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Canada is the northernmost country in North America. It is a decentralized federation of 10 provinces, plus 3 territories, joined together through a process called confederation and governed as a constitutional monarchy. It is bordered by the United States to the south and to the northwest. The country stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. Canada also reaches the Arctic Ocean in the north where Canada's territorial claim extends to the North Pole.

The capital of Canada is the city of Ottawa, where the nation's parliament is located, as is the residence of the Governor General, who represents the country's ceremonial head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. A former French and British colony, Canada is geographically the largest member of both La Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area after Russia. However, it has an extremely low population density of 3 people per square kilometre as there are only 32 million Canadians. While Canada covers a larger geographic area than the neighbouring United States it has only one-ninth of the population. Canada is a modern and technologically advanced country and is energy self-sufficient. Its economy has traditionally relied heavily on its abundance of natural resources, although the modern Canadian economy has become widely diversified.

(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: A Mari Usque Ad Mare (From Sea to Sea)
Official languages Federally: English and French. See Languages below.

Capital Ottawa, Ontario
Largest City Toronto, Ontario
Head of StateQueen Elizabeth II
Governor GeneralAdrienne Clarkson
Prime Minister Paul Martin (Lib)
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 2nd
9,984,670 km²
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 35th
32,207,113 (July 2003 est.)
-BNA Act
-St. of Westminster
-Canada Act
From the UK:
July 1, 1867
December 11, 1931
April 17, 1982
 - Total (2002)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 12th
$ 923 billion
$ 29,400
Currency Canadian dollar ($)
Time zone UTC -3.5 to -8
National anthem O Canada
Royal anthem God Save the Queen
Internet TLD.CA
Calling Code1

Table of contents
1 Origin of the name
2 History
3 Politics
4 Economy
5 Provinces and territories
6 Languages
7 Demographics
8 Culture
9 National Anthem & Royal Anthem
10 Miscellaneous topics
11 References
12 External links

Origin of the name

The name Canada originated from a
Huron-Iroquoian word, Kanata meaning "village" or "settlement" [1], referring to Stadacona, a settlement on the site of present-day Quebec City. Maps made by early European explorers show that the name River Canada was given to the Ottawa River, and the Saint Lawrence River below Montreal. A plausible hypothesis is that the river was named for the village on its banks, and the surrounding country for the river used to explore it.
In 1867 the British North America Act created "one Dominion under the Name of Canada." The term "Dominion" was chosen (rather than "Kingdom") to avoid antagonizing the anti-monarchist United States and to reflect Canada's status as a self-governing component of the British Empire.

Until the 1950s, the term Dominion of Canada was commonly used to refer to the country, at which time the Dominion Government began simply to use the word "Canada". This was to recognize Canadian autonomy from the UK, though some critics insisted that the country's proper name should continue to be "Dominion of Canada." The last major change was renaming the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982.


Main article: History of Canada

Canada, which has been inhabited by aboriginal peoples, known in Canada as the First Nations, for about 10,000 years, was first visited by Europeans around 1000, when the Vikings briefly settled at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. More permanent European visits came in the 16th and 17th century, as the French settled there.

In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years' War, France chose to keep its Caribbean Islands and to leave its North American colony, New France, to Britain.

After the American Revolution, many British Loyalists settled in Canada.

On July 1, 1867, with the passing of the British North America Act, the British government granted local self-government to a federation of four provinces formed from three of its North American colonies, Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The former Province (colony) of Canada formed two provinces of the new Dominion of Canada, being partitioned into Quebec and Ontario along the old boundary between Lower and Upper Canada. The term Confederation refers to this act of union and is often used for the resulting federation.

Other British colonies and territories soon joined Confederation; by 1880 Canada included all of its present area except for Newfoundland and Labrador (which joined in 1949). Full control over the Dominion's affairs officially came in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster, and in 1982 with the patriation of Canada's constitution.

In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec sought independence in two referendums held in 1980 and 1995. In both referendums, the separatist cause was defeated with 60% and 50.6% opposed to independence, respectively.


Main article: Politics of Canada

Federal Government

Canada is a federation under a system of parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Its Head of State and Sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II who is given the ceremonial title of "Queen of Canada." The Queen's representative in Canada is the Governor General who is appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada and ceremonially approved by the Queen. The Governor General fills the role of providing Royal Assent to bills passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, reading the Speech from the Throne, signing state documents, formally opening and ending sessions of Parliament, and dissolving Parliament for an election. Both the Queen and the Governor General are primarily figureheads, with little real power as the position almost always acts at the request of Canada's Head of Government, the Prime Minister, who is also the government party leader who controls such tools of governance as party discipline and patronage appointments.

, here wearing the Order of Canada]]
The text of Canada's constitution can be found at this page. However, much of Canada's constitution is unwritten and the text has to be interpreted in light of various traditions and conventions.

