Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Canada is the northernmost country in North America,
bordered by the United States in the south (the world's
longest undefended border) and northwest (Alaska).
The country stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the
east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, with the Arctic
Ocean in the north (Canada's territorial claim extends
to the North Pole).
The island of Greenland is just northeast of Canada's
northern most islands, while the French possession of
Saint Pierre and Miquelon is just off the east coast.
Canada is the world's second-largest country in terms
of land area (after Russia), but has a low population
density, with approximately 31 million inhabitants (Canadians).
Canada is a modern and technologically advanced country
and is energy self-sufficient.
Its economy heavily relies on its abundance of natural
National motto; A Mari Usque Ad Mare (From sea
Official languages; English and French
Capital; Ottawa, Ontario
Largest City; Toronto, Ontario
Queen; Elizabeth II
Governor-General; Adrienne Clarkson
Prime minister; Jean Chrétien
Area; 9,984,670 km²
Independence; British North America Act July
Currency; Canadian dollar ($)
Time zone; UTC -3.5 to -8
National anthem; O Canada
Internet TLD; .CA
Phone Calling Code; 1
Origin of the name
The name Canada originated from a Huron-Iroquoian word,
Kanata meaning "village" , referring to Stadacona,
a settlement on the site of present-day Quebec City.
In practice, the country's official name is simply Canada.
It has been argued that the country's official name
still is The Dominion of Canada, as the British North
America Act, section 3, created "one Dominion under
the name of Canada;" and while the 1982 Canadian Constitution
does not use the term, neither does it amend the earlier
However, starting in the 1950s the federal government
began to gradually phase out the use of the word "Dominion"
in official texts and instead simply refer to the nation
The last major change was renaming the national holiday
from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982.
Dominion is still occasionally used to distinguish the
federal government as from the provinces.
Canada, which has been inhabited by natives including
the First Nations and the Inuit for about 10,000 years,
was first visited by Europeans around 1000, when the
Vikings briefly had a settlement.
More permanent European visits came in the 16th and
17th century, as the French settled here.
They traded much of their lands with the British in
1763, and after the American Revolution, many British
Loyalists settled in Canada.
With the passing of the British North America Act the
British government granted the request of the French
and English leaders of the colony of Canada, the status
of an self-governing country on July 1, 1867.
More definitive independence came in 1931 with the Statute
of Westminster, and in 1982 with the repatriation of
On July 7, 1969 French was made equal to English throughout
the Canadian national government.
In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens
of the French-speaking province of Quebec have sought
independence, but two referendums have been defeated,
albeit marginally in the last case (50.6% were against
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, the head of state
being the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II.
The monarch's representative in Canada is the Governor-General,
who fills the role of approving bills, and other state
For the most part, the monarch (through her representative,
the Governor-General) is a figurehead, and what little
real power she has is reserved for times of crisis.
The text of Canada's constitution can be found at this
It should be noted that the province of Quebec has refused
to ratify the Constitution Act, 1982, which contained
procedures for amending the Constitution.
The Governor-General is appointed by the Prime Minister,
who is the leader of the political party that holds
the most seats in the House of Commons.
The legislative branch of government consists of the
Parliament, including the elected House of Commons and
the appointed Senate.
Canada is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth
of Nations, La Francophonie, NATO, the G7, and APEC.
Provinces and territories
Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories.
The provinces have a reasonable large autonomy from
the federal government, while the territories have somewhat
The provinces and territories each have their own unicameral
The provinces are: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba,
New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia,
Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan.
And the territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut,
Eastern Canada is divided between boreal forest and
the barren Canadian Shield in the north and the highly
fertile Saint Lawrence River Valley in the south, where
most of the country's population is concentrated.
Large parts of south central Canada are covered by plains
The west of Canada mostly consists of rolling terrain
on either side of the Rocky Mountains.
The Hudson Bay sea arm cuts deep into the country.
A number of large lakes are located throughout Canada,
including the Great Lakes, which form part of the border
with the United States.
The vast north of the country is mainly arctic lowlands
with a polar climate, and is therefore extremely sparsely
populated; for example, fewer than 30,000 people live
in Nunavut Territory, which is the size of Western Europe.
Most of the major cities are located in the more temperate
south, with largest concentration in the east.
The largest cities are (in descending order population
wise): Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver,
British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; and the capital,
As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, Canada
today closely resembles the US in its market-oriented
economic system, pattern of production, and high living
Since World War II, the impressive growth of the manufacturing,
mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation
from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial
Energy self-sufficient, Canada has vast deposits of
natural gas on the East Coast and in the three western
provinces, and a plethora of other natural resources.
The 1989 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and 1994
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which includes
Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and
economic integration with the US.
As a result of the close cross-border relationship,
the economic downturn in the United States in 2001 had
a negative impact on the Canadian economy.
Real growth averaged nearly 3% from 1993 to 2000, but
declined in 2001.
As of [, unemployment is up, with contraction
in the manufacturing and natural resource sectors.
Nevertheless, with its great natural resources, skilled
labour force, and modern capital plant, Canada enjoys
solid economic prospects.
Two shadows loom, the first being the continuing constitutional
impasse between English and French speaking areas, which
has been raising the possibility of a split in the federation.
Another long-term concern is fears of a flow south to
the US of professionals, referred to as the Brain Drain,
lured by higher pay, lower taxes, and the immense high-tech
However, "Brain Gain", a largely unrecognised phenomenon,
is progressing simultaneously, cancelling out "Brain
Drain" or even exceeding it, as educated immigrants
enter Canada in the late 20th century and 21st century.
As of 2001, 66% of Canadians are of European descent
(mostly British and French origins), 26% are of mixed
backgrounds, and 6% are of solely non-European descent,
mostly from Asia.
Only 2% of the population is formed by the native population.
Canada's two official languages are French and English;
French is mostly spoken in Quebec, Ontario, and New
An immigrant-heavy nation, fully one-sixth of Canadians
are foreign-born, a percentage second only to Australia.
Most Canadians are Christians, with about 42% being
Roman Catholic, and 38% Protestant.
Canadian culture is heavily influenced by British and
The province of Quebec has maintained a distinct French
culture, which is protected by special laws and constitutional
For example, Quebec uses civil law based on the Napoleonic
code, whereas the rest of the county uses common law
derived from the British parliamentary tradition.
The large American cultural presence in Canada has prompted
some fears of a cultural take-over, and has initiated
the establishment of many laws and institutions to protect
Unlike the United States, Canada is not a melting-pot;
unique cultures are encouraged.
January 1; New Year's Day, Jour de l'an Statutory.
Good Friday (varies), Vendredi saint Statutory.
Typically celebrated in April.
Easter Monday (varies), Pâques. Typically celebrated
Monday preceding May 25 Victoria Day; Fête de
la Reine (Quebec: Fête des Patriotes) Celebration of
the Queen's birthday. Statutory.
July 1 Canada Day, Fête du Canada. Statutory.
Commemoration of Canada's 1867 Confederation.
First Monday in September Labour Day, Fête du
Second Monday in October Thanksgiving, Action
de grâce Statutory. Thanksgiving is not celebrated on
the same day as it is in the U.S.
November 11 Remembrance Day, Jour du souvenir
Observance of Canada's war dead.
December 25 Christmas, Noël. Statutory.
December 26 Boxing Day, Lendemain de Noël Statutory.
Day when shops sell off excess Christmas inventory.
Note: Each province also has its own provincial
holiday or holidays. Links: Canadian Heritage.
International rankings Said to be the #1 country
to live in, 7 years in a row, as decided by the UN.
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This information is correct in 2002.
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