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Canada, federated country in North America, made up of ten provinces and three territories. Canada is a vast nation with a wide variety of geological formations, climates, and ecological systems. It has rain forest, prairie grassland, deciduous forest, tundra, and wetlands. Canada has more lakes and inland waters than any other country. It is renowned for its scenery, which attracts millions of tourists each year. On a per-capita basis, its resource endowments are the second richest in the world after Australia.

Canada is the second largest country in the world but has about the same population as the state of California, which is about 4 percent of Canada’s size. This is because the north of Canada, with its harsh Arctic and sub-Arctic climates, is sparsely inhabited. Most Canadians live in the southern part of the country. More than three-quarters of them live in metropolitan areas, the largest of which are Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa, Ontario; Hull, Quebec; and Edmonton, Alberta.

French and English are the official languages, and at one time most Canadians were of French or English descent. However, diversity increased with a wave of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that brought in people from many other European nations. This trend continues into the 21st century: Canada is one of the few countries in the world that still has significant immigration programs. Since the 1970s most immigrants have come from Asia, increasing still further the diversity of the population.

Canada’s prosperity and diversity have encouraged a variety of artistic pursuits. Most major cities have symphony orchestras, opera companies, classical and modern dance groups, and live theater. Canadian popular musicians have built highly successful careers both in Canada and in the world at large. Canadian writers have also gained worldwide recognition, as have painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and architects. To nurture Canadian arts, the government has imposed quotas on foreign content in Canadian media.

Canada has impressive reserves of timber, minerals, and fresh water, and many of its industries are based on these resources. Many of its rivers have been harnessed for hydroelectric power, and it is self-sufficient in fossil fuel. Industrialization began in the 19th century and a significant manufacturing sector emerged, especially after World War II (1939-1945). Canada’s resource and manufacturing industries export about one-third of their output. While Canada’s prosperity is built on the resource and manufacturing industries, most Canadians work in service occupations, including transportation, trade, finance, personal services, and government.

Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. The federal, provincial, and territorial legislatures are all directly elected by citizens. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is recognized as the queen of Canada. She is the official head of state. The queen is represented in Canada by the governor-general and ten lieutenant governors. Canada's constitution guarantees equality under the law to all of its citizens. Powers of the federal and provincial governments are spelled out separately under the constitution, but over the past 50 years they have increasingly cooperated in programs that provide a wide range of social services to the public.

Canada’s indigenous peoples (original inhabitants) are often called First Nations or Indians. The name Canada comes from a word meaning “village” or “community” in one of the indigenous Iroquoian languages. Indigenous peoples had developed complex societies and intricate political relations before the first Europeans, the Vikings, arrived in the 11th century. The Vikings soon left, but more Europeans came in the 16th century and were made welcome because they brought manufactured goods and traded them for furs and other native products. However, the Europeans settled down and gradually displaced the indigenous peoples over the next 250 years. This process of dispossession has left a legacy of legal and moral issues that Canadians are grappling with today.

European settlers came in a series of waves. First were the French, followed by the English, and these two groups are considered the founding nations. France lost its part of the territory to Britain in a war in 1760, but most of the French-speaking colonists remained. Their effort to preserve their language and culture has been a continuing theme of Canadian history and has led to a movement to become independent of the rest of Canada.

Modern Canada was formed in an event that Canadians call Confederation, in 1867, when three colonies of Britain merged to create a partially independent state of four provinces. Since then, six more provinces and three territories have been added. Canada achieved full independence in 1931 but continues to belong to the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of countries with ties to the United Kingdom.


For younger readers

Bowers, Vivien. Wow Canada! Exploring This Land from Coast to Coast to Coast. Firefly, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 6.

Braun, Eric. Canada in Pictures. Lerner, 2003. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Hughes, Susan. Let's Call It Canada: Amazing Stories of Canadian Place Names. Maple Tree, 2003. For readers in grades 3 to 6.

Jones, Charlotte F. Yukon Gold: The Story of the Klondike Gold Rush. Holiday House, 1999. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

Landau, Elaine. Canada. Children's Press, 2000. A basic overview for readers in grades 3 to 5.

Rogers, Barbara Radcliffe, and Stillman D. Rogers. Canada. Children's Press, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Canada: Land and People

Bockstoce, John R. Arctic Passages: A Unique Small-boat Journey through the Great Northern Waterway. Hearst Marine, 1991. From Alaska to Resolute, the author's menacing kayak journey across Canada's Northwest Passage is vividly recounted.

Broadfoot, Barry. The Immigrant Years: From Europe to Canada, 1945-1967. Douglas & McIntyre, 1986. A powerful oral history with personal stories of immigrants.

Brook, Stephen. Maple Leaf Rag: Travels Across Canada. Collins, 1987. A British traveler's impressions of Canada.

Dickason, Olive Patricia. Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times. McClelland & Stewart, 1992. A compelling and illuminating history that dispels many myths about Canada's native peoples.

Gentilcore, R. Louis, and others, eds. Historical Atlas of Canada. 3 vols. University of Toronto Press, 1987-1993. The movement of people and resources, from Canada's prehistory through the 20th century.

