Something of Interest
Canada is a country in North America consisting of 10 provinces and 3 territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. At 9.98 million square kilometres in total, Canada is the world's second-largest country by total area, and its common border with the United States is the world's longest land border shared by the same two countries.
The land that is now Canada has been inhabited for millennia by various Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French colonial expeditions explored, and later settled, the region's Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America to the United Kingdom in 1763 after the French and Indian War: the Seven Years' War's theatre of war in North America. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, the territory was explored and additional self-governing Crown colonies were established. On July 1, 1867, three colonies federated, forming a federal dominion that established Canada under the British North America Act of 1867.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, with a population of approximately 35 million as of December 2012. Its advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed trade networks. Canada's long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
Canada is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the eighth highest per capita income globally, and the eleventh highest ranking in the Human Development Index. It ranks among the highest in international measurements of education, government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, and economic freedom. Canada is a recognized middle power (states that are not superpowers or great powers, but still have large or moderate influence and international recognition) and a member of G7, G8, G10, G20, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, NATO, North American Free Trade Agreement, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Uniting for Consensus, Commonwealth of Nations, Francophonie, Organization of American States, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the United Nations.
The name of Canada has been in use since the earliest European settlement in Canada, with the name originating from a First Nations (Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis) word kanata (or canada) for "settlement", "village", or "land".
The history of Canada covers the period from the arrival of Paleo-Indians (the first peoples who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the American continents) thousands of years ago to the present day. Canada has been inhabited for millennia by distinctive groups of Aboriginal peoples, with distinct trade networks, spiritual beliefs, and social hierarchies. Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first European arrivals and have been discovered through archaeological investigations. Various treaties and laws have been enacted between European settlers and the Aboriginal populations.
Beginning in the late 15th century French and British expeditions explored, and later settled, along the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America to Britain 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 British Empire, which became official with the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and completed in the Canada Act of 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
Over centuries, elements of Aboriginal, French, British and more recent immigrant customs have combined to form a Canadian culture. Canadian culture has also been strongly influenced by that of its linguistic, geographic and economic neighbour, the United States. Since the conclusion of the Second World War, Canadians have supported multilateralism abroad and socioeconomic development domestically. Canada currently consists of ten provinces and three territories and is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.
Geography and Climate
Canada covers 9,984,670 km2 (3,855,103 sq. mi) and a panoply of various geoclimatic regions. There are 8 main geoclimatic regions: Appalachian Mountains, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands, Canadian Shield, Canadian Interior Plains, Western Cordillera, Volcanoes, Canadian Arctic. Canada also encompasses vast maritime terrain, with the world's longest coastline of 202,080 kilometres (125,570 mi). The physical geography of Canada is widely varied. Boreal forests (coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches) prevail throughout the country, ice is prominent in northerly Arctic regions and through the Rocky Mountains, and the relatively flat Canadian Prairies in the southwest facilitate productive agriculture. The Great Lakes feed the St. Lawrence River (in the southeast) where lowlands host much of Canada's population.
Canada has a diverse climate. The climate varies from temperate on the west coast of British Columbia to a subarctic climate in the north. Extreme northern Canada can have snow year round with a Polar climate. Landlocked areas tend to have a warm summer continental climate zone with the exception of Southern Ontario which has a hot summer humid continental climate. Parts of Western Canada have a semi-arid climate, and parts of Vancouver Island can even be classified as cool summer Mediterranean climate.
Government and Politics
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government (French: Gouvernement de Sa Majesté), is the federal democratic administration of Canada, and by a common authority levies taxes to pay for common goods; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council. In both senses, the construct was established at Confederation, through the Constitution Act, 1867, as a federal constitutional monarchy, wherein the Canadian Crown acts as the core, or "the most basic building block," of its Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The Crown is thus the foundation of the executive (the Cabinet, a committee of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada), legislative (the Parliament of Canada), and judicial (various federal courts) branches of the Canadian government. Further elements of governance are outlined in the rest of the Canadian constitution, which includes written statutes, court rulings, and unwritten conventions developed over centuries.