It should be noted that the Constitution Act, which contained procedures for amending the Constitution, was agreed to during one night (known to Quebec nationalists as "Nuit des longs couteaux": night of long knives - 1982), without the province of Quebec which refused last-minute amendments that the provincial government believed diminished the province's francophone characteristics into some multicultural environment. Notably, the 1982 Constitution Act contained a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that countered Quebec's laws (Bill 101) regarding the protection of the French language, which Quebec had declared to be the official language of the province.

The legislative branch of government consists of the Parliament, including the elected House of Commons and the Senate which consists of Senators appointed until age 75 by the Cabinet. The Senate is composed of 105 Senators (24 from Ontario, 24 from Quebec, 24 from the Maritime provinces (10 from Nova Scotia, 10 from New Brunswick, 4 from Prince Edward Island), 24 from the Western Provinces (6 each from Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta), 6 from Newfoundland and Labrador and one for each territory (Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon). Canada has strict party discipline which gives the Prime Minister very high levels of control over almost all legislation passed by Parliament.

The Prime Minister calls elections for the House of Commons at his or her discretion, though they must occur no later than five years after the previous one.

The Governor General formally appoints the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the political party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister in turn appoints the Cabinet, drawn by convention from members of the Prime Minister's party in the House of Commons and the Senate.

Canada has three main national parties, the centrist Liberal Party of Canada, the right-of-centre Conservative Party of Canada, and the democratic socialist New Democratic Party (NDP). A regional party, the Bloc Québécois, holds many seats in Quebec; its agenda is sovereignist and primarily social-democratic. Other smaller parties exist, but have not yet been able to elect members to the House of Commons.

The Liberals are the party of current Prime Minister Paul Martin, and his predecessor Jean Chrétien who led for the last 10 years. The only other party to form a government is the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party, which in December 2003 merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada. In recent years Canada has come to be thought as having somewhat of a more left-wing political slant than the United States.

Canada is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie, NATO, the G8, and APEC.

Provincial Governments

The 10 provinces have unicameral, elected legislatures with governments headed by a premier who is chosen in the same fashion as the federal prime minister. Every province also has figurehead lieutenant governor representing the Queen, appointed by the Prime Minister.

Most provinces' political climates include provincial counterparts to the three national federal parties. However, provincial parties are not normally formally linked to the federal parties, with the exception of the NDP. Some provinces have regional political parties, such as the Saskatchewan Party or the Labrador Party.

The provincial political climate of Quebec is quite different, with the main split being between separatism, represented by the Parti Québécois, and federalism, represented by the Parti libéral du Québec. As interest in the sovereignty debate diminishes, however, the relevance of this party division is coming into question. Two smaller parties, the right-wing Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and the left-wing Union des forces progressistes (UFP), are trying to break into the two-party system and do not focus primarily on the sovereignty question. However, of the two, only the ADQ has yet elected members to the National Assembly (Quebec's legislature).

Territorial governments

Territories have fewer political powers than provinces, being created by act of Parliament rather than enshrined in the Constitution. As a result of having fewer political powers , many people say that the Canadian territories have not received proper and equal representation in the Canadian Parliament .

The three territories' heads of state are termed commissioners. Though they are analogous to the lieutenant-governors of the provinces, they are not formal representatives of the Queen. They are appointed by the federal governments.

The Yukon has a unicameral legislature operated the same as the provincial legislatures, but the other two territories use a consensus government system with no parties, in which each member runs as an independent, and the premier is elected by and from the members.

Relations between the Federal government and the territorial governments have been tense . Many of the disputes between the two governments have been between the usuage of resources and funding . As a result , the poverty rate in the territories have been constantly large .


Main article: Economy of Canada

As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, Canada today closely resembles the United States in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards. Since World War II, the impressive growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. Energy self-sufficient, Canada has vast deposits of natural gas on the East Coast and in the three western provinces, and a plethora of other natural resources. The 1989 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which included Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the US. As a result of the close cross-border relationship, the economic downturn in the United States in 2001 had an a negative impact on the Canadian economy, but less than expected. Real growth averaged nearly 3% from 1993 to 2000, but declined in 2001. As of 2003, unemployment was up, with contraction in the manufacturing and natural resource sectors. Yet, Canada has successfully avoided economic recession after 2001 and has maintained the best economic growth rates in the G7 group of nations. With its great natural resources, skilled labour force, and modern capital plant, Canada enjoys solid economic prospects.

Two shadows loom, the first being the continuing constitutional impasse between English- and French-speaking areas, (see article: Politics of Canada) which has been raising the possibility of a split in the federation. The ongoing uncertainty creates confusion about who will be responsible for the Canadian debt, what trading relationships will look like, and a host other issues. However, as fears of separation have waned, the economy has become stronger, notably in Quebec.

Another long-term concern is fears of a flow south to the US of professionals, referred to as the Brain Drain, lured by higher pay, lower taxes, and high-tech opportunities. Simultaneously, a largely under-recognized Brain Gain is occurring, as educated immigrants continue to enter Canada in the late 20th and early 21st centuries [1]. As in many western countries, however, the benefits of this phenomenon are limited by problems with acceptance of foreign qualifications; many educated and highly skilled immigrants work in unskilled positions in Canada, because their credentials are not recognised by government, employers, and some professional organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association, which forces foreign-trained doctors from undertake extensive retraining to practise in Canada.

