Remarkably little can be said about the whole area which would apply with equal validity to all of its parts. Geographers, therefore, have given much time and thought to the development of systems of regions. We have already in this introductory section presented regional divisions of the country on the bases of land form, climate, vegetation and soil. We have also glanced at the development of the political map of the country.
Climate, vegetation and soil are closely related. Any study of animal distribution would show a fairly similar pattern. If we superimposed this map upon one of land form regions we would get a fairly usable map of natural regions of Canada. Usable, that is, if we had no human populations with their different cultures, histories, political organizations and economic developments. Using these latter criteria we could delimit a whole series of human regions of which we have presented only the political divisions.
It is fairly obvious that population distribution has some correlation with natural regions and that political boundaries, whether following natural features such as mountains and rivers, or laid out as astronomical lines, have some relationship to population clusters. It is also fairly obvious that geographical regions of any size cannot be delimited on the basis of homogeneity alone. Instead we must admit that relationships are often a more powerful regional cement than similarities. There is even a certain regional "impress of the central authority", although it must be admitted that provincial differentiation is often weak enough.
The separate treatment is given to each of the following:
Newfoundland and its mainland dependency, Labrador.
The Maritime Provinces.
The Prairie Provinces.
The Canadian Northland.
These do not coincide with any of the regional patterns of land form, climate, vegetation and soils which have been observed. They are not regions which might be readily agreed upon from inspection of the map of population distribution. They are not even political divisions. They are admittedly regions of convenience and their boundaries are arbitrary. Yet they are realities, known, understood and accepted by most Canadians without question.
Within each of these regions we shall try to integrate location and area, land forms, climate, vegetation, soils, population, settlement patterns and economic activities. We want to know how many people live "where, why and what of it". For example, Montreal and Toronto together contain one-sixth of Canada's population. They are even more important in their respective regions, in each case forming a functional core or nucleus. Cities are the products of their regions but they also tend to dominate them. It is with such relationships that regional geography is most vitally concerned.