Canada, independent nation in North America. A country rich in minerals and agriculture, it was settled by the French and English and became an independent Commonwealth country with a federal system of government, in which the provinces enjoy a large measure of autonomy. Land and Economy. The 2nd-largest country in the world (after the USSR), Canada occupies the N half of the North American continent, stretching E and W from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans, N from the 49th parallel to the North Pole, including all the islands in the Arctic Ocean from W of Greenland to Alaska.
It is divided into 10 provinces, which are (E-W): Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Two territories–Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory–are in the N and NW. The outstanding geological feature is the Canadian Shield, a 1,850,000-sq-mi (4,791,500-sq-km) arc of Pre-Cambrian rock from Labrador around Hudson Bay to the Arctic islands.
The Shield, site of once great mountain chains worn down and covered by the sea, contains valuable minerals–gold, silver, platinum, copper, nickel, cobalt, iron, and inc–making Canada one of the most important mining countries in the world. The Shield’s N portion is a treeless plain with permanently frozen subsoil; in its S section are forests. Extending from the Shield’s W border to the Canadian Rockies are prairies more than 800mi (1,288km) wide that yield wheat, the dominant crop, and are centers of livestock raising.
W Canada is a land of mountains with fishing, agriculture, and lumbering as important industries. With the development of major oil and natural gas deposits since the 1950s in the W, the now-dominant energy industry has resulted in dramatic economic growth here, and made Canada a major oil-producing country. The E provinces provide rich farm lands, forests, coal mines, and major fishing sources along the long coastline. Source of a route into the interior for early settlers, the St Lawrence-Great Lakes area is the most populous section of Canada as well as its economic and political center.
It contains over 60% of the population. Abundant minerals have made Canada the world leader in the production of silver, nickel, potash, and zinc; second in gypsum, asbestos, uranium, and sulfur; third in gold, lead, and platinum; fourth in magnesium and fifth in copper. Timber is also valuable, and Canada is a world leader in newsprint production. The growth of manufacturing during the 1950s and 1960s changed Canada from a rural society to an industrial and urban country. Farming employs 7% of the working population.
Mechanization has made it possible to export 30%-40% of its total agricultural production, accounting for 11% of total exports. Wheat is particularly important. Of the total fishing catch, 75% is exported. People. Canada’s indigenous Indians and Eskimos are descendants of the Mongoloid tribes who took the NW route from Asia across the Bering Strait 5,000-20,000 years ago. The Arctic region contains about 12,000 Eskimos. Today, 44% of the population is of British descent. About 30% is French, descended from the colonists who came to Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries, and now heavily concentrated in Quebec and New Brunswick.
During the American Revolution many British loyalists fled to Canada from the United States, and after 1900 waves of immigrants from Germany, the Ukraine, and Italy settled on the prairie farmlands or the urban centers. Native Indians have been increasing in number, accounting for over 210,000, mostly living in the prairie states. During periods of US prosperity, emigration has brought Canadians S to work in the industrial cities. Forty-six percent of the population is Roman Catholic with the coalition United Church of Canada next (20%). Literacy is almost 100%. Government.
In its role as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada is both a constitutional monarchy and a democracy. Internally, there is a federal structure of the 10 provinces and 2 territories. The British monarch names a governor general who serves as symbol of the association with the Commonwealth. Parliament is divided into two houses. Members of he Senate are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Members of the House of Commons are elected. The executive branch includes a cabinet, headed by the prime minister, who is the leader of the party in power.
Within each province the government is headed by a premier and parliament. History. Rivalry between the French and the English marked Canada’s early development. John Cabot, sailing for England, reached Newfoundland in 1497 and claimed possession for King Henry VII. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier planted the French flag on the Gasp Peninsula, and in 604, Samuel de Champlain established the first French colony, Port Royal, in Nova Scotia; four years later he founded what is now the city of Quebec. French navigators traveled the St Lawrence and Hudson rivers, claiming large interior lands for France.
Traders and missionaries penetrated the interior, and French officials made peace with the Indians, thus encouraging French immigration. Seeking a share of the lucrative fur trade, the British in 1670 established the Hudson’s Bay Co. Continental war between France and England extended to the New World, and the 1759 defeat f French commander Montcalm brought the fall of Quebec; the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave Canada to Britain. In 1791 a constitutional act divided Canada into two sections–an English portion in what is now Ontario and a French portion in what is now Quebec.
The next 40 years were marked by trade and expansion. Alexander Mackenzie, the first white man to cross the continent, reached the Arctic in 1789 and the Pacific in 1793. The United States invaded Canada during the War of 1812, which ended in a stalemate with the Treaty of Ghent. French Canadians demanded political reform, and in 1840 Upper and Lower Canada were joined and self-government approved. Border questions between the United States and Canada were settled during the same period when the 49th parallel was accepted as the demarcation line.
A movement to join the isolated colonies spread across the continent was spurred by promises to build a railway system linking the provinces and to provide future protection against US invasion, especially during the Civil War, when there was anti-British feeling in the United States. In 1867 the British North America Act joined four provinces–Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick–and provided for a parliamentary system. In 1869 Canada bought land from the Hudson’s Bay Co. , carving out of it the provinces of Manitoba (1870), Saskatchewan (1905), and Alberta (1905).
Encouraged by a transcontinental railway promise, British Columbia joined the union in 1871 and Prince Edward Island in 1873. The last addition came in 1948 when Newfoundland became Canada’s 10th province. Outstanding leaders during the drive for independence and the early years of confederation included John A. Macdonald, Wilfrid Laurier, and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Canada joined the Allies in WWII and after the war became a member of the United Nations. The Liberal party dominated politics from the early 1960s until 1984.
First with Lester Pearson and, from 1968-79 and 1980-84, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as prime minister. In 1984 Trudeau retired from politics and chose John N. Turner to succeed him as prime minister and party leader. The 1984 elections saw a dramatic change in power with the election of the Progressive Conservative candidate, Brian Mulroney. Mulroney and US President Ronald Reagan in 1988 signed a historic ree-trade agreement that made the US and Canada the largest free-trade area in the world; annual trade was expected to amount to about $150 billion.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Canada successfully weathered severe crises of national unity. In Quebec, four-fifths French-speaking, the militant Parti Qubcois won the elections of 1976 on a secessionist platform, but in 1980 Quebec voters rejected a referendum on separate status. In 1979 Trudeau announced plans to repatriate the British North America Act, which functions as the Canadian constitution, but is amendable nly by act of the British parliament.
The provincial premiers were at first opposed to the move, but a compromise reached in 1981 was rejected only by Quebec and was signed into effect by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. In 1987 Quebec signed the Canadian constitution, which had been altered to include a provision for Quebec to be recognized as a “distinct society. ” In 1988 a free-trade agreement was signed between Canada and the US; its supporters expected it tostimulate international trade by encouraging the removal of trade tariffs and restrictions.