Canada i/ˈkænədə/ 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 kilometres 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.
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: the Seven Years’ War’s theatre of war in North America. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, the territory was explored and additional self-governing Crown colonies were established. On July 1, 1867, three colonies federated, forming a federal dominion that established Canada under the British North America Act of 1867.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, with a population of approximately 35 million as of December 2012. Its advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed trade networks. Canada’s long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
Canada is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the eighth highest per capita income globally, and the eleventh highest ranking in the Human Development Index. 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 G7, G8, G10, G20, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, NATO, North American Free Trade Agreement, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Uniting for Consensus, Commonwealth of Nations, Francophonie, Organization of American States, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the United Nations.
The National emblem is the maple leaf and has been associated with Canada since the 1700’s. The flag of Canada has two red bars and a white center – within there being a maple leaf. It was adopted as the National Flag in 1965. (Before hand Canada used the Union Jack – the British Flag for its flag.)
The National Anthem for Canada is “O Canada” – proclaimed on July 1st 1980 – a century after being sung for the first time. (Before hand Canadians sang God Save the Queen/King)
The name Canada comes from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning “village” or “settlement”. In 1535, indigenous inhabitants of the present-day Quebec City region used the word to direct French explorer Jacques Cartier to the village of Stadacona. Cartier later used the word Canada to refer not only to that particular village, but the entire area subject to Donnacona (the chief at Stadacona); by 1545, European books and maps had begun referring to this region as Canada.
In the 17th and early 18th centuries, “Canada” referred to the part of New France that lay along the St. Lawrence River and the northern shores of the Great Lakes. The area was later split into two British colonies, Upper Canada and Lower Canada. They were reunified as the Province of Canada in 1841.
Upon Confederation in 1867, Canada was adopted as the legal name for the new country, and the word Dominion was conferred as the country’s title. However, as Canada asserted its political autonomy from the United Kingdom, the federal government increasingly used simply Canada on state documents and treaties, a change that was reflected in the renaming of the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982.