $6.9 billion, with a projected $72 million surplus. Federal equalization payments account for $1.385 billion, or 20.07% of the provincial revenue. The province participates in the HST
, a blended sales tax collected by the federal government using the GST
Unlike the provinces of British Columbia
, which have two-tiered municipality systems, Nova Scotia has a one-tier system of municipalities
inclusive of four municipality types – regional municipalities
, towns, county municipalities
and district municipalities
Regional municipalities may incorporate under the Municipal Government Act
) of 1998, which came into force on 1 April 1999,
while towns, county municipalities and district municipalities are continued as municipalities under the MGA
gives municipal councils the power to make bylaws for "health, well being, safety and protection of persons" and "safety and protection of property" in addition to a few expressed powers.
Of its 50 municipalities, Nova Scotia has three regional municipalities, 26 towns, nine county municipalities and 12 district municipalities.
The regional municipality of Halifax
is the capital and largest municipality of Nova Scotia by population with 403,131 residents representing 44% of the total population of the province and land area at 5,490.35 km2
(2,119.84 sq mi).Pictou
was the first municipality to incorporate 4 May 1874, and the newest municipalities are Halifax and Region of Queens Municipality
both amalgamating into their present regional municipality form of government 1 April 1996.
The province is also known for a dessert called blueberry fungy or blueberry grunt.
Events and festivals
There are a number of festivals
and cultural events that are recurring in Nova Scotia, or notable in its history. The following is an incomplete list of festivals and other cultural gatherings in the province:
Film and television
Some of the province's greatest painters were Maud Lewis
, William Valentine
, Maria Morris
, Jack L. Gray
, Mabel Killiam Day
, Ernest Lawson
, Frances Bannerman
, Alex Colville
, Tom Forrestall
and ship portrait artist John O'Brien
. Some of most notable artists whose works have been acquired by Nova Scotia are British artist Joshua Reynolds
(collection of Art Gallery of Nova Scotia); William Gush
and William J. Weaver
(both have works in Province House
); Robert Field
), as well as leading American artists Benjamin West
(self portrait in The Halifax Club
, portrait of chief justice in Nova Scotia Supreme Court
), John Singleton Copley
, Robert Feke
, and Robert Field
(the latter three have works in the Uniacke Estate
). Two famous Nova Scotian photographers are Wallace R. MacAskill
and Sherman Hines
Three of the most accomplished illustrators were George Wylie Hutchinson
, Bob Chambers (cartoonist)
and Donald A. Mackay
There are numerous Nova Scotian authors who have achieved international fame: Thomas Chandler Haliburton
), Alistair MacLeod
(No Great Mischief
), Evelyn Richardson(We Keep A Light)
, Margaret Marshall Saunders(Beautiful Joe), Laurence B. Dakin (Marco Polo),
and Joshua Slocum (Sailing Alone Around the World).
Other authors include Johanna Skibsrud(The Sentimentalists), Alden Nowlan (Bread, Wine and Salt), George Elliott Clarke (Execution Poems), Lesley Choyce (Nova Scotia: Shaped by the Sea), Thomas Raddall (Halifax: Warden of the North), Donna Morrissey (Kit's Law),
and Frank Parker Day (Rockbound).
Nova Scotia is home to Symphony Nova Scotia
, a symphony orchestra
based in Halifax. The province has produced more than its fair share of famous musicians, including Grammy Award
winners Denny Doherty
(from The Mamas & the Papas
), Anne Murray
, and Sarah McLachlan
, country singers Hank Snow
, George Canyon, and Drake Jensen
, jazz vocalist Holly Cole
, classical performers Portia White
and Barbara Hannigan
, multi Juno Award
nominated rapper Classified
, and such diverse artists as Rita MacNeil
, Matt Mays
, Todd Fancey
, The Rankin Family
, Natalie MacMaster
, Susan Crowe
, Buck 65
, Joel Plaskett
, and the bands April Wine
and Grand Dérangement
Nova Scotia has produced many significant songwriters, such as Grammy Award
winning Gordie Sampson
, who has written songs for Carrie Underwood
("Jesus, Take the Wheel", "Just a Dream", "Get Out of This Town"), Martina McBride
("If I Had Your Name", "You're Not Leavin Me"), LeAnn Rimes
("Long Night", "Save Myself"), and George Canyon
("My Name"). Many of Hank Snow's
songs went on to be recorded by the likes of The Rolling Stones
, Elvis Presley
, and Johnny Cash
. Cape Bretoners Allister MacGillivray
and Leon Dubinsky
have both written songs which, by being covered by so many popular artists, and by entering the repertoire of so many choirs around the world, have become iconic representations of Nova Scotian style, values and ethos. Dubinsky's pop ballad "We Rise Again
" might be called the unofficial anthem of Cape Breton.
Sport is an important part of Nova Scotia culture. There are numerous semi pro, university and amateur sports teams, for example, The Halifax Mooseheads
, 2013 Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup Champions, and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
, both of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Halifax Hurricanes
of the National Basketball League of Canada is another team that calls Nova Scotia home, and were 2016 league champions.
Professional soccer came to the province in 2019 in the form of Canadian Premier League
club HFX Wanderers FC
The Minister of Education is responsible for the administration and delivery of education, as defined by the Education Act
and other acts relating to colleges, universities and private schools. The powers of the Minister and the Department of Education are defined by the Ministerial regulations and constrained by the Governor-In-Council regulations.
All children until the age of 16 are legally required to attend school or the parent needs to perform home schooling.
Nova Scotia's education system is split up into eight different regions including; Tri-County (22 schools), Annapolis Valley (42 schools), South Shore (25 schools), Chignecto-Central (67 schools), Halifax (135 schools), Strait (20 schools) and Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education (39 schools).
Nova Scotia has more than 450 public schools for children. The public system offers primary to Grade 12. There are also private schools in the province. Public education is administered by seven regional school boards, responsible primarily for English instruction and French immersion, and also province-wide by the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial
, which administers French instruction to students whose primary language is French.
The Nova Scotia Community College
system has 13 campuses around the province. With a focus on training and education, the college
was established in 1988 by amalgamating the province's former vocational schools. In addition to the provincial community college system, there are more than 90 registered private colleges in Nova Scotia.
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