The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of the country, and consists of written text and unwritten conventions. The Constitution Act, 1867 (known as the British North America Act prior to 1982) affirmed governance based on parliamentary precedent "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom" and divided powers between the federal and provincial governments; the Statute of Westminster, 1931 granted full autonomy; and the Constitution Act, 1982 added the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees basic rights and freedoms that usually cannot be overridden by any level of government--though a notwithstanding clause allows the federal parliament and provincial legislatures to override certain sections of the Charter for a period of five years--and added a constitutional amending formula. The Indian Chiefs Medal, presented to commemorate Treaties 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, bearing the effigy of Queen Victoria. Although not without conflict, European Canadians' early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful. Combined with Canada's late economic development in many regions, this peaceful history has allowed Canadian Indigenous peoples to have a relatively strong influence on the national culture while preserving their own identity. The Canadian Crown and Aboriginal peoples began interactions during the European colonialisation period. Numbered treaties, the Indian Act, the Constitution Act of 1982 and case laws were established. A series of eleven treaties were signed between Aboriginals in Canada and the reigning Monarch of Canada from 1871 to 1921. These treaties are agreements with the Government of Canada administered by Canadian Aboriginal law and overseen by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The role of the treaties was reaffirmed by Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982, which "recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights". These rights may include provision of services such as health care, and exemption from taxation. The legal and policy framework within which Canada and First Nations operate was further formalized in 2005, through the First Nations- Federal Crown Political Accord, which established cooperation as "a cornerstone for partnership between Canada and First Nations". The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, west of Parliament Hill. Canada's judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court and final arbiter and has been led by the Right Honorable Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, P.C. (the first female Chief Justice) since 2000. Its nine members are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. All judges at the superior and appellate levels are appointed after consultation with nongovernmental legal bodies. The federal cabinet also appoints justices to superior courts at the provincial and territorial levels. Judicial posts at the lower provincial and territorial levels are filled by their respective governments. Common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec, where civil law predominates. Criminal law is solely a federal responsibility and is uniform throughout Canada. Law enforcement, including criminal courts, is a provincial responsibility, but in rural areas of all provinces except Ontario and Quebec, policing is contracted to the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Foreign relations and military
A Canadian CF-18 Hornet in La Baie (Bagotville), Quebec. CF-18s have supported NORAD air sovereignty patrols and participated in combat during the Gulf War of 1991 and Kosovo and Bosnia in the late 1990s. Canada and the United States share the world's longest undefended border, co-operate on military campaigns and exercises, and are each other's largest trading partner. Canada nevertheless has an independent foreign policy, most notably maintaining full relations with Cuba and declining to participate in the Iraq War. Canada also maintains historic ties to the United Kingdom and France and to other former British and French colonies through Canada's membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and the Franco phone. Canada is noted for having a strong and positive relationship with the Netherlands, and the Dutch government traditionally gives tulips, a symbol of the Netherlands, to Canada each year in remembrance of the latter country's contribution to its liberation. Canada currently employs a professional, volunteer military force of about 67,000 regular and 26,000 reserve personnel. The unified Canadian Forces (CF) comprise the army, navy, and air force. Major CF equipment holdings include 1,400 armored fighting vehicles, 33 combat vessels, and 861 aircraft. Strong attachment to the British Empire and Commonwealth led to major participation in British military efforts in the Second Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War. Since then, Canada has been an advocate for multilateralism, making efforts to resolve global issues in collaboration with other nations. Canada was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and of NATO in 1949. During the Cold War, Canada was a major contributor to UN forces in the Korean War and founded the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in cooperation with the United States to defend against potential aerial attacks from the Soviet Union. Two warships of the Canadian Navy--the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) (centre) and the Iroquois-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin (DDG 283)--at Pearl Harbor upon departing to participate in RIMPAC, the world's largest international maritime exercise. During the Suez Crisis of 1956, future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson eased tensions by proposing the inception of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, for which he was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize. As this was the first UN peacekeeping mission, Pearson is often credited as the inventor of the concept. Canada has since served in 50 peacekeeping missions, including every UN peacekeeping effort until 1989, and has since maintained forces in international missions in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. The number of Canadian military personnel participating in peacekeeping missions has decreased greatly in the past two decades. As of June 30, 2006, 133 Canadians served on United Nations peacekeeping missions worldwide, including 55 Canadian military personnel, compared with 1044 military personnel as of December 31, 1996. Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990 and hosted the OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Ontario, in June 2000 and the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001. Canada seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC). Canadian Leopard 1C2(1A5) during a live fire exercise in Fort Bliss, Texas. Since 2001, Canada has had troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. stabilization force and the UN-authorized, NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force. Canada has committed to withdraw from Kandahar Province by 2011, by which time it will have spent an estimated total of $11.3 billion on the mission. Canada and the U.S. continue to integrate state and provincial agencies to strengthen security along the Canada-United States border through the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. In February 2007, Canada, Italy, Britain, Norway, and Russia announced their funding commitments to launch a $1.5 billion project to help develop vaccines they said could save millions of lives in poor nations, and called on others to join them. In August 2007, Canadian sovereignty in Arctic waters was challenged after a Russian expedition that planted a Russian flag at the seabed at the North Pole. Canada has considered that area to be sovereign territory since 1925.
