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Formal Name
Dominion of Canada

Local Name

Local Formal Name
Dominion of Canada

Location: North America

Status: UN Country

Capital City: Ottawa

Main Cities: Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver

Population: 28,147,000    Area []: 9,976,140

Currency: 1 Canadian dollar = 100 cents

Languages: English, French (both official)

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant

Canada, federated country of North America, bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean; on the northeast by Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, which separate it from Greenland; on the east by the Atlantic Ocean; on the south by the United States; and on the west by the Pacific Ocean and Alaska. It was formerly known as the Dominion of Canada. Occupying all of North America north of the conterminous United States, except Alaska, Greenland, Saint-Pierre Island, and the Miquelon Islands, Canada is the world's second largest country, surpassed in size only by Russia. It includes many islands, notably the Canadian Arctic Islands (Arctic Archipelago) in the Arctic Ocean. Among the larger members of this group, which in aggregate area is about 1,424,500 sq km (about 550,000 sq mi), are Baffin, Victoria, Ellesmere, Banks, Devon, Axel Heiberg, and Melville islands. Cape Columbia, a promontory of Ellesmere Island at latitude 83°06' north, is the northernmost point of Canada; the country's southernmost point is Middle Island in Lake Erie, at latitude 41°41' north. The easternmost and westernmost limits are delineated, respectively, by longitude 52°37' west, which lies along Cape Spear, Newfoundland, and longitude 141° west, which coincides with part of the Alaskan-Yukon frontier. Canada has a total area of 9,970,610 sq km (3,849,652 sq mi), of which 755,180 sq km (291,575 sq mi) is covered by bodies of fresh water such as rivers and lakes, including those portions of the Great Lakes under Canadian jurisdiction.

Canada contains great reserves of natural resources, notably timber, petroleum, natural gas, metallic minerals, and fish. It is also an important manufacturing country, and its major cities, such as Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa (the country's capital), Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg are bustling centers of commerce and industry. Most of Canada's inhabitants live in the southern part of the country, and vast areas of the north are sparsely inhabited. The country is divided into ten provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan) and two territories (Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory). A third territory called Nunavut, to be carved from the present Northwest Territories, will be created in 1999. The name Canada is derived from an Iroquoian term meaning "village" or "community."

Land and Resources

The coast of the Canadian mainland, about 58,500 km (about 36,350 mi) in length, is extremely broken and irregular. Large bays and peninsulas alternate, and Canada has numerous coastal islands, in addition to the Arctic Archipelago, with a total insular coastline of some 185,290 km (some 115,135 mi). Off the eastern coast the largest islands are Newfoundland, Cape Breton, Prince Edward, and Anticosti. Off the western coast, which is fringed with fjords, are Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands. Southampton Island, covering 41,214 sq km (15,913 sq mi), and many smaller islands are in Hudson Bay, a vast inland sea in east central Canada.

Canada contains more lakes and inland waters than any other country in the world. In addition to the Great Lakes on the U.S. border (all partly within Canada except Lake Michigan), the country has 31 lakes or reservoirs of more than 1300 sq km (more than 500 sq mi) in area. Largest among these lakes are Great Bear, Great Slave, Dubawnt, and Baker in the mainland Northwest Territories; Nettilling and Amadjuak on Baffin Island; Athabasca in Alberta and Saskatchewan; Wollaston in Saskatchewan; Reindeer in Saskatchewan and Manitoba; Winnipeg, Manitoba, Winnipegosis, and Southern Indian in Manitoba; Nipigon and Lake of the Woods in Ontario; Mistassini in Québec; and Smallwood Reservoir and Melville in Newfoundland.

Among the great rivers of Canada are the Saint Lawrence, draining the Great Lakes, and emptying into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence; the Ottawa and the Saguenay, the principal affluents of the Saint Lawrence; the Saint John, emptying into the Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; the Saskatchewan, flowing into Lake Winnipeg, and the Nelson, flowing from this lake into Hudson Bay; the system formed by the Athabasca, Peace, Slave, and Mackenzie rivers, emptying into the Arctic Ocean; the upper course of the Yukon, flowing across Alaska into the Bering Sea; and the Fraser and the upper course of the Columbia, emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Physiographic Regions

Excluding the Arctic Archipelago, five general physiographic regions are distinguishable in Canada: The Canadian Shield, Appalachian, Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence, Interior Plains, and Cordillera. The largest region, designated either as the Canadian Shield or the Laurentian Plateau, extends from Labrador to Great Bear Lake, from the Arctic Ocean to the Thousand Islands in the Saint Lawrence River, and into the United States west of Lake Superior and into northern New York. This region of ancient granite rock, sparsely covered with soil and deeply eroded by glacial action, comprises all of Labrador (the easternmost part of the mainland, which is part of the province of Newfoundland), most of Québec, northern Ontario, Manitoba, and most of the Northwest Territories, with Hudson Bay in the center.

