The Turks and Caicos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom consisting of two groups of tropical islands in the Caribbean, southeast of the Bahamas, at 21°45'N, 71°35'W. The thirty islands total 166 sq. mi. (430 km²), primarily of low, flat limestone with extensive marshes and mangrove swamps. The weather is usually sunny and relatively dry, but suffers frequent hurricanes. The islands have limited natural fresh water resources; private cisterns collect rainwater for drinking. The primary natural resources are spiny lobster and conch.
- See also Politics of the Turks and Caicos Islands
The capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands is Cockburn Town on Grand Turk. The islands were under Jamaican jurisdiction until 1962, when they assumed the status of a crown colony. The governor of the Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands are presently a British overseas territory. The islands adopted a constitution on August 30, 1976, which is Constitution Day, the national holiday. The constitution was suspended in 1986, but restored and revised March 5, 1988. The territory's legal system is based on English common law, with a small number of laws adopted from Jamaica and the Bahamas. Suffrage is universal for those over 18 years of age. English is the official language.
As a British territory, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is the sovereign, represented by a governor. The head of government is the chief minister. The Executive Council consists of three ex officio members and five appointed by the governor from among the members of the Legislative Council. No elections are held; the monarch is hereditary, the governor appointed by the monarch, and the chief minister appointed by the governor.
The unicameral Legislative Council consists of 19 seats, 13 popularly elected; members serve four-year terms. Elections were held March 4, 1999, and again in 2003. The Progressive National Party, led by Hon. Dr. Micheal Misick holds eight seats, and the People's Democratic Movement, led by Derek H. Taylor, holds five seats. The United Democratic Party, led by Wendal Swann, received a small fraction of the popular vote, but not enough to earn a seat.
The judicial branch of government is headed by a Supreme Court.
Turks and Caicos participates in the Caribbean Development Bank, is an associate in Caricom, and maintains an International Criminal Police Organization - Interpol sub-bureau. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.
Eight of the thirty islands in the territory are inhabited, with a total population in mid-2000 of about 17,500. One-third of the population is under 15 years old, and only 4% are 65 or older. In 2000 the population was growing at 3.55%, with 14.46 migrants per 1,000 population and 25.65 births per 1,000 population, offset by 4.57 deaths per 1,000 population. The infant mortality rate was 18.66 deaths per 1,000 live births and the life expectancy at birth was 73.28 years (71.15 years for males, 75.51 years for females). The total fertility rate was 3.25 children born per woman. Ethnically, the vast majority of inhabitants are black. Two-fifth of them are Baptist one-fifth Methodist, one-fifth Anglican, and less than 2% Seventh-day Adventist.
Main Article History of the Turks and Caicos Islands
The economy of the Turks and Caicos is based on tourism, fishing, and offshore financial services. Most capital goods and food for domestic consumption are imported. The United States was the leading source of tourists in 1996, accounting for more than half of the 87,000 visitors; another major source of tourists is Canada. Tourist arrivals had risen to 93,000 by 1998. Major sources of government revenue include fees from offshore financial activities and customs receipts. The territory's gross domestic product was about $117 million (per capita $7700) in 1997, with a real growth rate of about 4% and an inflation rate of about 4%. The labour force totalled 4848 workers in 1990, one-third of whom work in government and one-fifth of whom work in agriculture and fishing; the rest are employed in tourism, financial, and other services. The unemployment rate is about 10%. The territory takes in revenues of $47 million against expenditures of $33.6 million and receives economic aid, $5.7 million in 1995. The territory's currency is the United States dollar.
The primary agricultural products include maize, beans, cassava (tapioca), citrus fruits, and fish. in 1993 the territory exported some $4.7 million (1993) of lobster, dried and fresh conch, and conch shells, primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom. The territory is an important trans-shipment point for South American narcotics destined for the United States.
The islands import food and beverages, tobacco, clothing, manufactures, and construction materials, primarily from the United States and the United Kingdom. Imports totalled $46.6 million in 1993.
The islands produce and consume about 5 GWh of electricity, all from fossil fuel. The territory had about 3000 telephone lines (no cellular phones) in use in 1994. The system is connected to the mainland by two submarine cables and a Intelsat earth station. There were three AM radio stations (one inactive) and six FM stations (no shortwave) in 1998. Over 8000 radios are owned across the territory. There are no television broadcast stations; broadcasts from the Bahamas can be received and cable television is available. The territory has one Internet service provider and its country code top level domain (ccTLD) is ".TC".
The islands have no significant railways, and 121 kilometres of highway, 24 km paved and 97 km unpaved. The territory's ports and harbours are on Grand Turk and Providenciales. The islands have seven airports. Four have paved runways, three of which are around 2000 meters long and one around 1000 meters long. Three have unpaved runways, two of which are around 1000 meters long and one significantly shorter.
A great many of the tourists who visit the islands are Canadian. Owing to this, the islands' status as a British colony, and historic trade links, some politicians in Canada and the Turks and Caicos have suggested some form of union between the two countries.
In 1973, Canadian New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Max Saltsman introduced the first failed attempt at annexing the islands.
The idea was brought up again in 1986 by Progressive Conservative MP Dan McKenzie, but it was rejected by his party's caucus committee on external affairs in 1987. The committee, chaired by MP David Daubney, looked at immigration, banking, health care, and tourism issues in making its decision.
In 2004, Conservative MP Peter Goldring visited the Turks and Caicos to explore the possibility once more.
For the islands to join Canada as a full province would require amending the Canadian constitution, a step which is considered highly unlikely. The last new province, Newfoundland and Labrador, was brought into the country in 1949 by an act of British Parliament. Joining as a territory would be easier, as territories can be created by an act of federal law. In addition, its population of less than 20,000 people is considered insufficient for provincial status. However, this attitude may change should the territories of Yukon or Nunavut - both with about 30,000 people each - ever become provinces.
- Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands - Official Website (http://www.turksandcaicosislands.gov.tc/)
- CBC News Backgrounder - Canada and the Turks and Caicos (http://www.cbc.ca/news/indepth/background/turksandcaicos.html)
- A Place in the Sun - Website promoting the annexation of Turks and Caicos to Canada (http://www.aplaceinthesun.ca)
- Tropical-Canada - A chat group discussing the possibilities for Canada to seek a union with a tropical country or territory (http://www.Tropical-Canada.com/)
Commercial Tourism Guides
Roman Catholic Mission Churches in the Turks & Caicos Islands (http://www.catholic.tc/)