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Flag of Canada Coat of arms of Canada
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: (in Latin) A Mari Usque Ad Mare
(From Sea to Sea)
Anthem: O Canada
( Royal anthem: God Save the Queen)
Location of Canada
Capital Ottawa
45°24′ N 75°40′ W
Largest city Toronto
Official language(s) English and French

Governor General
Prime Minister
Federal parliamentary democracy
and constitutional monarchy

Elizabeth II
Michaëlle Jean
Stephen Harper
- BNA Act
- Statute of Westminster
- Canada Act
From the United Kingdom
July 1, 1867
December 11, 1931
April 17, 1982
• Total

• Water (%)

9,984,670 km² ( 2nd)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

8.92 (891,163 km²)%
• 2006 est.
• 2001 census

• Density

32.4 million ( 37th)

3.3/km² ( 185th)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
.177 trillion ( 13th)
,800 ( 16th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.949 ( 5th) – high
Currency Canadian dollar ($) ( CAD)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC-3.5 to -8)
( UTC-2.5 to -7)
Internet TLD .ca
Calling code +1
Canada is a country occupying the northern portion of North America, and is the world's second largest country in total area.Inhabited exclusively for several millennia by aboriginal peoples, Canada was founded as a union of British colonies, some of which had earlier been French colonies. A federal dominion of ten provinces with three territories, Canada peacefully obtained its sovereignty in a process beginning in 1867 from its last colonial possessor, the United Kingdom, and ending in 1982 with the patriation of its constitution from the UK.Today, Canada is governed as a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Officially, Canada's head of state is its monarch, who is represented in Canada by the Governor General. The head of government is the Prime Minister.Canada defines itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation. Both English and French are official languages of the country. In the early 1970s, Canada began to adopt policies based on the concepts of cultural diversity and multiculturalism. Many Canadians now view this as one of the country's key attributes.A technologically advanced and industrialized nation, Canada is a net exporter of energy because of its large fossil fuel deposits, nuclear energy generation, and hydroelectric power capacity. Its diversified economy relies heavily on an abundance of natural resources and trade, particularly with the United States, with which Canada has had a long and complex relationship, one which can arguably be defined as the strongest trade partners in history.

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Canada's name
Provinces and territories
Geography and climate
Aboriginal peoples
International rankings

Canada's name - Contents

The name Canada is believed to come from the Huron- Iroquois word kanata, which means "village" or "settlement". In 1535, locals used the word to tell Jacques Cartier the way to Stadacona, site of present-day Quebec City. Cartier used Canada to refer not only to Stadacona, but also to the entire area subject to Donnacona, Chief at Stadacona; by 1547, maps began referring to this and the surrounding area as Canada.

History - Contents

History of Canada
Military history
Economic history

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 circa AD 1000, with evidence of settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows.

European settlement
British claims to North America date from 1497, when John Cabot reached what he called Newfoundland, though it is unclear whether Cabot landed in current Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, or Maine. French claims date from explorations by Jacques Cartier (from 1534) and Samuel de Champlain (from 1603). Neither Cabot's nor Cartier's explorations left any permanent settlers behind. On August 5, 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland as England's first overseas colony under Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1604, French settlers were the first Europeans to settle permanently in what is now Canada. After an unsuccessful winter in St. Croix Island (today in Maine), they settled Port-Royal in what is now the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, but moved to found Quebec City in 1608. The current Acadians are descendants of settlers who came later in the same century and re-founded Port-Royal. New France was generally the name given to the French colonies of Canada and Acadia (and later Louisiana).
The Death of General Wolfe, painted by Benjamin West, depicts British General Wolfe's final moments during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
The Death of General Wolfe, painted by Benjamin West, depicts British General Wolfe's final moments during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
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 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and the remainder of New France, including what was left of Acadia, in the Treaty of Paris (1763).