Eastern Canada consists of the Appalachian region and the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence lowlands. The former embraces Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and the Gaspé Peninsula of Québec. This region is an extension of the Appalachian mountain system (continuations of the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire) and of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence lowlands region, covering an area of about 98,420 sq km (about 38,000 sq mi) in southern Québec and Ontario, is a generally level plain. This region includes the largest expanse of cultivable land in eastern and central Canada and most of the manufacturing industries of the nation.

Bordering the Canadian Shield on the west is the Interior Plains, an extension of the Great Plains of the United States. About 1300 km (about 800 mi) wide at the U.S. border, it narrows to about one-quarter of that size west of Great Bear Lake and widens again at the mouth of the Mackenzie River on the coast of the Arctic Ocean to about 500 km (about 300 mi). Within the Interior Plains are the northeastern corner of British Columbia, most of Alberta, the southern half of Saskatchewan, and the southern third of Manitoba. This region contains the most fertile soil in Canada.

The fifth and westernmost region of Canada embraces the uplifts west of the Interior Plains. The region belongs to the Cordillera, the vast mountain system extending from the southernmost extremity of South America to westernmost Alaska. In Canada, the Cordillera has an average width of about 800 km (about 500 mi). Part of western Alberta, much of British Columbia, the Inuvik Region and part of the Fort Smith Region of Northwest Territories, and practically all of Yukon Territory lie within this region. The eastern portion of the Cordillera in Canada consists of the Rocky Mountains and related ranges, including the Mackenzie, Franklin, and Richardson mountains. Mount Robson (3954 m/12,972 ft) is the highest summit of the Canadian Rockies, and ten other peaks reach elevations of more than 3500 m (about 11,500 ft). To the west of the Canadian Rockies is a region occupied by numerous isolated ranges, notably the Cariboo, Stikine, and Selkirk mountains, and a vast plateau region. Deep river valleys and extensive tracts of arable land are the chief features of the plateau region, particularly in British Columbia. Flanking this central belt on the west and generally parallel to the Pacific Ocean is another great mountain system. This system includes the Coast Mountains, an extension into British Columbia of the Cascade Range of the United States, and various coastal ranges. The loftiest coastal uplift is the Saint Elias Mountains, on the boundary between Yukon Territory and Alaska. Among noteworthy peaks of the western Cordillera in Canada are Mount Logan (5951 m/19,524 ft, the highest point in Canada and second highest mountain in North America after Mount McKinley), Mount Saint Elias (5489 m/18,008 ft), Mount Lucania (5226 m/17,147 ft), and King Peak (5173 m/16,971 ft); all are in the Saint Elias Mountains.


The Canadian Shield, which occupies the eastern half of Canada's landmass, is an ancient craton, or stable platform, made up of rocks that formed billions of years ago, during the Precambrian time of earth history. The shield, with its assemblage of granites, gneisses, and schists 2 to 4 billion years old, became the nucleus of the North American plate at the time that the earth's crust first began experiencing the tectonic forces that drive continental drift. See also North America: Geological History.

During the Paleozoic era, large parts of Canada were covered by shallow seas. Sediments deposited in these seas formed the sandstone, shale, and limestone that now surround the Canadian Shield. The Cambrian and Silurian systems are represented by great thicknesses of strata that appear in outcroppings in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland, along the Saint Lawrence Valley, and on the shores of Lake Ontario. Flat-lying beds of Paleozoic and younger rocks extend westward across the Interior Plains throughout the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. In these areas, the rocks contain valuable deposits of oil and gas. In the Cordilleran region of western Canada, the rocks were subjected to tectonic forces generated by the collision of the North American plate with the Pacific plate. In the ensuing upheavals, which began during the Cretaceous period, mountain ranges rose throughout the Cordilleran region. The easternmost of these ranges, the Rocky Mountains, are similar in structure to the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, having been built by uplift and folding of sedimentary rocks and, in lesser degree, by volcanic activity. The strata of which they are composed range in age from Paleozoic to Tertiary and contain valuable deposits of base and precious metals as well as fossil fuels.

