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 kilometers 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.
- GEOGRAPHICAL DATA
- ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS
Canada occupies a major northern portion of North America, sharing land borders with the contiguous United States to the south (the longest border between two countries in the world) and the US state of Alaska to the northwest. Canada stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; to the north lies the Arctic Ocean. Greenland is to the northeast, while Saint Pierre and Miquelon is south of Newfoundland. By total area (including its waters), Canada is the second-largest country in the world, after Russia. By land area alone, Canada ranks fourth. The country lies between latitudes 41° and 84°N, and longitudes 52° and 141°W.
Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60° and 141°W longitude, but this claim is not universally recognized. Canada is home to the world’s northernmost settlement, Canadian Forces Station Alert, on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – latitude 82.5°N – which lies 817 kilometres (508 mi) from the North Pole. Much of the Canadian Arctic is covered by ice and permafrost. Canada has the longest coastline in the world, with a total length of 202,080 kilometres (125,570 mi); additionally, its border with the United States is the world’s longest land border, stretching 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi).
Since the end of the last glacial period, Canada has consisted of eight distinct forest regions, including extensive boreal forest on the Canadian Shield. Canada has around 31,700 large lakes, more than any other country, containing much of the world’s fresh water. There are also fresh-water glaciers in the Canadian Rockies and the Coast Mountains. Canada is geologically active, having many earthquakes and potentially active volcanoes, notably Mount Meager, Mount Garibaldi, Mount Cayley, and the Mount Edziza volcanic complex. The volcanic eruption of the Tseax Cone in 1775 was among Canada’s worst natural disasters, killing 2,000 Nisga’a people and destroying their village in the Nass River valley of northern British Columbia. The eruption produced a 22.5-kilometre (14.0 mi) lava flow, and, according to Nisga’a legend, blocked the flow of the Nass River.
Canada’s population density, at 3.3 inhabitants per square kilometre (8.5 /sq mi), is among the lowest in the world. The most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor, situated in Southern Quebec and Southern Ontario along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.
Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary from region to region. Winters can be harsh in many parts of the country, particularly in the interior and Prairie provinces, which experience a continental climate, where daily average temperatures are near −15 °C (5 °F), but can drop below −40 °C (−40 °F) with severe wind chills. In noncoastal regions, snow can cover the ground for almost six months of the year, while in parts of the north snow can persist year-round. Coastal British Columbia has a temperate climate, with a mild and rainy winter. On the east and west coasts, average high temperatures are generally in the low 20s °C (70s °F), while between the coasts, the average summer high temperature ranges from 25 to 30 °C (77 to 86 °F), with temperatures in some interior locations occasionally exceeding 40 °C (104 °F).
The 2011 Canadian census counted a total population of 33,476,688, an increase of around 5.9 percent over the 2006 figure. By December 2012, Statistics Canada reported a population of over 35 million, signifying the fastest growth rate of any G8 nation. Between 1990 and 2008, the population increased by 5.6 million, equivalent to 20.4 percent overall growth. The main drivers of population growth are immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth.
About four-fifths of the population lives within 150 kilometres (93 mi) of the United States border. Approximately 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, the British Columbia Lower Mainland, and the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor in Alberta. Canada spans latitudinally from the 83rd parallel north to the 41st parallel north, and approximately 95% of the population is found below the 55th parallel north. In common with many other developed countries, Canada is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2006, the average age was 39.5 years; by 2011, it had risen to approximately 39.9 years. As of 2013, the average life expectancy for Canadians is 81 years.
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%). There are 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands, encompassing a total of 1,172,790 people.
Canada’s aboriginal population is growing at almost twice the national rate, and four percent of Canada’s population claimed aboriginal identity in 2006. Another 16.2 percent of the population belonged to a non-aboriginal visible minority. The largest visible minority groups are South Asian (4.0%), Chinese (3.9%) and Black (2.5%). Between 2001 and 2006, the visible minority population rose by 27.2 percent. In 1961, less than two percent of Canada’s population (about 300,000 people) could be classified as belonging to a visible minority group, and less than one percent as aboriginal. By 2007, almost one in five (19.8%) were foreign-born, with nearly 60 percent of new immigrants coming from Asia (including the Middle East). The leading sources of immigrants to Canada were China, the Philippines and India. According to Statistics Canada, visible minority groups could account for a third of the Canadian population by 2031.
