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(formerly Yukon Territory)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: No official motto
Canadian Provinces and Territories
Capital Whitehorse
Largest city Whitehorse
Largest metro Whitehorse
Official languages English, French
Demonym Yukoner
Commissioner Doug Phillips
Premier Darrell Pasloski (Y)
Legislature Yukon Legislative Assembly
Federal representation (in Canadian Parliament)
House seats 1 of 308 (0.3%)
Senate seats 1 of 105 (1%)
Confederation June 13, 1898 (9th)
Area  Ranked 9th
Total 482,443 km2 (186,272 sq mi)
Land 474,391 km2 (183,163 sq mi)
Water (%) 8,052 km2 (3,109 sq mi) (1.7%)
Proportion of Canada 4.8% of 9,984,670 km2
Population  Ranked 12th
Total (2011) 33,897 [1]
Density (2011) 0.07/km2 (0.18/sq mi)
GDP  Ranked 12th
Total (2011) C$2.660 billion[2]
Per capita C$75,141 (3rd)
Postal YT
ISO 3166-2 CA-YT
Time zone UTC-8
Postal code prefix Y
Flower Fireweed
Tree Subalpine Fir[3]
Bird Common Raven
Rankings include all provinces and territories

Yukon[4] (also commonly called the Yukon) is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. Whitehorse is the territorial capital and Yukon's only city.

The territory was split from the Northwest Territories in 1898. Receiving royal assent on March 27, 2002, the federal government modernized the Yukon Act to confirm "Yukon" as the current standard, though "Yukon Territory" remains the more popular usage.[4] Though officially bilingual (English and French), the Yukon Government also recognizes First Nations languages.

At 5,959 m (19,551 ft), Yukon's Mount Logan, in Kluane National Park and Reserve, is the highest mountain in Canada and the second-highest on the North American continent (after Denali in the U.S. state of Alaska). The territory's climate is Arctic in the north (north of Old Crow), subarctic in the central region, between north of Whitehorse and Pie Town, and has a humid continental climate in the far south, south of Whitehorse and in areas close to the British Columbia border. Several rivers run through Yukon, some being the Stewart River, Peel River, and the Yukon River, after which the territory was named.

Downtown Whitehorse along the Yukon River


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Demographics 3
    • Municipalities by population 3.1
    • Ethnicity 3.2
    • Language 3.3
    • Religion 3.4
  • Economy 4
    • Tourism 4.1
  • Arts and culture 5
  • Government 6
    • Federal representation 6.1
    • First Nations 6.2
  • Infrastructure 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Long before the arrival of Europeans, central and southern Yukon was populated by First Nations people, and the area escaped glaciation. The volcanic eruption of Mount Churchill in approximately 800 AD in the U.S. state of Alaska blanketed southern Yukon with a layer of ash which can still be seen along the Klondike Highway and forms part of the oral tradition of First Nations peoples in Yukon and further south.

Coastal and inland First Nations had extensive trading networks. European incursions into the area only began early in the 19th century with the fur trade, followed by missionaries and the Western Union Telegraph Expedition. By the 1870s and 1880s gold miners began to arrive. This drove a population increase that justified the establishment of a police force, just in time for the start of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. The increased population coming with the gold rush led to the separation of the Yukon district from the Northwest Territories and the formation of the separate Yukon Territory in 1898. Sites of archeological significance in Yukon hold some of the earliest evidence of the presence of human occupation in North America.[5] The sites safeguard the history of the first people and the earliest First Nations of the Yukon.[5] More information is found in the Yukon Archaeology Program.


Map of Yukon

The territory is the approximate shape of a right triangle, bordering the U.S. state of Alaska to the west for 1,210 km (752 mi) mostly along longitude 141° W, the Northwest Territories to the east and British Columbia to the south.[6] Its northern coast is on the Beaufort Sea. Its ragged eastern boundary mostly follows the divide between the Yukon Basin and the Mackenzie River drainage basin to the east in the Mackenzie mountains.

Most of the territory is in the watershed of its namesake, the Yukon River. The southern Yukon is dotted with a large number of large, long and narrow glacier-fed alpine lakes, most of which flow into the Yukon River system. The larger lakes include Teslin Lake, Atlin Lake, Tagish Lake, Marsh Lake, Lake Laberge, Kusawa Lake and Kluane Lake. Bennett Lake on the Klondike Gold Rush trail is a lake flowing into Nares Lake, with the greater part of its area within Yukon.

Canada's highest point, Mount Logan (5,959 m or 19,551 ft), is in the territory's southwest. Mount Logan and a large part of the Yukon's southwest are in Kluane National Park and Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other national parks include Ivvavik National Park and Vuntut National Park in the north.