British control
During and after the American Revolution approximately 70,000 [1] Loyalists fled the Thirteen Colonies. Of these, roughly 50,000 United Empire Loyalists [2] settled 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 from part of Nova Scotia, and divided Quebec and Ontario into Lower Canada and Upper Canada under the Constitutional Act of 1791.The War of 1812 began when the U.S. attacked British forces in Canada in an attempt to end British influence in North America (and particularly, the British seizures of American merchant ships in 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, resulting in the destruction of the President's residence, which was later rebuilt and painted white. The Treaty of Ghent, signed in December 1814, ended the war with no land lost. It was only after the French and Napoleonic wars ended in Europe that large-scale immigration to Canada resumed from the United Kingdom and Europe. The Canadas were merged into a single colony, the United Province of Canada, with the Act of Union (1840) in an 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 had 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.

The Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, First Prime Minister.
The Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, First Prime Minister.
In 1864 and 1866, British North American politicians, in what became known as the Great Coalition, held three conferences to create a federal union. Spearheaded by John A. Macdonald, 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, and Canada (formerly comprising Canada East or Lower Canada, and 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 would join in 1949). The vast area outside of the 7 provinces then existing formed the Northwest Territories, but over the years much of it would be transferred to three existing provinces, two new ones ( Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905), and two new territories ( Yukon, 1898; Nunavut, 1999).
Canadian Red Ensign, former flag of Canada (1957-65 version shown)
Canadian Red Ensign, former flag of Canada (1957-65 version shown)
In 1919, Canada became a member of the League of Nations and, in the Imperial Conference of 1926, Canada assumed full control of its own affairs through the Balfour Declaration. In 1927, Canada appointed its first ambassador to a foreign country, the United States. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster gave the Balfour Declaration constitutional force, confirming that no act of the UK's parliament would thereafter extend to Canada without its consent. Canadian citizenship was first distinguished from British in 1947; judicial appeals to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ended in 1949. The power to amend Canada's constitution remained with the British parliament, although subject to the Statute of Westminster, until it was "patriated" to Canadian control by the Canada Act 1982.

Quebec sovereignty movement
The Quebec sovereignty movement has led to two referendums held in 1980 and 1995, with votes of 59.6% and 50.6% respectively against its proposals for sovereignty-association. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unilateral secession by a province to be unconstitutional. Since then, the question of "national unity" has been raised in federal elections, in particular, the 2004 and 2006 federal elections.The cornerstone of the ideology for a sovereign Quebec was a strong impetus for the October Crisis and the need to counter Quebec sovereignty through a " sponsorship program" engendered under the administration of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. See sponsorship scandal for more details.

Government - Contents

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of parliamentary government, and strong democratic traditions. The political system under which Canada operates is a Westminster system derived from the United Kingdom. Canada's constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists of written text and unwritten traditions and conventions. The federal government and the governments of nine provinces agreed to the patriation of the constitution, with procedures for amending it, at a meeting of First Ministers in November 1981. The Quebec government did not agree to the changes, and Quebec nationalists refer to that date as the Night of the Long Knives.The patriation of the Constitution included the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees basic rights and freedoms for Canadians that, generally, cannot be overridden by legislation of any level of government in Canada. It contains, however, a " notwithstanding clause", which allows the federal parliament and the provincial legislatures the power to override other sections of the Charter temporarily, for a period of five years.

The Monarch
Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada.
Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth Realm that formally recognizes Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada. Though the United Kingdom and Canada share the same Monarch, the Queen of the United Kingdom is a legally separate role from the Queen of Canada.The role of the sovereign which on paper seems to be all-encompassing, is contrasted with the reality that the Queen is bound by convention to very rarely exercise her powers, and is thus largely a ceremonial figurehead. Instead the great majority of the Monarch's power, prerogatives, and duties are performed on a day-to-day basis by the Governor-General - at the federal level - by the Lieutenant-Governors at the provincial level. While her formal political role has diminished, and the Governor-General has taken on more of the Head-of-State functions, the Monarch is still the consitutional head of Canada. In that capacity, all government business, all laws, all elections, etc., are done or proclaimed in the Sovereign's name.The current Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned as Canada's sovereign since her ascension on February 6, 1952, and she has been a far more visible Monarch than any in the past, visiting Canada 21 times as Queen, more than any other Commonwealth Realm except the UK, and once as a Princess.

