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THE CANADA COAT OF ARMS
Canadian Coat of Arms Shield.svg
Canada map locator.gifMap of Canada within north America
Canada map.gifMap of Canada
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Provinces and Territories of Canada
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Description: two vertical bands of red (hoist and fly side, half width) with white square between them; an 11-pointed red maple leaf is centered in the white square; the maple leaf has long been a Canadian symbol; the official colors of Canada are red and white.

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Official name Canada
Form of government federal multiparty parliamentary state with two legislative houses (Senate [1051, 2]; House of Commons [308])
Head of state Queen of Canada (British Monarch): Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General: David Johnston
Head of government Prime Minister: Stephen Harper
Capital Ottawa
Official languages English; French
Official religion none
Monetary unit Canadian dollar (Can$)
Population (2013 est.) 34,897,000
Total area (sq mi) 3,855,103
Total area (sq km) 9,984,670
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2006) 80.2%
Rural: (2006) 19.8%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2012) 78.9 years
Female: (2012) 84.2 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2006) 100%
Female: (2006) 100%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 52,200

1Statutory number.

2All seats are nonelected.

Background of Canada

Canada's forests supply the country's building and paper products industries and contribute one fifth of all the nation's exports. In the 1990s the national forest inventory recorded a total of 1.3 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers) of forest land, of which 83 percent had been surveyed and almost 60 percent was in production.

It is the second largest country in the world in area (after Russia), occupying roughly the northern two-fifths of the continent of North America. Despite Canada’s great size, it is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. This fact, coupled with the grandeur of the landscape, has been central to the sense of Canadian national identity, as expressed by the Dublin-born writer Anna Brownell Jameson, who explored central Ontario in 1837 and remarked exultantly on “the seemingly interminable line of trees before you; the boundless wilderness around you; the mysterious depths amid the multitudinous foliage, where foot of man hath never penetrated…the solitude in which we proceeded mile after mile, no human being, no human dwelling within sight.” Although Canadians are comparatively few in number, however, they have crafted what many observers consider to be a model multicultural society, welcoming immigrant populations from every other continent. In addition, Canada harbours and exports a wealth of natural resources and intellectual capital equaled by few other countries.

Canada is officially bilingual in English and French, reflecting the country’s history as ground once contested by two of Europe’s great powers. The word Canada is derived from the Huron-Iroquois kanata, meaning a village or settlement. In the 16th century, French explorer Jacques Cartier used the name Canada to refer to the area around the settlement that is now Quebec city. Later, Canada was used as a synonym for New France, which, from 1534 to 1763, included all the French possessions along the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. After the British conquest of New France, the name Quebec was sometimes used instead of Canada. The name Canada was fully restored after 1791, when Britain divided old Quebec into the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (renamed in 1841 Canada West and Canada East, respectively, and collectively called Canada). In 1867 the British North America Act created a confederation from three colonies (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada) called the Dominion of Canada. The act also divided the old colony of Canada into the separate provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Dominion status allowed Canada a large measure of self-rule, but matters pertaining to international diplomacy and military alliances were reserved to the British crown. Canada became entirely self-governing within the British Empire in 1931, though full legislative independence was not achieved until 1982, when Canada obtained the right to amend its own constitution.

Canada shares a 5,525-mile- (8,890-km-) long border with the United States (including Alaska)—the longest border in the world not patrolled by military forces—and the overwhelming majority of its population lives within 185 miles (300 km) of the international boundary. Although Canada shares many similarities with its southern neighbour—and, indeed, its popular culture and that of the United States are in many regards indistinguishable—the differences between the two countries, both temperamental and material, are profound. “The central fact of Canadian history,” observed the 20th-century literary critic Northrop Frye, is “the rejection of the American Revolution.” Contemporary Canadians are inclined to favour orderly central government and a sense of community over individualism; in international affairs, they are more likely to serve the role of peacemaker instead of warrior, and, whether at home or abroad, they are likely to have a pluralistic way of viewing the world. More than that, Canadians live in a society that in most legal and official matters resembles Britain—at least in the English-speaking portion of the country. Quebec, in particular, exhibits French adaptations: more than three-fourths of its population speaks French as their primary language. The French character in Quebec is also reflected in differences in religion, architecture, and schooling. Elsewhere in Canada, French influence is less apparent, confined largely to the dual use of French and English for place names, product labels, and road signs. The French and British influences are supplemented by the cultures of the country’s native Indian peoples (in Canada often collectively called the First Nations) and the Inuit peoples, the former being far greater in number and the latter enjoying semiautonomous status in Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut. (The Inuit prefer that term rather than Eskimo, and it is commonly used in Canada.) In addition, the growing number of immigrants from other European countries, Southeast Asia, and Latin America has made Canada even more broadly multicultural.

Canada has been an influential member of the Commonwealth and has played a leading role in the organization of French-speaking countries known as La Francophonie. It was a founding member of the United Nations and has been active in a number of major UN agencies and other worldwide operations. In 1989 Canada joined the Organization of American States and signed a free trade agreement with the United States, a pact that was superseded in 1992 by the North American Free Trade Agreement (which also includes Mexico). A founding member (1961) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada is also a member of the G8, which includes the world’s seven largest industrial democracies plus Russia.

The national capital is Ottawa, Canada’s fourth largest city. It lies some 250 miles (400 km) northeast of Toronto and 125 miles (200 km) west of Montreal, respectively Canada’s first and second cities in terms of population and economic, cultural, and educational importance. The third largest city is Vancouver, a centre for trade with the Pacific Rim countries and the principal western gateway to Canada’s developing interior. Other major metropolitan areas include Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; Quebec city, Quebec; and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Geography of Canada

The Land

Canada’s total land area includes thousands of adjacent islands, notably Newfoundland in the east and those of the Arctic Archipelago in the north. Canada is bounded by the Arctic Ocean to the north, Greenland (a self-governing part of the Danish kingdom) to the northeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, 12 states of the United States to the south, and the Pacific Ocean and the U.S. state of Alaska to the west; in addition, tiny Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (an archipelagic territory of France) lies off Newfoundland.

In longitude Canada extends from approximately 52° to 141° W, a distance that spans six time zones. In latitude it extends from approximately 42° to 83° N. With its vast Arctic and subarctic territories, Canada is often considered a country only of the far north; however, the peninsula of southern Ontario juts deeply south into the heartland of the United States, and its southernmost point, Middle Island in Lake Erie, is at the same latitude as northern California. Canada occupies a strategic global location, lying on great circle routes (the shortest line joining any two places on the globe) between the United States and Europe and, to a lesser degree, Asia. As a result, many international commercial flights track across Canada.

The combination of physical geography and discontinuous settlement has led to a strong sense of regionalism in Canada, and popular regional terms often overlap. The Atlantic Provinces include all of the Appalachian region except the Quebec portion. If the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is excluded, the three remaining east-coast provinces are called the Maritime Provinces or the Maritimes. Quebec and Ontario are usually referred to separately but sometimes together, as Central Canada. The West usually means all four provinces west of Ontario, but British Columbia may be referred to alone and the other three collectively as the Prairie Provinces or the Prairies. Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut are referred to as the North.

  • Relief

Canada contains within its borders a vast variety of geographic features. In general, the country’s landform structure can be considered as a vast basin more than 3,220 miles (5,200 km) in diameter. The Cordillera in the west, the Appalachians in the southeast, the mountains of northern Labrador and of Baffin Island in the northeast, and the Innuitian Mountains in the north form its high rim, while Hudson Bay, set close to the centre of the enormous platform of the Canadian Shield, occupies the basin bottom. The western rim of the basin is higher and more massive than its eastern counterpart, and pieces of the rim, notably in the far northwest and in the south, are missing.

The main lines of Canadian landforms continue well into the United States, intimately linking the geography of both countries. To create such a large country, Canadians had to forge transportation and communication links in an east-west direction, against the physiographic grain of the continent. The Canadian North remains one of the least settled and least economically exploited parts of the world.

Canada can be divided into six physiographic regions: the Canadian Shield, the interior plains, the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands, the Appalachian region, the Western Cordillera, and the Arctic Archipelago.

THE CANADIAN SHIELD

By far the largest of Canada’s physiographic regions, the Canadian Shield (sometimes called the Precambrian Shield) occupies about half of the total area of the country and is centred on Hudson Bay. The shield consists of some of the world’s oldest rocks, which were folded by mountain-building movements and cut down by erosion until the area was reduced almost to a plain. It was warped and folded in places, so parts of it now stand much higher than others, especially around its outer edges. In the north the rim is about 7,000 feet (2,000 metres) above sea level, and fjords with walls from 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 metres) high extend many miles into the mountain masses. The Labrador Highlands, including the Torngat, Kaumajet, and Kiglapait mountains, lie south of Hudson Strait. Along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the shield rim is a 2,000-foot (600-metre) escarpment, the Laurentide Scarp. The rim is almost imperceptible in southern Ontario, but in northern Ontario it rises again to almost 1,500 feet (450 metres) above the northern shore of Lake Superior. From Manitoba northwestward, the shield edge is marked by a large number of lakes.

Most of the shield lies at elevations below 2,000 feet (600 metres). Its lack of hills of any size produces a generally monotonous landscape, but geologically recent glaciations have had a striking effect on the surface. By stripping off the top, weathered material, they roughened the surface into a type of rock-knob, or grained, landscape, with the hollows between the knobs or the troughs between the ridges occupied by enormous numbers of lakes. In other areas the glaciers deposited till or moraine on the surface and in still others left gigantic fields of erratics (boulders and other material different from local bedrock). Eskers—long, narrow ridges of deposits—stretch across the shield, sometimes for more than 100 miles (160 km), marking the course of old, subglacial rivers. In still other places, deposits laid down by glacial lakes that have since drained away have given rise to extensive clay belts. The shield contains a large variety of minerals (e.g., copper, silver, and gold), and its exploitation has been a principal source of Canada’s wealth.

