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Prince Edward Island Flag
Prince Edward Island Flag
Prince Edward Island Coat of Arms
Prince Edward Island Coat of Arms
Prince Edward Island Location
Prince Edward Island Location

Prince Edward Island, Canada

Prince Edward Island (simply PEI or P.E.I.; French, l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard) is a Canadian province situated in the Maritimes. It is the nation's smallest province in terms of both size and population; it has the highest population density of all Canadian provinces, 24.47 persons per square kilometer.

The population of PEI, is 137,800. People from Prince Edward Island are called Prince Edward Islanders (or colloquially just Islanders).

It is located in a rectangle defined roughly by 46°–47° N, and 62°–64° 30' W.

The island's namesake is Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820), the father of Queen Victoria.

Motto Parva Sub Ingenti (The small under the protection of the great)
Capital Charlottetown
Largest city Charlottetown
Lieutenant-Governor (2005) J. Léonce Bernard
Premier (2005) Pat Binns (PC)
* Land
* Water
5,660 km² (13th)
5,660 km²
0 km² (0%)
Population (2004)
* Population
* Density

137,900 (10th)
24.37 /km² (1st)
Admittance into Confederation
* Date
* Order

July 1, 1873
Time zone UTC-4
Parliamentary representation
* House seats
* Senate seats

* Postal
* ISO 3166-2

Postal Code Prefix C

Largest municipalities by population

Lot 34
Lot 1
Lot 65
Lot 19
Lot 2



Prince Edward Island was originally inhabited by the Mi'kmaq people. They named the island Abegweit, meaning Cradle on the Waves.

As a French colony comprising part of Acadia, the island was called Île Saint-Jean. Roughly one thousand Acadians on the island, many having already fled a British-ordered expulsion in the mainland British colony of Nova Scotia in 1755, were subsequently deported in 1758 when the British seized Île Saint-Jean during the Seven Years' War.

The new British colony of "St. John's Island", also known as the "Island of St. John", was virtually empty following the cessation of hostilities, save a British garrison. To attract settlers without draining the British treasury, "Captain Samuel Holland, of the Royal Engineers, sent a proposal to the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantation, proposing that a scientific survey be done to encourage land settlement and the fishery in British North America, particularly in the areas recently ceded by France."

The survey was carried out between 1764-1766 whereby three roughly 500,000 acre (2,000 km²) counties were created, each of which was further subdivided into 100,000 acre (400 km²) parishes. Each county received a county seat (called "royalties"), and the remaining countryside was divided into 67 townships (called "lots") averaging 20,000 acres (80 km²) in area which were promptly auctioned to British nobility.

The owners of the lots were expected to recruit settlers and finance their transportation to the island, whereby settlers were required to clear a certain amount of forest for farmland and pay annual "quitrents" to their landlords. Similar feudal systems were used in other British and European colonies, but few caused as much controversy, given peasant farmer uprisings over the following century against the actions of absentee landlords.

In 1798, Great Britain changed the colony's name from St. John's Island to Prince Edward Island to distinguish it from similar names in the Atlantic area, such as the cities of Saint John and St. John's. The colony's new name honoured the fourth son of King George III, Prince Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent (1767–1820), who was then commanding British troops in Halifax. Prince Edward was also the father of Queen Victoria.

Province House, opened in 1847, is Prince Edward Island's provincial legislature and a National Historic Site.
Province House, opened in 1847, is Prince Edward Island's provincial legislature and a National Historic Site.

In September 1864, Prince Edward Island hosted the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first meeting in the process leading to the Articles of Confederation and the creation of Canada in 1867. Prince Edward Island did not find the terms of union favourable and together with Newfoundland, balked at joining in 1867. In the late 1860s the colony examined various options including the possibility of becoming an independent dominion, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States interested in joining their political union.

In the early 1870s the colony began construction of a railway, however with mounting construction debts, and under pressure from Great Britain's Colonial Office, negotiations with Canada were reinstated. In 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism and facing the distraction of the Pacific Scandal, conceded to a request that the federal government assume the colony's railway debts, and also agreed to financing a buy-out of the last of the colony's absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure. Another equally important condition was for the federal government to provide "efficient steamship service" to the mainland. Prince Edward Island entered Confederation with little fanfare on July 1, 1873.