Mount Logan from the southeast

Other watersheds include the Mackenzie River, the Peel Watershed and the AlsekTatshenshini, and a number of rivers flowing directly into the Beaufort Sea. The two main Yukon rivers flowing into the Mackenzie in the Northwest Territories are the Liard River in the southeast and the Peel River and its tributaries in the northeast.

Notable widespread tree species within Yukon are the Black Spruce and White Spruce. Many trees are stunted because of the short growing season and severe climate.[7]

The capital, Whitehorse, is also the largest city, with about two-thirds of the population; the second largest is Dawson City (pop. 1,327), which was the capital until 1952.


Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for selected locations in Yukon[8]
City July (°C) July (°F) January (°C) January (°F)
Whitehorse 21/8 69/46 −13/−22 8/−8
Dawson City 23/8 74/47 −23/−31 −9/−24
Old Crow 21/9 69/48 −27/−36 −15/−32


Map showing locations of all municipalities of Yukon
Distribution of Yukon's eight municipalities by type

In the 2011 Census, Yukon had a population of 33,897 living in 14,117 of its 16,259 total dwellings, an 11.6% change from its 2006 population of 30,372. With a land area of 474,712.64 km2 (183,287.57 sq mi), it had a population density of 0.1/km2 (0.2/sq mi) in 2011.[9]

Municipalities by population

Name Status[10] Official name Incorporation date[11] Population
Land area
Population density
(per km²)[9]
Carmacks Town Village of Carmacks November 1, 1984 503 425 18.4 36.95 13.6
Dawson Town City of Dawson January 9, 1902 1,319 1,327 −0.6 32.45 40.7
Faro Town Town of Faro June 13, 1969 344 341 0.9 203.57 1.7
Haines Junction Town Village of Haines Junction October 1, 1984 593 589 0.7 34.49 17.2
Mayo Town Village of Mayo June 1, 1984 226 248 −8.9 1.06 213.2
Teslin Town Village of Teslin August 1, 1984 122 141 −13.5 1.92 63.6
Watson Lake Town Town of Watson Lake April 1, 1984 802 846 −5.2 6.11 131.3
Whitehorse City City of Whitehorse June 1, 1950 23,276 20,461 13.8 416.54 55.9
Total 27,185 24,378 11.5 733.08 37.1


The 2006 Canadian census examined Canadians' ethnicity and ancestry (beyond grandparents).[12] Out of a Yukon population of 30,195, only 13,045 (43%) responded with a single answer, 57% of respondents selected multiple ethnicity making a 'simple' assessment of the ethnic portrait impossible.[13] From the total answers (118,035) 13% are of aboriginal, North American Indian, or Métis origin. This percentage might be a little higher if the 'Canadian' origin includes both First Nations people and European descendents. The categories for other origins are confounding ('European' vs 'Western European' vs 'French' vs 'Scottish', etc.) and therefore a further breakdown is not realistic. According to the Statistics Canada 2006 Community Profiles page, Yukoners of aboriginal identity population (including all persons with treaty status or band registry) represent 25% of the population.[14]



The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were the Roman Catholic Church with 5,975 (22 percent); the Anglican Church of Canada with 3,795 (13 percent); and the United Church of Canada with 2,105 (7 percent). 37.4% of residents claimed no religion.[18]


Yukon's historical major industry has been mining (lead, zinc, silver, gold, asbestos and copper). The government acquired the land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870 and split it from the Northwest Territories in 1898 to fill the need for local government created by the population influx of the gold rush.

Thousands of these prospectors flooded the territory, creating a colourful period recorded by authors such as Robert W. Service and Jack London. The memory of this period and the early days of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as the territory's scenic wonders and outdoor recreation opportunities, makes tourism the second most important industry.

Manufacturing, including furniture, clothing, and handicrafts, follows in importance, along with hydroelectricity. The traditional industries of trapping and fishing have declined. Today, the government sector is by far the biggest employer in the territory, directly employing approximately 5,000 out of a labour force of 12,500.


Yukon welcome sign

Yukon's tourism motto is "Larger than life".[19] Yukon's major appeal is its nearly pristine nature. Tourism relies heavily on this, and there are many organized backcountry by air or snowmobile, climb the highest peaks in Canada or take a family hike up smaller mountains, or try ice climbing and dog sledding.

Yukon also has a wide array of cultural and sporting events and infrastructures that attract artists, participants and tourists from all parts of the world; Yukon International Storytelling Festival, Frostbite Music Festival,[20] Dawson Music Festival,[21] Yukon Quest, Sourdough Rendezvous, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre,[22] Northern Lights Centre,[23] Klondike Gold Rush memorials and activities, "Takhini Hot Springs", and the Whitehorse fish ladder.[24]

There are many opportunities to experience pre-colonial lifestyles by learning about Yukon's First Nations.[25] Wildlife and nature observation is exceptional and a wide variety of large mammals, birds, and fish are easily accessible, whether or not within Yukon's many territorial[26] parks (Herschel Island Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park,[27] Tombstone Territorial Park,[28] Fishing Branch Ni'iinlii'njik Park,[29] Coal River Springs Territorial Park)[30] and national parks (Kluane National Park and Reserve, Vuntut National Park, Ivvavik National Park) and reserves, or nearby Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park in British Columbia.