Transparency International ranks Canada as the perceived 11th least corrupt country in the world.

Provinces and territories

Main article: Provinces and territories of Canada

Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The provinces have a reasonably large amount of autonomy from the federal government, while the territories have somewhat less.

It is the provinces that are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as healthcare, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, a fairly unique structure among federations in the world. The federal government can initiate national policies that the provinces can opt out of, but at a risk of losing federal money. Transfer payments are made to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services are kept between the richer and poorer provinces. Criminal law is one of the few areas that is strictly the responsibility of the federal government, and crime and punishment is uniform throughout most of Canada. The provinces and territories each have their own unicameral legislatures.

See also: List of Canadian provincial and territorial symbols


Canada's two official languages are English and French.

On July 7, 1969, French was made equal to English throughout the Canadian federal government. This started a process that led to Canada redefining itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation at the federal level.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lays down that:

At the provincial level, New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, a status specifically guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, with its citizens having the same language rights at the provincial level as all citizens of Canada have at the federal level.

The official language of Quebec is French, as defined by the province's Charter of the French Language; this law lays out various protections for the use of French as a vehicular language, but also provides certain rights for English speakers and speakers of aboriginal languages. Quebec provides most government services in both English and French.

French is mostly spoken in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Southern Manitoba. In the 2001 census, 6,864,615 people listed French as a first language, and 17,694,835 people listed English as a first language.

Languages other than the official languages are also important in Canada, with 5,470,820 people listing a non-official language as a first language. (The above three statistics include those who listed more than one first language.) Among the most important non-official first language groups are Chinese (853,745 first-language speakers), especially Cantonese (322,315); Italian (469,485); and German (438,080).

Speakers of a great many aboriginal languages live in Canada; however, all but a few of the aboriginal languages are in decline. The only aboriginal languages that are believed to be sustainable at present are Cree (72,885 first-language speakers), Inuktitut (29,010 speakers), and Ojibwa.


Main article: Demographics of Canada

In the 2001 Canadian census, respondents reported their ethnicity using the following self-identifications[1]:

The total non-white ("visible minority" [1]) population is 13% of the Canadian population[1].


Main article: Culture of Canada

While Canadian culture is heavily influenced by British and American culture and traditions, it retains many unique characteristics. In the past few decades, a more robust and distinct Canadian culture has developed, partially because of the nationalism that pervaded Canada in the years leading up to and following the Canadian Centennial in 1967.

The Canada-U.S. border is the world's longest undefended border, and the United States and Canadian governments share a variety of close working partnerships in matters of trade, economics, and legal concerns. As Canada and the United States have grown closer, many Canadians have developed complex feelings and concerns regarding what makes the Canada a "distinct" nation within North America. The large American cultural presence in Canada has prompted some fears of a "cultural takeover," and has initiated the establishment of many laws and government institutions to protect Canadian culture. Much of Canadian culture remains defined in contrast to American culture (See Canadian identity). For example, Canadians see their country as a mosaic of unique immigrant cultures, a large picture made up of many distinct pieces, rather than a melting-pot. Media outlets that recieve government funding such as the CBC attempt to promote such a view of Canada, although in recent years critics have accused Canadian "cultural" programming as being excessively political.

Canadian culture was a topic of international discussion in 2003, when Canada refused to join the US-led 2003 Iraq War, moved toward legalizing same-sex marriage, and took steps towards decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Many international observers saw these developments as distinguishing Canada as more socially liberal than its southern neighbour. Needless to say, within Canada itself, such notions of Canada being a more fundamentally "left wing" country than the US tend to be more widely embraced by political parties on the left than those on the right. Such liberal social policies can probably best be tied to the political dominance of the Liberal Party of Canada over national debate within the last decade.

In terms of national symbols and emblems, Canada is known for its vast forests and mountain ranges (including the Rocky Mountains) and the wild animals that reside within them, such as moose, beavers and grizzly bears. Canada is also well-known for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force, and products made from the country's natural resources, such as maple syrup.

See also:

National Anthem & Royal Anthem

Canada's national anthem is O Canada. Although it was first performed on June 24, 1880, at a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day banquet in Quebec City, it did not become Canada's official national anthem until July 1, 1980. Before that God Save the Queen functioned as the national anthem, but both O Canada and God Save the Queen were usually sung together.

God Save the Queen is now Canada's Royal Anthem. It is officially played in the presence of the Queen or other members of the royal family. The first six bars are also used part of the Vice Regal Salute which is played in the presence of the Governor General. Out of tradition, God Save the Queen is often sung at the end of extremely formal state occasions (e.g. state funerals, and Remembrance Day services). It is also sung at many military events, and some Universities close their convocations with it.

Miscellaneous topics


External links

[ Edit {}] Countries in North America
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