THE INTERIOR PLAINS

Surrounding the Canadian Shield are a number of extensive lowlands underlain by sedimentary rocks: the Arctic lowlands to the north, the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands to the south and southeast, and the interior, or western, plains to the west. The southern portion of these plains is commonly referred to as the Prairies. The vast interior plains extend from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the U.S. border in the south and from the edge of the Canadian Shield in the east to the Rocky Mountain foothills in the west. Along the shield–interior plains boundary are a number of large lakes, three of which each has a greater surface area than Lake Ontario: Great Bear, Great Slave, and Winnipeg.

In the southeast is the Manitoba lowland, where elevations are generally below 1,000 feet (300 metres). It is underlaid by lacustrine sediments of the glacial Lake Agassiz and is the flattest land in the interior plains. In addition to Lake Winnipeg, it includes Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis. The fertile southern portion, the Red River valley, is covered with black clay and silt soils.

To the west of the Manitoba lowland, the land rises in two steps: the Saskatchewan plain, which ranges from 1,500 to 2,100 feet (450 to 650 metres), and the Alberta plain, which is more than 2,500 feet (750 metres). These plains are rolling landscapes of glacial deposits laid over almost horizontal bedrock. In some areas the undulating plains are interspersed with ranges of low hills (glacial moraines) studded with kettle lakes and flat-bottomed, steep-banked valleys cut by glacial meltwater, now occupied by rivers such as the Assiniboine and the Saskatchewan system. Ponds called sloughs dot the landscape of both these plains. These lands also contain large potash deposits and, especially in Alberta, enormous reserves of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The Cypress Hills of southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta rise to an elevation of 4,816 feet (1,468 metres), the highest point in mainland Canada between the Rocky Mountains (Canadian Rockies) and Labrador.

The Mackenzie Lowlands, extending from the Alberta plain north to the Arctic Ocean, is a flat area covered with muskegs (bogs) and swamps. It is drained by the Mackenzie River.

THE GREAT LAKES–ST. LAWRENCE LOWLANDS

The Great Lakes–St. Lawrence region comprises the peninsula of southern Ontario bounded by the Canadian Shield and Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. It extends along the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean. The region, fairly small in area, is nevertheless important for its high agricultural productivity, intensive industrialization, and high degree of urbanization.

The immensely fertile and highly cultivated rolling landscape of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands is composed primarily of glacial landforms: glacial lake bottoms and shorelines, till plains, moraines, drumlins, eskers, and giant spillways carved by glacial streams. In southwestern Ontario the Niagara Escarpment is the only significant exposed bedrock structure. This steep cuestaform ridge runs from Niagara Falls to the Bruce Peninsula west of Georgian Bay and on into Manitoulin Island. In southeastern Ontario the lowland is interrupted by a band of the Canadian Shield, the Frontenac Axis, which extends across the St. Lawrence River to form the Thousand Islands.

Northeast of the Frontenac Axis, the lowlands embrace the Ottawa valley and the St. Lawrence valley to a point some 70 miles (110 km) downstream from Quebec city. During the last glacial period, this area was inundated by ocean water, known as the Champlain Sea, which produced a very flat plain. The level plain is broken by the seven Monteregian Hills near Montreal. The westernmost of these is Mont-Royal (Mount Royal) in Montreal, about 820 feet (250 metres) high.

"THE APPALACHIAN REGION The Appalachian region extends from the eastern townships of Quebec (south of the St. Lawrence valley) northeastward to the Gaspé Peninsula and the Maritime Provinces and on to the island of Newfoundland. The region consists of ancient folded rock formations that have been eroded into low, rounded mountains dissected by valleys and interrupted by lowland areas developed on weaker rock formations. Three broad groups of highlands can be recognized. The highest mountains (e.g., Gosford, Jacques-Cartier, and Richardson), with elevations about 4,000 feet (1,200 metres), are found in southern Quebec. The highlands in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are lower, and the hills have been dissected out of a plateau upland. The major portion of Newfoundland is also a dissected plateau, but along the west coast the Long Range Mountains rise to more than 2,000 feet (600 metres) in elevation. The region’s relatively small areas of lowland extend along the seacoast and the major rivers.

THE WESTERN CORDILLERA

The Cordilleran region comprises a series of mountain belts some 500 miles (800 km) wide along Canada’s Pacific coast. The great heights and angularity of the peaks, many of which rise to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 metres), indicate that these are much younger mountains than the Appalachians. Signs of alpine glaciation are widely evident. In many places valley glaciers remain active, and snowcapped peaks are frequently hidden in the clouds. Some of the mountain slopes are so precipitous that they are bare of trees. Viewed from above, the entire landscape seems to be an irregular sea of mountain ranges, trending in a north-south direction.

The Rocky Mountains make up the eastern portion of the Cordillera from the Yukon border south to the 49th parallel, where they continue into the United States. The high ranges of the Canadian Rockies form the Continental Divide between eastward- and westward-flowing rivers and contain some of the most rugged and picturesque landscapes in North America. The highway between Banff and Jasper, Alberta, is particularly noted for its spectacular mountain scenery. The Rockies include more than 30 peaks exceeding 10,000 feet (3,000 metres), including Mount Robson, which rises to 12,972 feet (3,954 metres). Five of Canada’s national parks are located within the Rockies, including Banff, which was established in 1885. Three major passes cut through the Rockies: the Yellowhead Pass, which is used by the Canadian National Railways, and the Kicking Horse Pass and Crowsnest Pass, which are used by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Trans-Canada Highway is also routed through the Kicking Horse Pass.

The front range of the Canadian Rockies is bordered on the west by a major valley, about 15 miles (25 km) wide and several thousand feet deep, known as the Rocky Mountain Trench. To the west of the trench the Columbia Mountains rise to peaks of more than 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). The Columbia Mountain system includes, from east to west, the Purcell, Selkirk, and Monashee groups. Northwest of these are the Cariboo Mountains, famous for their helicopter alpine skiing. Between the Columbia Mountains and the Coast Mountains farther west is a broad region of interior mountains and plateaus. Although some of the surface of this region is fairly level, most of it has been folded into mountains and hills.

The Coast Mountains, part of the Pacific mountain system, are another group of high mountains, with several peaks rising over 15,000 feet (4,500 metres) high; they include Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan, which reaches 19,551 feet (5,959 metres) in the Saint Elias Mountains. All along the coast there are spectacular fjords with precipitous cliffs that often rise 7,000 feet (2,100 metres) from the water. Off the coast is a chain of mountains that appear as a series of islands, the largest of which are Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). In the far north the main mountain groups are the Richardson, Mackenzie, Selwyn, and Pelly mountains. The rugged Cassiar Mountains stand just south of the Yukon border. The region is a major source of lead, zinc, copper, and gold; its eastern fringes contain coal deposits.

THE ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO

The Arctic Archipelago is composed of thousands of islands north of the Canadian mainland. The southeastern islands are an extension of the Canadian Shield. The balance consists of two distinctive landform regions: the Arctic lowlands to the south and the mountains of the Innuitian Region to the north. The Innuitian ranges are geologically young mountains similar to the Western Cordillera, with some peaks and ridges reaching 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). Much of the Innuitian Region is permanently covered with snow and ice through which mountain peaks occasionally protrude.

  • Drainage

With less than 1 percent of the world’s population, Canada has some one-seventh of the world’s supply of accessible fresh water. Much of this water is stored in lakes and wetlands that cover about one-fifth of Canada’s total area. The Great Lakes—the world’s largest surface of fresh water—are shared with the United States and form part of the international border. Other large lakes include Great Bear and Great Slave lakes in the Northwest Territories and Lakes Manitoba and Winnipeg in Manitoba. About three-fourths of Canada’s land area is drained by rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson and James bays. The Arctic drainage basin is dominated by the Mackenzie River, Canada’s longest river, which flows 2,635 miles (4,241 km) from its source to its mouth. With its many tributaries, it drains 690,000 square miles (1,800,000 square km). The St. Lawrence is the largest river flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Its drainage basin includes the Great Lakes, forming an inland navigable waterway extending some 2,340 miles (3,765 km) into the heart of the continent. The longest Pacific-draining river that is wholly within Canada is the Fraser. The Yukon and Columbia rivers, which both rise in Canada, also flow to the Pacific, but they do so through the United States (Alaska and Washington state, respectively).

The utility of Canadian rivers is limited by two factors: many flow through the northern part of the country, which is sparsely populated, and most of them are frozen over in winter. In the densely settled regions, pollution has further reduced the usefulness of the water. Almost all Canadian rivers are characterized by rapids and falls, many of which have been developed for hydroelectricity.

  • Climate

Because of its great latitudinal extent, Canada has a wide variety of climates. Ocean currents play an important role, with both the warm waters of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and the Alaska Current in the Pacific affecting climate. Westerly winds, blowing from the sea to the land, are the prevailing air currents in the Pacific and bring coastal British Columbia heavy precipitation and moderate winter and summer temperatures. Inland, the Great Lakes moderate the weather in both southern Ontario and Quebec. In the east the cold Labrador Current meets the Gulf Stream along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, cooling the air and causing frequent fog.

The northern two-thirds of the country has a climate similar to that of northern Scandinavia, with very cold winters and short, cool summers. The central southern area of the interior plains has a typical continental climate—very cold winters, hot summers, and relatively sparse precipitation. Southern Ontario and Quebec have a climate with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters, similar to that of some portions of the American Midwest. Except for the west coast, all of Canada has a winter season with average temperatures below freezing and with continuous snow cover.