The latitude enables the view of aurora borealis in Yukon.

Arts and culture

Although English is the main language used in the territory, as evidenced by the census, the Government of Yukon recognizes several aboriginal languages as part of the cultural heritage of the territory: the Tlingit, and the less common Tahltan, as well as seven Athapaskan languages, Upper Tanana, Gwitchin, Hän, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Kaska and Tagish, some of which are rare.[31] As noted above, the "aboriginal identity population" makes up a relatively small part of the total population, accounting for about 25 percent. Notwithstanding, the aboriginal culture is strongly reflected in such areas as winter sports, as in the Yukon Quest sled dog race. The modern comic-book character Yukon Jack depicts a heroic aboriginal persona. By far the strongest cultural and tourism aspect of Yukon, however, is the legacy of the Klondike Gold Rush (1897 - 1899), which inspired such contemporary writers at the time as Robert W. Service, Jack London and Jules Verne and which continues to inspire films and games from Mae West's Klondike Annie to The Yukon Trail (see Cultural legacy of the Klondike Gold Rush). Notable residents have included Leslie Nielsen, Erik Nielsen and Pierre Berton.


Chief Isaac of the Hän, Yukon Territory, ca. 1898

In the 19th century, Yukon was a segment of North-Western Territory that was administered by the Hudson's Bay Company, and then of the Northwest Territories administered by the federal Canadian government. It only obtained a recognizable local government in 1895 when it became a separate district of the Northwest Territories.[32] In 1898, it was made a separate territory with its own commissioner and an appointed Territorial Council.[33]

Prior to 1979, the territory was administered by the commissioner who was appointed by the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The commissioner had a role in appointing the territory's Executive Council, served as chair, and had a day-to-day role in governing the territory. The elected Territorial Council had a purely advisory role. In 1979, a significant degree of power was devolved from the commissioner and the federal government to the territorial legislature which, in that year, adopted a party system of responsible government. This change was accomplished through a letter from Jake Epp, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, rather than through formal legislation.

In preparation for Yukon Legislative Assembly for the first time in 1978. The Progressive Conservatives won these elections and formed the first party government of Yukon in January 1979. The Yukon New Democratic Party (NDP) formed the government from 1985 to 1992 under Tony Penikett and again from 1996 under Piers McDonald until being defeated in 2000. The conservatives returned to power in 1992 under John Ostashek after having renamed themselves the Yukon Party. The Liberal government of Pat Duncan was defeated in elections in November 2002, with Dennis Fentie of the Yukon Party forming the government as Premier.

The Yukon Act, passed on April 1, 2003, formalized the powers of the Yukon government and devolved additional powers to the territorial government (e.g., control over land and natural resources). As of 2003, other than criminal prosecutions, the Yukon government has much of the same powers as provincial governments, and the other two territories are looking to obtaining the same powers. Today the role of commissioner is analogous to that of a provincial lieutenant governor; however, unlike lieutenant-governors, commissioners are not formal representatives of the Queen but are employees of the federal government.

Although there has been discussion in the past about Yukon becoming Canada's 11th province, it is generally felt that its population base is too sparse for this to occur at present.

At the federal level, the territory is presently represented in the Parliament of Canada by a single Member of Parliament and one senator. Members of Parliament from Canadian territories are full and equal voting representatives and residents of the territory enjoy the same rights as other Canadian citizens. One Yukon Member of Parliament, Erik Nielsen, was the Deputy Prime Minister under the government of Brian Mulroney, while another, Audrey McLaughlin, was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party.

Federal representation

In the Canadian House of Commons, Yukon is represented by Ryan Leef of the Conservative Party. Leef was first elected to the House of Commons in 2011. Previous Members of Parliament include Larry Bagnell (Liberal Party, 2000–2011), Louise Hardy (New Democratic Party (NDP), 1997–2000), Audrey McLaughlin (NDP, 1987–1997), Erik Nielsen (Progressive Conservative Party, 1957–1987), James Aubrey Simmons (Liberal, 1949–1957).

Yukon is allocated one Senate of Canada seat and has been represented by three Senators since the position was created in 1975. The Senate position is currently held by Daniel Lang, who was appointed on December 22, 2008.[34][35] It was previously filled by Ione Christensen, of the Liberal Party. Appointed to the Senate in 1999 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Christensen resigned in December 2006 to help her ailing husband. From 1975 to 1999, Paul Lucier (Liberal) served as Senator for Yukon. Lucier was appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

First Nations


Dempster Highway, Eagle Plains, road sign

Before modern forms of transportation, the rivers and mountain passes were the main transportation routes for the coastal Tlingit people trading with the Athabascans of which the Chilkoot Pass and Dalton Trail, as well as the first Europeans.

