Canada is a country in North America, the northern-most in the world and the second largest in area (after Russia). Bordering the United States, its territorial claims extend north into the Arctic Ocean as far as the North Pole.

Canada is a federation of ten provinces with three territories. Initially constituted through the British North America Act of 1867 and styled the "Dominion of Canada", it is governed as a parliamentary representative democracy and is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Canada's official languages are English and French. Its official population estimate for June 2005 is 32.2 million people [1] (

Template:Canada infobox



The capital of Canada is Ottawa, the seat of Parliament. Both the Governor General of Canada, who exercises the prerogatives of the head of state (the monarch), and the Prime Minister, who is the head of government, have official residences in Ottawa.

Originally a union of former French and British colonies, Canada is a founding member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, and La Francophonie. Canada is officially bilingual:

Canada is a technologically advanced and industrialized nation, self-sufficient in energy due to its large fossil fuel deposits, nuclear energy generation, and hydroelectric power capacity. Its diversified economy relies heavily on the abundance of natural resources and trade, particularly with the U.S., with which it has had a long and complex relationship (see U.S.-Canada relations).

Canada has ten provinces and three territories.

Province Capital city Standard
Time Zone
British ColumbiaVictoria -8 (Pacific),
-7 (Mountain)
Western, Pacific
AlbertaEdmonton-7 (Mountain) Western, Prairies
SaskatchewanRegina-7 (Mountain),
-6 (Central)
ManitobaWinnipeg-6 (Central)
OntarioToronto-6 (Central),
-5 (Eastern)
Central, Eastern
QuebecQuebec City-5 (Eastern)
New BrunswickFredericton -4 (Atlantic) Atlantic, Maritimes
Nova ScotiaHalifax
Prince Edward IslandCharlottetown
Newfoundland and LabradorSt. John's-4 (Atlantic),
-3.5 (Newfoundland)
Territory Capital city Standard
Time Zone
YukonWhitehorse-8 Northern or Arctic
Northwest TerritoriesYellowknife-7
NunavutIqaluit-7, -6, -5, -4

Major cities include Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa, Ontario; Edmonton, Alberta and Calgary, Alberta.
See List of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in Canada, List of the 100 largest cities in Canada by population.


Main article: Canada's name

The name "Canada" is believed to have originated from the Huron-Iroquoian word Kanata, meaning "village", "settlement", or "collection of huts" [2] (

Canada is pronounced in English, in French.

Historically the title Dominion of Canada has also been used.


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Aboriginal tradition holds that the First Peoples have inhabited parts of what is now called Canada since the dawn of time. Archaeological records show that these lands have been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. Several Viking expeditions occurred around AD 1000, with evidence of settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows.

British claims to North America began when John Cabot reached what he called "Newfoundland" in 1497. French claims began with explorations by Jacques Cartier (from 1534) and Samuel de Champlain (from 1603). In 1604, French settlers, who became known as Acadians, were the first Europeans to settle permanently in Canada, followed by other French settlements along the St. Lawrence River and in Atlantic Canada.

British settlements were established along the Atlantic seaboard and around Hudson Bay. As these colonies expanded, a struggle for control of North America took place between 1689 and 1763 (see French and Indian Wars), exacerbated by wars in Europe between France and Great Britain. France progressively lost territory to Great Britain, surrendering peninsular Nova Scotia in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the remainder of New France including what was left of Acadia in the Treaty of Paris (1763).

During and after the American Revolution, thousands of United Empire Loyalists left the Thirteen Colonies to settle in the British North American colonies which then consisted of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, the Province of Quebec, and Prince Edward Island (created 1769). To accommodate the Loyalists, Britain created the colony of New Brunswick in 1784 and divided Quebec into Lower Canada and Upper Canada in 1791.

The War of 1812 began when the U.S. attacked British forces in Canada in an attempt to reduce their control of North America and the Atlantic. In April 1813, U.S. forces burned York (now Toronto). The British retaliated with the burning of Washington (DC) in a surprise attack in August 1814. The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814. It was only after the French and Napoleonic wars ended in Europe that large-scale immigration to Canada resumed.

The Canadas were merged into a single colony, the Province of Canada, with the Act of Union (1840) in a doomed attempt to assimilate the French Canadians. Once the U.S. agreed to the 49th parallel north as its border with western British North America, the British government created the colonies of British Columbia in 1848 and Vancouver Island in 1849. By the late-1850s, politicians in the Province of Canada launched a series of western exploratory expeditions with the intention of assuming control of Rupert's Land (administered by the Hudson's Bay Company) and the Arctic.

