Coat of arms
Motto: A Mari Usque Ad Mare (Latin)
"From Sea to Sea"
Anthem: "O Canada"
Royal anthem: "God Save the Queen"
Recognised regional languages
Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Cree, Dëne Sųłiné, Gwich’in, Inuvialuktun, Slavey, Tłįchǫ Yatiì
Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
HM Queen Elizabeth II
- Governor General
- Prime Minister
- British North America Act
July 1, 1867
- Statute of Westminster
December 11, 1931
- Canada Act
April 17, 1982
- Total 9,984,670 km² (2nd)
3,854,085 sq mi
- Water (%)
8.92 (891,163 km²/344,080 mi²)
- 2008 estimate 33,241,000 (36th)
- 2006 census 31,612,897
- Total $1.274 trillion (13th)
- Per capita
- Total $1.406 trillion  (9th)
- Per capita
▲ 0.961 (high) (4th)
Canadian dollar ($) (CAD)
(UTC−3.5 to −
- Summer (DST)
(UTC−2.5 to −7)
Canada (/kænədə/) 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 shares land borders with the United States to the south and northwest.
The lands have been inhabited for millennia by various groups of aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French expeditions explored and later settled 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 additional provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom, highlighted by the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and culminating in the Canada Act in 1982 which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
A federation now 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 at the federal level. Technologically advanced and industrialized, Canada maintains a diversified economy that is heavily reliant upon its abundant natural resources and upon trade—particularly with the United States, with which Canada has a long and complex relationship.
Main article: Name of Canada
The name Canada most likely comes from a St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement". In 1535, inhabitants of the present-day Quebec City region used the word to direct explorer Jacques Cartier toward the village of Stadacona. Cartier used the word 'Canada' to refer to not only that village, but the entire area subject to Donnacona, Chief at Stadacona. By 1545, European books and maps began referring to this region as Canada.
The French colony of Canada referred to the part of New France along the Saint Lawrence River and the northern shores of the Great Lakes. Later, it was split into two British colonies, called Upper Canada and Lower Canada until their union as the British Province of Canada in 1841. Upon Confederation in 1867, the name Canada was adopted for the entire country, and Dominion was conferred as the country's title. It was frequently referred to as the Dominion of Canada until the 1950s. As Canada asserted its political autonomy from Britain, the federal government increasingly used Canada on legal state documents and treaties. The Canada Act 1982 refers only to "Canada" and, as such, it is currently the only legal (and bilingual) name. This was reflected in 1982 with the renaming of the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day.
Main articles: History of Canada, Timeline of Canadian history, and Territorial evolution of Canada
The fur trade was Canada's most important industry until the 1800s
Various groups of Inuit and First Peoples inhabited North America prehistorically. While no written documents exist, various forms of rock art, petroforms, petroglyphs, and ancient artifacts provide thousands of years of information about the past. Archaeological studies support a human presence in northern Yukon from 26,500 years ago, and in southern Ontario from 9,500 years ago. Europeans first arrived when the Vikings settled briefly at L'Anse aux Meadows circa AD 1000. The next Europeans to explore Canada's Atlantic coast included John Cabot in 1497 for England and Jacques Cartier in 1534 for France; seasonal Basque whalers and fishermen would subsequently exploit the region between the Grand Banks and Tadoussac for over a century.
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. These would become respectively the capitals of Acadia and Canada. Among French colonists of New France, Canadiens extensively settled the St. 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 conrol of the fur trade.
An animated map, exhibiting the growth and change of Canada's provinces and territories since Confederation.
Canadian soldiers won the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917.
Canada automatically entered the First World War in 1914 with Britain's declaration of war, sending volunteers to the Western Front, who played a substantial role in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. 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.
The Queen and the Registrar General signing the Constitution Act, 1982.
Government and politics
Main articles: Government of Canada, Politics of Canada, and Monarchy of Canada
Canada is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, as head of state. The country is a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of parliamentary government and strong democratic traditions. The constitution is the supreme law of the country, and consists of written text and unwritten conventions. The Constitution Act, 1867, 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.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa.