From the Gold Rush until the 1950s, riverboats plied the Yukon River, mostly between Whitehorse and Dawson City, with some making their way further to Alaska and over to the Bering Sea, and other tributaries of Yukon River such as the Stewart River. Most of the riverboats were owned by the British-Yukon Navigation Company, an arm of the White Pass and Yukon Route, which also operated a narrow gauge railway between Skagway, Alaska, and Whitehorse. The railway ceased operation in the 1980s with the first closure of the Faro mine. It is now run during the summer months for the tourism season, with operations as far as Carcross.

Today, major land routes include the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Highway (between Skagway and Dawson City), the Haines Highway (between Haines, Alaska, and Haines Junction), and the Dempster Highway (linking Inuvik, Northwest Territories to the Klondike Highway), all paved except for the Dempster. Other highways with less traffic include the "Robert Campbell Highway" linking Carmacks (on the Klondike Highway) to Watson Lake (Alaska Highway) via Faro and Ross River, and the "Silver Trail" linking the old silver mining communities of Mayo, Elsa and Keno City to the Klondike Highway at the Stewart River bridge. Air travel is the only way to reach the far north community of Old Crow.

Whitehorse International Airport serves as the air transport infrastructure hub, with direct flights to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Fairbanks, and Frankfurt (summer months). Every Yukon community is served by an airport. The communities of Dawson City, Old Crow, and Inuvik, have regular passenger service through Air North. Air charter businesses exist primarily to serve the tourism and mining exploration industries.

See also


  1. ^ "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, 2011 and 2006 censuses".  
  2. ^ "Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, by province and territory (2011)". Statistics Canada. November 19, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Government of Yukon: Emblems and Symbols". 
  4. ^ a b "Yukon Act, SC 2002, c 7". CanLII. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Services, Cultural. Archaeology Program. Department of Tourism and Culture. [Online] March 8th, 2011. [Cited: April 7th, 2012.]
  6. ^ "Boundary Facts". International Boundary Commission. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011. Length of boundary by province — Yukon- 1,210 km or 752 miles 
  7. ^ Carl Duncan, "The Dempster: Highway to the Arctic" accessed 2009.10.22.
  8. ^ "National Climate Data and Information Archive". Environment Canada. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2011 and 2006 censuses (Yukon)". Statistics Canada. January 13, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Yukon Communities". Yukon Government: Department of Community Services. November 7, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Association of Yukon Communities Incorporation Dates". Association of Yukon Communities. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  12. ^ "2006 CENSUS" (PDF). 16 May 2006. p. 10. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Population by selected ethnic origins, by province and territory (2001 Census) (Yukon Territory)". July 28, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  14. ^ "2006 Community Profiles". Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  15. ^ Council of Yukon First Nations
  16. ^ a b c "Census Profile: Yukon (Territory)". Statistics Canada. January 8, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Language Act, Statues of the Yukon (2002)" (PDF). Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  18. ^ "". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  19. ^ Travel Yukon
  20. ^ "Frostbite Music Festival". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Dawson Music Festival". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Northern Lights Centre". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Whitehorse fish ladder". February 1, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Yukon First Nation Tourist Association". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Territorial Parks". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Herschel Island Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Tombstone Territorial Park". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Fishing Branch Ni'iinlii'njik Park". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Coal River Springs Territorial Park". Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  31. ^ Yukon Territory History and Culture, Pinnacle Travel
  32. ^ Coates and Morrison, p.74
  33. ^ Coates and Morrison, p.103
  34. ^ "Senators - Detailed Information". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  35. ^ "Former Yukon MLA named to Senate seat". December 22, 2008. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 

Further reading

  • Coates, Kenneth (1985), Canada's colonies: a history of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, Lorimer,  
  • Coates, Ken S. & Morrison, William R. (1988), Land of the Midnight Sun: A History of the Yukon, Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers,  
  • Cody, William J (2000), Flora of the Yukon Territory, National Research Press,  
  • Hart, Ann (2000), Alaska and the Yukon, JPM Publications,  
  • Laguna, Frederica De (2000), Travels among the Dena : exploring Alaska's Yukon Valley, Univ. of Washington Press,  
  • O'Reilly, Shauna; Brennan O'Reilly (2009), Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Arcadia Pub,  
  • Webb, Melody (1993), Yukon: The Last Frontier, University of British Columbia Press,  

External links

  • Yukon Government
  • Yukon at DMOZ
  • Yukon Attraction & Service Guides
  • Immigration Yukon
  • "Digital Collections", Libraries, University of Washington .
  • "Territorial Battles: Yukon Elections, 1978–2002", Digital Archives, CBC .

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