Nova Scotia Backgrounder

Halifax --
the five-minute tour

The original residents of the region, the Mi kmaq, called the area Chebookt , meaning Great Long Harbour and with good reason. After Sydney, Australia, Halifax boasts the second largest natural harbour in the world. In the mid-18th century, the British recognized the area s strategic potential in protecting their new-found colonies in the northern Atlantic. British Governor Edward Cornwallis and 2,500 settlers arrived in 1749, naming their settlement after England s president of the Board of Trade, Lord Halifax. Dartmouth was founded across the harbour the following year. At the innermost reach of the harbour lies the community of Bedford and, further inland, Lower and Upper Sackville, completing the metropolitan area of greater Halifax-Dartmouth, with a total population of 330,000. Halifax marked a number of new world landmark events in its early years. The first North American Board of Trade was formed in Halifax in 1750. And the first member of the British royal family to call on North America came ashore a stone s throw from the summit conference site. The waterfront ironstone building belonging to Enos Collins housed the first Canadian bank. On a more sombre note, the largest human-caused explosion prior to the nuclear age happened in 1917 when a French munitions ship and a Belgian relief vessel collided in the harbour, flattening a substantial portion of the city, killing 2,000 and injuring a further 9,000.

Lavishly treed and almost surrounded by water, Halifax is still steeped in history. Since the city s founding, Citadel Hill has dominated the landscape. The current fort, now a National Historic Park, completed in 1856, was the fourth built on the site. St. Paul s, the oldest building in Halifax, was Canada s first Anglican church. Lord Dalhousie described Province House, built in 1819, thus: This splendid building stands, and will stand, I hope, to the latest posterity, a proud record of the public spirit of this period of our history. One of the finest examples of 19th-century Georgian architecture in North America, it is also Canada s oldest seat of government. The Old Burying Grounds, formal Victorian Public Gardens, Point Pleasant Park 75 hectares (186 acres) of unspoiled waterfront beauty rented from the British government on a 999-year lease for one shilling (about 10 cents) a year are just a small sample of the ever-present past.

But Haligonians by no means live in the slow lane. The city s modest population and pride in its history belie the fact that it is also a dynamic modern community. An urban centre with modern amenities that still retains the spirit of an earlier time clean, safe and hospitable. In a recent survey, Halifax was identified among the most desirable places to live in Canada. With numerous universities and colleges, a vibrant arts community, and a diverse economic base with a global outlook, the city offers the best of many worlds.

The area is Atlantic Canada s headquarters for finance, scientific research, higher education, health care, military and government. Year-round water, air, road and rail connections make Halifax known internationally as North America s most accessible landfall on the Atlantic Rim. Halifax is twinned with cities in two other G7 countries: Halifax in England and Hakodate in Japan.


City of Halifax: 79.2 km2 (49.2 square miles)
Greater Metropolitan area: 2,500 km2 (1,553 square miles)
Population: 330,000
Labour force: 170,000
Harbour: world s second-largest natural ice-free harbour, year-round, charted channel depth 21 m (70 ft) low water, 30 deep water berths available, two container terminals
Water cargo movement: 14 million tonnes in 1994
Airport: Halifax International, serving Air Canada, Canadian Airlines, KLM, Northwest Airlines, feeder airlines and charters.
Annual airport traffic: 2.31 million passengers in 1994
Trade: Approximately 60% of wholesale and 44% of retail trade for Nova Scotia
Shopping: 22 major shopping centres