You are Here - 80 years of Canadian Geographic maps

Changing Perspectives

Canadian Geographic ’s maps have recorded most of the country’s major geographical and environmental events. The maps reflect the perspectives of the times as attitudes change. Topics are often covered more than once, with decades in between stories creating a presentation of facts that are sometimes worlds apart.

Athabasca Oil Sands

Regardless of whether it’s an environmental concern or an exciting new discovery, as attitudes change and understanding grows, the stories between the covers of Canadian Geographic reflect the perspectives of the times.
Through the 80-year history of Canadian Geographic's maps, the topics covered have been vast and included most of the major geographical and environmental events that occurred in Canada. Topics are often revisited and are sometimes worlds apart in their focus.

Image of a map showing the Athabasca Tar Sands in 1968

This article and map from 1968, praises a new development of piping oil from the tar sands in Alberta to the rest of the country. It is a positive look at the Athabasca oil sands, focusing on the seemingly great discovery, the opportunities, the process and the geological characteristics of the area itself. The simple black and white map of Alberta depicts the tar sands plant site in Fort McMurray and a pipeline running to Edmonton.

Satellite Image of the Athabasca Tar Sands in 2011

In 2011, another map published in the magazine had a very different point of view. The first few lines read, “oil sands development along Alberta’s Athabasca River is scarring the landscape and driving away wildlife.” The article goes on to discuss the possibility of tar sands refinement contaminating the Athabasca watershed. The map is very different in appearance to the earlier one, with a colourful satellite image as the base.

The stark contrast between to the two perspectives reflects Canada’s increased awareness of ecological issues and our advancing knowledge about the negative environmental side effects associated with the tar sands.

The Arctic

While Canadian Geographic has covered the Arctic at length, these two maps clearly depict how focus can shift over time.

Image of a map of the Arctic Circle from 1943

In 1943, the map in “Northwest Passage by air” depicts the exploration, development and navigation of the Arctic by airplane, emphasizing the adventure of Canada’s North.

Image of a map of the Arctic Circle from 2008

In 1943 we were considering only what we could do with the North; in 2008 we were concentrating on how to preserve it.

The 2008 “Polar Projections” map shows the current spotlight on the Canadian Arctic and climate change and illustrates the topic with an attractive colour map.