TEMPERATURES

In the winter those parts of the country farthest from open water are the coldest, so that in the interior plains and in the North the winters are extremely cold. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −81 °F (−63 °C) at Snag, Yukon, in 1947. During the summer, however, the parts of Canada farthest from open water are the warmest. The highest temperature recorded was 113 °F (45 °C) at Midale and Yellow Grass, both in Saskatchewan, in 1937. Thus, west-coast Vancouver has an average January temperature of 37 °F (3 °C) and an average July temperature of 64 °F (18 °C), while in Regina, Saskatchewan, on the interior plains, average temperatures vary from −1 to 67 °F (−18 to 19 °C). The daily range of temperature is also narrower on the coasts than in interior locations.

RAINFALL

Humid air masses from the Pacific cause enormous quantities of orographic (mountain-caused) rain to fall on the west coast and mountain areas. Several sites along the British Columbia coast receive annual quantities in excess of 100 inches (2,500 mm), but British Columbia receives much less precipitation in summer than in winter because low-pressure systems move on a more northerly track in summer and seldom cross the southern part of the coast. Vancouver has an annual average precipitation of about 40 inches (1,000 mm).

In the interior plains and the North (Arctic and subarctic), precipitation is seldom more than 15 inches (400 mm) per year; it drops to as low as 2 inches (50 mm) at Eureka on Ellesmere Island. As air currents generally move from west to east, the west-coast mountains effectively keep marine air out. Spring and summer are wetter than winter.

Ontario and Quebec have more rainfall than the interior plains because the air masses pick up water vapour from the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Average annual precipitation is about 30 inches (800 mm) in Toronto and 40 inches (1,000 mm) in Montreal. Because winters are not as cold as in the interior plains, the air is less dry, and enough snow falls to make winter and summer precipitation about equivalent.

The Atlantic Provinces are wetter than the provinces of Central Canada. Yearly precipitation, most of which is cyclonic in origin, exceeds 50 inches (1,250 mm) in places and is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. There are few thunderstorms, and the low Appalachian Mountains produce only a little orographic rainfall. In general, the rainfall on Canada’s east coast is less than that on the west coast because the prevailing wind is offshore.

SNOWFALL

Canada’s snowfall does not follow the same pattern as rainfall. In the North and the interior plains, snowfall is light because cold air is very dry. The snow is hard and dry, falls in small amounts, and is packed down by the constant wind. The east and west coasts are areas of lighter snowfall because the ocean usually makes the air too warm for large quantities of snow to fall. The depth of snow increases inland from each coast, reaching maximums of about 240 inches (6,100 mm) in the Rocky Mountains and on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Still farther inland, a lack of moisture brings the depth of snow down again. Freezing precipitation may occur during the colder months in any part of the country, occasionally disrupting transportation and communication.

  • Soils and plant and animal life

Both landforms and climate affect the distribution of plants, animals, and soils. Ecologists recognize broad regions called ecosystems that are characterized by fairly stable complexes of climate, soils, and plant and animal life. The boundaries of these regions are not usually sharp lines on the landscape but are broad transition areas. The discussion that follows concentrates on preagricultural, or natural, vegetation. In southern Canada only remnants of these ecosystems remain.

TUNDRA

Tundra is the dominant land type of the Arctic and subarctic regions. Tundra also exists above the timberline in the Western Cordillera, but the discussion here is generally confined to the northern tundra. With long, cold winters, short, cool summers, and low precipitation, the soils are thin or absent, and the vegetation is sparse. The tundra is highly susceptible to environmental damage. Because of the small number of plant and animal species and the fragility of the food chains, damage to any element of the habitat may have an immediate chain reaction through the system. The permafrost (persistently frozen ground) is easily damaged by heavy equipment and by oil spills. The Inuit, who fish, hunt, and trap for a living, are directly affected by abuses of the ecology.

Considering the climatic conditions, tundra vegetation is quite varied. The long daylight periods of spring and summer contribute to sudden, rapid growth. Although the rock deserts are almost devoid of vegetation, relatively fast-growing mosses often surround large rocks. In rock crevices such plants as the purple saxifrage survive, and the rock surfaces themselves may support lichens, some of the orange and vermilion species adding colour to the landscape. Lichen tundra is found in the drier and better-drained parts. Mosses are common, and some species may dominate the landscape to such an extent that it appears snow-covered. The heath and alpine tundra support dwarf, often berry-bearing, shrubs, and the ground between usually is covered with a thick carpet of lichens and mosses.

The distinctive animals of the tundra are seals and polar bears, the latter feeding on seals, and musk oxen, caribou, arctic hares, and lemmings, which feed on the tundra vegetation and are prey for wolves and white Arctic foxes. Few birds make the tundra their year-round habitat, great snowy owls and ptarmigan being exceptions. Numerous birds that normally live in mild climates, however, often fly to the tundra for nesting. Two large birds that do this are the snow goose and the Canada goose (see photograph).

FOREST REGIONS

Canada has several large and distinct forest zones, which blend into a number of transitional zones. The northern coniferous, or boreal, forest (taiga) is the world’s second largest area of uninterrupted forest; only Russia has a greater expanse of boreal forest. The severe winter and short growing season limit the number of tree species. Among them the white and black spruce and white birch are common, and balsam (fir) and tamarack (larch) also have wide distribution. The boreal forest is an important source of pulpwood and also produces considerable lumber, but much of the northern area is too inaccessible for commercial lumbering.

A vast transitional zone, the taiga shield, comprising some 500,000 square miles (1,300,000 square km) of mixed boreal and tundra growth, connects the northern forest and the tundra region. Generally, the trees in this subarctic zone, with its cold, dry climate, are small and of little commercial consequence. The zone, underlaid with intermittent permafrost, can be characterized as an ecological crossroads, with a balance almost as delicate as that of the tundra.

Along the southern edge of the boreal forest lie two other transitional zones. In the interior plains the forest merges with the grasslands to create an arc of aspen parkland, characterized by prairie vegetation dotted with groves of quaking (trembling) aspen and other poplar species in low moist areas and along valley bottoms. East of the Manitoba-Ontario border is a band of mixed coniferous-deciduous forest that extends into both the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands and the Appalachian region. In addition to the species of the boreal forest, there are white pine, red pine, white cedar, and eastern hemlock. The deciduous trees include sugar maple, red maple, beech, red oak, and white ash.

Remnants of the only predominantly deciduous forest in Canada grow in the most southerly portion of the southwestern Ontario peninsula. This is an extension of the Carolinian forest zone of the United States, and, in addition to the species it shares with the mixed forest, it contains trees usually found much farther south, such as the tulip tree, sycamore, black and white oak, and several types of hickory.

As might be expected from the strong relief and the sudden change in climate within relatively short distances, the forests of the Western Cordillera are complex. The subalpine forest, of Engelmann and white spruce and lodgepole pine, is characteristic of the slopes of the Rockies from about 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) up to the timberline. The forests of the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee mountains contain Engelmann spruce at higher elevations, merging with western red cedar and western hemlock on the lower slopes. Douglas fir is common on drier slopes. A generally open forest of aspen and yellow pine interspersed with glades of grass is typical of the ranges that traverse the rather arid interior plateau. Douglas fir and lodgepole pine are found on higher slopes.

The forest of the Pacific coast, where steep slopes facing moisture-bearing winds produce a high rainfall, is Canada’s densest tall timber forest. Abundant moisture and a long growing season are conducive to the growth of evergreens with very hard wood, excellent for construction lumber. Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar are the outstanding trees; they grow to great height and thickness. Alder, cottonwood, and maple are subsidiary, along with western white pine and various kinds of spruce. Dense stands of immense trees—their trunks rising to considerable heights and their crowns almost touching—give a grandeur to the forest.

Canada’s forest soils are acidic, the result of various degrees to which minerals are leached out of the topsoil; they are thus relatively infertile for agriculture. The degree of acidity and leaching is greater in the coniferous and less in the mixed and deciduous forests. With proper soil management, the mixed and deciduous forest soils make good farmland.

Wildlife regions correspond closely to the different forest zones. The subarctic supports large numbers of woodland caribou. The boreal forest includes nearly all species of mammals and birds recognized as distinctively Canadian. Among these are moose, beavers, Canada lynx, black bears, wolves, snowshoe hares, and a variety of birds, including Canada jays, blue jays, gray jays, ravens, and crows. In summer the coniferous forest fills with scores of varieties of warblers and other small birds that go north to nest. Farther south, white-tailed deer thrive on the forest borders and partially cleared areas. There are also numerous smaller mammals, including gray and red squirrels, minks, raccoons, muskrats, skunks, jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, groundhogs, and a variety of mice and moles. In southern Ontario the wild turkey, which had disappeared because of hunting and reduction of its habitat, was reintroduced in the 1980s with some success. Coyotes are now seen as far south as the parkland ravines of Toronto. A broad range of wildlife species inhabit the Western Cordillera, with its wide variety of terrain and vegetation. Rocky Mountain sheep, mountain goats, elk, mule deer, and black bears are common in the southern mountains.

GRASSLANDS

The southern portion of the interior plains is too dry for forests and gives rise to grasslands or natural prairies. The native vegetation of the most southerly area consists of shortgrass with sagebrush and cactus. Farther north, where there is slightly more precipitation, there is a band of tallgrass prairie. At its northern limit the grasslands merge with the transitional parkland at the edge of the boreal forest. Today the grass area is small, crops having replaced grass in all but dry or hilly areas.

With its high organic matter and mineral content, the grassland soils are among Canada’s most fertile. The best soils for crops are the dark brown to black soils of the tallgrass and parkland zone, the area of Canada that is famous for wheat cultivation. The less fertile light brown soils of the shortgrass country tend to be alkaline, and the predominant agricultural activities are dryland farming and grazing. Wind erosion is a serious problem in prairie regions wherever the grassland has been converted to cultivated farmland.

