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The eastern and southern coasts front the Atlantic Ocean; its eastern coast also forms the western limits of the Cabot Strait.Its landmass slopes upward from south to north, culminating in the highlands of its northern cape.

In addition to Cape Breton Island, the French colony of Île Royale also included Île Saint-Jean, today called Prince Edward Island, and Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine. The French population of Île Royale was deported to France after each siege.These peoples and their progeny inhabited the island (known as Unama'ki) for several thousand years and continue to live there to this day.Their traditional lifestyle centred around hunting and fishing because of the unfavourable agricultural conditions of their maritime home.Some of the first British-sanctioned settlers on the island following the Seven Years' War were Irish, although upon settlement they merged with local French communities to form a culture rich in music and tradition.From 1763 to 1784, the island was administratively part of the colony of Nova Scotia and was governed from Halifax.

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