Canada is home to over 180 different ferry routes with a route presently operating in each province and the majority of the territories. These ferries represent a mix of private and publicly operated routes and well as a mix of passenger, freight, and mixed-use ferries. Take a look at the map below to see a breakdown of ferry locations from across Canada.
Transportation through waterways has always been a crucial part of Canada’s history. From the First Nations traveling by canoes through rivers, lakes and parts of the oceans to the early explorers, there has always been an emphasis on the transportation of people by boats.
The British and French colonies saw the development of more modern types of transportation on waterways including ferries that functioned to transport the public (usually private ferries) and troops (public ferries).
With the increase of traffic on waterways came regulations governing ferries. In the late eighteenth century, regulations were issued on the documents required to cross by ferry, the fares for goods, people and animals.
Ferries continued to be constructed in the nineteenth century for the development of new land, such as in Manitoba where ferries were built to cross rivers in new tracts of lands given to settlers.
In Western Canada, the Union Steamship Company of British Columbia was a pioneer ferry operator, with its steamers Senator and Lonsdale running a cross-harbour service. The ferry service then expanded to the entire BC coast, providing an essential link for settlers and island communities.
The Canadian Pacific Railway Coast Service began operating coastal ferry services in the late 19th century, and ferries of the Puget Sound Navigation Company, founded in 1913, serviced BCs Georgia Strait. In Eastern Canada, the Dominion Atlantic Railway provided passenger and freight transportation through various ferries, its corporate headquarters being originally located in London, UK.
The growth of the sector continued with the building of larger ships for longer routes in the twentieth century. The ferry sector in Atlantic Canada, Québec and British Columbia saw expansion and consolidation of services with large public/private entities created (Marine Atlantic, Société des Transports du Québec, British Columbia Ferry Services Inc.).
With faster, larger and safer boats, the ferry sector continues to play an integral role in Canada’s economic and social development.