Among the common grassland mammals are Richardson’s ground squirrel and the pocket gopher, both of which damage young grain crops. They continue to proliferate despite predation by badgers, hawks, and owls and farmers’ attempts at control. The first settlers to cross the Canadian prairies encountered enormous herds of bison (often called buffalo), but by the end of the 19th century hunters had reduced their numbers to near extinction. Bison may now be seen only in wildlife reserves. With the bison gone, mule deer and the pronghorn antelope are the remaining large mammals on the shortgrass plain. Farm drainage projects and extended drought have greatly reduced the prairie’s waterfowl habitat, causing a decline in their numbers.

Demography of Canada

The People

  • Principal ethnic groups

Canada contains a mixture of diverse national and cultural groups. At the time of Canada’s first census, in 1871, about half the population was British and nearly one-third was French. Since that time the proportion of Canadians of British and French ancestry has dropped to about one-fourth each, as fewer people have immigrated from the United Kingdom and France and considerably more have arrived from other countries in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Because immigrant groups have tended to settle in particular locales, they generally have retained their cultural identity. For example, Ukrainians largely migrated to the Prairie Provinces, where the land and climate were similar to their homeland, and many Dutch settled on the flat, fertile farmland of southwestern Ontario, where they practiced fruit and vegetable growing as they had done in the Netherlands. Many Chinese, Portuguese, Greeks, and Italians have settled in specific sections of large cities, particularly Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

The mix of ethnic groups differs greatly from province to province. The proportion of people claiming ancestry from the British Isles ranges from about two-thirds in Newfoundland and Labrador to less than 5 percent in Quebec; the proportion of people of French descent ranges from a majority in Quebec to less than 2 percent in Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan. More than one-third of Canadians identify themselves as being of mixed, or “multiple,” origins.

  • U.S. immigration

Historically, Canada received many immigrants from the United States, particularly during and after the American Revolution (1775–83), when colonists who remained loyal to the British crown (known as Tories in the United States and United Empire Loyalists in Canada) moved to what are now the Maritime Provinces and southern Quebec and Ontario. By 1790 about one-sixth of British North America’s total population was from territory that had become the United States. The American immigrants had been exposed to the ideas of representative government that had evolved along the Atlantic seaboard, and their ideas of governmental institutions were blended in Canada with those of people who came directly from Britain. There was some migration from the United States to Canada during the mid-19th century that increased in the late 19th and 20th centuries, but immigration to the United States from Canada was significantly higher.

  • Native peoples

An estimated 200,000 Indians (First Nations) and Inuit were living in what is now Canada when Europeans began to settle there in the 16th century. For the next 200 years the native population declined, largely as a result of European territorial encroachment and the diseases that the settlers brought. However, the native population increased dramatically after 1950, with high birth rates and access to improved medical care. Some one million people in Canada now identify themselves as Indian, Métis (of mixed European and Indian ancestry), or Inuit; of this number, more than three-fifths are Indian, nearly one-third Métis, and most of the remainder Inuit. Together they comprise less than 5 percent of Canada’s total population, though aboriginal peoples constitute half of the population of the Northwest Territories and a considerably greater proportion of Nunavut. The largest of the Indian groups is the Cree, which includes some 120,000 people.

In Canada the word Indian has a legal definition given in the Indian Act of 1876. People legally defined as Indians are known as status Indians. Indians who have chosen to give up their status rights or who have lost them through intermarriage with those of European ancestry are called nonstatus Indians. (Beginning in 1985, Canadian law has allowed those who lost their status through intermarriage to reclaim it, and marriage no longer triggers an automatic loss of status.) Through treaties with the Canadian government, more than 600 status Indian bands occupy more than 2,250 reserves. The resources of these reserves are quite limited, and the majority of status Indians have a standard of living below the Canadian average. The treaties and agreements about reserves apply to only a portion of the Indian people. Large tracts of land were never taken from the Indians by treaty, and various groups are still negotiating land claims and self-government with the federal and provincial governments. These negotiations made significant progress, and in 1996 the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples concluded that Canada needed to protect the distinctive values and lifestyles of its aboriginal peoples.

The Inuit who inhabit the far north do not have any reserves and are not protected by any treaties. Many of them—a number estimated to be more than 40,000—still live in scattered camps and settlements of 25 to 500 people, although larger towns such as Iqaluit in Nunavut are growing rapidly. Since the latter part of the 20th century, mining, oil exploration and pipeline construction, and mammoth hydroelectric developments have greatly affected their traditional way of living off the land. The worldwide decline in demand for furs greatly diminished their income, and the Inuit came to depend increasingly on government social and welfare programs. Education and training programs were instituted to enable them to compete for employment. Perhaps the most decisive step, however, was the creation in 1999 of the territory of Nunavut— carved out of the eastern section of the Northwest Territories—with a largely Inuit population and an advanced form of self-government.

  • Languages

Canada’s constitution established both English and French as official languages. However, English is dominant throughout most of the country; only one province, New Brunswick, is officially bilingual, and French is the official provincial language only in Quebec, where French is the first language of four-fifths of the population. About three-fifths of Canadians speak English as their first language, while less than one-fourth identify French as their primary tongue. The mother tongue of nearly one-fifth of Canadians is a language other than English or French; most speak another European language (notably Italian and German), but the largest immigrant group speaks Chinese, reflecting the growth in Chinese immigration since the 1980s. Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit, has a number of variations. Cree is the most common of the native languages.

  • Religion

About seven-eighths of Canada’s population claim affiliation in some degree with an organized religious faith. Most are either Roman Catholic or Protestant; the major Protestant churches are the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Lutheran church. Roman Catholics constitute the largest single religious group, accounting for more than two-fifths of the population. Protestants, the second largest group, make up nearly two-fifths of the population. In Quebec more than four-fifths of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic, and New Brunswick also has a Roman Catholic majority. Canada’s religious composition reflects the most recent immigration trends; in the last two decades of the 20th century, the numbers of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists rose sharply. The numbers of Jews and adherents of the Eastern Orthodox faith also has risen. About one-eighth of Canadians classify themselves as nonreligious.

  • Settlement patterns

When Europeans began exploring and developing resources in what is now Canada, they found the land sparsely populated by many different Indian peoples in the south and the Inuit in the north. The native peoples were primarily hunters and gatherers and often were nomadic. Because they were few in number, the native peoples made little impact on the natural environment; they harvested only the resources needed for their own consumption, and there were no large settlements. Even though the native peoples had lived in the area for thousands of years, the Europeans perceived that they had found a pristine country with rich resources that awaited exploitation.

Different groups of Europeans came at different times to develop and export the abundant fish, furs, forests, and minerals. With the development of each new resource, new settlements were established. Most of the settlements based on these resources remained small, however, and some of them disappeared when their resources were depleted. A few port cities—including the eastern cities of St. John’s, Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Saint John, New Brunswick—continued to grow as they benefited from the export of successive resources. Montreal owed its early growth to the fur trade, but later it became an important entrepôt for exporting a succession of raw and processed materials and importing manufactured goods from Europe. Later Toronto and the west-coast city of Vancouver also grew quickly because of entrepôt activities. Winnipeg, Manitoba, owed its early growth to its gateway role in the agricultural development of the interior plains.

Except for the port cities, Canada’s most densely settled areas and largest cities developed in the areas with good agricultural land. Some nine-tenths of the population lives within a narrow strip of land along the U.S.-Canadian border—an area that constitutes only about one-tenth of Canada’s total land area. Intensive commercial agriculture in the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands gave rise to a dense network of villages, towns, and cities. Later, manufacturing and service industries reinforced population growth in this region, making it Canada’s urban, industrial, and financial heartland. Villages, towns, and cities also evolved from the agricultural pursuits in the western grasslands, but, because the manufacturing and service sectors did not grow, those areas were much less intensively urbanized. The development of the petroleum industry there, however, did stimulate the growth of two large cities, Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta.

At the beginning of the 20th century, about one-third of Canadians lived in urban areas, but by the end of the century four-fifths of the population lived in communities of more than 10,000 people and nearly three-fifths resided in metropolitan areas of 100,000 or more.

The growth of most of Canada’s large cities on good farmland, characterized by a low-density pattern of urban sprawl, has aroused considerable public concern about reducing Canada’s limited agricultural land resources. In the Niagara Peninsula of southwestern Ontario, the area with the best climate in Canada for producing soft fruits and grapes, urbanization has destroyed some one-third of the fruit land. To prevent further reduction, the Ontario Municipal Board in the 1980s delineated permanent urban boundaries and ordered that urban growth be directed away from fruit-growing areas.

Settlement did not proceed sequentially westward from an Atlantic beginning. Permanent settlement depended on agricultural land—which in Canada occurs in patches, separated by physical barriers. Different patches were settled by people from various European countries, so that a diversity of cultures and settlement patterns developed across the country.

In the Appalachian region, farms are spaced along the roads at irregular intervals wherever land can be cultivated. In Quebec the first settlers laid off long, narrow tillage strips from the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence or the St. Lawrence River into the interior. As settlement moved farther inland, roads were built parallel to the waterways, from which further narrow lots extended on either side. The same pattern occurred in the Red River valley of Manitoba and even parts of Ontario, where the early settlers were also French.

In most of Ontario and the eastern townships of Quebec, land subdivision was made according to British and American surveying practices. The townships were more or less square, but the grid became irregular because it was started from a number of different points, each of which used a differently oriented base. In the Prairies, on the interior plains, the grid is much more regular, partly as a result of the topography and partly because a plan for the subdivision of the whole region was laid out before it was settled, and based rigidly on lines of latitude and longitude.

Settlement patterns in mountainous British Columbia were greatly influenced by water access routes.