At the time of Confederation, Prince Edward Island's Parliamentary representation consisted of 6 seats in the House of Commons and 4 seats in the Senate. Prince Edward Island's population remained stable but western expansion in Canada reduced its proportion of the nation's population. As a result, representation declined to 4 Members of Parliament by the 1910s. In 1915 Prince Edward Island's representation in the House of Commons was about to fall from 4 to 3 when the provincial government argued that since the province had 4 Senators, it could have no less than an equal number of Members of Parliament; Senators being appointed for life at this time, it was very rare for these coveted positions to be vacant for long. The provincial government took the issue to court and won the case, forcing the federal government to create a law mandating that no province can have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it has seats in the Senate.

As a result of having hosted the inaugural meeting of Confederation, the Charlottetown Conference, Prince Edward Island presents itself as the "Birthplace of Confederation" with several buildings, a ferry vessel, and the Confederation Bridge using the term "confederation" in some way. The most prominent building in the province with this name is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, presented as a gift to Prince Edward Islanders by the 10 provincial governments and the federal government in 1964 upon the centenary of the Charlottetown Conference where it stands in Charlottetown as a national monument to the "Fathers of Confederation."


Known as the "Garden Province", the island is located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, east of New Brunswick and north of Nova Scotia from which it is separated by the Northumberland Strait.

The capital and largest city is Charlottetown, situated centrally on the island's southern shore. Summerside is the second largest city and is located in Prince County, in the western part of the province. Stratford, and Cornwall, the third and fourth largest communities are located immediately east and west of Charlottetown respectively, placing more than a third of the province's population within the capital region. Like many other communities on Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown and Summerside are both built around large natural harbours.

In 1997, the Confederation Bridge was opened, connecting the west end of the island to New Brunswick. The bridge replaced a ferry service operated by Marine Atlantic. A Northumberland Ferries Limited ferry service operates from the east end of Prince Edward Island providing access to Nova Scotia while another ferry service operates between Souris and the Magdalen Islands.

The island's landscape has been heavily impacted by humans since the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century. Today, although approximately half of the landmass is covered by forest, there is very little left of the original forests that were present when Europeans arrived on the island. Virtually the entire province is dominated by agriculture, resulting from the ease of farming in the distinctive red sedimentary soil. The island's pastoral landscape has had a strong bearing on not only its economy but also its culture. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from the land during the late Victorian Era for the setting of her classic Anne of Green Gables. Today, many of the same qualities that Montgomery and others found in the Island are enjoyed by millions of tourists who visit in all seasons. They enjoy a variety of leisure activities, including world-renowned beaches, various golf courses, eco-tourism adventures, and simply touring the countryside and enjoying cultural events in local communities of the island.

The shoreline of the island consists of a combination of long beaches, dunes, short sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes and numerous small bays and harbours. The beaches, dunes and sandstone cliffs consist of distinctive reddish sand, due to the high amount of iron oxide in the rock. The white sand at Basin Head is unique on the island. The unusual shape of the grains cause a humming noise as they rub against each other when walked on. The magnificent sand dunes at Greenwich are of particular significance. The shifting, parabolic dune system is home to a variety of birds and rare plants and is also a site of significant archaelogical interest.


Students on Prince Edward Island attend school from grades one (usually at five or six years of age) to twelve, with optional publicly-funded kindergarten available for all students. The province has 70 public schools and four private schools. Five of the public schools teach French as a first language, while others offer various levels of French language teaching, including an immersion option.

Prince Edward Island is home to one provincial university, the University of Prince Edward Island, located in Charlottetown. The university was formed from the merger of Prince of Wales College and St. Dunstan's University. UPEI is home to the Atlantic Veterinary College, which offers the only veterinary medecine program in Atlantic Canada.

Holland College is the provincial community college, with campuses across the province. Holland College has several specialized training facilities including the Atlantic Police Academy and the Culinary Institute of Canada.

The Maritime Christian College, also located in Charlottetown, is a private evangelical Christian college with a university degree-granting charter. It was established in 1960.

The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, located in Summerside, specializes in the instruction of bagpipe and other traditional Scottish and Irish performance art such as highland dance.