Governor General
Michaëlle Jean, Governor General.
Michaëlle Jean, Governor General.
While Queen Elizabeth II is currently Canada's sovereign, the Queen's representative in Canada and de facto head of state is the Governor General. The Governor General is generally a retired politician, military leader, or other notable Canadian; the current Governor General is Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean.The Governor General is formally appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada and is a non-partisan figure who fulfills many ceremonial and symbolic roles including providing Royal Assent to bills, reading the Speech from the Throne, officially welcoming dignitaries of foreign countries, presenting honours such as the Order of Canada, signing state documents, formally opening and ending sessions of Parliament, and dissolving Parliament for an election. The Governor General is also the titular Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, though, this is only a symbolic role as all actions are done at the request of the prime minister and are never disobeyed. The position of Governor General also beholds considerable reserve powers, but these have been rarely used.

Executive branch
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister.
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister.
The position of Prime Minister, Canada's head of government, in practice, belongs to the leader of the political party who can command a majority in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister and his or her cabinet are formally appointed by the Governor General. However, the Prime Minister effectively chooses the cabinet and the Governor General always, by convention, respects the Prime Minister's desired choices. The Cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the prime minister's party in both legislative houses, though mostly from the Commons. 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 Prime Minister exercises a great deal of individual political power, especially in terms of the appointment of other officials within the government and civil service. Stephen Harper, a Conservative, has served as Prime Minister since February 6, 2006.

Legislative branch
The legislative branch of government has two houses: the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate. Each member in the Commons is elected by simple plurality in one electoral district or "riding"; general elections are called by the Governor General when the prime minister so advises, and must occur every five years or less. 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.

Federal political parties

Canada has four main political parties today. The traditionally centrist / left-of-centre Liberal Party of Canada formed the government in Canada for most of the 20th century.The only other parties to have formed a government have been incarnations of a centrist / right-of-centre conservative party. The current government consists of the Conservative Party of Canada, which was formed in 2003 by merging the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party, and the Canadian Alliance. The Progressive Conservative party has formed governments in the past, as did predecessor, the Conservative Party, which was the dominant political party in the 19th century. A single-term 'Unionist' Party of Robert Borden was formed as a union of Conservatives and conscription-supporting Liberals during World War I.The New Democratic Party (NDP) is the major party furthest to the political left and espouses social democratic policies. The Bloc Québécois promotes Quebec independence from Canada and currently holds a majority of Quebec's seats in the House of Commons. There are many smaller parties and, while none have current representation in Parliament, the list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial.

Judicial branch
The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, beside Parliament Hill
The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, beside Parliament Hill
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; its nine members are directly appointed by Cabinet. All judges at the superior and appellate levels are selected and appointed by the federal government, after consultation with non-governmental 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 (see Court system of Canada for more detail). 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 most provinces policing is contracted to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Foreign relations
Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was the father of Canadian peacekeeping efforts for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was the father of Canadian peacekeeping efforts for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Canada has a close relationship with the United States, sharing the world's longest undefended border, co-operating on some military campaigns and exercises, and being each other's largest trading partners. Canada also shares a history and long relationship with the United Kingdom as its "mother country."In the last century, Canada has been an advocate for multilateralism, making efforts to reach out to the rest of the world and promoting itself as a " middle power" able to work with large and small nations alike. This was clearly demonstrated during the Suez Crisis when Lester B. Pearson mollified the tension by proposing peacekeeping efforts and the inception of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. In that spirit, Canada developed and has tried to maintain a leading role in UN peacekeeping efforts. Canada has cumulatively contributed more troops to peacekeeping operations worldwide than all other nations combined and currently serves in over 40 different peacekeeping missions, most recently in Afghanistan.