In 1864 and 1866, British North American politicians held three conferences to create a federal union. On July 1, 1867, three colonies—Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick—were granted a constitution, the British North America Act, by the United Kingdom, creating the Dominion of Canada. The term "Canadian Confederation" refers to this 1867 unification of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec (formerly Canada East or Lower Canada), and Ontario (formerly Canada West or Upper Canada). The remaining 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.

In 1919, Canada became a member of the League of Nations and, in 1926, assumed full control of its own foreign affairs through the Balfour Declaration. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster confirmed that no act of the UK parliament would thereafter extend to Canada without its consent. Judicial appeals to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ended in 1949. Patriation of the Constitution of Canada occurred when the British government passed the Canada Act 1982.

The Quebec sovereignty movement has led to two referenda held in 1980 and 1995, with votes of 60% and 50.6% against independence, respectively. The federal sponsorship scandal has revived separatist sentiment in Quebec.


Map of Canada.
Map of Canada.
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Main article: Geography of Canada

Canada occupies the northern half (precisely 41%) of North America. It is bordered to the south by the contiguous United States and to the northwest by Alaska. Off the southern coast of Newfoundland lies Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, an overseas community of France. The country stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; hence the country's motto. To the north lies the Arctic Ocean; Greenland is to the northeast. Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude ([3] (; this claim is not universally recognized. The northernmost settlement in Canada (and in the world) is Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – latitude 82.5°N – just 834 kilometres from the North Pole.

Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area, after Russia. Much of Canada lies in Arctic regions, however, and thus Canada has only the fourth most arable land area behind Russia, China, and the U.S. The population density is 3.5 people per square kilometre, which is among the lowest in the world. While Canada covers a larger area than the U.S., it has only one-ninth its population.

The most densely populated part of the country is the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River Valley in the east. To the north of this region is the broad Canadian Shield, an area of rock scoured clean by the last ice age, thinly soiled, rich in minerals, and dotted with lakes and rivers—over 60% of the world's lakes are in Canada. The Canadian Shield encircles the immense Hudson Bay extending from Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories at its westernmost point, to the Atlantic coast in Labrador in the east,

Newfoundland, North America's easternmost island, is at the mouth of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. The Canadian Maritimes protrude eastward from the southern coasts of Quebec. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are divided by the Bay of Fundy, which experiences the world's largest tidal variations. Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province.

West of Ontario, the broad, flat Canadian Prairies spread towards the Rocky Mountains, dividing the Prairies and British Columbia.

Northern Canadian vegetation tapers from coniferous forests to tundra and finally to Arctic barrens in the far north. The northern Canadian mainland is ringed with a vast archipelago containing some of the world's largest islands.

Canada has a reputation for cold temperatures but, throughout, experiences four distinct seasons. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, with risks of blizzards and ice storms. Temperatures often reach lows of -50°C in the far North; the record coldest temperature in North America was -63°C, at Snag, Yukon in 1947. Coastal British Columbia is an exception: it enjoys a temperate climate with much milder winters than the rest of the country. Summers in Canada range from mild on the east and west coasts (low to high 20s C) to hot, particularly in Central Canada (mid to high 30s C).


Main article: Politics of Canada

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Her Excellency The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Governor General of Canada

The duties of the head of state are exercised, on behalf of the Queen, by the Governor General, who is generally a retired politician or other prominent Canadian appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Governor General is a non-partisan figure who fulfills many ceremonial and symbolic roles including providing Royal Assent to bills, reading the Speech from the Throne, signing state documents, formally opening and ending sessions of Parliament, and dissolving Parliament for an election.

Canada's constitution governs the legal framework of the country and is comprised of written text ( and unwritten traditions and conventions (see Westminster system). The patriation of the constitution, with procedures for amending it, was agreed to one night in November 1981. Quebec nationalists refer to that night as the Night of the Long Knives—because the agreement came about without the consent of Quebec's delegation.

The Governor General appoints the head of government, 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 both legislative houses. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, all of whom are sworn into the Privy Council of Canada and become Ministers of the Crown.

The legislative branch of government has two houses: the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate. First-past-the-post elections for the House of Commons are called by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and must occur every five years or less. Members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, are appointed by the Governor General on the Prime Minister's advice and serve until age 75. Parliament may legislate in areas assigned to it or, through its residual power, not at all assigned to it or to the provinces in the constitution.

