|National motto: A Mari Usque Ad Mare (From sea to sea)|
|Official languages||French and English|
|Prime minister||Jean Chrétien|
- % water
|Ranked 2nd |
- Total (2001)
|Independence||British North America Act|
July 1, 1867
|Currency||Canadian dollar ($)|
|Time zone||UTC -3.5 to -8|
|National anthem||O Canada|
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, but has a very low population density, with approximately 31 million inhabitants. Although a modern and technologically advanced country, it is energy self-sufficient and one of the few developed countries with an economy having a heavy reliance on its abundance of natural resources.
The name Canada originated from a Huron-Iroquois word, Kanata meaning "village".  (http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/8/11/r11-203-e) The country's official name is the The Dominion of Canada, as the British North America Act, section 3, created "one Dominion under the name of Canada." 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 as "Canada." The last major change was renaming the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982. Dominion is still sometimes 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 Canada's constitution.
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 independence).
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 functions. 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 here: Constitution of Canada.
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 divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The provinces have a reasonable large autonomy from the federal government, while the territories have somewhat less. The provinces and territories each have their own unicameral legislatures.
The provinces are:
And the territories:
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 and prairies. 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.
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: Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver, British Columbia; the capital, Ottawa, Ontario; and Calgary, Alberta.
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 standards. 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 and urban. Energy self-sufficient, Canada has vast deposits of natural gas on the East Coast and in the three western provinces, and has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. 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% during 1993-2000, but declined in 2001. Unemployment is up, with contraction in the manufacturing and natural resource sectors. Nevertheless, with its great natural resources, skilled labor 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, (see article: Politics of Canada) 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 infrastructure. However, "Brain Gain", a largely unrecognized phenomenon, is progressing simultaneously, cancelling out "Brain Drain" or even exceeding it, as educated immigrants enter Canada in the late 20th century and 21th century.  (http://www.statcan.ca/english/indepth/81-003/feature/eqhi2000006003s1a01.htm)
Most of Canadians are of European descent (mostly British and French origins); only 2% of the population is formed by the native population. The remainder is formed by immigrants, mostly from Asia. Canada's two official languages are French and English; French is mostly spoken in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick.
Canadian culture is heavily influenced by British and American influences. The province of Quebec has maintained a distinct French culture[?], which is protected by special laws and constitutional agreements. The large American cultural presence in Canada has prompted some fears of a cultural takeover, and has initiated the establishment of many laws and institutions to protect Canadian culture.
|Date||English Name||Local Name||Remarks|
|January 1||New Year's Day||New Year's Day, Jour de l'an||Statutory.|
|(varies)||Good Friday||Good Friday, Vendredi saint||Statutory. Typically celebrated in April; see Easter article for details.|
|(varies)||Easter Monday[?]||Easter Monday, Pâques||Typically celebrated in April; see Easter article for details.|
|May 24||Victoria Day||Victoria Day; Fête de la Reine (Quebec: Fête des Patriotes)||Celebration of the Queen's birthday. Statutory. Celebrated on the Monday following the 24th if it falls on a weekend.|
|July 1||Canada Day||Canada Day, Fête du Canada||Statutory. Commemoration of Canada's 1867 Confederation.|
|First Monday in September||Labour Day||Labour Day, Fête du Travail||Statutory.|
|Second Monday in October||Thanksgiving||Thanksgiving, Action de grâce||Statutory. Thanksgiving is not celebrated on the same day as it is in the U.S.|
|November 11||Remembrance Day||Remembrance Day, Jour du souvenir||Observance of Canada's war dead.|
|December 25||Christmas||Christmas, Noël||Statutory.|
|December 26||Boxing Day||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 (http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/jfa-ha/index_e.cfm)