Quick facts for kids
Motto: A Mari Usque Ad Mare (Latin)
(English: "From Sea to Sea")
Anthem: "O Canada"
under constitutional monarchy
|House of Commons|
from the United Kingdom
|July 1, 1867|
|December 11, 1931|
|April 17, 1982|
• Total area
|9,984,670 km2 (3,855,100 sq mi) (2nd)|
• Water (%)
• Total land area
|9,093,507 km2 (3,511,023 sq mi)|
• 2016 census
|3.92/km2 (10.2/sq mi) (228th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2016 estimate|
|$1.672 trillion (15th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2016 estimate|
|$1.529 trillion (10th)|
• Per capita
medium · 20th
|HDI (2015)|| 0.920
very high · 10th
|Currency||Canadian dollar ($) (CAD)|
|Time zone||UTC−3.5 to −8|
• Summer (DST)
|UTC−2.5 to −7|
|Date format||yyyy-mm-dd (AD)|
|ISO 3166 code||CA|
Canada is a country in North America, located to the north of the United States. Its land reaches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Arctic Ocean to the north, covering 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles), making it the world's second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area. It has the world's longest coastline and is the only one to touch three oceans.
Canada has ten provinces and three territories. Most parts of the country have a cold or severely cold winter climate, but areas to the south are warm in summer. Much of the land contains forests or tundra, with the Rocky Mountains towards the west. About four fifths of Canada's 36 million people live in urban areas near the southern border with the U.S, the longest between any two countries in the world. The national capital is Ottawa, and the largest city is Toronto; other large cities include Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hamilton.
The places that are now Canada have long been home to many Aboriginal people. In 1537 the French started a colony and the British empire soon followed. The two empires fought several wars and in the late 18th century only British North America remained with what is more or less Canada today. The country was formed with the British North America Act on July 1, 1867, from several colonies. Over time, more provinces and territories became part of Canada. In 1931, Canada achieved near total independence with the Statute of Westminster 1931, and became completely independent when the Canada Act 1982 removed the last remaining ties of legal dependence on the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as its head of state. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level, meaning that citizens have the right to communicate with the government in either English or French. Immigration to Canada has made it one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations. Its economy is the eleventh largest in the world, and relies mainly on natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. Canada's relationship with its neighbor and biggest trading partner, the U.S., has a big impact on its economy and culture.
Canada is a developed country and has the tenth highest nominal per capita income globally as well as the tenth highest ranking in the Human Development Index. It ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, and education. Canada is a Commonwealth realm member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a member of the Francophonie, and part of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings including the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the G8, the G20, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The name "Canada" likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata", meaning "village" or "settlement". In 1535, two Aboriginal youths told French explorer Jacques Cartier about the route kanata; they were actually referring to the village of Stadacona, the site of present-day City of Québec.
Canada is the second largest country in the world in land area, after Russia. It has the longest border with water (coastline) of any country in the world. It is next to the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans. It is the only country in the world to be next to three oceans at once. It has six time zones.
Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces are between the 45th and 60th parallels of latitude, and the territories are to the north of the 60th parallel of latitude. Most large cities in Canada are in the southern part of the country, including Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. There are very few people living in the northern part of Canada.
Canada extends from the west coast, across the prairies and central Canada, to the Atlantic provinces. In the north there are three territories, stretching between Alaska and Greenland: the Yukon in the west, then the Northwest Territories, then Nunavut. Four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario) are shared between Canada and the United States (Lake Michigan is in the USA), and they make up 16% of the Earth's fresh water. The Saint Lawrence Seaway joins the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, allowing ocean going vessels to travel as far inland as Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada.
Canada shares land and sea borders with the USA (the lower 48 states and Alaska), Denmark (Greenland), and France (St. Pierre and Miquelon — a small group of islands off the southern coast off the island of Newfoundland).
The geography of Canada is very different from place to place, from high alpine areas in the west, flat grasslands and prairies in the centre, and ancient shield rocks in the east. Canada contains some of the very last untouched boreal forest in the world.
The Canadian Shield is a vast area of ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks lying in an arc around Hudson Bay, covering more than one third of Canada's land area. This is a unique land of lakes, bogs, swamps, trees, and rocks. It is a terrain that is very dangerous and difficult to traverse cross country because of lakes, bogs, swamps, trees, and rocks. Canada has 60% of the world's lakes.
Indigenous (native) people lived in what is now Canada for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived. They are known as the First Nations and the Inuit people. The Métis have part First Nations and part European backgrounds. Together, these three groups are called "Indigenous," "Aboriginal," or "First Peoples." They used to be called "Indians" by the Europeans, but this is now considered rude.
The Vikings were the first Europeans known to land in Canada, in what is now Newfoundland, led by the Viking explorer Leif Erikson. They did not stay long, however. In the early 16th century, Europeans started exploring Canada's eastern coast, beginning with John Cabot from England in 1497, and later Jacques Cartier in 1534 from France. Alexander Mackenzie later reached the Pacific coast over land, where captains James Cook and George Vancouver went by sea. The Europeans also traded beaver furs to the First Nations.
Parts of Canada were settled by France, and parts by Great Britain. In 1605, Port-Royal was built in Acadia (today called Nova Scotia) by the French, led by Samuel de Champlain, and in 1608 he started settling Quebec. The British took control of the French areas after a battle of the French and Indian War on the Plains of Abraham near Quebec City in 1759.
