Canada () is a country occupying most of northern North America, extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is the world's second largest country by total area and its common border with the United States to the south and northwest is the world's longest.
The land occupied by Canada was inhabited for millennia by various groups of Aboriginal people. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French expeditions explored, and later settled along, the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763 after the Seven Years' War. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom. This widening autonomy was highlighted by the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and culminated in the Canada Act of 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
A federation comprising ten provinces and three territories, Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual and multicultural country, with both English and French as official languages both at the federal level and in the province of New Brunswick. One of the world's highly developed countries, Canada has a diversified economy that is reliant upon its abundant natural resources and upon trade—particularly with the United States, with which Canada has had a long and complex relationship. It is a member of the G8, G-20, NATO, OECD, WTO, Commonwealth of Nations, Francophonie, OAS, APEC, and United Nations.
Jacques Cartier The name Canada comes from a St. Lawrence Iroquoian word, kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement". In 1535, indigenous inhabitants of the present-day Quebec City region used the word to direct French explorer Jacques Cartier towards the village of Stadacona. Cartier later used the word Canada to refer not only to that particular village, but also the entire area subject to Donnacona (the chief at Stadacona); by 1545, European books and maps had begun referring to this region as Canada.
From the early 17th century onwards, that part of New France that lay along the Saint Lawrence River and the northern shores of the Great Lakes was named Canada, an area that was later split into two British colonies, Upper Canada and Lower Canada, until their re-unification as the Province of Canada in 1841. Upon Confederation in 1867, the name Canada was adopted as the legal name for the new country, and Dominion was conferred as the country's title; combined, the term Dominion of Canada was in common usage until the 1950s. Thereafter, as Canada asserted its political autonomy from the United Kingdom, the federal government increasingly used simply Canada on state documents and treaties, a change that was reflected in the renaming of the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982.
Aboriginal Canadian traditions maintain that the indigenous people have resided on their lands since the beginning of time, while archaeological studies support a human presence in the northern Yukon from 26,500 years ago, and in southern Ontario from 9,500 years ago.
The fur trade was Canada's most important industry until the 19th century. Europeans first arrived when the Vikings settled briefly at L'Anse aux Meadows around AD 1000; following the failure of that colony, there was no further attempt at North American exploration until 1497, when John Cabot explored Canada's Atlantic coast for England, followed by Jacques Cartier in 1534 for France.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603 and established the first permanent European settlements at Port Royal in 1605 and Quebec City in 1608. Among French colonists of New France, Canadiens extensively settled the Saint Lawrence River valley, Acadians settled the present-day Maritimes, while French fur traders and Catholic missionaries explored the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and the Mississippi watershed to Louisiana. The French and Iroquois Wars broke out over control of the fur trade.
The English established fishing outposts in Newfoundland around 1610 and colonized the Thirteen Colonies to the south. A series of four Intercolonial Wars erupted between 1689 and 1763. Mainland Nova Scotia came under British rule with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713); the Treaty of Paris (1763) ceded Canada and most of New France to Britain following the Seven Years' War.
Seven Years' War]].
The Royal Proclamation (1763) carved the Province of Quebec out of New France and annexed Cape Breton Island to Nova Scotia. In 1769, St. John's Island (now Prince Edward Island) became a separate colony. To avert conflict in Quebec, the Quebec Act of 1774 expanded Quebec's territory to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley and re-established the French language, Catholic faith, and French civil law in Quebec; it angered many residents of the Thirteen Colonies, helping to fuel the American Revolution.
The Treaty of Paris (1783) recognized American independence and ceded territories south of the Great Lakes to the United States. Approximately 50,000 United Empire Loyalists fled the United States to Canada. New Brunswick was split from Nova Scotia as part of a reorganization of Loyalist settlements in the Maritimes. To accommodate English-speaking Loyalists in Quebec, the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided the province into French-speaking Lower Canada and English-speaking Upper Canada, granting each their own elected Legislative Assembly.
