Saskatchewan (/səˈskætʃəwən/ or /səˈskætʃəˌwɑːn/) is a prairie province in Canada. Saskatchewan was first explored by Europeans in 1690 and settled in 1774, having also been inhabited for thousands of years by various indigenous groups. It became a province in 1905. Saskatchewan's current premier is Brad Wall and its lieutenant-governor is Vaughn Solomon Schofield. Its major economic activities are agriculture, mining, and energy. "In 1992, the federal and provincial governments signed a historic land claim agreement with Saskatchewan First Nations. Under the Agreement, the First Nations received money to buy land on the open market. As a result, about 761,000 acres (3079 kilometres squared) have been turned into reserve land and many First Nations continue to invest their settlement dollars in urban areas", including Saskatoon. The province's name is derived from the Saskatchewan River. Earlier, the river was designated kisiskāciwani-sīpiy ("swift flowing river") in the Cree language.
As Saskatchewan's borders largely follow the geographic coordinates of longitude and latitude, the province is a quadrilateral, or a shape with four sides. However, because of its size, the 49th parallel boundary and the 60th northern border appear curved. Additionally, the eastern boundary of the province is partially crooked rather than following a line of longitude, as correction lines were devised by surveyors prior to the homestead program (1880–1928).
Saskatchewan is part of the Western Provinces and is bounded on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the north-east by Nunavut, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the American states of Montana and North Dakota. Saskatchewan has the distinction of being the only Canadian province for which no borders correspond to physical geographic features (i.e. they are all parallels and meridians). Along with Alberta, Saskatchewan is one of only two provinces that are land-locked.
The overwhelming majority of Saskatchewan's population is located in the southern third of the province, south of the 53rd parallel.
Saskatchewan contains two major natural regions: the Canadian Shield in the north and the Interior Plains in the south. Northern Saskatchewan is mostly covered by boreal forest except for the Lake Athabasca Sand Dunes, the largest active sand dunes in the world north of 58°, and adjacent to the southern shore of Lake Athabasca. Southern Saskatchewan contains another area with sand dunes known as the "Great Sand Hills" covering over 300 square kilometres (120 sq mi). The Cypress Hills, located in the southwestern corner of Saskatchewan and Killdeer Badlands (Grasslands National Park), are areas of the province that remained unglaciated during the last glaciation period.
The province's highest point, at 1,392 metres (4,567 ft), is located in the Cypress Hills less than 2km from the provincial boundary with Alberta. The lowest point is the shore of Lake Athabasca, at 213 metres (699 ft). The province has 14 major drainage basins made up of various rivers and watersheds draining into the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Saskatchewan receives more hours of sunshine than any other Canadian province. The province lies far from any significant body of water. This fact, combined with its northerly latitude, gives it a warm (but not really hot) summer, corresponding to its humid continental climate (Köppen type Dfb) in the central and most of the eastern parts of the province, as well as the Cypress Hills; drying off to a semi-arid steppe climate (Köppen type BSk) in the southwestern part of the province. Drought can affect agricultural areas during long periods with little or no precipitation at all. The northern parts of Saskatchewan – from about La Ronge northward – have a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc) with a shorter summer season. Summers can get very hot, sometimes above 38 °C (100 °F) during the day, and with humidity decreasing from northeast to southwest. Warm southern winds blow from the plains and intermontane regions of the Western United States during much of July and August, very cool or hot but changeable air masses often occur during spring and in September. Winters are usually bitterly cold, with frequent Arctic air descending from the north, with high temperatures not breaking −17 °C (1 °F) for weeks at a time. Warm chinook winds often blow from the west, bringing periods of mild weather. Annual precipitation averages 30 to 45 centimetres (12 to 18 inches) across the province, with the bulk of rain falling in June, July, and August.
Saskatchewan is one of the most tornado active parts of Canada, averaging approx. 12 to 18 tornadoes per year, some violent. In 2012, 33 tornadoes were reported in the province. The Regina Cyclone took place in June 1912 when 28 people died in a F4 Fujita scale tornado. Severe and non-severe thunderstorm events occur in Saskatchewan, usually from early spring to late summer. Hail, strong winds and isolated tornadoes are a temporary occurrence.
The hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere in Canada happened in Saskatchewan. The temperature rose to 45 degrees Celsius in Midale and Yellow Grass. The coldest ever recorded in the province was −56.7 degrees Celsius in Prince Albert, which is north of Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan has been populated by various indigenous peoples of North America, including members of the Sarcee, Blackfeet, Atsina, Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Lakota Sioux. The first known European to enter Saskatchewan was Henry Kelsey in 1690, who travelled up the Saskatchewan River in hopes of trading fur with the province's indigenous peoples. The first permanent European settlement was a Hudson's Bay Company post at Cumberland House, founded in 1774 by Samuel Hearne.
The North-West Mounted Police set up several posts and forts across Saskatchewan, including Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, and Wood Mountain Post in south-central Saskatchewan near the United States border.
Many Métis people, who had not been signatories to a treaty, had moved to the Southbranch Settlement and Prince Albert district north of present-day Saskatoon following the Red River Rebellion in Manitoba in 1870. In the early 1880s, the Canadian government refused to hear the Métis' grievances, which stemmed from land-use issues. Finally, in 1885, the Métis, led by Louis Riel, staged the North-West Rebellion and declared a provisional government. They were defeated by a Canadian militia brought to the Canadian prairies by the new Canadian Pacific Railway. Riel, who surrendered and was convicted of treason in a packed Regina courtroom, was hanged on November 16, 1885. Since then, the government has recognized the Métis as an aboriginal people with status rights, and provided them with various benefits related to that status.