The politics of Canada function within a framework of parliamentary democracy and a federal system of parliamentary government with strong democratic traditions. Canada is a constitutional monarchy, in which the Monarch is head of state. The country has a multi-party system in which many of its legislative practices derive from the unwritten conventions of and precedents set by Great Britain's Westminster Parliament. However, Canada has evolved variations: party discipline in Canada is stronger than in the United Kingdom and more parliamentary votes are considered motions of confidence, which tends to diminish the role of non-Cabinet Members of Parliament (MPs). Such members, in the government caucus, and junior or lower-profile members of opposition caucuses, are known as backbenchers. Backbenchers can, however, exert their influence by sitting in parliamentary committees, like the Public Accounts Committee or the National Defence Committee. The two dominant political parties in Canada have historically been the Liberal Party of Canada and Conservative Party of Canada (or its predecessors), however, as of the 2011 election the social-democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) has risen to prominence. This rise of prominence mirrors a historic decline in the Liberal party's popularity. Smaller parties like the Quebec nationalist Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada can exert their own influence over the political process.
Canada currently employs a professional, volunteer military force of 65,000 regular personnel and approximately 53,000 reserve personnel, including supplementary reserves and civilian employees. The unified Canadian Forces (CF) comprise the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Air Force. In 2011, Canada's military expenditure totalled approximately C$24.5 billion.
The Canadian legal system has its foundation in the British common law system, inherited from being a former colony of the United Kingdom and later a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The legal system is bi-jurisdictional, as the responsibilities of public (includes criminal) and private law are separated and exercised exclusively by Parliament and the provinces respectively. Quebec, however, still retains a civil system for issues of private law (as this domain falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces). Both legal systems are subject to the Constitution of Canada. Criminal prosecutions are conducted in the style of the British common law, as this jurisdiction falls exclusively to the federal government. The federal government also has jurisdiction over certain exclusive domains which are regulated exclusively by Parliament, as well as all matters and disputes between provinces. These generally include interprovincial transport (rail, air and marine transport) as well as interprovincial trade and commerce (which generally concerns energy, the environment, agriculture).
Provinces and Territories
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. Originally three provinces of British North America, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (which would become Ontario and Quebec) united to form the new nation. Since then, Canada's external borders have changed several times, and has grown from four initial provinces to ten provinces and three territories as of 1999. The ten provinces are Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The three territories are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.
Canada has the eleventh-largest economy in the world (measured in US dollars at market exchange rates), is one of the world's wealthiest nations, and is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Group of Eight (G8). As with other developed nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians. Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of the primary sector (natural resources), with the logging and oil industries being two of Canada's most important. Canada also has a sizable manufacturing sector, centred in Central Canada, with the automobile industry and aircraft industry especially important. With a long coastal line, Canada has the 8th largest commercial fishing and seafood industry in the world. Canada is one of the global leaders of the entertainment software industry.
Science and Technology
In 2011, Canada spent approximately C$29.9 billion on domestic research and development. As of 2012, the country has produced fourteen Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and medicine, and was ranked fourth worldwide for scientific research quality in a major 2012 survey of international scientists. It is additionally home to a number of global technology firms. Canada ranks seventeenth in the world for Internet users as a proportion of the population, with over 28.4 million users, equivalent to around 83 percent of its total 2012 population.
According to the 2006 census, the country's largest self-reported ethnic origin is Canadian (accounting for 32% of the population), followed by English (21%), French (15.8%), Scottish (15.1%), Irish (13.9%), German (10.2%), Italian (4.6%), Chinese (4.3%), First Nations (4.0%), Ukrainian (3.9%), and Dutch (3.3%).
Canada is religiously diverse, encompassing a wide range of beliefs and customs. According to the 2011 census, 67.3 percent of Canadians identify as Christian; of these, Catholics make up the largest group, accounting for 38.7 percent of the population. The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada (accounting for 6.1% of Canadians), followed by Anglicans (5.0%), and Baptists (1.9%). In 2011, about 23.9 percent declared no religious affiliation, compared to 16.5% in 2001. The remaining 8.8 percent are affiliated with non-Christian religions, the largest of which are Islam (3.2%), Hinduism (1.5%) and Judaism (1%).
A multitude of languages are used in Canada. According to the 2011 census, English and French are the mother tongues of 56.9% and 21.3% of Canadians respectively. In 2011, nearly 6.8 million Canadians listed a non-official language as their mother tongue. Some of the most common non-official first languages include Chinese (mainly Cantonese; 1,072,555 first-language speakers), Punjabi (430,705), Spanish (410,670), German (409,200), and Italian (407,490).
Canada is often characterised as being "very progressive, diverse, and multicultural". Canada's culture draws influences from its broad range of constituent nationalities, and policies that promote a just society are constitutionally protected. Canadian Government policies – such as publicly funded health care; higher and more progressive taxation; outlawing capital punishment; strong efforts to eliminate poverty; an emphasis on cultural diversity; strict gun control; and most recently, legalizing same-sex marriage – are social indicators of Canada's political and cultural values.
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