Canada 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.
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 Britain in 1763 after 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 one of the world's most developed nations, with the ninth highest per capita income globally, and the sixth highest ranking in human development. Subsequently, Canada performs above-average 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, NATO, NAFTA, OECD, WTO, Commonwealth of Nations, Francophonie, OAS, APEC, and the United Nations.
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.
Culture of Canada
Canadian culture is a term that explains the artistic, musical, literary, culinary, political and social elements that are representative of Canada and Canadians, not only to its own population, but people all over the world. Canada's culture has historically been influenced by European culture and traditions, especially British and French, and by its own indigenous cultures. Over time, elements of the cultures of Canada's immigrant populations have become incorporated into mainstream Canadian culture. It has subsequently been influenced by American culture because of its shared language, proximity and migration between the two countries.
Canada is often characterised as being "very progressive, diverse, and multicultural". Canadian Government policies such as; publicly funded health care, higher and more progressive taxation, outlawing capital punishment, strong efforts to eliminate poverty, an emphasis on cultural diversity, and most recently legalizing same-sex marriage – are social indicators of Canada's political and cultural values.
Prior to the advent of the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960 and its successor the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the laws of Canada did not provide much in the way of civil rights and it was typically of limited concern to the courts. Canada since the 1960s has placed emphasis on equality and inclusiveness for all people. For example, in 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Egan v. Canada that sexual orientation should be "read in" to Section Fifteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a part of the Constitution of Canada guaranteeing equal rights to all Canadians. Following a series of decisions by provincial courts and the Supreme Court of Canada, on July 20, 2005, the Civil Marriage Act (Bill C-38) received Royal Assent, legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. Canada thus became the fourth country to officially sanction same-sex marriage worldwide, after The Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. Furthermore, sexual orientation was included as a protected status in the human rights laws of the federal government and of all provinces and territories.
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