Canada is the northernmost country in North America, bordered by the United States in the south (the world's longest undefended border) and northwest (Alaska). The country stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, with the Arctic Ocean in the north (Canada's territorial claim extends to the North Pole). The island of Greenland is just northeast of Canada's northern most islands, while the French possession of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is just off the east coast.

Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area (after Russia), but has a low population density, with just 31 million inhabitants (Canadians). This is a small number for a country of this size, since Canada has an area larger than that of the United States, but only a ninth the population. Canada is a modern and technologically advanced country and is energy self-sufficient. Its economy relies heavily on its abundance of natural resources.

(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: A Mari Usque Ad Mare (From sea to sea)
Official languages English and French
Capital Ottawa, Ontario
Largest City Toronto, Ontario
QueenElizabeth II
Governor-GeneralAdrienne Clarkson
Prime Minister Paul Martin, Jr
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 2nd
9,984,670 kmē
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 35th
-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 billions $
29,400 $
Currency Canadian dollar ($)
Time zone UTC -3.5 to -8
National anthem O Canada
Internet TLD.CA
Calling Code1

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

Origin of the name

The name Canada originated from a Huron-Iroquoian word, Kanata meaning "village" [1], referring to Stadacona, a settlement on the site of present-day Quebec City.

In practise, the country's official name is simply Canada. It has been argued that the country's official name is still the Dominion of Canada, as the British North America Act, section 3, created "one Dominion under the name of Canada;" and while the 1982 Canadian Constitution does not use the term, neither does it amend the earlier usage.

However, starting in the 1950s the federal government began to phase out the use of the word "Dominion." Official texts simply refer to the nation as "Canada." The last major change was renaming the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982. Dominion is still occasionally used to distinguish the federal government from the provinces.


Main article: History of Canada

Canada, which has been inhabited by natives including the First Nations and the Inuit 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 here.

In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years' War, France decided to keep its Caribbean Islands and 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 confederation of three of its North American colonies as the Dominion of Canada. In later years, other British colonies and territories joined the confederation. Full control over its affairs came in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster, and in 1982 with the patriation of Canada's constitution.

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.

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


Main article: Politics of Canada

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, the head of state being a monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch's representative in Canada is the Governor-General, who fills the role of approving bills, and other state functions. For the most part, the monarch (through her representative, the Governor-General) is a figurehead, and what little real power she has is reserved for times of crisis. 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 province of Quebec has refused to ratify the Constitution Act, 1982, which contained procedures for amending the Constitution.

The Governor-General appoints the Prime Minister, generally 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 (thought not necessarily). The legislative branch of government consists of the Parliament, including the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate.

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

Provinces and territories

Main article: Canadian provinces and territories

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. The provinces and territories each have their own unicameral legislatures.

The provinces are:

And the territories: See also: List of Canadian provincial and territorial symbols


Main article: Geography of Canada

Eastern Canada is divided between boreal forest and the barren Canadian Shield in the north and the highly fertile Saint Lawrence River Valley in the south, where most of the country's population is concentrated. Large parts of south central Canada are covered by plains and prairies. The west of Canada mostly consists of rolling terrain on either side of the Rocky Mountains. The Hudson Bay sea arm cuts deep into the country.

A number of large lakes are located throughout Canada, including the Great Lakes, which form part of the border with the United States.

The vast north of the country is mainly arctic lowlands with a polar climate, and is therefore extremely sparsely populated; for example, fewer than 30,000 people live in the territory of Nunavut, which is the size of Western Europe. Most of the major cities are located in the more temperate south, with largest concentration in the east. The largest cities are (in descending order pop. wise): Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver, British Columbia; the Capital Region of Ottawa-Gatineau; Calgary, Alberta.

See also: List of Canadian Cities, Towns & Villages


Main article: Economy of Canada

As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, Canada today closely resembles the US 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 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which includes 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 impact on the Canadian economy which was negative but less than expected. Real growth averaged nearly 3% from 1993 to 2000, but declined in 2001. As of 2003, unemployment is 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. 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 the immense high-tech infrastructure. However, "Brain Gain", a largely unrecognized phenomenon, is progressing simultaneously, cancelling out "Brain Drain" or even exceeding it, as educated immigrants enter Canada in the late 20th century and early 21st century. [1]

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


Main article: Demographics of Canada

As of 2001, 66% of Canadians are of European descent (mostly British and French origins), 26% are of mixed backgrounds, and 6% are of solely non-European descent, mostly from Asia. Only 2% of the population is formed by the native population. Canada's two official languages are French and English; French is mostly spoken in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick.

Canada has a low total fertility rate similar to countries in western Europe. It relies on immigration to sustain and increase its population. Canada has developed a sophisticated and successful mechanism for finding appropriate immigrants and integrating them into its society without conflict. Fully one-sixth of Canadians are foreign-born, a percentage second only to Australia.

Most Canadians are Christians, with about 42% being Roman Catholic, and 38% Protestant. The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada.

Canada was ranked first for nine straight years on the United Nations Human Development Index from 1992 to 2000.


Main article: Culture of Canada

While Canadian culture is heavily influenced by British and American culture, 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 the Canadian Centennial in 1967.

The province of Quebec has maintained a distinct French-language culture, which is protected by special laws and constitutional agreements. For example, Quebec uses civil law based on the Napoleonic code, whereas the rest of the county uses common law derived from the British parliamentary tradition.

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 an American-style melting-pot.

Canadian culture was a topic of international discussion in 2003, when Canada refused to join the US-led war in Iraq, legalized same-sex marriage in some provinces, and took steps towards the decriminalization of marijuana. Many international observers saw these developments as distinguishing Canada as more socially progressive than its southern neighbour.

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's DayNew Year's Day, Jour de l'anStatutory.
(varies)Good FridayGood Friday, Vendredi saintStatutory. Typically celebrated in April; see Easter article for details.
(varies)Easter MondayEaster Monday, Pâques Typically celebrated in April; see Easter article for details.
Monday preceding May 25Victoria DayVictoria Day; Fête de la Reine (Quebec: Fête des Patriotes)Celebration of the Queen's birthday; (Quebec: Commemoration of the Patriotes Rebellion). Statutory.
July 1Canada DayCanada Day, Fête du CanadaStatutory. Commemoration of Canada's 1867 Confederation.
First Monday in SeptemberLabour DayLabour Day, Fête du TravailStatutory.
Second Monday in OctoberThanksgivingThanksgiving, Action de grâceStatutory. Thanksgiving is not celebrated on the same day as it is in the U.S.
November 11Remembrance DayRemembrance Day, Jour du souvenirObservance of Canada's war dead.
December 25ChristmasChristmas, NoëlStatutory.
December 26Boxing DayBoxing Day, Lendemain de NoëlStatutory. Day when shops sell off excess Christmas inventory.

Note: Each province also has its own provincial holiday or holidays. See Canadian Heritage

See also:

Miscellaneous topics


External links

Countries of the world  |  North America

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