Canada has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world, driven by economic policy and family reunification. In 2010, a record 280,636 people immigrated to Canada. The Canadian government anticipated between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents in 2013, a similar number of immigrants as in recent years. New immigrants settle mostly in major urban areas like Toronto and Vancouver. Canada also accepts large numbers of refugees, accounting for over 10 percent of annual global refugee resettlements.
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%) and Hinduism (1.5%).
Canadian provinces and territories are responsible for education. The mandatory school age ranges between 5–7 to 16–18 years, contributing to an adult literacy rate of 99 percent. As of 2011, 88 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, compared to an OECD average of 74 percent. In 2002, 43 percent of Canadians aged 25 to 64 possessed a post-secondary education; for those aged 25 to 34, the rate of post-secondary education reached 51 percent. According to a 2012 NBC report, Canada is the most educated country in the world. The Programme for International Student Assessment indicates that Canadian students perform well above the OECD average, particularly in mathematics, science, and reading.
Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories. In turn, these may be grouped into four main regions: Western Canada, Central Canada, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada (“Eastern Canada” refers to Central Canada and Atlantic Canada together). Provinces have more autonomy than territories, having responsibility for social programs such as health care, education, and welfare. Together, the provinces collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so in practice. Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces.
The Bank of Canada is the central bank of the country and governed by Stephen Poloz. In addition, the Minister of Finance and Ministry of Industry utilize the Statistics Canada system for financial planning. The Toronto Stock Exchange is the seventh largest exchange in the world having 1,577 companies listed in 2012. 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. The Ministry of Natural Resources in Canada provides statistics regarding their major exports, zinc and uranium, and is a leading exporter of many other minerals, such as gold, nickel, aluminum, steel, iron ore, Coking Coal, 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.
Canada’s economic integration with the United States has increased significantly since World War II. The Automotive Products Trade Agreement of 1965 opened Canada’s borders to trade in the automobile manufacturing industry. In the 1970s, concerns over energy self-sufficiency and foreign ownership in the manufacturing sectors prompted Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government to enact the National Energy Program (NEP) and the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA). In the 1980s, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives abolished the NEP and changed the name of FIRA to “Investment Canada”, to encourage foreign investment. The Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of 1988 eliminated tariffs between the two countries, while the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) expanded the free-trade zone to include Mexico in 1994. In the mid-1990s, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government began to post annual budgetary surpluses, and steadily paid down the national debt.
The global financial crisis of 2008 caused a major recession, which led to a significant rise in unemployment in Canada. By October 2009, Canada’s national unemployment rate had reached 8.6 percent, with provincial unemployment rates varying from a low of 5.8 percent in Manitoba to a high of 17 percent in Newfoundland and Labrador. Between October 2008 and October 2010, the Canadian labour market lost 162,000 full-time jobs and a total of 224,000 permanent jobs. Canada’s federal debt was estimated to total $566.7 billion for the fiscal year 2010–11, up from $463.7 billion in 2008–09. In addition, Canada’s net foreign debt rose by $41 billion to $194 billion in the first quarter of 2010. However, Canada’s regulated banking sector (comparatively conservative among G8 nations), the federal government’s pre-crisis budgetary surpluses, and its long-term policies of lowering the national debt, resulted in a less severe recession compared to other G8 nations. As of 2013, the majority of the Canadian economy has stabilized, although the country remains troubled by slow growth, sensitivity to the Eurozone crisis and higher-than-normal unemployment rates. The federal government and many Canadian industries have also started to expand trade with emerging Asian markets, in an attempt to diversify exports; in 2011, Asia was Canada’s second-largest export market, after the United States. Widely debated oil pipeline proposals, in particular, are hoped to increase exports of Canadian oil reserves to China.
Canada’s culture draws influences from its broad range of constituent nationalities, and policies that promote multiculturalism are constitutionally protected. In Quebec, cultural identity is strong, and many French-speaking commentators speak of a culture of Quebec that is distinct from English Canadian culture. However, as a whole, Canada is in theory a cultural mosaic – a collection of several regional, aboriginal, and ethnic subcultures. Government policies such as publicly funded health care, higher taxation to redistribute wealth, the outlawing of capital punishment, strong efforts to eliminate poverty, strict gun control, and the legalization of same-sex marriage are further social indicators of Canada’s political and cultural values.
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 United 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.
The roots of organized sports in Canada date back to the 1770s. Canada’s official national sports are ice hockey and lacrosse. Seven of Canada’s eight largest metropolitan areas – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg – have franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL). 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 does have one professional baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. 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.