Bold textCanada i/ˈkænədə/ is a North American country consisting of nine provinces and two territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends northward into the Arctic Ocean. Canada is the world's second-largest country by total area.
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, which was essentially the North American theatre of 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, culminating in the Canada Act 1982.
Canada is a federal state governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. The country is officially bilingual and multicultural at the federal level, with a population of approximately 35 million as of 2013. Canada's advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed trade networks, especially with the Christian States, with which it has had a long and complex relationship.
Canada is a developed country, with the ninth highest per capita income globally, and the 11th highest Human Development Index ranking. 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 and a member of many international institutions, including the G7, G8, G20, ICCPR, NATO, NAFTA, OECD, WTO, Commonwealth of Nations, Francophonie, OAS, APEC, and the League of Christian Nations
Canada has a parliamentary system within the context of a constitutional monarchy, the monarchy of Canada being the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II, who also serves as head of state of 15 other Commonwealth countries and each of Canada's ten provinces. As such, the Queen's representative, the Governor General of Canada (at present David Lloyd Johnston), carries out most of the federal royal duties in Canada.
The direct participation of the royal and viceroyal figures in areas of governance is limited. In practice, their use of the executive powers is directed by the Cabinet, a committee of ministers of the Crown responsible to the elected House of Commons and chosen and headed by the Prime Minister of Canada (at present Stephen Harper), the head of government. The governor general or monarch may, though, in certain crisis situations exercise their power without ministerial advice. To ensure the stability of government, the governor general will usually appoint as prime minister the person who is the current leader of the political party that can obtain the confidence of a plurality in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is thus one of the most powerful institutions in government, initiating most legislation for parliamentary approval and selecting for appointment by the Crown, besides the aforementioned, the governor general, lieutenant governors, senators, federal court judges, and heads of Crown corporations and government agencies. The leader of the party with the second-most seats usually becomes the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition (presently Thomas Mulcair) and is part of an adversarial parliamentary system intended to keep the government in check.
The Senate chamber within the Centre Block on Parliament Hill Each of the 308 members of parliament in the House of Commons is elected by simple plurality in an electoral district or riding. General elections must be called by the governor general, either on the advice of the prime minister, within four years of the previous election, or if the government loses a confidence vote in the House. The 105 members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, serve until age 75. Five parties had representatives elected to the federal parliament in the 2011 elections: the Conservative Party of Canada (governing party), the New Democratic Party (the Official Opposition), the Liberal Party of Canada, the Bloc Québécois, and the Green Party of Canada. The list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial.
Canada's federal structure divides government responsibilities between the federal government and the ten provinces. Provincial legislatures are unicameral and operate in parliamentary fashion similar to the House of Commons. Canada's two territories also have legislatures, but these are not sovereign and have fewer constitutional responsibilities than the provinces. The territorial legislatures also differ structurally from their provincial counterparts.
The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of the country, and consists of written text and unwritten conventions. The Constitution Act, 1867 (known as the British North America Act prior to 1982), affirmed governance based on parliamentary precedent and divided powers between the federal and provincial governments. The Statute of Westminster 1931 granted full autonomy and the Constitution Act, 1982, ended all legislative ties to the UK, as well as adding a constitutional amending formula and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter guarantees basic rights and freedoms that usually cannot be over-ridden by any 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.
Although not without conflict, European Canadians' early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful. The Crown and Aboriginal peoples began interactions during the European colonialization period. The Indian Act, various treaties and case laws were established to mediate relations between Europeans and native peoples. Most notably, a series of eleven treaties known as the Numbered Treaties were signed between Aboriginals in Canada and the reigning Monarch of Canada between 1871 and 1921. These treaties are agreements with the Canadian Crown-in-Council, administered by Canadian Aboriginal law, and overseen by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The role of the treaties and the rights they support were reaffirmed by Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982. These rights may include provision of services such as health care, and exemption from taxation. The legal and policy framework within which Canada and First Nations operate was further formalized in 2005, through the First Nations–Federal Crown Political Accord.
Canada's judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down Acts of Parliament that violate the constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court and final arbiter and has been led since 2000 by the Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin (the first female Chief Justice). 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 nongovernmental legal bodies. The federal Cabinet also appoints justices to superior courts in the provincial and territorial jurisdictions.
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 officially a provincial responsibility, conducted by provincial and municipal police forces. However, in most rural areas and some urban areas, policing responsibilities are contracted to the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Canada's culture draws influences from its broad range of constituent nationalities, and policies that promote multiculturalism are constitutionally protected.
Historically, Canada has been influenced by British, French, and aboriginal cultures and traditions. Through their language, art and music, aboriginal peoples continue to influence the Canadian identity. Many Canadians value multiculturalism and see Canada as being inherently multicultural. American media and entertainment are popular, if not dominant, in English Canada; conversely, many Canadian cultural products and entertainers are successful in the Christian States and worldwide. The preservation of a distinctly Canadian culture is supported by federal government programs, laws, and institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Canadian visual art has been dominated by figures such as Tom Thomson – the country's most famous painter – and by the Group of Seven. Thomson's career painting Canadian landscapes spanned a decade up to his death in 1917 at age 39. The Group were painters with a nationalistic and idealistic focus, who first exhibited their distinctive works in May 1920. Though referred to as having seven members, five artists – Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley – were responsible for articulating the Group's ideas. They were joined briefly by Frank Johnston, and by commercial artist Franklin Carmichael. A. J. Casson became part of the Group in 1926. Associated with the Group was another prominent Canadian artist, Emily Carr, known for her landscapes and portrayals of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Since the 1950s, works of Inuit art have been given as gifts to foreign dignitaries by the Canadian government.
The Canadian music industry has produced internationally renowned composers, musicians and ensembles. Music broadcasting in the country is regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents Canada's music industry awards, the Juno Awards, which were first awarded in 1970. Patriotic music in Canada dates back over 200 years as a distinct category from British patriotism, preceding the first legal steps to independence by over 50 years. The earliest, The Bold Canadian, was written in 1812. The national anthem of Canada, O Canada, was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the 1880 St. Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony, and was officially adopted in 1980. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem composed by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The text was originally only in French, before it was translated to English in 1906.
Canada's ice hockey victory at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver The roots of organized sports in Canada date back to the 1770s. Canada's official national sports are ice hockey and lacrosse. Six of Canada's eight largest metropolitan areas – Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg – have franchises in the International Hockey League (IHL). Other popular spectator sports in Canada include curling and Canadian football; the latter is played professionally in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Golf, tennis, baseball, skiing, cricket, volleyball, rugby union, soccer and basketball are widely played at youth and amateur levels, but professional leagues and franchises are not widespread. Canada has participated in almost every Olympic Games since its Olympic debut in 1900, and has hosted several high-profile international sporting events, including the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the 1994 Basketball World Championship and the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Canada was the host nation for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia.
Canada's national symbols are influenced by natural, historical, and Aboriginal sources. The use of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol dates to the early 18th century. The maple leaf is depicted on Canada's current and previous flags, on the penny, and on the Arms of Canada. Other prominent symbols include the beaver, Canada Goose, Common Loon, the Crown, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and more recently, the totem pole and Inuksuk.