Gillmor, Don, and Pierre Turgeon. Canada: A People's History. McClelland & Stewart, 2000. Focuses on the words of witnesses to Canadian history.

Halsey, David. Magnetic North: A Trek across Canada. Sierra Club, 1990. The story of two adventurers who traversed Canada's 7,500 kilometers (4,700 miles) by foot, canoe, and sleigh.

Hay, Elizabeth. Captivity Tales: Canadians in New York. New Star, 1993. This journal of a Canadian living in New York explores Canadian identity and the meaning of home.

Leddy, Mary Jo. At the Border Called Hope: Where Refugees are Neighbours. HarperCollins, 1997. Indictment of Canada's refugee system reveals the difficulties refugees face in adapting to Canadian culture.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples. University of Toronto Press, 1999. A reference book with 119 entries that explores Canada's multicultural society.

Marsh, James H., ed. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 4 vols. 2nd ed. Hurtig, 1988. Extensive reference work with information on all things Canadian.

Mollins, Carl, ed. Canada's Century. Key Porter, 1999. More than 300 photographs from Maclean's, Canada's national magazine, illuminate a century of Canadian history (1905 to 1999).

Mosher, Howard Frank. North Country: A Personal Journal through the Borderland. Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Differences between American and Canadian culture illuminated by a six-week journey of criss-crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.

Owram, Doug. Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby-Boom Generation. University of Toronto Press, 1996. A survey of the culture of Canada's baby boomers.

Canada: History

Brown, Craig, ed. The Illustrated History of Canada. Rev ed. Key Porter, 2003. Illustrated social and political history of Canada made up of contributions by well-known Canadian historians.

Cook, Ramsay; Frances Halpenny; and Jean Hamelin, eds. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 14 vols. University of Toronto Press, 1966-1998. Dictionary of noteworthy Canadians covers more than 900 years of Canadian history.

Eayrs, James. In Defence of Canada. 5 vols. University of Toronto Press, 1965-1983. Military history, specifically the alliances with Western European countries.

Gentilcore, R. Louis, and others, eds. Historical Atlas of Canada. 3 vols. University of Toronto Press, 1987-1993. The movement of people and resources, from Canada's prehistory to the 20th century.

Gillmor, Don, and Pierre Turgeon. Canada: A People's History. McClelland & Stewart, 2000. Focuses on the words of witnesses to Canadian history.

Kealey, Gregory S. Workers and Canadian History. McGill-Queens University Press, 1995. Collection of 12 essays on Canadian labour history by a noted labour historian.

Marsh, James H., ed. The Canadian Encyclopedia: Year 2000 Edition. McClelland & Stewart, 1999. An extensive reference work with information on all things Canadian.

Mollins, Carl, ed. Canada's Century. Key Porter, 1999. More than 300 photographs from Maclean's, Canada's national magazine, illuminate a century of Canadian history (1905 to 1999).

Morton, Desmond. A Military History of Canada. Rev. ed. McClelland & Stewar, 2000. Surveys Canada's involvement in war.

Morton, Desmond. A Short History of Canada. 5th ed. McClelland & Stewart, 2001. Emphasizes the 20th century.

Vance, Jonathan. Death so Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War. University of British Columbia Press, 1997. An award-winning study of the role of duty, honor, and country in Canada's involvement in World War I.

Canada: Government and Politics

Dunn, Christopher. Canadian Political Debates: Opposing Views on Issues that Divide Canadians. McClelland & Stewart, 1995. Presents both sides of key Canadian political issues.

Dyck, Perry Rand. Provincial Politics in Canada: Towards the Turn of the Century. Prentice Hall, 1996. Contains chapters on all of Canada's provinces, covering political evolution to the present day; also includes facts and figures.

McMenemy, John. The Language of Canadian Politics: A Guide to Important Terms and Concepts. Rev. ed. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1995. The peculiarities of Canadian political discourse.

Morton, William Lewis, and Donald Grant Creighton, eds. The Canadian Centenary Series. 19 vols. McClelland & Stewart, 1963-1986. Launched to commemorate Canada's 1967 centennial, this multi-volume series is a definitive work on periods of Canadian history and a useful source in understanding the complexity of Canada's federal system.

Savoie, Donald J. Governing from the Center: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics. University of Toronto Press, 1999. Describes the increasing power of the office and role of the prime minister.

Van Loon, Richard J., and Michael S. Whittington. The Canadian Political System: Institutions and Processes. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1996. A comprehensive study on Canadian politics and government.

Young, Robert Andrew. The Secession of Quebec and the Future of Canada. Rev. 2nd ed. McGill-Queens University Press, 1995, 1997. Captures the essence of the sovereignty debate.

Young, Robert Andrew. The Struggle for Quebec. McGill-Queens University Press, 1999. A study that clarifies the complexities of Quebec's place in Canada.


Hiebert, Daniel J., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia. Review Editor of The Canadian Geographer. Author of “Canadian Immigration: Policy, Politics, Geography" in The Canadian Geographer.

Reed, Maureen G., B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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