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    Canada is a parliamentary democracy. The head of state is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, represented in Canada by the Governor-General at the federal level, and Lieutenants-Governor provincially. The country has a land mass of more than 9 million km2, spanning six time zones. Its population is almost 31 million people, most of whom live in cities and towns stretched along a narrow band just north of the US border.

    Canada is the product of the 1867 union of three British colonies in British North America': Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario (which were united in one colony and were called Canada East and Canada West). Six other provinces have joined Canada: Manitoba (1870); British Columbia (1871); Prince Edward Island (1873); Saskatchewan and Alberta (1905); and Newfoundland (1949). In addition, there are three northern territories: Yukon; the Northwest Territories; and Nunavut, which was carved out of the Northwest Territories in 1999.

    Canadian federalism has been affected by the country's linguistic diversity, centred on the French-English relationship, its regional diversity, and its ethno-cultural diversity. Reflecting the historical presence of two language communities, Canada has two official languages, French and English. English is the mother tongue of more than 60% of Canadians and French of about 24%, mostly concentrated in Quebec. Since Canada's settlement and growth have depended heavily on immigration, approximately 14% of Canadians have other mother tongues. In 1991, almost 1 million people in Canada reported having aboriginal origins, in whole or in part.

    Canada's economy is the seventh largest among Western industrialized countries and a member of the Group of Seven industrial countries. Barriers to international trade between Canada and other countries have been steadily lowered since World War II. Exports represent about 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (one of the highest rates in the world), and approximately 80% of those exports go to the United States. The Canadian economy is tightly integrated into the US economy and, in fact, the two countries are each other's largest trading partners. The integration of the North American economy has been furthered with the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (implemented in 1989), and the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), involving Canada, the United States and Mexico (December 1992).

    Canada's wealth, historically, was generated largely from the exploitation of its abundant natural resources. Today, industrial and high technology sectors also play an important role in an economy which is highly regionalized. More than half of Canada's economic output is produced in the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which together house more than 80% of Canada's manufacturing capacity.

    Economic development aside, Canadian federal experience since World War II has been shaped by four great forces. The first is the construction, consolidation and then constraining of the Canadian welfare state. The second is the emergence in the 1960s of a form of liberal nationalism in Quebec, the province in which a majority of the population is French-speaking. Parallel to that is the third factor, the €˜province building' enterprises of several Canadian provinces. The fourth is the aspiration for self-determination of Canada's aboriginal peoples. Clearly, these are not the only forces one might identify, but they are the ones most relevant to this account of Canadian federalism.

Canada profile by David Cameron Return to Top Privacy Policies