Canada (Upper and Lower) was the main front in the War of 1812 between the United States and the British Empire. The defence of Canada contributed to a sense of unity among British North Americans. Large-scale immigration to Canada began in 1815 from Britain and Ireland. The timber industry surpassed the fur trade in importance in the early nineteenth century.
Quebec conference]] scenes.
The desire for responsible government resulted in the aborted Rebellions of 1837. The Durham Report subsequently recommended responsible government and the assimilation of French Canadians into British culture. The Act of Union 1840 merged The Canadas into a United Province of Canada. French and English Canadians worked together in the Assembly to reinstate French rights. Responsible government was established for all British North American provinces by 1849.
The signing of the Oregon Treaty by Britain and the United States in 1846 ended the Oregon boundary dispute, extending the border westward along the 49th parallel and paving the way for British colonies on Vancouver Island (1849) and in British Columbia (1858). Canada launched a series of western exploratory expeditions to claim Rupert's Land and the Arctic region. The Canadian population grew rapidly because of high birth rates; British immigration was offset by emigration to the United States, especially by French Canadians' moving to New England.
the growth and change of Canada's provinces and territories since Confederation]].
Following several constitutional conferences, the Constitution Act, 1867 brought about Confederation creating "one Dominion under the name of Canada" on July 1, 1867, with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Canada assumed control of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory to form the Northwest Territories, where the Métis' grievances ignited the Red River Rebellion and the creation of the province of Manitoba in July 1870. British Columbia and Vancouver Island (which had united in 1866) and the colony of Prince Edward Island joined the Confederation in 1871 and 1873, respectively.
Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's Conservative government established a national policy of tariffs to protect nascent Canadian manufacturing industries. To open the West, the government sponsored construction of three trans-continental railways (most notably the Canadian Pacific Railway), opened the prairies to settlement with the Dominion Lands Act, and established the North-West Mounted Police to assert its authority over this territory. In 1898, after the Klondike Gold Rush in the Northwest Territories, the Canadian government created the Yukon territory. Under Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, continental European immigrants settled the prairies, and Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905. Canadian soldiers won the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917.
Canada automatically entered World War I in 1914 with Britain's declaration of war, sending volunteers to the Western Front, who later became part of the Canadian Corps. The Corps played a substantial role in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and other major battles of the war. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 erupted when conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden brought in compulsory military service over the objection of French-speaking Quebecers. In 1919, Canada joined the League of Nations independently of Britain; in 1931, the Statute of Westminster affirmed Canada's independence. BC Regiment, DCO]], marching in New Westminster, 1940. 1.1 million Canadians served in WWII. Canadian servicemen played a major part in the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944. The Great Depression brought economic hardship to all of Canada. In response, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in Alberta and Saskatchewan enacted many measures of a welfare state as pioneered by Tommy Douglas in the 1940s and 1950s. Canada declared war on Germany independently during World War II under Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, three days after Britain. The first Canadian Army units arrived in Britain in December 1939.
Canadian troops played important roles in the Battle of the Atlantic, the failed 1942 Dieppe Raid in France, the Allied invasion of Italy, the D-Day landings, the Battle of Normandy, and the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944. Canada is credited by the Netherlands for having provided asylum and protection for its monarchy during the war after the country was occupied, and for its leadership and major contribution to the liberation of Netherlands from Nazi Germany. The Canadian economy boomed as industry manufactured military materiel for Canada, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. Despite another Conscription Crisis in Quebec, Canada finished the war with one of the largest armed forces in the world. In 1945, during the war, Canada became one of the founding members of the United Nations.
