Capital: Ottawa. People of British and French descent constitute more than half the population; there are significant minorities of Chinese, South Asian, German, Italian, American Indian, and Inuit (Eskimo) origin. Languages: English, French (both official).
Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic; also Protestant, other Christians, Eastern Orthodox); also Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism. Currency: Canadian dollar.
Canada may be divided into several physiographic regions. A large interior basin centred on Hudson Bay and covering nearly four-fifths of the country is composed of the Canadian Shield, the interior plains, and the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands. Rimming the basin are highland regions, including the Arctic Archipelago. Mountain ranges include the Rocky, Coast, and Laurentian mountains. Canada’s highest peak is Mount Logan (19,551 ft [5,959 m]) in Yukon Territory. Five of Canada’s rivers—the St. Lawrence, Mackenzie, Yukon, Fraser, and Nelson—rank among the world’s 40 longest. In addition to Lakes Superior and Huron, both shared with the U.S., Canada’s Great Bear and Great Slave lakes are among the world’s 11 largest lakes in area. The country also includes several major islands, including Baffin, Ellesmere, Victoria, Newfoundland, and Melville, and many small ones.
Its border with the U.S., the longest border in the world not patrolled by military forces, extends 5,525 mi (8,890 km). With a developed market economy that is export-directed and closely linked with that of the U.S., Canada is one of the world’s most prosperous countries. It is a parliamentary state with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the British monarch, whose representative is Canada’s governor-general, and the head of government is the prime minister. Originally inhabited by American Indians and Inuit, Canada was visited c. ad 1000 by Scandinavian explorers, whose settlement is confirmed by archaeological evidence from Newfoundland. Fishing expeditions off Newfoundland by the English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese began as early as 1500. The French claim to Canada was made in 1534 when Jacques Cartier entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A small settlement was made in Nova Scotia (Acadia) in 1604, and by 1608 Samuel de Champlain had reached Quebec. Fur trading was the impetus behind the early colonizing efforts. In response to French activity, the English in 1670 formed the Hudson’s Bay Company. The British-French rivalry for the interior of upper North America lasted almost a century. The first French loss occurred in 1713 at the conclusion of Queen Anne’s War (War of the Spanish Succession), when Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were ceded to the British. The Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War) resulted in France’s expulsion from continental North America in 1763. After the American Revolution Canada’s population was augmented by loyalists fleeing the United States, and the increasing number arriving in Quebec led the British to divide the colony into Upper and Lower Canada in 1791. The British reunited the two provinces in 1841. Canadian expansionism resulted in the confederation movement of the mid-19th century, and in 1867 the Dominion of Canada, comprising Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario, came into existence. After confederation, Canada entered a period of westward expansion. The prosperity that accompanied Canada into the 20th century was marred by continuing conflict between the English and French communities. Through the Statute of Westminster (1931), CanaOverviewda was recognized as an equal partner of Great Britain. With the Canada Act of 1982, the British gave Canada total control over its constitution and severed the remaining legal connections between the two countries. French Canadian unrest continued to be a major concern, with a movement growing for Quebec separatism in the late 20th century. Referendums for more political autonomy for Quebec were rejected in 1992 and 1995, but the issue remained unresolved. In 1999 Canada formed the new territory of Nunavut.