Badge of the Canadian Forces.
Badge of the Canadian Forces.
A founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Canada currently employs about 62,000 regular and 26,000 reserve military personnel. [3] The unified Canadian Forces (CF) comprise the army, navy, and air force. Major CF equipment deployed includes 2,400 armoured fighting vehicles, 34 combat vessels, and 140 combat aircraft.Canadian forces have served in various wars including the Second Boer War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and recently, in Afghanistan. Since Lester B. Pearson proposed the first UN peacekeeping force in 1956, the Canadian Forces have served in 42 peacekeeping missions — more than any other country. Battles significantly contributing to Canada's development and self-identity include the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Second Battle of Ypres, the Third Battle of Ypres, and Juno Beach. At the end of World War II, Canada was the fourth strongest military power in the world, behind the United States, the United Kingdom and the former Soviet Union.Currently, CF personnel are involved in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Smaller missions are also taking place in Haiti and Kosovo. Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) has participated in two relief operations in the last year. The two-hundred member relief crew helped in Southeast Asia after the December 2004 tsunami, and DART was also deployed in response to the devastating earthquake that struck the Kashmir region in South Asia in October 2005.

Provinces and territories - Contents

A map of Canada indicating political subdivisions.
A map of Canada indicating political subdivisions.
Canada is composed of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces have a large degree of autonomy from the federal government, the territories somewhat less. 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. 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 headed by a Premier selected in the same way as the Prime Minister of Canada. Each province also has a Lieutenant-Governor representing the Queen, analogous to the Governor General of Canada, appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Canada, though with increasing levels of consultation with provincial governments in recent years.
Dawson City, Yukon, scene of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Dawson City, Yukon, scene of the Klondike Gold Rush.
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: the main split is between sovereigntism (of which separatism is but one strain), represented by the Parti Québécois, and federalism, represented by the Parti Libéral du Québec.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 Yukon's 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. The provinces and territories are:
Flag Province Capital city Entered
Time Zone
( UTC)
British Columbia Victoria 1871 -8 ( Pacific),
-7 (Mountain)
Western, Pacific
Alberta Edmonton 1905 -7 ( Mountain) Western, Prairies
Saskatchewan Regina 1905 -7 (Mountain),
-6 (Central)
Manitoba Winnipeg 1870 -6 ( Central)
Ontario Toronto 1867 -6 (Central),
-5 ( Eastern)
Central, Eastern
Quebec Quebec City 1867 -5 (Eastern)
-4 ( Magdalen Islands)
New Brunswick Fredericton 1867 -4 ( Atlantic) Atlantic, Maritimes
Nova Scotia Halifax 1867
Prince Edward Island Charlottetown 1873
Newfoundland and Labrador St. John's 1949 -4 (Atlantic),
-3.5 ( Newfoundland)
Flag Territory Capital city Entered
Time Zone
Yukon Whitehorse 1898 -8 Northern, Arctic
Northwest Territories Yellowknife 1870 -7
Nunavut Iqaluit 1999 -7, -6, -5,

Geography and climate - Contents

A satellite composite image of Canada.  Boreal forests prevail throughout the country, ice is prominent in the Arctic and through the Rockies, and the relatively flat Prairies facilitate agriculture.   The Great Lakes feed the St. Lawrence River (in the southeast) where lowlands host much of Canada's population.
A satellite composite image of Canada. Boreal forests prevail throughout the country, ice is prominent in the Arctic and through the Rockies, and the relatively flat Prairies facilitate agriculture. The Great Lakes feed the St. Lawrence River (in the southeast) where lowlands host much of Canada's population.
Canada occupies the northern portion of North America. It shares land borders with the contiguous United States to the south and with Alaska to the northwest. It shares territorial water boundaries with the United States, Greenland to the northeast, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (an overseas community of France) to the southeast.Canada stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. To the north lies the Arctic Ocean. Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60° and 141° W longitude ( [4]); 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 (450 nautical miles) 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 of 3.5 people per square kilometre (9.1/ mi²) is among the lowest in the world.The most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor 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 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.
Mount Logan in Yukon; at 5,959 metres (19,551 ft), Canada's highest point and second highest in North America.
Mount Logan in Yukon; at 5,959 metres (19,551 ft), Canada's highest point and second highest in North America.
West of Ontario, the broad, flat Canadian Prairies spread toward the Rocky Mountains, which separate them from 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 in the winter months. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, particularly in the Prairie Provinces. Temperatures can reach lows of -50 ° C (-58 ° F) in the far North, though such low temperatures are not the norm. Coastal British Columbia is an exception and it enjoys a temperate climate with a mild and rainy winter. The Southeastern tip of Vancouver Island is noted to have the world's most northerly Mediterranean climate at a latitude of 48.5 N.Average summer high temperatures across Canada range depending on the location. On the east and west coast average high temperatures are in the low 20s °C (68-74°F), while in between the coasts , the Prairies, the lower Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Valley and the intermontane regions of British Columbia the average summer high temperature range between 25°C to 30°C (78-86°F). For a more complete description of climate across Canada Environment Canada's Website.

