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. 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.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor general
Prime minister: Justin Trudeau
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.
Canada has a long history of public broadcasting and a lively commercial media sector. The public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) runs national radio and TV networks in French and English, as well as services for indigenous people in the north.
The Canadian media are free to present a wide range of views and opinions. Quotas exist for broadcasts of Canadian material.
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 - 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%.