Manitoba is on of the three prairie provinces and is bordered by Ontario, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Hudson’s Bay and the United States and is the geographical centre of Canada. It has an area of 650,000 square kilometres and is known as the land of 100,000 lakes.
The first inhabitants of Manitoba were the Assiniboine Indians. Europeans reached Manitoba through Hudson Bay in the early 1600s during their search for the Northwest Passage to the Orient. Early European attention was focused on the fur trade, though by 1812 the first agricultural settlements were established. Manitoba became a province of the Dominion of Canada in 1870, with Winnipeg as its capital.
Manitoba has 1.4 million people of which one-half lives in metropolitan Winnipeg. About a quarter of the population has a mother tongue other than English or French. The province has from its early days attracted an ethnically diverse group of immigrants, and even today has 15% visible minorities.
The early provincial economy was based on agriculture, with manufacturing and transportation later becoming vital sectors. Manitoba’s economy has become very diversified, with the services sector the most important. Manitoba’s central location makes it an attractive base for a wide variety of services, particularly in transportation and wholesale distribution.
Agriculture is the backbone of rural Manitoba and its infrastructure in towns and cities. Wheat is the most important crop, with barley and canola close behind. Manitoba is also the leading Canadian producer of flaxseed, sunflower seeds, buckwheat and field peas.
Other important industries include manufacturing, mining, textiles as well as printing and publishing. Manufacturing is the largest goods-producing economic sector, with particular strength in food and transportation equipment. Other important sectors are primary and fabricated metals, electrical goods, clothing and textiles, as well as printing and publishing.
Mining is important to Manitoba’s economy, with metals normally accounting for three-quarters of the value of production. The most important metals are nickel, copper and zinc, with significant production of oil & gas and a number of industrial minerals.