Economy - Contents

Five denominations of Canadian banknotes, depicting (from top to bottom) Wilfrid Laurier, John A. Macdonald, Queen Elizabeth II, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Robert Borden.
Five denominations of Canadian banknotes, depicting (from top to bottom) Wilfrid Laurier, John A. Macdonald, Queen Elizabeth II, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Robert Borden.
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. One is 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 concern is the " Brain Drain", the emigration of professionals to the U.S. in search of higher pay, lower taxes, and high-tech opportunities. (However, a recent Toronto Star article claims that the "Brain Drain" of doctors has abated, as more are returning to Canada due to high insurance rates in the U.S. and a more efficient medicare system in Canada. Simultaneously, a larger, under-recognised "Brain Gain" is occurring, as educated immigrants (particularly from developing countries, a controversy in and of itself) continue to enter Canada [5]).

Demographics - Contents

The 2001 national census recorded 30,007,094 people; as of January 2006, the population is estimated by Statistics Canada to be 32.4 million people [6], an increase of some 2.4 million people accomplished largely by immigration and (to a lesser extent) natural growth. About three-quarters of Canada's population live within 150 km of the U.S. border. A similar proportion live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor (notably the Toronto- Hamilton, Montréal, and Ottawa metropolitan areas), the BC Lower Mainland, and the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor in Alberta.Canada is a very ethnically diverse nation. According to the 2001 census by Statcan it has 34 ethnic groups with at least one hundred thousand members each, and numerous others represented in smaller amounts. A majority of Canadians descend from white European immigrants who arrived in increasing numbers until WWI. This majority--86.9% in 2001, is growing slower than the rest of the population. The most frequently stated white European ancestries are English (20%), French (15.7%), Scottish (14%), Irish (12.9%), German (9.2%) and Italian (4.3%) [7]. Many Canadians also have Slavic origins such as Polish, Ukrainian, and Serbian. Other significant immigrant populations came from Nordic (Norway, Sweden), southern Europe (Romania), and Baltic regions.Throughout and since the world wars, immigration to Canada has fluctuated somewhat but become more heterogeneous in makeup. Asian Canadian, is the most significant minority (9% of the population in 2001). Most Asian Canadians are concentrated in southern Ontario, and the Vancouver area. The largest immigrant groups are Chinese (1 million members) and South Asian ( Desi) (0.9 million members). Others include Filipinos, Koreans, and Japanese.Those who are Aboriginal, mixed race, Black Canadian etc. make up the remaining 4.1%. The Aboriginal groups consists mostly of Metis, who are mixed with European, and indigenous groups.According to the last census [8]77.1% of Canadians identified as being Christians; of this, Catholics make up the largest group – 43.6% of Canadians. About 17% of Canadians declared no religious affiliation, and the remaining 6.3% were affiliated with religions other than Christianity such as Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam.