This growth, combined with the policies of successive Liberal governments, led to the emergence of a new Canadian identity, marked by the adoption of the current Maple Leaf Flag in 1965, the implementation of official bilingualism (English and French) in 1969, and official multiculturalism in 1971. Socially democratic programmes were also founded, such as universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada Student Loans, though provincial governments, particularly Quebec and Alberta, opposed many of these as incursions into their jurisdictions. Finally, another series of constitutional conferences resulted in the patriation of Canada's constitution from the United Kingdom, concurrent with the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At the same time, Quebec was undergoing profound social and economic changes through the Quiet Revolution, giving birth to a nationalist movement in the province and the more radical Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), whose actions ignited the October Crisis in 1970. A decade later, an unsuccessful referendum on sovereignty-association was held in 1980, after which attempts at constitutional amendment failed in 1989. A second referendum followed in 1995, in which sovereignty was rejected by a slimmer margin of just 50.6% to 49.4%. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that unilateral secession by a province would be unconstitutional, and the Clarity Act was passed by parliament, outlining the terms of a negotiated departure from Confederation.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa Canada has a parliamentary government with strong democratic traditions. Parliament is made up of the Crown, an elected House of Commons, and an appointed Senate. Each Member of Parliament in the House of Commons is elected by simple plurality in an electoral district or riding. General elections must be called by the prime minister within five years of the previous election, or may be triggered by the government's losing a confidence vote in the House.
Members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, are chosen by the prime minister and formally appointed by the governor general and serve until age 75. Four parties had representatives elected to the federal parliament in the 2008 elections: the Conservative Party of Canada (governing party), the Liberal Party of Canada (Official Opposition), the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Bloc Québécois. The list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial.
Canada's federalist structure divides government responsibilities between the federal government and the ten provinces. Unicameral provincial legislatures operate in parliamentary fashion similar to the House of Commons. Canada's three territories also have legislatures, but with fewer constitutional responsibilities than the provinces and with some structural differences (for example, the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut has no parties and operates on consensus).
House of Commons]].
Canada is also a constitutional monarchy, with The Crown acting as a symbolic or ceremonial executive. The Crown consists of Queen Elizabeth II (legal head of state) and her appointed viceroys, the governor general (acting head of state), and provincial lieutenant-governors, who perform most of the monarch's ceremonial roles. The political executive consists of the prime minister (head of government) and the Cabinet and carries out the day-to-day decisions of government. The Cabinet is made up of ministers usually selected from the House of Commons and headed by the prime minister, who is normally the leader of the party that holds the confidence of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is one of the most powerful institutions in government, initiating most legislation for parliamentary approval and selecting, besides other Cabinet members, senators, federal court judges, heads of Crown corporations and government agencies, and the governor general. The Crown formally approves parliamentary legislation and the prime minister's appointments. The leader of the party with the second most seats usually becomes the leader of the opposition and is part of an adversarial parliamentary system that keeps the government in check. Michaëlle Jean has served as governor general since September 27, 2005; Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, has been prime minister since February 6, 2006; and Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has been Leader of the Opposition since December 10, 2008.
The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, west of Parliament Hill. The constitution is the supreme law of the country, and consists of written text and unwritten conventions. The Constitution Act, 1867 (known as the British North America (BNA) Act prior to 1982), affirmed governance based on parliamentary precedent "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom" and divided powers between the federal and provincial governments; the Statute of Westminster, 1931, granted full autonomy; and the Constitution Act, 1982, added the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees basic rights and freedoms that usually cannot be overridden by any level of government—though a notwithstanding clause allows the federal parliament and provincial legislatures to override certain sections of the Charter for a period of five years—and added a constitutional amending formula.
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 and has been led by the Right Honourable Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, P.C. since 2000. Its nine members are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. All judges at the superior and appellate levels are appointed after consultation with nongovernmental legal bodies. The federal cabinet also appoints justices to superior courts at the provincial and territorial levels. Judicial posts at the lower provincial and territorial levels are filled by their respective governments.
Common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec, where civil law predominates. Criminal law is solely a federal responsibility and is uniform throughout Canada. Law enforcement, including criminal courts, is a provincial responsibility, but in rural areas of all provinces except Ontario and Quebec, policing is contracted to the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
HMCS Algonquin (DDG 283)]]—at Pearl Harbor upon departing to participate in RIMPAC, the world's largest international maritime exercise.