Provinces and territories
Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories. In turn, these may be grouped into regions: Western Canada, Central Canada, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada (the latter made up of the three territories Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut). Eastern Canada refers to Central Canada and Atlantic Canada together. Provinces have more autonomy than territories. The provinces are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as health care, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so in practice. Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces. A clickable map of Canada exhibiting its ten provinces and three territories, and their capitals.
Geography and climate
Canada occupies a major northern portion of North America, sharing land borders with the contiguous United States to the south and the U.S. state of Alaska to the northwest, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; to the north lies the Arctic Ocean. By total area (including its waters), Canada is the second-largest country in the world--after Russia--and the largest on the continent. By land area, Canada ranks fourth (land area is total area minus the area of lakes and rivers).
A satellite composite image of Canada
Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude, but this claim is not universally recognized. The northernmost settlement in Canada (and in the world) is Canadian Forces Station Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island--latitude 82.5°N--817 kilometers (450 nautical miles, 508 miles) from the North Pole. Much of the Canadian Arctic is covered by ice and permafrost. Canada also has the longest coastline in the world: 202,080 kilometers (125,570 mi). The population density, 3.3 inhabitants per square kilometer (8.5/sq mi), is among the lowest in the world. The most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City - Windsor Corridor, (situated in Southern Quebec and Southern Ontario) along the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River in the southeast. The Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario is one of the world's most voluminous waterfalls. It is renowned for both its beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. Canada has an extensive coastline on its north, east, and west, and since the last glacial period it has consisted of eight distinct forest regions, including extensive boreal forest on the Canadian Shield. The vastness and variety of Canada's geography, ecology, vegetation and landforms have given rise to a wide variety of climates throughout the country. Because of its vast size, Canada has more lakes than any other country, containing much of the world's fresh water. There are also fresh-water glaciers in the Canadian Rockies and the Coast Mountains. Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary according to the location. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, particularly in the interior and Prairie provinces, which experience a continental climate, where daily average temperatures are near ?15 °C (5 °F) but can drop below ?40 °C (?40.0 °F) with severe wind chills. In no coastal regions, snow can cover the ground almost six months of the year (more in the north). Coastal British Columbia enjoys a temperate climate, with a mild and rainy winter. On the east and west coasts, average high temperatures are generally in the low 20s °C (70s °F), while between the coasts, the average summer high temperature ranges from 25 to 30 °C (77 to 86 °F), with occasional extreme heat in some interior locations exceeding 40 °C (104 °F). Canada is also geologically active, having many earthquakes and potentially active volcanoes, notably Mount Meager, Mount Garibaldi, Mount Cayley, and the Mount Edziza volcanic complex. The volcanic eruption of Tseax Cone in 1775 caused a catastrophic disaster, killing 2,000 Nisga'a people and the destruction of their village in the Nass River valley of northern British Columbia; the eruption produced a 22.5-kilometre (14.0 mi) lava flow, and according to legend of the Nisga'a people, it blocked the flow of the Nass River.
Science and technology
Canada is an industrial nation with a highly-developed science and technology sector. Nearly 1.88% of Canada's GDP is allocated to research & development (R&D). The country has eighteen Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and medicine. Canada is one of the world's biggest publishers, publishing the highest number of scientific publications in the fields of medical science, natural science and engineering in 2005. Canada ranks as 12 in the world for Internet usage with 28.0 million users, 84.3% of the total population.
The Canadarm in action on the Space Shuttle Discovery during STS-116
The Canadian Space Agency conducts space, planetary, and aviation research, as well as develops rockets and satellites. In 1984, Marc Garneau became Canada's first astronaut, serving as payload specialist of STS-41-G. Canada is a participant in the International Space Station and one of the world's pioneers in space robotics with the Canadarm, Canadarm2 and Dexter. Canada was ranked third among 20 top countries in space sciences. Since the 1960s, Canada Aerospace Industries have designed and built 10 satellites, including RADARSAT-1, RADARSAT-2 and MOST. Canada also produced one of the most successful sounding rockets, the Black Brant; over 1000 have been launched since they were initially produced in 1961. Universities across Canada are working on the first domestic landing spacecraft: the Northern Light, designed to search for life on Mars and investigate Martian electromagnetic radiation environment and atmospheric properties. If the Northern Light is successful, Canada will be the third country to land on another planet.