Language - Contents

A view of downtown Montreal, Quebec, showing Mount Royal in the distance
A view of downtown Montreal, Quebec, showing Mount Royal in the distance
Canada's two official languages are English and French. On July 7, 1969, under the Official Languages Act, French was made commensurate 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 federal courts, Parliament, and in all federal institutions.
  • Any defendant in a criminal case has the right to a 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, in their own schools, with their own elected school boards, where they exist in sufficient numbers.
  • 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.
While the nation remains officially bilingual, the majority of Canadians are fluent only in English.The official language of Quebec is French, as defined by the province's Charter of the French Language, which was introduced by the Parti Quebecois in 1976. However, the charter 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, eastern and northern Ontario, Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba. In the 2001 census, 6,864,615 people listed French as a first language, of whom 85% lived in Quebec. 17,694,835 people listed English as a first language.
A bilingual sign in Quebec. Bilingualism is a defining feature of Canada's culture.
A bilingual sign in Quebec. Bilingualism is a defining feature of Canada's culture.
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.Several aboriginal languages have official status in the Northwest Territories. Inuktitut is the majority language in Nunavut and has official status there.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), German (438,080), and Punjabi (271,220). Irish and Scots Gaelic were spoken by many immigrants that settled in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Newfoundland was the only place outside Europe to have its own Irish dialect, Newfoundland Irish, and the only place outside Europe to have its own distinct name in Irish, Talamh an Éisc, meaning 'land of the fish'. The Irish language is rare in Newfoundland now. In Nova Scotia, Scots Gaelic still has 500-1,000 fluent speakers. Scots Gaelic also mixed with Cree to form the Bungee language. At one point a motion was tabled in Parliament that Gaelic (Scottish Gaelic and Irish not having been seen as distinct at the time) be made the third official language of the Dominion, but did not pass.

Aboriginal peoples - Contents

The Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes three groups of aboriginal peoples in Canada: the "Indians" (their legal designation, but now usually called First Nations), Inuit, and Métis. The aboriginal population is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the population in Canada. According to the Canada 2001 Census, people identified themselves as aboriginal numbered 976,305 people (or 3.3% of Canada's population) of whom about 62% are First Nations, 30% are Métis, and 5% are Inuit. Also, ethnic origin figures from the Census show that 1.3 million Canadians stated that they were partially or fully of aboriginal ancestry, including about one million people claiming full or partial First Nation ancestry, 307,000 Métis ancestry and 56,000 Inuit ancestry.

Culture - Contents

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are the federal and national police force in Canada, and an international icon for the country.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are the federal and national police force in Canada, and an international icon for the country.
Due to its colonial past, Canadian culture has historically been heavily influenced by English, French, Irish and Scottish cultures and traditions. In more modern times, Canadian culture is now greatly influenced by American culture, due to the proximity and the migration of people, ideas, and capital. Amidst this, Canadian culture has developed 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.There were and are many distinct Aboriginal peoples across Canada, each with its own culture, language and history. Much of this artistic legacy remains celebrated in Canada to this day. The emblem of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics is the inukshuk, a stack of rocks in human form that is a part of Inuit culture. [9]As Canada and the U.S. grew closer after World War II (the U.S. became Canada's largest trading partner in the late-1940s), many Canadians started to develop complex feelings and concerns regarding what makes Canada "distinct" within North America. The large American cultural presence in Canada has prompted some fears of a "cultural takeover" that have led to the establishment of laws and institutions to protect Canadian culture, including the CBC, the National Film Board of Canada, and the CRTC.Many American movies, authors, TV shows, and musicians are equally popular in Canada (and vice versa), many have been successful worldwide. Most cultural products of these types are now increasingly marketed toward a unified "North American" market, and not specifically a Canadian or American one.Though debatable, Canada has increasingly distinguished itself politically in recent years by being more fiscally conservative on issues such as balanced budgets, tax cuts, and reductions in government, while also being more socially liberal. While all of these issues are of varying contention amongst Canadians, Canada has generally supported universal health care, same-sex marriage and decriminalization of marijuana, though the government's stances on these issues may change with the new Conservative cabinet.Many Canadian citizens see Canadian culture as based on the policy of multiculturalism, while others see it as based on a predominantly British and French core, with American and new immigrant influences and modifications.[ citation needed]