Canada has four main political parties. The traditionally centrist Liberal Party of Canada formed the government in Canada for most of the 20th century, and is the party of the current Prime Minister Paul Martin and his predecessor Jean Chr鴩en. The only other party to have formed a government is the now-defunct Progressive Conservative (PC) Party and its predecessor, the Conservative Party, which was the dominant political party in the 19th century. The PC Party merged with the Canadian Alliance to form a new Conservative Party of Canada in December 2003. The New Democratic Party (NDP) is the party furthest to the "left". However, the three aforementioned 'national' parties have shifted their positions on various socioeconomic issues. The Bloc Qu颩cois holds most seats in Quebec and promotes Quebec independence. There are many smaller parties and, while none have current representation in Parliament, the list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial.

Canada's judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down laws that violate the constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court and final arbiter. All judges at the superior, appellate, and Supreme Court of Canada levels are selected and appointed by the federal government, after consultation with non-governmental legal bodies. Judicial posts at the provincial and territorial levels are filled by their respective governments (see Court system of Canada for more detail).

Criminal law is solely a federal responsibility and is uniform throughout Canada; common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec where civil law predominates. Though enforcement is a provincial responsibility, most provinces contract these services to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP is the only police force in the world that enforces three different levels of enforcement: municipal, provincial, and federal.

Canada is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie, the Organization of American States, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization the G8, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Provinces and territories of Canada

Canada is composed of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces have a large degree of autonomy from the federal government, while the territories have somewhat less. Each has its own provincial or territorial symbols and tartan.

The provinces are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as health care, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. The federal government can initiate national policies that the provinces can opt out of, but this rarely happens in practice. Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces.

All provinces have unicameral, elected legislatures with governments headed by a premier selected in the same fashion as the prime minister. Every province also has a figurehead lieutenant governor representing the Queen, appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister.

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Most provinces have provincial counterparts to the three national federal parties. However, some provincial parties are not formally linked to the federal parties that share the same name. Some provinces have regional political parties, such as the Saskatchewan Party.

The provincial political climate of Quebec is quite different, with the main split being between separatism, represented by the Parti Qu颩cois, and federalism, represented by the Parti Lib鲡l du Qu颥c.

The three territories have fewer political powers than provinces, having been created by acts of the national Parliament rather than having their status enshrined in the Constitution. There is no lieutenant governor to represent and fulfil the functions of the Queen, but each has a politically neutral commissioner appointed by the federal government to act as its senior representative. Only the Yukon legislature follows the same political system as the provincial legislatures. The other two territories use a consensus government system in which each member runs as an independent and the premier is elected by and from the members.


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The skyline of Toronto, Ontario, Canada's most populous city and heart of the Canadian economy.


As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, Canada today closely resembles the U.S. in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards. In the last century, 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. Canada has vast deposits of natural gas on the east coast and in the west, and a plethora of other natural resources contributing to self-sufficiency in energy. The 1989 Canada-U.S. 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 U.S. Since 2001, Canada has successfully avoided economic recession and has maintained the best overall economic performance in the G8.

Two long-term concerns loom. The first being the continuing political differences over the constitution between Quebec and the rest of Canada, periodically raising the possibility of Quebec independence. As the economy becomes stronger, notably in Quebec, fears of separation have generally waned.

Another long-term concern is the emigration of professionals to the U.S., 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 (particularly from developing countries) continue to enter Canada [4] (


Main article: Language in Canada

Canada's two official languages are English and French. On July 7, 1969, French was made equal to English throughout the federal government. This started a process that led to Canada redefining itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation:

  • English and French have equal status in the Parliament, in federal courts, and in all federal institutions.
  • Everyone has the right to a criminal trial in either English or French.
  • The public has the right, where there is sufficient demand, to receive federal government services in either English or French.
  • Official language minority groups in most provinces and territories have the right to be educated in their language.
  • While multiculturalism is official policy, to become a citizen one must be able to speak either English or French.
  • More than 98% of Canadians speak English or French or both.
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Halifax, Nova Scotia skyline at night

The official language of Quebec is French, as defined by the province's Charter of the French Language, but also provides certain rights for speakers of English and aboriginal languages. Quebec provides most government services in both French and English.

French is mostly spoken in Quebec with pockets in New Brunswick, Ontario, and southern Manitoba. In the 2001 census, 6,864,615 people listed French as a first language, of whom 85% lived in Quebec, and 17,694,835 people listed English as a first language.

New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, a status specifically guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some provincial governments, notably Manitoba and Ontario, offer many services to their French minority populations.

A view from downtown ,
A view from downtown Montreal, Quebec

Non-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), Italian (469,485), and German (438,080).