During the Quaternary period, nearly all of Canada was covered by vast ice sheets that terminated in the northern United States. Landscapes were profoundly modified by the erosive action of this vast mass of moving ice, particularly in the creation of Canada's many thousands of lakes and its extensive deposits of sand, clay and gravel. See also Ice Ages.


Part of the Canadian mainland and most of the Arctic Archipelago fall within the Frigid Zone; the remainder of the country lies in the northern half of the North Temperate Zone. As a consequence, general climatic conditions range from the extreme cold characteristic of the Arctic regions to the moderate temperatures of more southerly latitudes. The Canadian climate is marked by wide regional variations. In the Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), extremes of winter cold and summer heat are modified by oceanic influences, which also cause considerable fog and precipitation. Along the western coast, which is under the influence of warm ocean currents and moisture-laden winds, mild summers and winters, high humidity, and abundant precipitation are characteristic. In the Cordilleran region the higher western slopes of certain uplifts, particularly the Selkirks and the Rockies, receive sizable amounts of rain and snow, but the eastern slopes and the central plateau region are extremely arid. A feature of the Cordilleran region is the chinook, a warm, dry westerly wind that substantially ameliorates winter conditions in the Rocky Mountain foothills and adjoining plains, often causing great daily changes. For further climatic information, see articles on the individual provinces.

Natural Resources

Canada is richly endowed with valuable natural resources that are commercially indispensable to the economy. The country has enormous areas of fertile, low-lying land in the Prairie provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan) and bordering the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River in southern Québec and southern Ontario. Canadian forests cover about 49 percent of the country's land area and abound in commercially valuable stands of timber. Commercial fishing in Canada dates back nearly 500 years, and ocean waters, inland lakes, and rivers continue to support this industry. The mining industry of Canada has a long history of exploration and development that predates confederation in 1867. The Canadian Shield contains a wealth of minerals; the nation is also rich in reserves of crude petroleum and natural gas. The river and lake systems of the country combine with the mountainous topography to make hydroelectric energy one of the permanent natural assets of Canada. The wildlife of the country is extensive and varied.


The flora of the entire northern part of Canada is arctic and subarctic (see Tundra). A good part of the Maritime provinces is covered by forests of mixed hardwoods and softwoods. The Prairie provinces are comparatively treeless as far north as the Saskatchewan River system; prairie grasses, herbage, and bunchgrasses are the chief forms of vegetation. North of the Saskatchewan a broad belt of rather small and sparse trees extends from Hudson Bay to Great Slave Lake and the Rocky Mountains. Spruce, tamarack, and poplar are the principal species. The dry slopes and valleys of the Rocky Mountains support thin forests, mainly pine, but the forests increase in density and the trees in size westward toward the region of greater rainfall. On the coast ranges, especially on their western slopes, are dense forests of mighty evergreen trees. The principal trees are the spruce, hemlock, Douglas and balsam firs, jack and lodgepole pines, and cedar.


The animals of Canada are very similar or identical to those of northern Europe and Asia. Among the carnivores are several species of the weasel subfamily, such as the ermine, sable, fisher, wolverine, and mink. Other representative carnivores include the black bear, brown bear, lynx, wolf, coyote, fox, and skunk. The polar bear is distributed throughout the arctic regions; the puma, or American lion, is found in British Columbia. Of the rodents, the most characteristic is the beaver. The Canadian porcupine, the muskrat, and many smaller rodents are numerous, as are hare, and in the Interior Plains a variety of burrowing gopher is found.

Several varieties of Virginia deer are indigenous to southern Canada; the black-tailed deer occurs in British Columbia and parts of the plains region. This region is also the habitat of the pronghorn antelope. The woodland caribou and the moose are numerous and widely distributed, but the Barren Ground caribou is found only in the more northern areas, which are also the habitat of the musk-ox. Elk and bison are found in various western areas. In the mountains of British Columbia bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats are numerous. Birds are abundant and diverse, and fish are numerous in all the inland waters and along all the coasts. Reptiles and insects are scarce, except in the far south.


Large areas of Canada are covered by boggy peat characteristic of the tundra and adjoining forest areas. This land is generally infertile and frequently mossy. A formation of rich dark brown and black prairie soils runs from southern Manitoba west across Saskatchewan and into Alberta, forming Canada's best farmland. The gray-brown soil of the St. Lawrence Basin and the Great Lakes is also good farmland. Only about 5 percent of Canada's land is suitable for farming, however, the remainder being too mountainous, rocky, wet, or infertile.