Canada and the United States share the world's longest undefended border, co-operate on military campaigns and exercises, and are each other's largest trading partner. Canada has nevertheless maintained an independent foreign policy, most notably maintaining full relations with Cuba and declining to participate in the Iraq War. Canada also maintains historic ties to the United Kingdom and France and to other former British and French colonies through Canada's membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and the Francophonie. Canada is noted for having a strong and positive relationship with the Netherlands (which Canada helped liberate during World War II), and the Dutch government traditionally gives tulips, a symbol of the Netherlands, to Canada each year in remembrance of Canada's contribution to its liberation.
Canada currently employs a professional, volunteer military force of about 67,000 regular and 26,000 reserve personnel. The unified Canadian Forces (CF) comprise the army, navy, and air force.
Strong attachment to the British Empire and Commonwealth in English Canada led to major participation in British military efforts in the Second Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War. Since then, Canada has been an advocate for multilateralism, making efforts to resolve global issues in collaboration with other nations. Canada was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and of NATO in 1949. During the Cold War, Canada was a major contributor to UN forces in the Korean War and founded the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in cooperation with the United States to defend against aerial attacks from the Soviet Union.
During the Suez Crisis of 1956, then-future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson eased tensions by proposing the inception of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. Canada has since served in 50 peacekeeping missions, including every UN peacekeeping effort until 1989, and has since maintained forces in international missions in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. The number of Canadian military personnel participating in peacekeeping missions has decreased greatly in the 21st Century. As of June 30, 2006, 133 Canadians served on United Nations peacekeeping missions worldwide, including 55 Canadian military personnel, compared with 1149 military personnel as of August 31, 1991 and 1044 military personnel as of December 31, 1996.
Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990; Canada hosted the OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Ontario, in June 2000 and the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001. Canada seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
Since 2001, Canada has had troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. stabilization force and the UN-authorized, NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force. Canada has committed to withdraw from Kandahar Province by 2011, by which time it will have spent an estimated total of $11.3 billion on the mission.
Canada and the U.S. continue to integrate state and provincial agencies to strengthen security along the Canada-United States border through the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) has participated in three major relief efforts in recent years; the two-hundred-member team has been deployed in relief operations after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the Kashmir earthquake in October 2005.
In February 2007, Canada, Italy, Britain, Norway, and Russia announced their funding commitments to launch a $1.5 billion project to help develop vaccines they said could save millions of lives in poor nations, and called on others to join them. In August 2007, Canadian sovereignty in Arctic waters was challenged following a Russian expedition that planted a Russian flag at the seabed at the North Pole. Canada has considered that area to be sovereign territory since 1925.
There have historically been and remain multiple border disputes with the USA. There are individual disputes with Denmark over Hans Island and with France over the maritime boundaries of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories; in turn, these may be grouped into regions. Western Canada consists of British Columbia and the three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba). Central Canada consists of Quebec and Ontario. Atlantic Canada consists of the three Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia), along with Newfoundland and Labrador. Eastern Canada refers to Central Canada and Atlantic Canada together. Three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) make up Northern Canada. Provinces have more autonomy than territories. Each has its own provincial or territorial symbols.
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. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so 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.
Boreal forests]] prevail on the rocky Canadian Shield. Ice and tundra are prominent in the Arctic. Glaciers are visible in the Canadian Rockies and Coast Mountains. Flat and fertile prairies facilitate agriculture. The Great Lakes feed the Saint Lawrence River (in the southeast), where lowlands host much of Canada's population.
Canada occupies a major northern portion of North America, sharing land borders with the contiguous United States to the south and the U.S. state of Alaska to the northwest, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; to the north lies the Arctic Ocean. By total area (including its waters), Canada is the second largest country in the world—after Russia—and largest on the continent. By land area, it ranks second.
Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude, but this claim is not universally recognized. The northernmost settlement in Canada (and the world) is Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island—latitude 82.5°N—just 817 kilometres (450 nautical miles, 508 miles) from the North Pole. Canada has the longest coastline in the world: 243,000 kilometres (151,000 miles).
provinces and territories]], international boundary, prominent cities, and the surrounding region. The population density, , is among the lowest in the world. The most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, (Southern Quebec – Southern Ontario) along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River in the southeast.
To the north of this region is the broad Canadian Shield, an area of rock scour