Aboriginal groups

The Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes three main groups of Aboriginal peoples in Canada: the First Nations, the Inuit, and the M鴩s. The Aboriginal population is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the population in Canada. Aboriginal peoples number 790,000 people (or 3% of Canada's population) of whom about 69% are First Nations, 26% are M鴩s, and 5% are Inuit.

Today, there are more than 50 different languages spoken by Aboriginal peoples, most of which are spoken only in Canada and are in decline. The only aboriginal languages believed to be currently fully sustainable are Inuktitut (in the NWT and Nunavut; 29,010 speakers), Ojibwe and Cree (together totalling up to 150,000 speakers).


Main article: Demographics of Canada

The 2001 census recorded 30,007,094 people, and as of April 2005 the population has been estimated by Statistics Canada as 32.2 million people[5] ( Approximately 80% of Canada's population live within 200 km of the U.S. border.

In the 2001 census, 39.42% of respondents reported their ethnic origins as "Canadian", most of whom are believed to be of British, Irish, and French heritage of earlier immigrants. In addition, 20.17% identified their origin as English, 15.75% as French, 14.03% as Scottish, and 12.90% as Irish. Numerous other groups were also reported, but only German (9.25%) and Italian (4.29%) were significantly reported.

See also: List of Canadians by ethnicity for the complete list.

The total "visible minority" [6] ( population is 13% of the Canadian population[7] ( (this does not include First Nations, M鴩s, and Inuit peoples). Non-whites comprise 15% of the population.



The city of  nicknamed "cowtown" by locals.  Officially, its motto is Heart of the new west
The city of Calgary, Alberta nicknamed "cowtown" by locals. Officially, its motto is Heart of the new west

Canada is a multicultural society, preserving and nurturing a 'mosaic' of many cultures equally important and valued. The federal government adopted multiculturalism as official policy in 1971.

Due to its colonial past, Canadian culture has been heavily influenced by British and French cultures and traditions. Canadian culture has also been influenced by American culture because of proximity and the migration of people, ideas, and capital. Amidst this, Canadian culture has developed many unique characteristics. In many respects, a more robust and distinct Canadian culture has developed in recent years, partially because of the civic nationalism that pervaded Canada in the years prior to and following the Canadian Centennial in 1967, and also due to a focus by the federal government on programs to support culture and the arts.

The First Nations people wove the first threads in the fabric of Canada's culture, heritage and history. Each Nation possesses its own unique culture, language and history. There were many first nation tribes and still are today living across Canada. They fished, farmed, and hunted across all corners of the country and believed greatly in nature and their existence depended upon her. They weaved baskets, painted pictures, and carved beautiful sculptures of animals. They were skilled sewers and used plants and everything around them to make clothes and tools. Most of their culture was a verbal one and stories were passed down through the elders to the younger generations. These people are the basis of Canadian culture and are the first people of Canada.

Early Europeans helped form the basis of Canadian culture. During their colonization of Canada, settlers wrote a great deal of folklore about the land around them. The tales of Paul Bunyan are a product of French-Canadian folklore and the style of jigs from Newfoundland found their origins in Ireland.

The waterfront of ,
The waterfront of Vancouver, British Columbia

Many American movies, authors, TV shows, and musicians are equally popular in Canada (and vice-versa) across the border. Most cultural products of these types are now increasingly marketed towards a unified "North American" market, and not specifically a Canadian or American one.

The U.S. and Canadian governments share a variety of close working partnerships in trade, economic, legal, security, and military matters.

As Canada and the U.S. have grown closer, many Canadians have developed complex feelings and concerns regarding what makes 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).

In recent years, Canada has increasingly distinguished itself from the U.S. as more socially liberal while maintaining balanced fiscal policies. Canadian governments (and to a large extent, the Canadian people) support issues such as universal health care, gay marriage and decriminalization of marijuana. At the same time, they have supported balanced budgets, tax cuts, and free trade.

National symbols

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Ice hockey events like the Canada Cup give pride to Canadians

The use of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol dates back to the early 18th century, and is depicted on its current and previous flags, the penny, and on the coat of arms. Red and white were proclaimed national colours in 1921. Canada is known for its vast forests and mountain ranges (including the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia) and the animals that reside within them, such as moose, caribou, beavers, polar bears, grizzly bears, and the common loon. 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. Anything pertaining to ice hockey, Canada's official winter sport, is also often used as a national symbol of unity and pride; lacrosse is the official summer sport.

International rankings

¹ Four-way tie for 2nd place.


  • Bumsted, J. 2004. History of the Canadian Peoples, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Provinces and territories of Canada
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New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador
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Prince Edward Island

Quebec Saskatchewan
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Northwest Territories

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