Since the late 20th century, First Nations have become more politically active in seeking justice for past inequities, especially related to government taking of indigenous lands. The federal and provincial governments have negotiated on numerous land claims, and developed a program of "Treaty Land Entitlement", enabling First Nations to buy land to be taken into reserves with money from settlements of claims.
"In 1992, the federal and provincial governments signed an historic land claim agreement with Saskatchewan First Nations. Under the Agreement, the First Nations received money to buy land on the open market. As a result, about 761,000 acres have been turned into reserve land and many First Nations continue to invest their settlement dollars in urban areas", including Saskatoon. The money from such settlements has enabled First Nations to invest in businesses and other economic infrastructure.
According to the 2006 Canadian census, the largest ethnic group in Saskatchewan is German (30.0%), followed by English (26.5%), Scottish (19.2%), Irish (15.3%), Ukrainian (13.6%), French (Fransaskois) (12.4%), First Nations (12.1%), Norwegian (7.2%), Polish (6.0%), Métis (4.4%), Dutch (3.7%), Russian (3.7%) and Swedish (3.5%) .
The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were the Roman Catholic Church with 286,815 (30%); the United Church of Canada with 187,450 (20%); and the Lutherans with 78,520 (8%). 148,535 (15.4%) responded "no religion".
Historically, Saskatchewan's economy was primarily associated with agriculture. However, increasing diversification has resulted in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting only making up 6.8% of the province's GDP. Saskatchewan grows a large portion of Canada's grain. Wheat is the most familiar crop and the one most often associated with the province (there are sheafs of wheat depicted on the coat of arms of Saskatchewan), but other grains like canola, flax, rye, oats, peas, lentils, canary seed, and barley are also produced. Beef cattle production in the province is only exceeded by Alberta. Mining is also a major industry in the province, with Saskatchewan being the world's largest exporter of potash and uranium. In the northern part of the province, forestry is also a significant industry.
Oil and natural gas production is also a very important part of Saskatchewan's economy, although the oil industry is larger. Among Canadian provinces, only Alberta exceeds Saskatchewan in overall oil production. Heavy crude is extracted in the Lloydminster-Kerrobert-Kindersley areas. Light crude is found in the Kindersley-Swift Current areas as well as the Weyburn-Estevan fields. Natural gas is found almost entirely in the western part of Saskatchewan, from the Primrose Lake area through Lloydminster, Unity, Kindersley, Leader, and around Maple Creek areas.
Saskatchewan's GDP in 2006 was approximately C$45.922 billion, with economic sectors breaking down in the following way:
A list of the top 100 companies includes The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Federated Cooperatives Ltd. and IPSCO.
Major Saskatchewan-based Crown corporations are Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), SaskTel, SaskEnergy (the province's main supplier of natural gas), and SaskPower. Bombardier runs the NATO Flying Training Centre at 15 Wing, near Moose Jaw. Bombardier was awarded a long-term contract in the late 1990s for $2.8 billion from the federal government for the purchase of military aircraft and the running of the training facility. SaskPower since 1929 has been the principal supplier of electricity in Saskatchewan, serving more than 451,000 customers and managing $4.5 billion in assets. SaskPower is a major employer in the province with almost 2,500 permanent full-time staff located in 71 communities.
Government and politics
Saskatchewan has the same form of government as the other Canadian provinces with a lieutenant-governor (who is the representative of the Crown in Right of Saskatchewan), premier, and a unicameral legislature.
Provincial politics in Saskatchewan is dominated by the social-democratic New Democrats and the centre-right Saskatchewan Party, with the latter holding the majority in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan as of 2012. Numerous smaller political parties also run candidates in provincial elections, including the Green Party, Liberal Party, and the Progressive Conservative Party, but none is currently represented in the Legislative Assembly (Liberals and Conservatives generally caucus under the Saskatchewan Party banner in provincial affairs). After 16 years of New Democratic governments under premiers Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert, the 2007 provincial election was won by the Saskatchewan Party under Brad Wall. In the 2011 election, Premier Wall and the Saskatchewan Party were returned with an increased majority.
While both Saskatoon and Regina (Saskatchewan's largest cities) are roughly twice the population of an urban riding in Canada, both are (as of the 2011 federal election) split into multiple ridings that blend them with rural communities.
Saskatchewan's medical health system is widely and inaccurately characterised as "socialized medicine": medical practitioners in Saskatchewan, as in other Canadian provinces, are not civil servants but remit their accounts to the publicly funded Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Plan rather than to patients (i.e. a single-payer system). Unlike in Medicare in Australia and private medicine in the UK, Saskatchewan sets a statutory tariff for medical services which may not be exceeded.
Saskatchewan medical health system has faced criticism due a lack of accessibility to the midwifery program. According to Leanne Smith, the director for maternal services in the Saskatoon Health Region declared that half of the women who apply for the midwifery program are turned away. Ministry of Health data shows that midwives saw 1,233 clients in the 2012-13 fiscal year (which runs April to March). But in that fourth quarter, 359 women were still on waiting lists for immediate or future care. The provincial Health Ministry received 47 letters about midwifery services in 2012, most of which asked for more midwives. As a continuing problem in the Saskatchewan health care system, more pressure has been placed to recruit more midwives for the province.