  • Demographic trends

Traditionally Canada has sought to increase its population through immigration in order to expand the workforce and domestic markets. As a result, immigrants now make up about one-sixth of Canada’s total population. Immigration peaked in 1913, when more than 400,000 arrived. Immigration was discouraged during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but after World War II tens of thousands of displaced persons from Europe were admitted, and in the 1970s and ’80s large numbers of refugees from Europe, Asia, and Latin America were welcomed to Canada. Canada’s immigration policy is nondiscriminatory regarding ethnicity; however, individuals with special talents or with capital to invest are given preference. Since the latter part of the 20th century, Asian immigration (notably Chinese) has increased dramatically, accounting for about half of all immigrants during the 1990s.

During the first two decades of the 20th century, the notable feature of internal migration was the movement from eastern Canada to the Prairie Provinces. Although British Columbia has continued to gain from migration since the 1930s, much of this has been at the expense of the Prairie Provinces. Alberta gained population from throughout Canada during the oil boom of the 1970s. This trend leveled off in the 1980s and early ’90s, but it increased again at the beginning of the 21st century. Saskatchewan has had more emigration than immigration since the 1940s. Ontario consistently has received far more people since the 1940s than the other provinces, but most of this growth has been from immigration rather than interprovincial migrations. The population of the Atlantic Provinces has grown more slowly than it has in regions farther west. The cities of Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary have attracted both migrants and immigrants.

During the 20th century, natural increase, rather than immigration, was the major factor in Canada’s population growth. Until the 1960s the crude birth rate (live births per 1,000 population) remained in the high 20s, while the crude death rate (deaths per 1,000 population) declined from more than 10.6 in 1921 to 7.7 in 1961. Thereafter the rate of natural increase slowed, however, because of a sharp drop in the birth rate accompanied by a slight decrease in the death rate. The rate of natural increase is much lower than the world average and is about the same as those of the United States and Australia. Canada has an aging population. Whereas fewer than one in 10 Canadians were age 65 or older in the 1970s, by the start of the 21st century the figure stood at nearly one in six. Life expectancy in Canada, which averages about 80 years, is among the world’s highest.

Economy of Canada

The early settlement and growth of Canada depended on exploiting and exporting the country’s vast natural resources. During the 20th century, manufacturing industries and services became increasingly important. By the end of the 20th century, agriculture and mining accounted for less than 5 percent of Canada’s labour force, while manufacturing stood at one-fifth and services, including transportation, trade, finance, and other activities, employed nearly three-fourths of the workforce. For many years Canada supported its manufacturing industries through protective tariffs on imported manufactured goods. As a result, many U.S. firms established branch plants in order to supply the Canadian market. Another cornerstone of Canada’s economic policy was the government’s provision of grants and subsidies to stimulate economic development in areas of slow growth. In the 1980s Canada began moving away from these two basic policies. Compliance with international rules on trade and the establishment of a free trade area with the United States (1989)—which with the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 came to include Mexico—reduced protection for Canadian manufacturing plants. Funding for regional economic development programs was also reduced. Some multinational companies have relocated their factories to countries where costs are cheaper, causing job losses and political dissatisfaction within Canada.

Canada’s economy is dominated by the private sector, though some enterprises (e.g., postal services, some electric utilities, and some transportation services) have remained publicly owned. During the 1990s some nationalized industries were privatized. Canadian agriculture is firmly private, but it has come to depend on government subsidies in order to compete with the highly subsidized agricultural sectors of the European Union (EU) and the United States. Several marketing boards for specific farm commodities practice supply management and establish floor prices.

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
AGRICULTURE

Less than one-twelfth of Canada’s land area is suitable for crop production. About four-fifths of this cropland is in the Prairie Provinces, where long sunny days in summer and adequate precipitation combine to provide excellent grain yields. However, the widest range of crops and the highest yields occur in southwestern British Columbia and southern Ontario.

Although agriculture employs less than 4 percent of the Canadian labour force, it is vital to the national economy, producing large volumes of food for both the domestic and export markets and providing raw materials for food processing, wholesale, and retail industries. There has been a significant trend away from the family farm (more than one-fourth of Canadians lived on farms in the 1940s) toward larger farm units, mechanized farm operations, specialization in fewer products, and the use of improved varieties, breeds, and farming methods.

There are distinctive types of farming in different areas of the country. The Prairies are known for grain (particularly wheat), oilseeds (especially canola), and cattle grazing. Central and eastern Canada have a wider variety of crops and livestock, and farmers tend to specialize in either a particular cash crop or a livestock type. Southwestern Ontario produces large amounts of grain corn (maize), soybeans, and white beans. Both southern Ontario and southwestern British Columbia produce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Dairying is important around all the major cities. Because of the challenging climate and soil conditions, many Canadian farmers have embraced genetically modified organisms, though their disfavour in Europe jeopardizes exportability.

FORESTRY

Almost half of Canada’s land area is covered with forest, the accessible portions of which provide abundant resources for lumber, pulp, and paper. The most valuable forest region for timber production is the west coast, where the climate is conducive to the growth of giant trees with excellent lumber. Forest products form a larger part of Canada’s export trade than do the combined exports of farm, fish, and mineral products. Canada is the world leader in the export of pulp and paper and also exports large amounts of softwood lumber, mostly to the United States. British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec are the leading provinces in the production of forest products.

Canada’s forest industry has to struggle constantly against the threats of fire, insects, and disease. Some control of insects has been achieved through the aerial spraying of insecticides, but this practice also eradicates insect-eating birds and predator insects. Because forests have significant value in maintaining an ecological balance in the environment and also provide important recreational opportunities, the forest industry is increasingly held to account for environmentally damaging practices. For example, public pressure during the 1990s led to increased governmental supervision of logging methods and the forest industries’ implementation (on a voluntary basis) of sustainable resource-management methods (e.g., eliminating clear-cutting).

FISHING

Canada has rich fishing grounds off both the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. The parts of the continental shelf with the shallowest water are known as fishing banks; there plankton, on which fish feed, thrive because the sunlight penetrates to the seafloor. The most important of these fishing banks is the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Bradelle Bank, Sable Bank, Georges Bank (shared with the United States), and a number of other fishing banks are found off the coasts of the Maritime Provinces. On the Pacific coast the continental shelf is very narrow, but numerous mountain streams are suitable for salmon spawning. In the rivers of the far north and in the Arctic Ocean there are abundant fish on which large numbers of the native peoples depend for food. Overfishing and pollution depleted the fish resources in southern Canada significantly after the mid-20th century. Indeed, in 1992 the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on cod fishing—with disastrous effects for employment along the east coast. More international regulating agreements controlling catches have improved the situation somewhat. To offset the losses caused by smaller catches, fish prices rose sharply.

Canada catches only a tiny fraction of the fish taken from the world’s oceans, but it ranks among the leaders in volume of fish exports because of Canada’s relatively small population and low per capita fish consumption. Historically, in the Atlantic Provinces the fishing industry contributed significantly to the value of all goods produced in the region. Until the 1990s, small coastal communities throughout the region were wholly or partly dependent on the fishing industry. The most important species caught in eastern waters arehaddock, redfish, flatfish, turbot, pollock, flounder, sole, halibut, herring, mackerel, tuna, and lobster; cod remains an important sport fish. Salmon and herring are the leading catches off the Pacific coast.

  • Resources and power
MINERALS

Canada is rich in mineral resources. The vast Canadian Shield, with its masses of igneous and metamorphic rocks, contains numerous large deposits. Metallic minerals are also found in such rock types in the Western Cordillera and the Appalachians. Although there are some metallic mineral and fossil fuel deposits in sedimentary rocks in the Western Cordillera and the Appalachians (including the adjacent seabed), the largest volume of coal and petroleum has so far been found in the interior plains of western Canada. Mining has been a key factor in the development of Canada’s northlands. In many areas, roads and railroads built to serve new mining operations have encouraged the subsequent development of forest and recreational resources. Development has often been accompanied by environmental damage.

Canada has long ranked among the world leaders in the production of uranium, zinc, nickel, potash, asbestos, sulfur, cadmium, and titanium. It is also a major producer of iron ore, coal, petroleum, gold, copper, silver, lead, and a number of ferroalloys. Diamond mining, particularly in the Northwest Territories, is significant as well. As mining is no longer as labour-intensive as it once was, it now employs only a small portion of the Canadian labour force; however, mining-related industries (e.g., iron and steel and transportation) account for a much larger share. Because Canada exports a large proportion of its mineral production, the mining industry is sensitive to world price fluctuations. During times of high demand, prices rise, and mining companies increase their production and open new mines; when demand falls, production is cut, mines close, and workers are laid off. Single-industry communities typically become ghost towns when mines are closed.

ENERGY

Canada is richly endowed with hydroelectric power resources. It has about one-sixth of the world’s total installed hydroelectric generating capacity. However, most of the suitable hydroelectric sites have already been highly developed, with three-fifths of Canada’s power generated from hydroelectric sources. Increasingly, the country has turned to coal-fueled thermal energy, especially as nuclear power generation—which provides about one-eighth of Canada’s power—has declined because of safety concerns. Canada also has vast coal reserves, particularly in the western provinces (except Manitoba) and in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Canada can meet its own petroleum needs and has a surplus of natural gas and electricity. The largest producing oil and gas fields are in Alberta, but potential reserves lie both in the Arctic and off the east coast. There are also large deposits of uranium and of oil and coal mixed in sands.

  • Manufacturing

Manufacturing accounts for about one-fifth of Canada’s gross national product and employs about one-seventh of the labour force. Canada’s iron and steel industry is modern and efficient and produces steel products for the manufacture of such durable goods as motor vehicles, mining equipment, and household appliances. The United States and Canada negotiated an automotive products agreement in the mid-1960s, after which the Canadian automobile industry expanded dramatically. Until Japanese automakers began building plants in Canada in the 1980s, the industry consisted of branch plants of U.S. firms. The high-technology and electronics industries experienced rapid growth in the last two decades of the 20th century. Although there is some manufacturing in all large cities, more than three-fourths of Canadian manufacturing employment is located in the heartland, which extends from Quebec city to Windsor, Ontario, on the periphery of the U.S. automobile-manufacturing centre, Detroit, Michigan. Overall, manufacturing growth has been led by exports—principally to the United States. Both large and small manufacturers have benefited, particularly from free trade agreements, though employment in the sector declined as a result of automation.

