Overview of Canada
Canada takes up about two-fifths of the North American continent, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. The country is sparsely populated, with most of its residents living within 125 miles of the U.S. border. Canada’s expansive wilderness to the north plays a large role in Canadian identity, as does the country’s reputation of welcoming immigrants.
Although the Norse briefly settled in Canada during the 10th century, European exploration accelerated in the 1500s. France and Britain angled for control over the region, with the British cementing their dominance in the year 1763. The country was a collection of British colonies until it became a self-governing dominion in 1867.
Canadians pride themselves in encouraging all of their citizens to honor their own cultures. In 1971, Canada adopted a national policy of multiculturalism, which celebrates the country’s diversity. The list of accomplished Canadian writers and artists is long. Céline Dion, Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell are just a few of the Canadians who have made an impression on modern music.
Technically, Canada is a constitutional monarchy with the U.K. monarch as the head of state. The royal leader is represented locally by a largely ceremonial governor-general appointed by the Canadian prime minister. The government follows the British style of parliamentary democracy. The capital, Ottawa, is located in the province of Ontario.
Canada is a high-tech industrial society with a high standard of living. Trade agreements in the 1980s and 1990s dramatically bolstered trade with the U.S., and now the two counties are each other’s largest trading partner. While the service sector is Canada’s biggest economic driver, the country is a significant exporter of energy, food and minerals. Canada ranks third in the world in proven oil reserves and is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer.