US & Canada

Canada country profile

Map of Canada

The world's second largest country by surface but relatively small in terms of population, Canada punches above its weight in economic terms.

A federation of former British colonies, Canada follows the British pattern of parliamentary democracy, and the UK monarch is head of state. Ties with the US are now vital, especially in terms of trade, but Canada often goes its own way.

Both English and French enjoy official status, and mainly French-speaking Quebec - where pressure for full sovereignty has abated in recent years - has wide-ranging cultural autonomy. Indigenous peoples make up around 4% of the population.

Canada is one of world's top trading nations - and one of its richest. Alongside a dominant service sector, Canada also has vast oil reserves and is a major exporter of energy, food and minerals.



Capital: Ottawa

  • Population 34.7 million (UN, 2012)

  • Area 9.98 million sq km (3.85 million sq miles)

  • Major languages English, French (both official)

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 79 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)

  • Currency Canadian dollar


Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor general

Prime minister: Justin Trudeau

Image copyright Reuters

Justin Trudeau - son of Pierre Trudeau, who dominated Canadian politics in the 1970s - won a resounding election victory for his Liberal Party in October 2015, ending the nine years of Conservative government under Stephen Harper.

After a closely fought three-way contest with the Conservatives and centre-left New Democrats, the Liberals leapt from the humiliating third place they won at the 2011 election to gain a surprise overall majority in parliament.

Mr Trudeau campaigned on promises to shift some of the tax burden from middle-income earners to the richest Canadians, and run a budget deficit to allow spending on infrastructure and boosting growth.


Image copyright AFP
Image caption Toronto's CN Tower - used for TV and radio broadcasts - is an internationally renowned Canadian landmark

Canada has a long history of public broadcasting. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was set up in the 1930s in response to the growing influence of American radio.

Broadcasting in French and English, the CBC runs four radio networks, two national TV channels, TV and radio services for indigenous peoples in the north, and Radio Canada International.

The Canadian media are free to present a wide range of views and opinions. Quotas exist for broadcasts of Canadian material.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The promise of gold lured tens of thousands to the Yukon, in the northwest, in the 19th century

1583 - Newfoundland becomes England's first overseas colony.

1627 - Company of New France established to govern and exploit "New France" - France's North American colonies.

1763 - After victory in the Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain acquires all French colonies east of the Mississippi, including New France, which becomes the colony of Quebec.

1867 - British North America Act unites Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the Dominion of Canada.

1885 - Canadian Pacific railroad is completed.

1931 - Statute of Westminster grants British dominions, including Canada, complete autonomy.

1939 - World War II: Canadian forces are active in Italy, Europe, the Atlantic and elsewhere.

1982 - The UK transfers its remaining final legal powers over Canada, which adopts its new constitution, including a charter of rights.

1995 - A referendum in Quebec rejects independence by a margin of only 1%.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Founded by the French in 1608, Quebec City is one of North America's oldest European settlements

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