Ice hockey events like the World Cup of Hockey (formerly Canada Cup) are popular in Canada.  Ice hockey originated in Canada when residents began playing Shinty on ice.
Ice hockey events like the World Cup of Hockey (formerly Canada Cup) are popular in Canada. Ice hockey originated in Canada when residents began playing Shinty on ice.
By the 1994 National Sports of Canada Act, Canada's official national sports are ice hockey (winter) and lacrosse (summer). However, hockey is considerably more a part of Canadian culture, and is by far the most popular spectator sport in the country. Canada's six largest metropolitan areas have franchises in the National Hockey League, and there are more Canadian players in the league than from all other countries combined. The three major junior leagues that together comprise the Canadian Hockey League have a combined total of 49 teams in Canadian towns or cities, from all 10 provinces. Curling is another extremely popular winter sport in Canada, with the strongest support in the prairie provinces. At the international level, Canada has dominated the sport of curling, with 29 out of 46 Men's World Curling Championships won by Canada. Additionally, 13 out of 27 Women's World Curling Championships have gone to the Canadian side.Other notable participatory sports which are enjoyed throughout Canada include skating, skiing, golf, soccer, swimming, baseball and softball. Canadian football, like American football, is a descendant from rugby football but evolved differently and has unique rules. The nine team Canadian Football League is the top league of the sport, and the annual Grey Cup championship game is viewed by a large television audience. Traditional football (soccer) is widely popular in youth, interscholastic, and senior leagues but not at the professional level as it is in Europe or Latin America. Canada qualified for their only appearance at the World Cup in 1986 in Mexico. Another British originated sport is rugby union, which has a stronghold in British Columbia and Ontario where the climate and conditions are not as extreme as the rest of the country.As the vast majority of Canadians live in very close proximity to the United States, Canadians can also watch sporting events from the professional leagues in that country, such as NASCAR and the National Football League. The NHL and the National Lacrosse League are comprised of teams from both Canada and the United States, and Toronto currently has franchises in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.Two Olympic Games have been hosted in Canada, the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Additionally, the 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver. Canadian athletes have competed at all Summer Games except for the first games in 1896 and when Canada participated in the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics. Canada has had limited success in the summer games, but at the winter games, Canada is usually one of the top nations in terms of total medals won.

National symbols
The common loon is a well-recognized Canadian symbol, also depicted on the one-dollar coin or "loonie".
The common loon is a well-recognized Canadian symbol, also depicted on the one-dollar coin or " loonie".
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. Reflecting its dual linguistic heritage [ citation needed], red and white are proclaimed Canada's official national colours (also appearing on the flag). Canada is known for its vast forests and mountain ranges, and the animals that reside within them, such as moose, caribou, beavers, polar bears, grizzly bears, and the common loon. The beaver's emblematic status originated from the fact much of Canada's early economic history was tied to the fur trade. Other products made from the country's natural resources, such as maple syrup, are also strongly associated with Canadian identity.Additional national symbols include landscape imagery invoking such places as the Canadian Shield and Rocky Mountains (especially as portrayed in paintings by the Group of Seven), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the canoe, the Canada goose, and somewhat humourously, doughnuts and prepackaged foodstuffs such as Kraft Dinner.Anything pertaining to hockey, Canada's official winter sport, is also often used as a national symbol of unity and pride; lacrosse is the official summer sport. The Canadian Football League, an American football variant with three downs and a 110-yard (100 metres) field, has also been seen as part of a heritage worth preserving.In recent years, other symbols have become a source of pride: notably, the I am Canadian campaign by Molson, most notably the commercial featuring Joe Canada, infused home-grown beer with nationalism. The Canadian fashion retailer Roots also sells a variety of merchandise designed to evoke nationalistic sentiment.

Holidays - Contents

Statutory and major holidays in Canada include New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, Christmas, and Boxing Day.Canada's provinces and territories generally adopt statutory holidays similar to federal ones with some variations (including civic holidays), and many Canadians celebrate numerous unofficial and religious holidays as well.

International rankings - Contents

  • A.T. Kearney/ Foreign Policy Magazine: Globalization Index 2005, ranked 6 out of 62 countries
  • IMD International: World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005, ranked 5 out of 60 economies (countries and regions)
  • The Economist: The World in 2005 - Worldwide quality-of-life index, 2005, ranked 14 out of 111 countries
  • Environmental Sustainability Index, 2005: 6th (out of 146); Yale University Center for Environmental Law and Policy & Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network (pdf) [10]
  • Press Freedom Index 2005: 21st (out of 167); Reporters Without Borders World-wide [11]
  • Total value of foreign trade (imports and exports), 2003: 4th (out of 185)
  • Corruption Perceptions Index 2005: 14th (out of 159); Transparency International [12]
  • Index of Economic Freedom, 2005: 16th (out of 155); Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal [13]
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