  • Finance

Canadian financial services have exhibited a great deal of flexibility in responding to the monetary needs of the economy. To operate in Canada, a commercial bank must be individually chartered by the federal government. Most normal central-banking functions are fulfilled by the Bank of Canada, which has substantial autonomy in determining monetary policy. The official currency is the Canadian dollar, which is designed and distributed by the Bank of Canada. The national bank implements its monetary policies through its relations with the country’s large chartered (commercial) banks, which are highly developed and form the centre of the financial system. Other financial institutions—for example, credit unions, provincial savings banks, and trust and mortgage-loan companies—increasingly have amalgamated. However, the large banks, which are relatively free from controls on activities involving foreign exchange, still remain the main financial institutions.

Canada has stock exchanges in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg; exchanges in Alberta and Vancouver merged in 1999 to form the Canadian Venture Exchange. There is extensive interpenetration between Canadian and U.S. stock exchanges. In the bond market the role of government-sector borrowing traditionally has been dominant. The degree of foreign ownership of Canadian industry is very high, accounting for as much as half of the primary resource sector (except agriculture) and manufacturing. The largest portion of the foreign investment is from the United States.

  • Trade

Trade has always been central to Canada’s economy. Canada’s economic development historically depended on the export of large volumes of raw materials, especially fish, fur, grain, and timber. However, raw materials have declined as a percentage of Canada’s exports, while processed, fabricated, and manufactured goods have increased. By 1990 roughly four-fifths of Canada’s exports were processed to some degree. Since about the mid-1970s the leading Canadian exports have been automobiles (which account for about one-fourth of the total value of exports), automobile parts, and other types of machinery and equipment, particularly such high-technology products as computerized communication systems. Fabricated metals and other materials and forestry products, including wood pulp and newsprint, are other important exports.

Manufactured goods have always been Canada’s primary imported goods. Automobiles and automobile parts are the leading imports, followed by industrial machinery. Other significant imports are chemical products, textiles, petroleum, and such foods as vegetables in the winter season and tropical and subtropical fruits and nuts.

The United States is Canada’s chief trading partner, constituting about three-fourths of all Canadian trade; exports account for a larger share of trade than imports. The dependence on U.S. trade is not just a technical matter of market shares in imports and exports. Because exports are so important, business trends in the United States feed back directly and quickly into the Canadian business sector. Changes in consumer tastes in the United States may have disproportionate effects on Canadian producers.

Canada also retains strong ties with Europe, but newly emerging trade patterns may decrease somewhat Canada’s dependence on its traditional pattern. Japan now ranks as Canada’s second largest trading partner. Other important partners include the United Kingdom, Mexico, China, and Germany.

  • Services

The service sector in Canada employs more people than all other activities combined. Among the fastest-growing service areas is tourism. Canada is one of the world’s leading destinations for foreign travelers, particularly from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Germany. Canadian and foreign travelers spend several billion dollars each year on transportation, accommodations, food, recreation, and entertainment as they travel in the country. By 1990 tourism was providing employment for about 5 percent of Canada’s total labour force. Business services—particularly in computer applications—also have grown considerably.

  • Labour and taxation

About one-fourth of Canada’s labour force belongs to trade unions, many of which are linked to unions based in the United States. The Canadian unions tend to strive for wage parity with their American counterparts. This causes labour-management tensions because Canadian productivity levels are generally lower than those in the United States, which is primarily the result of smaller production runs. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), formed in 1956, is a national organization of independent trade unions that represents about two-thirds of all unionists. Among the largest affiliates of the CLC are the National Union of Public and General Employees, the National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada.

In comparison with the United States, Canadian individual income tax rates are higher, which, combined with the generally higher wages south of the border, leads many professionals to seek employment in the United States. Overall, tax revenues account for about one-fifth of gross domestic product. Personal income taxes generally make up between two-fifths and half of the federal government’s total revenue, while corporate income taxes generate slightly more than one-tenth of the total. Other important federal taxes include various consumption taxes (e.g., on sales, fuel, alcohol, customs, and tobacco) and health and social insurance taxes. The provinces and territories receive revenue from the federal government to fund various services, including health care and education. The federal government also provides so-called “equalization” transfers to the provincial governments, which subsidize poorer areas. Provincial and local governments can also raise taxes for their needs.

  • Transportation and telecommunications

It was essential that Canada develop an efficient transportation system because of its enormous size, the patchiness of its population distribution, and the need to move primary and manufactured goods over long distances to coastal ports.

ROADS AND HIGHWAYS

The populated sections of Canada are well traversed by highways and roads, but vast areas of the larger provinces and the territories that are sparsely settled are virtually without roads of any kind. Access to outlying settlements is often provided by roads built by logging, pulp and paper, and mining companies, although these are not always available for public travel. When the Trans-Canada Highway was opened officially in 1962, it became possible to drive the 4,860-mile (7,821-km) route from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Victoria, British Columbia. Ferry connections extend the highway on both coasts, and in 1997 an 8-mile (13-km) bridge linking Prince Edward Island to the mainland was completed. Highway networks are dense in the urban industrial heartland, and motor vehicles are ubiquitous, numbering more than one for every two inhabitants. The trucking industry grew steadily after World War II—and spectacularly after the introduction of NAFTA. Public concern over highway safety has increased with the density of commercial traffic.

RAILWAYS

The number of railway miles per capita in Canada is among the world’s highest. Although the railways connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the major networks are confined to the southern part of the country. Even in the west, where they extend farthest north, the transcontinental routes do not go north of Edmonton, Alberta, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. North-south regional lines, however, reach Hudson Bay at Churchill, Manitoba; James Bay at Moosonee, Ontario; and central Labrador at Schefferville, Quebec.

Two transcontinental systems operate most of Canada’s railway facilities. The Canadian National Railways (CN) system, formerly a government-owned body, was privatized in 1995. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) is a joint-stock corporation. Although these systems are highly competitive, they cooperate on many routes where duplication of service would not be profitable. They are supplemented by a major north-south line on the west coast, the British Columbia Railway, and a number of regional railways serve mining and timber resource developments in the North. Thousands of railway miles have been retired, particularly in the Prairie Provinces, but new railroads to the vast resources in the North have also been constructed, leaving the total track mileage relatively unchanged.

The retirement of track miles is at least partly related to the major decline in the railway share of passenger transportation after World War II in favour of automobile and air travel. In 1977 the Canadian government created VIA Rail, a crown corporation that assumed responsibility for most passenger trains. VIA Rail owns its trains, but it uses the tracks and other facilities of CN and CP. Even though VIA Rail introduced new equipment and improved services, it was not able to stem the tide of declining railway passenger travel. Beginning in the late 1980s, government subsidies were cut and many passenger routes discontinued. Most of Canada’s railway passenger service is concentrated in the densely populated corridor from Windsor to Quebec city. GO Transit, an agency of the Ontario government, began operating commuter trains in the heavily urbanized area around Toronto in 1967. Similar commuter train operations began in the Montreal area in 1984 and in the Vancouver region in 1995.

WATERWAYS

A large proportion of goods carried in Canada, in both domestic and international trade, uses water facilities for some part of its journey. The inland shipping routes are dominated by the 2,342-mile (3,769-km) St. Lawrence–Great Lakes waterway, which provides navigation for vessels of 26-foot (8-metre) draft to the head of Lake Superior. It includes the major canals of Canada. There are seven locks between Montreal and Lake Ontario; the Welland Canal bypasses the Niagara River and Niagara Falls between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie with eight locks; and the Sault Sainte Marie Canal and lock link Lakes Huron and Superior. The 16 locks overcome a drop of some 582 feet (177 metres) from the head of the lakes to Montreal. The St. Lawrence Seaway accommodates all but the largest oceangoing vessels, making the upper St. Lawrence and Great Lakes area open to four-fifths of the world’s maritime fleet. The main commodities shipped are grain from Thunder Bay on Lake Superior to St. Lawrence ports, and iron ore to steel mills in both Canada and the United States.

On the west coast, large volumes of forest products, coal, and crude oil are moved by tug and barge operations. On both the east and especially the west coasts there are extensive networks of ferry services. Shipping is crucial to the development of the Canadian Arctic, as it provides a means of transporting mineral resources to markets and bringing supplies to remote communities. In addition to ocean shipping to the Arctic, barges transport supplies along the Mackenzie River all the way to its mouth.

By international standards the Canadian merchant fleet is quite small. Most Canadian-registered merchant vessels operate on domestic routes, and only a few Canadian-flag ships operate deep-sea routes. The Canadian Coast Guard ensures that all ships plying Canadian waters, including the Arctic waterways, meet the requirements of the Canada Shipping Act and follow pollution-prevention procedures; it also operates icebreakers, which keep shipping lanes open, and provides service for the far north.

AIRWAYS

Vast distances, rugged terrain, and extreme variations in climate have shaped the development of civil aviation in Canada and made air transport tremendously important. Air Canada forms the nucleus of Canada’s domestic freight and passenger air service. Several regional domestic air carriers are affiliated with Air Canada and operate other scheduled commercial services. Smaller carriers operate limited scheduled services, some of them to parts of Canada that are inaccessible by other means of transportation. There are also a number of sizable charter operations, which, like Air Canada, operate both international and domestic routes. An open-skies agreement between Canada and the United States in 1995 provided both Canadian and American airlines with increased transborder opportunities.

Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport is by far the busiest in the country, handling annually some one-third of Canada’s passenger traffic and more than two-fifths of its air cargo. Montreal has two major airports: Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the chief business airport, and Mirabel, some 20 miles (32 km) north of the city, which specializes in charters and cargo.

PIPELINES

Pipelines are a major element in Canada’s vast transportation network. Growth has been rapid since 1950, when pipelines were a negligible factor in intercity freight traffic. Some of the world’s longest petroleum and natural gas pipelines link the oil and gas fields of Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan to major cities as far east as Montreal, and two major pipelines several hundred miles in length cross the Rocky Mountains and supply the lower mainland of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s, Canadian crude production using pipelines increased fourfold.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Canada has one of the world’s highest ratios of telephones per capita, with virtually all households having at least one phone. This penetration helped spur the development of Canada’s high-technology sector, particularly in the Ottawa valley (sometimes dubbed “Silicon Valley North”). Indeed, New Brunswick was home to North America’s first fully digitized telephone network. The federal Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission regulates telecommunications commerce. The market, once dominated by three large privately owned companies, has become more competitive since 1980, as a growing number of companies have been licensed to provide local, long-distance, and cellular service. As a result, costs have declined and services have expanded. Likewise, competition among satellite-communication providers has also opened up since 2000, when Telesat Canada relinquished the monopoly it had held on the market since 1969. Computer use in offices and homes is widespread, and Canada’s population has one of the world’s highest proportions of Internet users. The country is also a global leader in the use of fibre-optics technology.

Government and Society of Canada

  • Constitutional framework

Formally, Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The titular head is the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom (locally called the king or queen of Canada), who is represented locally by a governor-general (now always Canadian and appointed by the Canadian prime minister). In practice, however, Canada is an independent federal state established in 1867 by the British North America Act. The act created a self-governing British dominion (recognized as independent within the British Empire by Britain in 1931) and united the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada into the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. Rupert’s Land and the Northwest Territories were acquired from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869, and from them Manitoba was created and admitted to the confederation as a province in 1870; its extent was enlarged by adding more areas from the territories in 1881 and 1912. The colonies of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island were admitted as provinces in 1871 and 1873, respectively. In 1905 Saskatchewan and Alberta were created from what remained of the Northwest Territories and admitted to the confederation as provinces. In 1912 the provinces of Quebec and Ontario were enlarged by adding areas from the Northwest Territories. In 1949 Newfoundland and its mainland dependency, Labrador, joined the confederation following a popular referendum (the province was officially renamed Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001). The Yukon Territory (renamed Yukon in 2003) was separated from the Northwest Territories in 1898, and Nunavut was created from the eastern part of the territories in 1999. Thus, Canada now consists of 10 provinces and 3 territories, which vary greatly in size.

All vestiges of British control ended in 1982, when the British Parliament passed the Canada Act, which formally made Canada responsible for all changes to its own constitution. The Canada Act (also known as the Constitution Act) is not an exhaustive statement of the laws and rules by which Canada is governed. Broadly speaking, the Canadian constitution includes other statutes of the United Kingdom; statutes of the Parliament of Canada relating to such matters as the succession to the throne, the demise of the crown (i.e., death of the monarch), the governor-general, the Senate, the House of Commons, electoral districts, elections, and royal style and titles; and statutes of provincial legislatures relating to provincial legislative assemblies. Many of the rules and procedures of Parliament are not laid down in the Constitution Act but are established by (often British) convention and precedent.

The constitution stipulates that either English or French may be used in all institutions (including the courts) of the Parliament and government of Canada and in all institutions of the National Assembly of Quebec, the legislature of New Brunswick, and their governments. The act guarantees Quebec the right to a Roman Catholic school system under Roman Catholic control, exclusive jurisdiction over property and civil rights, and the French system of civil law. The 1982 constitution was amended to include a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides extensive protections for civil liberties. Further amendments to the constitution require the support of the bicameral federal Parliament (House of Commons and Senate) and seven provinces that together represent half of the population. All the provinces approved the constitution except Quebec, which claimed that it infringed on its policy of restricting the use of the English language, did not give Quebec a veto on future constitutional changes, and failed to officially recognize Quebec as a distinct society. Efforts have been made at the national level to create a dual culture in Canada rather than simply to preserve two cultures. Thus, the Official Languages Act of 1969 declares that the English and French languages “enjoy equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all the institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada.”

Federal legislative authority is vested in the Parliament of Canada, which consists of the sovereign (governor-general), the House of Commons, and the Senate. Both the House of Commons, which has 308 directly elected members, and the Senate, which normally consists of 105 appointed members, must pass all legislative bills before they can receive royal assent and become law. Both bodies may originate legislation, but only the House of Commons may introduce bills for the expenditure of public funds or the imposition of any tax. The House of Commons is more powerful than the Senate, whose chief functions include investigation, reviewing government legislation, and debating key national and regional issues.

The governor-general, who holds what is now a largely ceremonial position, is appointed by the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth upon the advice of the Canadian government. The governor-general formally summons, prorogues, and dissolves Parliament, assents to bills, and exercises other executive functions. After a general election, the governor-general calls on the leader of the party winning the most seats in the House of Commons to become prime minister and to form a government. The prime minister then chooses a cabinet, generally drawn from among the members of the House of Commons from that same party. Almost all cabinet ministers head executive departments, and the cabinet, led by the prime minister, develops all policies and secures passage of legislation.

The ministers of the crown, as members of the cabinet are called, are chosen generally to represent all regions of the country and its principal cultural, religious, and social interests. Although they exercise executive power, cabinet members are collectively responsible to the House of Commons and remain in office only so long as they retain its confidence. The choice of the Canadian electorate not only determines who shall govern Canada but also, by deciding which party receives the second largest number of seats in the House, designates which of the major parties becomes the official opposition. The function of the opposition is to offer intelligent and constructive criticism of the existing government.

The Canada Act divides legislative and executive authority between the federal government and the provinces. Among the main responsibilities of the national government are defense, trade and commerce, banking, credit, currency and bankruptcy, criminal law, citizenship, taxation, postal services, fisheries, transportation, and telecommunications. In addition, the federal government is endowed with a residual authority in matters beyond those specifically assigned to the provincial legislatures, including the power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Canada.

  • Provincial government

Provincial political institutions and constitutional usages mirror those operating at the federal level. In each province the sovereign is represented by a lieutenant governor appointed by the governor-general in council, usually for a term of five years. The provincial lieutenant governor exercises powers similar to those of the federal governor-general.

Each province holds elections for a single-chamber legislative assembly, from which a premier and cabinet are selected; legislators serve for five-year terms. The provinces have powers embracing mainly matters of local or private concern such as property and civil rights, education, civil law, provincial company charters, municipal government, hospitals, licenses, management and sale of public lands, and direct taxation within the province for provincial purposes. The vast and sparsely populated regions of northern Canada lying outside the 10 provinces—Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut—are administered by the federal government, but they elect members to the House of Commons and enjoy local self-government.

A major part of Canada’s constitutional development has occurred gradually through judicial interpretation and constitutional convention and through executive and administrative coordination at the federal and provincial levels of government. Through such devices, the national and provincial legislatures have been able to retain their separate jurisdictions over different aspects of the same matters. Regular meetings of provincial premiers and the federal prime minister are held to discuss federal-provincial jurisdictional issues, generally ensuring an accommodation that gives fair assurances to the aspirations of the provinces without disrupting the integrated national structure of Canada.

  • Local government

Because municipal government falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces, there are 10 distinct systems of municipal government in Canada, as well as many variations within each system. The variations are attributable to differences in historical development and in area and population density. Thus, the legislature of each province has divided its territory into geographic areas known generally as municipalities and, more particularly, as counties, cities, towns, villages, townships, rural municipalities, or municipal districts.

The county system as understood in Britain or the United States exists only in southern Ontario and southern Quebec. County councils are composed of representatives from rural townships, towns, and villages and provide a second level of services for the whole county. This two-tiered municipal government was first extended to urban areas when Metropolitan Toronto was established in 1953. A number of other highly urbanized areas in Ontario have since adopted a metropolitan or regional form of government to deal with common areawide problems. More recently, cities such as Toronto have been further amalgamated with their surrounding districts; at the same time, the number of representative councillors has been reduced.

The more than 4,500 incorporated municipalities and local government districts in Canada have various powers and responsibilities suited to their classification. A municipality is governed by an elected council. The responsibilities of the municipalities are generally those most closely associated with the citizens’ everyday life, well-being, and protection. In addition to local municipal government, there are numerous local boards and commissions, some elected and others appointed, to administer education, utilities, libraries, and other local services.

The sparsely populated areas of the provinces are usually administered as territories by the provincial governments. Aboriginal self-government became an increasingly important issue during the last two decades of the 20th century.

  • Justice

Canadian courts of law are independent bodies. Each province has its police, division, county, and superior courts, with the right of appeal being available throughout provincial courts and to the federal Supreme Court of Canada. At the federal level, the Federal Court has civil and criminal jurisdictions with appeal and trial divisions. All judges, except police magistrates and judges of the courts of probate in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, are appointed by the governor-general in council, and their salaries, allowances, and pensions are fixed and paid by the federal Parliament. Judges serve in office until age 75, at which time they are required to retire. Criminal law legislation and procedure in criminal matters is under the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada. The provinces administer justice within their boundaries, including organizing civil and criminal codes and establishing civil procedure. Since 1982, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was incorporated into the constitution, the interpretative role of the Supreme Court has increased significantly.

  • Political process

SUFFRAGE AND ELECTIONS

The 308 members of the House of Commons, from which the prime minister is selected, are elected for a maximum term of five years by universal suffrage in single-member districts (known in Canada as ridings). The prime minister may dissolve the House of Commons and call new elections at any time within the five-year period. The Senate consists of 105 members who are appointed on a provincial basis by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister and who may hold office until they reach 75 years of age.

