Canada is the northernmost country in North America. It is the second largest country in the world in terms of land area, but has a relatively low population density. It is one of the few developed countries with a heavy reliance on a natural resource-based economy. The capital is Ottawa in the province of Ontario.
The country is surrounded by three oceans: the Pacific on the west coast, the Arctic on the north coast, and the Atlantic on the east coast. The southern border is shared with the United States and is the longest undefended border in the world.
Canada was formed by three original ethnic groups: the Natives who were originally living there, the French who first settled there, and the English who defeated the French and captured the colony. In 1763, France surrendered its Canadian lands to England by the Treaty of Paris.
Canada's history is one of the least bloody of any nation's. The English and French have compromised throughout Canada's history. England questioned whether to assimilate the French or let be; the French were allowed to be. In 1774 the Quebec Act was passed recognizing French civil laws and guaranteeing religious and linguistic freedoms. A minority in Quebec think that they are a separate and distinct enough society to form their own country. To this day there is a continual, nonviolent, battle over the question of Quebec's sovereignty (although there was a brief period of violence from 1968 to 1970, when the separatist Front de liberation du Quebec, or FLQ, commited acts of terrorism for their cause).
The Quebec Act also divided Canada into Upper Canada, the domain of English Canadians and present-day Ontario; and Lower Canada, the domain of French Canadians and present-day Quebec. On July 1, 1867, Canada's birthday (now celebrated as Canada Day), Britain's North American colonies became provinces of Canada at Confederation: Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The prairies and the Arctic, at that time possessions of the Hudson's Bay Company, were integrated as Rupert's Land in 1869.
Manitoba was created from Rupert's Land in 1870. British Columbia voted to join Canada in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873. In 1905 the remaining southernmost portion of Rupert's Land was divided into the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The last province to join was Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949. Before joining Canada, Newfoundland had been an independent nation; at the time it joined, Newfoundland was essentially bankrupt. In 1999, a large part of the Northwest Territories became the separate region of Nunavut, a sparsely populated territory inhabited mostly by Inuit.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy, with the head of state being the Queen. The Queen's representative in Canada is the Governor-General, who fills the role of approving bills, and other state functions. For the most part, the Queen (through her liaison, the Governor-General) is a figurehead. The text of Canada's constitution can be found here: Constitution of Canada.
The Governor-General is appointed by the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister being the leader of the political party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons. The legislative branch of government consists of both the elected House of Commons, and the appointed Senate.
The Canadian national anthem is O Canada, which has official lyrics in both French and English.
Canadians have an interesting self-image.
From the CIA World Factbook 2000, plus some editing and updates. Not completely Wikified.
- Transnational Issues