After the American Revolutionary War, many people in the new United States wanted to stay loyal to Britain. Thousands came north to Canada and settled in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. They were called United Empire Loyalists. During the War of 1812, the United States tried to conquer Canada but were defeated.
On July 1, 1867, Canada was united under a federal government. It included the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Sir John A. Macdonald was the first prime minister. Manitoba, the Yukon territory, and the Northwest Territories became part of Canada in 1870. British Columbia joined in 1871, and Prince Edward Island in 1873.
There were two Red River Rebellions, in 1869-70 and 1885, both led by Louis Riel. He fought for more rights for the Métis people, a mix between French and First Nations. A railroad across the country, the Canadian Pacific Railway, finished in 1885, made it easier for Canadians to move to the west. Many Europeans came to the prairies, so Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905.
Canadian soldiers fought in World War I for the British Empire. More Canadians died in this war than any other war. Canada became better known as a country after its success in capturing Vimy Ridge from the Germans in France in 1917. Women were given the right to vote by the end of the war, partly because of the help they gave making weapons while the men fought in Europe. In 1931, Canada became fully independent. Then the government of Canada made all decisions about Canada.
Canadians also fought in World War II. The Dieppe Raid in 1942 went very badly and most of the soldiers were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Canadians were important in 1944 at Normandy, and they liberated the Netherlands from the Germans.
In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador became the 10th province of Canada. In 1956, Canadian Lester Pearson, who later became prime minister, helped end the Suez Crisis. As a result, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1965, Pearson helped Canada get a new flag, the Maple Leaf. Before that, Canadians had used the Red Ensign. In 1982, Canada changed its constitution, including a new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The main part of the Constitution is still the 1867 British North America Act.
Some French Canadians today wish to form their own country, separate from the rest of Canada. The province of Quebec held a referendum (vote) in 1980, but only about 40% wanted to separate. Another referendum was held in 1995, with almost 50% voting in favour of leaving Canada. Since then, fewer people in Quebec have wanted to leave Canada, but it is still important to Quebec politics.
Today, about 25% of Canadians speak French as their first language. Many people can speak both French and English. Although most French Canadians live in the province of Quebec, there are French-speaking communities and people all across Canada. For example, 40% of the people in the province of New Brunswick and 20% of those in Manitoba have a strong French background, as do some people in Ontario, mainly along its border with Quebec.
In 2014, after-tax, middle-class incomes in Canada were reported to be higher than those in the United States.
Canada has a government called a constitutional monarchy. It has a monarch (meaning a king or queen is the head of that country), and is a democracy (meaning the people of that country rule it). The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is officially the Queen of Canada. She appoints a Governor General to represent her in the country, however, the choice of Governor General is made by the prime minister.
The Queen's powers are mostly exercised by the Governor General, currently Julie Payette. The Governor General, like the Canadian sovereign (King/Queen of Canada), is not political and remains above politics, and because of that they do not usually use their powers without the advice of the Prime Minister or other ministers.
The head of government is the Prime Minister. The current prime minister is Justin Trudeau, who replaced Stephen Harper in October 2015. Each province and territory has a premier to lead its government. The day-to-day operations of the government are run by the cabinet. The cabinet is usually formed from the largest party in Parliament.
The Parliament of Canada passes the laws of the country. The governor general, acting on behalf of the monarch, has the right to veto a law (meaning the law cannot go into effect) but this right has not been used for some time. There are five main parties in the Canadian Parliament: the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the Green Party. In addition to the five parties with MPs in Parliament, there are fourteen other smaller parties registered with Elections Canada and several MPs who sit as Independents.
Provinces and territories
Below is a list of provinces and territories. They are listed by population.
|New Brunswick||Fredericton||Saint John||1867||753,900||72,908||English and French|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||St. John's||St. John's||1949||527,000||405,212||English|
|Prince Edward Island||Charlottetown||Charlottetown||1873||146,300||5,660||English|
|Yukon||Whitehorse||Whitehorse||1898||33,897||482,443||English and French|
Climate and its influence
Many people from other parts of the world think of Canada as a very cold and snowy place. While it is true that much of Canada is very far north, most Canadians live in the southern parts, where the weather is much milder. Nearly two thirds of Canadians live less than 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the U.S. border. In some cities the temperature can get very cold in the winter, especially in the inland. Warm air systems moving in from the Pacific Ocean bring more rain than snow to the Pacific coast, while colder temperatures further inland do result in snow. Most of Canada can get quite hot in the summer, often over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
Canada has lots of natural resources. Its large amounts of fish have been used for centuries for food and money. Hydroelectric power (electricity by water) is abundant because of Canada's many rivers. Forests of the west are used for wood. Besides these renewable resources, Canada has metal ores and oil deposits. Also, Canada is the leading exporter of zinc, uranium, gold, nickel, aluminum, steel and lead.
Around 35 million people live in Canada. This is almost the same number as in the U.S. state of California. Most people live in the southern parts of Canada.
A large number of immigrants from almost every part of the world come to live in Canada. One example is the former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, who came to Canada as a young child with her family from Haiti in 1968. Today, up to 1/5th of the population is an immigrant to Canada.
Travel requirements for US citizens
American citizens do not need a visa or an eTA to visit or transit Canada. However, American citizens must carry proper travel documents and identification.
Images for kids
A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) satellite truck, used for live television broadcasts
The Jack Pine by Tom Thomson. Oil on canvas, 1916, in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.
The Canadian men's national ice hockey team celebrates shortly after winning the gold medal final at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Canada Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.