The origin and age of the Shield were among the great mysteries of Canadian GEOLOGY. Canada's oldest rocks (3.96 billion years) were found east of Great Bear Lake. The Shield's southern limits were traced by Alexander Murray, who, in 1851-52 examined the country below Gananoque, Bytown [Ottawa], the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers and the perimeter from Kingston to Lake Superior. A.C. Lawson made an important contribution by working out the Precambrian succession in the 1880s, but a more current time scale was not developed until the 1950s, when geologists such as C.H. Stockwell had seismic and gravity measures at their disposal (see GEOLOGICAL HISTORY). Stockwell divided the Shield into 3 great provinces - Superior, Churchill and Grenville - and 23 subprovinces. It is now considered to fall into 5 provinces: Bear, Churchill, Labrador, Southern and Grenville (see GEOLOGICAL REGIONS).
The Shield has had a profound effect on Canadian history, settlement and economic development. In pre-European times it was the home of Algonquian nomadic hunters, who developed the birchbark CANOE to travel its myriad waterways. Similar canoes were used by the COUREURS DE BOIS, VOYAGEURS and explorers to penetrate the continent.
Abundant fur-bearing animals in frontier regions provided the basis of a colonial economy until the early 1900s. The hegemony of MONTRÉAL was thus extended far into the wilderness, via the Ottawa River and connecting waterways into the North-West, creating the precedent for future Canadian sovereignty over these lands.
Barriers to Settlement
The bare rock, thin soils, MUSKEG and insects of the Shield have presented a barrier to settlement; the agricultural frontier of the prairie provinces and eastern Canada end abruptly at its perimeter. The railway link to the West literally had to be blasted through Shield rock, coincidentally exposing its great treasures: gold, silver, nickel, cobalt, zinc, copper and iron ore. Its coniferous forests and hydroelectric power support a large PULP AND PAPER industry. Gigantic power developments at CHURCHILL FALLS, Labrador; JAMES BAY, Québec; Kettle Rapids, Manitoba; and elsewhere feed electricity to the urban south.
This land of bedrock and bush has left its imprint on some of Canada's best literature, art and drama. For generations, the stark and rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield has attracted cottagers and recreationists from the urban south as well as tourists from all over the world.
Author JAMIE BASTEDO
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
An informative overview of the Boreal forest region from Natural Resources Canada.
An online travel guide covering popular destinations and recreational opportunities in Northern Ontario.
An extensive information source about the geological history, human settlement patterns, earth and water resources, and natural hazards found in locations across the country. Click on the red symbols on the interactive map of Canada to explore aerial landscapes, maps, photos, colourful online posters, and more. A Geoscape Canada website from Natural Resources Canada.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Québec Fortified City: Geological and Historical Heritage
A well-illustrated Geological and Historical Heritage Fieldtrip Guidebook for the fortified City of Québec. See the glossary at the end of this document for a definition of key geological terms. From Natural Resources Canada.