All Canadian citizens at least 18 years of age are eligible to vote. Traditionally, voter participation in Canada was fairly high, with some two-thirds of eligible voters regularly casting ballots; however, as in many established democracies, turnout declined significantly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Women received the right to vote in federal elections in 1918, but men have generally predominated in federal elections and appointments. During the 1990s, however, Kim Campbell became Canada’s first woman prime minister; women now generally constitute about one-fifth of all members of the House of Commons. The first woman governor-general was Jeanne Sauvé, who served from 1984 to 1990. In 1999 Adrienne Clarkson became Canada’s first governor-general of Asian ancestry.

POLITICAL PARTIES

During much of the 20th century, Canada had two major political parties: the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals. Although both parties were ideologically diverse, the Progressive Conservatives tended to be slightly to the right, while the Liberals were generally regarded as centre-left. These two parties formed all of Canada’s national governments. From the 1930s to the ’80s both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals became somewhat more liberal regarding social and health welfare policies and government intervention in the economy. Under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, who became prime minister in 1984, the Progressive Conservative government underwent a distinctly conservative shift, which included selling crown corporations, deregulating many industries, and granting tax advantages to corporations and the wealthy. However, after Mulroney’s retirement in 1993, his party suffered a cataclysmic decline in the House of Commons, their number of seats being reduced from 169 to 2 in October 1993. At the same time, the Liberals increased their representation from 83 to 178. In particular, the Liberals dominated federal elections in Ontario, which elects one-third of all members of the House of Commons; in 2000, for example, the Liberals won 100 of Ontario’s 103 seats, though they won only half of the overall popular vote and failed to control the provincial government.

Throughout much of the 20th century, the main third party was the New Democratic Party (NDP), its support largely concentrated in western Canada. The NDP occupies a left-of-centre position, advocating an extension of the welfare state. It often won 30 to 40 seats in the House of Commons, but it, too, saw its representation cut dramatically in the 1990s. In particular, the decline of the NDP and Progressive Conservatives was the result of the regionalization of Canada’s elections. The Bloc Québécois, which supports Quebec’s independence and maintains links with the provincial Parti Québécois, won 54 seats in the House of Commons in 1993 and became the official opposition. In 1997, however, the conservative and western-based Reform Party of Canada, which opposed concessions to Quebec, won 60 seats to become the official opposition. In 2000 the Reform Party was replaced by the conservative Canadian Alliance—formed by elements of the old Reform Party and disgruntled Progressive Conservatives—which subsequently became the official opposition. The Canadian Alliance merged in 2003 with the remaining Progressive Conservatives to create the Conservative Party of Canada, which continued in opposition.

THE QUEBEC QUESTION The issue of Quebec’s autonomy dominated Canadian politics for the last decades of the 20th century. Through various historical constitutional guarantees, Quebec, which is the sole Canadian province where citizens of French origin are in the majority, has developed a distinctive culture that differs in many respects from that of the rest of Canada—and, indeed, from the rest of North America. Although there are many in Quebec who support the confederation with the English-speaking provinces, many French Quebecers have endorsed separatism and secession from the rest of Canada as a means to ensure not only material prosperity and liberty but also ethnic survival. As a consequence, they have tended to act as a cohesive unit in national matters and to support those political parties most supportive of their claims. In 1976 Quebec’s voters elected the Parti Québécois, whose major policy platform was “sovereignty association,” a form of separation from Canada but with close economic ties, to form its provincial government. In 1980, however, three-fifths of Quebecers voted against outright separation; in 1995 a proposition aimed at separation—or at least a major restructuring of Quebec’s relationship with Canada—was defeated again, though by a margin of only 1 percent. The 1995 referendum highlighted Quebec’s internal divisions, as nine-tenths of English speakers opposed separation while three-fifths of French speakers supported it.

There have been several unsuccessful efforts to entice Quebec to approve the constitution formally and to develop a balance of powers acceptable to both Quebec and the rest of Canada. For example, the Meech Lake Accord (1987), which would have recognized Quebec’s status as a distinct society and would have re-created a provincial veto power, failed to win support in Manitoba and Newfoundland, and the Charlottetown Accord (1992), which addressed greater autonomy for both Quebec and the aboriginal population, was rejected in a national referendum (it lost decisively in Quebec and the western provinces). The Clarity Act (2000) produced an agreement between Quebec and the federal government that any future referendum must have a clear majority, be based on an unambiguous question, and have the approval of the federal House of Commons.

  • Security

POLICE

The police forces of Canada are organized into three groups: the federal force, called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP); provincial police; and municipal police. The RCMP, or Mounties—one of Canada’s best-known organizations—was established in 1873 for service in the Northwest Territories of that time. It is still the primary police force in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, but it also has complete jurisdiction of the enforcement of federal statutes throughout Canada, which includes the control of narcotics. The maintenance of peace, order, and public safety and the prevention and investigation of criminal offenses and of violation of provincial laws are provincial responsibilities. Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police forces, but all other provinces engage the RCMP to perform these functions. Provincial legislation makes it mandatory for cities and towns and for villages and townships with sufficient population density and real property to furnish adequate policing for the maintenance of law and order in their communities. Most large municipalities maintain their own forces, but others engage the provincial police or the RCMP, under contract, to attend to police matters. In 1984 the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was created to replace the security service previously provided by the RCMP. The CSIS’s purpose is to conduct security investigations within Canada related to subversion, terrorism, and foreign espionage.


DEFENSE

Matters relating to national defense, including the armed forces, are the responsibility of the minister of national defense. Canada’s armed forces constitute a considerably smaller proportion of the Canadian labour force than do the armed forces of its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and its defense spending is lower per capita than that of most of its allies. Except during wartime, military strength has never been central to Canada’s national security efforts. Instead, the country has participated in peacekeeping efforts through the United Nations and has formed strong alliances with the United States and NATO. The Canadian military maintains separate army, navy, and air force divisions within a unified command structure. The Royal Military College of Canada is the country’s service academy.

Health and welfare Canadians are proud of their Medicare system, which was built on the idea that sophisticated health and medical treatment should be available to everyone. Although the system is publicly financed, services are delivered by the private sector. The federal government determines national standards, but provincial governments are responsible for providing, financing, and managing most health-related services. Health care benefits account for about one-third of all provincial expenditures. As Canadians have been living longer, the costs of the system have increased dramatically, leading many provincial governments to curtail benefits or increase social insurance taxes. During the 1990s, for example, many hospitals were closed, and user fees were increased or introduced for some services (e.g., drug prescriptions) as part of cost-cutting measures.

The federal government has responsibilities for the administration of food and drug legislation (including narcotics control), quarantine, immigration and sick-mariners services, and the health and welfare of Canada’s aboriginal population and past and present members of the Canadian armed forces. There are a number of social security and social assistance programs. The Family Allowance Act has been a unique feature of the Canadian social security system since its inception in 1945. The Canada Pension Plan provides retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits. The Old Age Security Act provides a monthly pension to all persons at least 65 years of age, while the guaranteed-income supplement provides additional income for pensioners. Financial aid is available under provincial or municipal auspices to persons in need and their dependents, though, as with medical care, provincial governments began cutting benefits in the 1990s. The unemployment insurance system is financed by premiums paid by employers and employees, along with federal government contributions.

  • ducation

Under the British North America Act of 1867, organizing and administering public education are provincial responsibilities. The federal government is directly concerned only with providing education in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, where it allocates funds but does not administer the system; in Indian schools throughout Canada; for inmates of federal penitentiaries; for the families of members of the Canadian forces on military stations; and through Canada’s Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. In addition, the federal government finances vocational training of adults and provides financial support to the provinces for the operating costs of postsecondary education.

Education policies vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but each province has a department of education headed by a minister who is a member of the provincial cabinet. Most Canadian children attend kindergarten for one year before they enter an eight-grade elementary school at age 6 or 7. At about 14 years of age, most children enroll in a regular four-year secondary school.

Traditionally, higher education was the preserve of universities. Now, however, they are supplemented by various institutions without degree-granting status—for example, regional colleges in British Columbia, institutes of technology in Alberta, institutes of applied arts and sciences in Saskatchewan, colleges of applied arts and technology in Ontario, and collèges d’enseignement général et professionel (community colleges) in Quebec. Canada has some 75 degree-granting institutions and more than 200 community colleges, ranging from institutions with a single faculty and enrollments of a few hundred to institutions with many faculties and research institutes and more than 50,000 students. Among the largest universities are the multicampus Université du Québec (founded 1968) and the University of Toronto (1827). One of Canada’s most prestigious universities is McGill University (1821), a private, state-supported English-language university in Montreal.

The oldest French-speaking university in Canada, Laval, in Quebec city, traces its roots to 1663; it was officially founded as a university in 1852 and was recognized by a papal bull in 1872. Universities in English-speaking Canada were established after the American Revolution. University of King’s College (1789) in Nova Scotia and what is now the University of New Brunswick (1785) were patterned on King’s College (now Columbia University) in pre-Revolutionary New York City. Most other universities in pioneer days were begun by churches, but almost all have since become secular and almost entirely financially dependent on the provincial governments. Beginning in the late 1950s, Ontario established a number of new postsecondary institutions. One of these, the University of Waterloo (founded in 1957 and incorporated as a university in 1959), has a cooperative program (alternating academic and work terms) and has gained an international reputation in mathematics and computer science. A number of private universities have been established in Canada, including Royal Roads University, which was established at a former federal military college near Victoria, British Columbia. A somewhat unusual characteristic of Canadian universities has been the system of “affiliated colleges” linked to a “parent” degree-granting institution though separated from it physically. English is the common language of instruction at most universities, except for a few bilingual institutions and several French-language schools.

Culture Life of Canada

History of Canada

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Disclaimer

This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.