The largest percentage of the people on the island trace their ancestry to England, Ireland, Scotland, and France. Other groups include Dutch, Danish, Scandinavian, and Italian. There is also a small percentage of Mi'kmaq people that live on the island and a well-established Lebanese community.

Racial Profile

98.2% Caucasian
1.0% Mi'kmaq
0.5% other
0.2% Black
0.1% Chinese

Religious Groups

47.4% Roman Catholic
42.7% Protestant
7.0% other religion
2.5% other Christian
0.4% non-religious

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlottetown comprises the whole Island and is the second oldest English diocese in Canada. Of the Protestant groups, the United Church of Canada, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Baptist churches are the largest.


The provincial economy is dominated by the seasonal industries of agriculture, tourism, and the fishery. The province is extremely limited in terms of natural resources such as minerals, although there may be undetermined quantities of natural gas beneath the eastern end of the province.

Agriculture remains the dominant industry in the provincial economy, as it has since colonial times, although potatoes have replaced mixed farming during the 20th century to become the leading cash crop - accounting for one-third of provincial farm income. The province currently accounts for a third of Canada's total potato production, producing approximately 1300 million kg annually; comparatively, the state of Idaho produces approximately 6200 million kg annually. PEI is a major producer of seed potatoes, exporting to more than 20 countries around the world.

Tourism eclipsed the fishery in the latter half of the 20th century with over a million visitors entering the province each year to use beaches, golf courses, and visit local attractions and events. The high season, as with most Canadian provinces, is during the summer months of July and August, although increased travel by American visitors during September and October for fall foliage tours of the Maritime provinces and neighbouring New England and Newfoundland is pushing the shoulder season farther into the winter months.

The province is less dependent on the ground fishery than the other Atlantic provinces, with fishing being dominated by shellfish harvesting - most notably lobster. There are two separate lobster seasons for different parts of the province, occurring between May-September outside of moulting times. As the province is surrounded by sea ice between December-April, the fishery is entirely seasonal. In recent decades, the provincial government has been encouraging diversification of the fishery by promoting the aquaculture industry, largely through cultivation of mussels.


  • The island has several nicknames: Epikwetk (Abegweit) which is a Mi'kmaq word meaning "Cradled in the Waves"; "Garden of the Gulf" referring to the pastoral scenery and lush agricultural lands throughout the province; "Million Acre Farm" also refers to the province being dominated by agriculture; and finally "Birthplace of Confederation", referring to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864.
  • Until 1924, automobiles drove on the left side of the road.
  • The Prince Edward Island Railway (Canadian Government Railways after 1915, CNR after 1918) was a narrow gauge system when it was built in 1873. Converted to standard gauge by 1930, the railway was abandoned province-wide in 1989, making PEI the first Canadian province to be without a railway.
  • The world's fur-farming industry started with fox fur on a farm in Prince County.
  • PEI is the only province which has yet to ratify the National Building Code of Canada.
  • PEI has recently become home to a small population of a unique form of coyote, closely related to wolves, which evolved in neighbouring Maritime provinces.
  • Repeal of Prohibition was vetoed in 1945 by then Lieutenant Governor B.W. LePage. (PEI Gov't Biography)
  • There are 31 Canadian cities with a greater population than all of PEI, 13 in Ontario alone.
  • PEI has extremely strict rules for non-resident land ownership as a legacy of Islanders' distrust on this issue from their colonial history. Residents and corporations are limited to maximum holdings of 400 and 1200 hectares (4 and 12 km²) respectively. There are also restrictions on non-resident ownership of shorelines and higher property taxation is in place for recreational properties, the majority of which are owned by non-residents.
  • PEI had the highest per capita enlistment rate in the armed forces of any Canadian province in the volunteer army, navy and air force of the Second World War.
  • Canadian Author Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on PEI, in Clifton. She set a great number of her novels on PEI.
  • PEI is the first province in Canada to elect a Premier of non-European descent (Joseph Atallah Ghiz) in 1986.
  • PEI is the first province in Canada to elect a female Premier (Catherine Callbeck) in 1993. Other provinces had female Premiers prior to 1993, although they had never won a provincial election.

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