Often, Canadian places echo Britain’s technique and describe or hint at surroundings, for example, Rocky Mountains, Lockport, Muddy Bay. Hundreds of others are direct lifts from Aboriginal languages. These include Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec as well as Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Ottawa and Toronto.
Occasionally, First Nations names are translated, Medicine Hat being the best-known example. Many Manitoba places like Grand Rapids and Antler River are also translations.
Names borrowed from Europe dot Canada’s map — London, Hamilton, Banff, Komarno and the Seine River, to name a few. New Brunswick has a Newcastle named for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England.
A significant difference between Canadian and British names is Britain’s remarkable lack of places named for notable people, including royalty. Apparently, Britain hasn’t a single town, village or area named after a sovereign. Even Alfred, considered the greatest Anglo-Saxon king, has no town, city, village or river named after him.
The opposite holds true in Canada. We have an incredible 129 Victorias of one sort or another, including the Victoria and Albert Mountain Range in Nunuvut. Regina, also named for Queen Victoria, is Latin for “queen.” And there’s Prince Albert, Fort Prince of Wales, Prince George, George Lake, Prince Rupert, Prince Edward Island, and Charlottetown. Alberta takes its name from Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Victoria and Albert.
In fairness, we must note that England does have several places indicating the royal role if not the royal person. There’s Kingston-upon Thames, King’s Lynn, King’s Cross, etc.
We have a few similar names such as Kingston and Queenston in Ontario. Manitoba has but one place named “king” that honours royalty — King’s Park, near Gimli. Nine other king-related place names are named after people named King or Kingsley. We do have a Queen’s Valley.
We’ve celebrated prime ministers with place names. There’s a Laurier in Manitoba. Elsewhere, mountains commemorate Wilfrid Laurier, John A. Macdonald, and Charles Tupper. Saskatchewan named a manmade lake after John Diefenbaker. That province also has a town named after Robert Borden. Roblin, Manitoba, remembers a long-ago premier, Sir Rodmond P. Roblin.
Other people so noted are explorers and adventurers — Champlain (Ontario and Quebec), Radisson (Quebec and Saskatchewan), the Mackenzie and Fraser rivers, Hudson Bay, Franklin Strait, and so on.
First Nations’ heroes have not been overlooked. Piapot, Crowfoot, Tecumseh and Brant are all immortalized in place names.
Hundreds of communities are named for saints. Check out the map of Quebec. Also, Western Canada was a mission field. Priests who evangelized the west named their stopping places after saints. So we got St. Eustache, St. Laurent, St. Norbert, etc. Moreover, the largely Catholic voyageurs also named places for saints, and some settlers had “saint” in their surnames — St. Germaine and St. Pierre for instance.
In excess of 4,000 lakes, islands, eskers, rivers, and streams are named in memory of Manitobans who died serving their country. Saskatchewan has honoured 3,800 war dead in this way.
In Manitoba, for example, Carnegie Island is named for Flying Officer Thomas Carnegie of Winnipeg. Michlosky Lake commemorates Trooper Steve Michlosky of Ladywood, a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Ordinary Seaman James G. Phillips of Norwood served aboard HMCS Shawinigan, and Phillips Creek is named for him.