Canada i/ˈkænədə/ is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. 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, 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 United 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 United Nations.
The first known attempt at European colonization began when Norsemen settled briefly at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland around 1000 AD. No further European exploration occurred until 1497, when Italian seafarer John Cabot explored Canada's Atlantic coast for England. Basque and Portuguese mariners established seasonal whaling and fishing outposts along the Atlantic coast in the early 16th century. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River, where on July 24 he planted a 10-metre (33 ft) cross bearing the words "Long Live the King of France", and took possession of the territory in the name of King Francis I of France.
In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed St. John's, Newfoundland, as the first North American English colony by the royal prerogative of Queen Elizabeth I. 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. Among the French colonists of New France, Canadiens extensively settled the St. Lawrence River valley and Acadians settled the present-day Maritimes, while fur traders and Catholic missionaries explored the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and the Mississippi watershed to Louisiana. The Beaver Wars broke out in the mid-17th century over control of the North American fur trade.
The English established additional colonies in Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland, beginning in 1610. The Thirteen Colonies to the south were founded soon after. A series of four wars erupted in colonial North America between 1689 and 1763; the later wars of the period constituted the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War. Mainland Nova Scotia came under British rule with the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht; the Treaty of Paris (1763) ceded Canada and most of New France to Britain after the Seven Years' War.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 created the Province of Quebec out of New France, and annexed Cape Breton Island to Nova Scotia. St. John's Island (now Prince Edward Island) became a separate colony in 1769. To avert conflict in Quebec, the British passed the Quebec Act of 1774, expanding Quebec's territory to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley. It re-established the French language, Catholic faith, and French civil law there. This angered many residents of the Thirteen Colonies, fuelling anti-British sentiment in the years prior to the 1775 outbreak of the American Revolution.
The 1783 Treaty of Paris recognized American independence and ceded territories south of the Great Lakes to the United States. New Brunswick was split from Nova Scotia as part of a reorganization of Loyalist settlements in the Maritimes. To accommodate English-speaking Loyalists in Quebec, the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided the province into French-speaking Lower Canada (later Quebec) and English-speaking Upper Canada (later Ontario), granting each its own elected legislative assembly.
The Canadas were the main front in the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. Following the war, large-scale immigration to Canada from Britain and Ireland began in 1815. Between 1825 and 1846, 626,628 European immigrants reportedly landed at Canadian ports. Between one-quarter and one-third of all Europeans who immigrated to Canada before 1891 died of infectious diseases. The desire for responsible government resulted in the abortive Rebellions of 1837. The Durham Report subsequently recommended responsible government and the assimilation of French Canadians into English culture. The Act of Union 1840 merged the Canadas into a united Province of Canada. Responsible government was established for all British North American provinces by 1849. The signing of the Oregon Treaty by Britain and the United States in 1846 ended the Oregon boundary dispute, extending the border westward along the 49th parallel. This paved the way for British colonies on Vancouver Island (1849) and in British Columbia (1858).
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Canada is the world's eleventh-largest economy, with a 2012 nominal GDP of approximately US$1.82 trillion. It is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G8, and is one of the world's top ten trading nations, with a highly globalized economy. Canada is a mixed economy, ranking above the US and most western European nations on the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom, and experiencing a relatively low level of income disparity. In 2008, Canada's imported goods were worth over $442.9 billion, of which $280.8 billion originated from the United States, $11.7 billion from Japan, and $11.3 billion from the United Kingdom. The country's 2009 trade deficit totalled C$4.8 billion, compared with a C$46.9 billion surplus in 2008.
Since the early 20th century, the growth of Canada's manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy to an urbanized, industrial one. Like many other First World nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three-quarters of the country's workforce. However, Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of its primary sector, in which the logging and petroleum industries are two of the most prominent components.
Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. Atlantic Canada possesses vast offshore deposits of natural gas, and Alberta also hosts large oil and gas resources. The vastness of the Athabasca oil sands and other assets results in Canada having 13% of the global oil reserves, the world's third-largest, after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Canada is additionally one of the world's largest suppliers of agricultural products; the Canadian Prairies are one of the most important global producers of wheat, canola, and other grains. Canada is a major producer of zinc and uranium, and is a leading exporter of many other minerals, such as gold, nickel, aluminum, and lead. Many towns in northern Canada, where agriculture is difficult, are sustainable because of nearby mines or sources of timber. Canada also has a sizeable manufacturing sector centred in southern Ontario and Quebec, with automobiles and aeronautics representing particularly important industries
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 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.
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 partner. Canada nevertheless has an independent foreign policy, most notably maintaining full relations with Cuba and declining to officially participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 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 the Francophonie. Canada is noted for having a positive relationship with the Netherlands, owing, in part, to its contribution to the Dutch liberation during World War II.
Canada's strong attachment to the British Empire and Commonwealth led to major participation in British military efforts in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II. Since then, Canada has been an advocate for multilateralism, making efforts to resolve global issues in collaboration with other nations. Canada was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and of NATO in 1949. During the Cold War, Canada was a major contributor to UN forces in the Korean War and founded the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in co-operation with the United States to defend against potential aerial attacks from the Soviet Union.
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Education in Canada is for the most part provided publicly, funded and overseen by federal, provincial, and local governments. Education is within provincial jurisdiction and the curriculum is overseen by the province. Education in Canada is generally divided into primary education, followed by secondary education and post-secondary. Within the provinces under the ministry of education, there are district school boards administering the educational programs. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18, or as soon as a high school diploma has been achieved. In some provinces early leaving exemptions can be granted under certain circumstances at 14. Canada generally has 190 (180 in Quebec) school days in the year, officially starting from September (after Labour Day) to the end of June (usually the last Friday of the month, except in Quebec when it is just before June 24 – the provincial holiday).