Current Canadian banknotes, depicting (top to bottom) Wilfrid Laurier, John A. Macdonald, Queen of Canada (Queen Elizabeth II), William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Robert Borden. Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations, with a high per-capita income, and it is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G8. It is one of the world's top ten trading nations. Canada is a mixed market, ranking lower than the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom but higher than most western European nations. The largest foreign importers of Canadian goods are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. In 2008, Canada's imported goods were worth over $442.9 billion, of which $280.8 billion was from the United States, $11.7 billion from Japan, and $11.3 billion from the United Kingdom. As of October 2009, Canada's national unemployment rate was 8.6%. Provincial unemployment rates vary from a low of 5.8% in Manitoba to a high of 17% in Newfoundland and Labrador. As of 2008, Canada's total government debt burden is the lowest among the G8. The OECD projects that Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio will decline to 19.5% in 2009, which is less than half of the projected average of 51.9% for all G8 countries. According to these projections, Canada's debt burden will have fallen by more than 50 percentage points from its peak in 1995, when it was the second-highest in the G8. In 2008-09, the federal debt increased by $6.1 billion to $463.7 billion. In the past century, the growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy to a more industrial and urban one. Like other First World nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians. Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of its primary sector, in which the logging and petroleum industries are two of the most important. Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. Atlantic Canada has vast offshore deposits of natural gas, and Alberta has large oil and gas resources. The immense Athabasca Oil Sands give Canada the world's second-largest oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia. Canada is one of the world's largest suppliers of agricultural products; the Canadian Prairies are one of the most important producers of wheat, canola, and other grains. Canada is the largest producer of zinc and uranium, and is a global source of many other natural resources, such as gold, nickel, aluminum, and lead. Many towns in northern Canada, where agriculture is difficult, are sustainable because of nearby mines or sources of timber. Canada also has a sizable manufacturing sector centered in southern Ontario and Quebec, with automobiles and aeronautics representing particularly important industries. Representatives of the Canadian, Mexican, and United States governments sign the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1992. Economic integration with the United States has increased significantly since World War II. This has drawn the attention of Canadian nationalists, who are concerned about cultural and economic autonomy in an age of globalization, as American goods and media products have become ubiquitous. The Automotive Products Trade Agreement of 1965 opened the borders to trade in the auto manufacturing industry. In the 1970s, concerns over energy self-sufficiency and foreign ownership in the manufacturing sectors prompted Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government to enact the National Energy Program (NEP) and the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA). In the 1980s, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives abolished the NEP and changed the name of FIRA to "Investment Canada" in order to encourage foreign investment. The Canada - United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of 1988 eliminated tariffs between the two countries, while the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) expanded the free-trade zone to include Mexico in the 1990s. In the mid-1990s, the Liberal government under Jean Chrйtien began to post annual budgetary surpluses and steadily paid down the national debt. The 2008 global financial crisis caused a recession, which could boost the country's unemployment rate to 10%.
Bill Reid's sculpture Raven and The First Men, showing part of a Haida creation myth. The Raven is a figure common to many mythologies in Aboriginal Culture. Canadian culture has historically been influenced by British, French, and Aboriginal cultures and traditions. There are distinctive Aboriginal cultures, languages, art, and music spread across Canada. Many North American Indigenous words, inventions and games have become an everyday part of Canadian language and use. The canoe, snowshoes, the toboggan, lacrosse, tug of war, maple syrup and tobacco are examples of products, inventions and games. Some of the words include the barbecue, caribou, chipmunk, woodchuck, hammock, skunk, mahogany, hurricane and moose. Numerous areas, towns, cities and rivers of the Americas have names of Indigenous origin. The province of Saskatchewan derives its name from the Cree language name of the Saskatchewan River, "Kisiskatchewani Sipi". Canada's capital city Ottawa comes from the Algonquin language term "adawe" meaning "to trade." National Aboriginal Day recognizes the cultures and contributions of Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Canadian culture has been greatly influenced by immigration from all over the world. Many Canadians value multiculturalism and see Canada as being inherently multicultural. However, the country's culture has been heavily influenced by American culture because of its proximity and the high rate of migration between the two countries. The great majority of English-speaking immigrants to Canada between 1755 and 1815 were Americans from the Thirteen Colonies; during and immediately after the War of Independence, 46,000 Americans loyal to the British crown came to Canada. Between 1785 and 1812, more Americans emigrated to Canada in response to promises of land. American media and entertainment are popular, if not dominant, in English Canada; conversely, many Canadian cultural products and entertainers are successful in the United States and worldwide. Many cultural products are marketed toward a unified "North American" or global market. The creation and preservation of distinctly Canadian culture are supported by federal government programs, laws, and institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the National Film Board of Canada, and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.