Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area after Russia. However, it has an extremely low population density of 3 people per , as there are only 32 million Canadians. While Canada covers a larger geographic area than the neighbouring United States it has only one-ninth of the population. Canada is a modern and technologically advanced country and is energy self-sufficient. Its economy has traditionally relied heavily on its abundance of natural resources, although the modern Canadian economy has become widely diversified.
Until the 1950s, the term Dominion of Canada was commonly used to refer to the country, at which time the Dominion Government began simply to use the word "Canada". This was to recognize Canadian autonomy from Britain, though some critics insisted that the country's proper name should continue to be "Dominion of Canada." The last major change was renaming the national holiday from Dominion Day to Canada Day in 1982.
Canada, which has been inhabited by aboriginal peoples, known in Canada as the First Nations, for about 10,000 years, was first visited by Europeans around 1000, when the Vikings briefly settled at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. More permanent European visits came in the 16th and 17th century, as the French settled there.
In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years' War, France chose to keep its Caribbean Islands and to leave its North American colony, New France, to Britain.
In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec sought independence in two referendums held in 1980 and 1995. In both referendums, the separatist cause was defeated with 60% and 50.6% opposed to independence, respectively.
The text of Canada's constitution can be found at this page. However, much of Canada's constitution is unwritten and the text has to be interpreted in light of various traditions and conventions.
It should be noted that the Constitution Act, which contained procedures for amending the Constitution, was agreed to during one night (known to Quebec nationalists as "Nuit des longs couteaux": night of long knives - 1982), without the province of Quebec which refused last-minute amendments that the provincial government believed diminished the province's francophone characteristics into some multicultural environment. Notably, the 1982 Constitution Act contained a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that countered Quebec's laws (Bill 101) regarding the protection of the French language, which Quebec had declared to be the official language of the province.
The legislative branch of government consists of the Parliament, including the elected House of Commons and the Senate which consists of Senators appointed until age 75 by the Prime Minister. Canada has very strict party discipline which gives the Prime Minister very high levels of control over almost all legislation passed by Parliament.
The Prime Minister calls elections for the House of Commons at his or her discretion, though they must occur no later than five years after the previous one.
The Governor General formally appoints the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the political party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister in turn appoints the Cabinet, drawn by convention from members of the Prime Minister's party in the House of Commons and the Senate.
The Liberals are the party of current Prime Minister Paul Martin, and his predecessor Jean Chrétien who led for the last 10 years. The only other party to form a government is the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party, which in December 2003 merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada. In recent years Canada has come to be thought as having somewhat of a more left-wing political slant than the United States.
Most provinces' political climates include provincial counterparts to the three national federal parties. However, provincial parties are not normally formally linked to the federal parties, with the exception of the NDP. Some provinces have regional political parties, such as the Saskatchewan Party or the Labrador Party.
The provincial political climate of Quebec is quite different, with the main split being between separatism, represented by the Parti Québécois, and federalism, represented by the Parti libéral du Québec. As interest in the sovereignty debate diminishes, however, the relevance of this party division is coming into question. Two smaller parties, the right-wing Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and the left-wing Union des forces progressistes (UFP), are trying to break into the two-party system and do not focus primarily on the sovereignty question. However, of the two, only the ADQ has yet elected members to the National Assembly (Quebec's legislature).
The Yukon has a unicameral legislature operated the same as the provincial legislatures, but the other two territories use a consensus government system with no parties, in which each member runs as an independent, and the premier is elected by and from the members.
As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, Canada today closely resembles the United States in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards. Since World War II, the impressive growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. Energy self-sufficient, Canada has vast deposits of natural gas on the East Coast and in the three western provinces, and a plethora of other natural resources. The 1989 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which included Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the US. As a result of the close cross-border relationship, the economic downturn in the United States in 2001 had an a negative impact on the Canadian economy, but less than expected. Real growth averaged nearly 3% Source | Copyright