Executive authority is constitutionally vested in the monarch, but is in practice exercised by the Cabinet, a committee of the Queen's Privy Council, through the monarch's representative, the Governor General. As the monarch and viceroy stay apolitical and predominantly ceremonial in order to ensure the stability of government — by convention almost invariably deferring all governmental matters to their ministers in the Cabinet, who are themselves responsible to the elected House of Commons — real executive power is said to lie with the Cabinet, though the monarch and Governor General do retain the right to use discretionary powers in exceptional constitutional crisis situations. The Prime Minister, generally the leader of the political party that commands the confidence of the House of Commons, is appointed by the Governor General to select and head the Cabinet; thus, the Prime Minister's Office is one of the most powerful organs of government, responsible for selecting, besides the other Cabinet members, Senators, federal court judges, heads of Crown corporations and government agencies, and the federal and provincial viceroys for appointment. 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 Stéphane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has been Leader of the Opposition since December 2, 2006.
The Chamber of the House of Commons.
The federal parliament is made up of the Queen and two houses: an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Each member in the House of Commons is elected by simple plurality in a riding or electoral district; general elections are called by the Governor General when the Prime Minister so advises or when the government loses the confidence of the House. While there is no minimum term for a Parliament, a new election must be called within five years of the last general election. 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 have had substantial representation in the federal parliament since 2006 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 Green Party of Canada does not have current representation in Parliament, but garners a significant share of the national vote. The list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial.
The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, west of 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 and is 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 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 rural areas of all provinces except Ontario and Quebec, policing is contracted to the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Foreign relations and military
The Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa.
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 partners. 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 La Francophonie (French-Speaking Countries).
Canada currently employs a professional, volunteer military force of about 64,000 regular and 26,000 reserve personnel. The unified Canadian Forces (CF) comprise the army, navy, and air force. Major CF equipment deployed includes 1,400 armoured fighting vehicles, 34 combat vessels, and 861 aircraft.
Provinces and territories
A geopolitical map of Canada, exhibiting its ten provinces and three territories.
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 a large degree of autonomy from the federal government, 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. 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.
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. The Lieutenant-Governor is appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Canada, though with increasing levels of consultation with provincial governments in recent years.
Geography and climate
A satellite composite image of Canada. 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 St. 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 with the US 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 fourth, after Russia, China, and the United States. Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60Â°W and 141Â°W longitude, but 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 82.5Â°N—just 817 kilometres (450 nautical miles) from the North Pole. Canada has the longest coastline in the world: 243,000 kilometres.
The population density, 3.5 inhabitants per square kilometre (9.1/sq mi), is among the lowest in the world. The most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor 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 scoured clean by the last ice age, thinly soiled, rich in minerals, and dotted with lakes and rivers. Canada by far has more lakes than any other country and has a large amount of the world's freshwater.
THE Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, one of the world's most voluminous waterfalls, a major source of hydroelectric power, and a tourist destination.
In eastern Canada, the Saint Lawrence River widens into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary, which contains the island of Newfoundland. South of the Gulf, the Canadian Maritimes protrude eastward along the Appalachian Mountain range from northern New England and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are divided by the Bay of Fundy, which experiences the world's largest tidal variations. Ontario and Hudson Bay dominate central Canada. West of Ontario, the broad, flat Canadian Prairies spread toward the Rocky Mountains, which separate them from British Columbia.
In western Canada, the Mackenzie River flows from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. A tributary of a tributary of the Mackenzie is the South Nahanni River, which is home to Virginia Falls, a waterfall about twice as high as Niagara Falls.
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.
Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary depending on the location. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, particularly in the interior and Prairie provinces which experience a continental climate, where daily average temperatures are near −15 Â°C (5 Â°F) but can drop below −40 Â°C (−40 Â°F) with severe wind chills. In non-coastal regions, snow can cover the ground almost six months of the year (more in the north). Coastal British Columbia is an exception and enjoys a temperate climate with a mild and rainy winter.
On the east and west coast average high temperatures are generally in the low 20s Â°C (70s Â°F), while between the coasts the average summer high temperature ranges from 25 to 30 Â°C (75 to 85 Â°F) with occasional extreme heat in some interior locations exceeding 40 Â°C (104 Â°F). For a more complete description of climate across Canada see Environment Canada's Website.