The racial and ethnic makeup of the Canadian people is diversified. About 28 percent of the population is composed of people of British origin. People of French origin total about 23 percent of the population. The vast majority of French-speaking Canadians reside in Québec, where they make up about three-fourths of the population; large numbers also live in Ontario and New Brunswick, and smaller groups inhabit the remaining provinces. French-speaking Canadians maintain their language, culture, and traditions, and the federal government follows the policy of a bilingual and bicultural nation. During the 1970s and 1980s the proportion of Asians among the Canadian population increased, and today those who count their ancestry as wholly Asian make up more than 5 percent of the population. More than two-thirds of the Asian immigrants live in Ontario or British Columbia. The remainder of the population is composed of people of various ethnic origins, such as German, Italian, Ukrainian, Netherlands Dutch, Scandinavian, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, and Native American.

Blacks have never constituted a major segment of the Canadian population, but their history has been an interesting one. Although Louis XIV of France in 1689 authorized the importation of slaves from the West Indies, black immigration into Canada has been almost entirely from the United States. Some Loyalists brought slaves north with them during and after the American Revolution (1775-1783). The British troops that burned Washington in the War of 1812 brought many slaves back with them to Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, Nova Scotia abolished slavery in 1787 and was followed six years later by Upper Canada, thus setting precedents for the whole British Empire. The presence of free soil in Canada was a major influence in the operation of the Underground Railroad, which, during the abolition campaign in the United States, transported many slaves into Canada, particularly to Chatham and Sarnia in Ontario. Blacks make up less than 2 percent of the Canadian population.

Native Americans make up nearly 4 percent of Canada's inhabitants, including those who claim at least part Native American ancestry. These people belong predominantly to the Algonquian linguistic group; other representative linguistic stocks are the Iroquoian, Salishan, Athabascan, and Inuit (Eskimoan). Altogether, the indigenous people of Canada are divided into nearly 600 groups, or bands.

Population Characteristics

The population of Canada (1995 estimate) is about 28,537,000, compared with 27,296,859 counted during a census in 1991. The overall population density in the mid-1990s was about 3 persons per sq km (about 7 per sq mi).

Approximately three-quarters of the people of Canada inhabit a relatively narrow belt along the United States frontier, with about 62 percent concentrated in Québec and Ontario. Nearly 17 percent of the population lives in the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan; about 9 percent in the Atlantic provinces, which include Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick; and about 12 percent in British Columbia. Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories are sparsely inhabited, having only about 0.3 percent of the total population. About 78 percent of the population is urban.

Political Divisions

Canada comprises ten provinces, each with a separate legislature and administration; the Yukon Territory, which is governed by a federally appointed commissioner, assisted by an elected executive council and legislature; and the Northwest Territories, which is governed by a federally appointed commissioner and an elected assembly. In descending order of population (1991 census) the provinces are the following: Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island.

Principal Cities

 Among the leading cities of Canada are Toronto, Ontario, a port and manufacturing city (Census Metropolitan Area population, 1991, 3,893,046); Montréal, Québec, a port and major commercial center (3,127,242); Vancouver, British Columbia, a railroad, shipping, and forest-products manufacturing center (1,602,502); Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada and a commercial and industrial city (Ottawa-Hull metropolitan area, 920,857); Edmonton, Alberta, a farming and petroleum center (839,924); Calgary, Alberta, a transportation, mining, and farm-trade center (754,033); Winnipeg, Manitoba, a major wheat market and railroad hub (652,354); the city of Québec, Québec, a shipping, manufacturing, and tourist center (645,550); Hamilton, Ontario, a shipping and manufacturing center (599,760); London, Ontario, a railroad and industrial center (381,552); Saint Catharines, Ontario, an industrial and commercial city (Saint Catharines-Niagara metropolitan area, 364,552); Kitchener, Ontario, a city of manufacturing industries (356,421); and Halifax, Nova Scotia, a seaport and manufacturing city (320,501).


The largest religious community in Canada is Roman Catholic. Nearly half of Canadians who are Roman Catholic live in Québec. Of the Protestant denominations in Canada the largest is the United Church of Canada, followed by the Anglican Church of Canada. Other important Protestant groups are the Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Pentecostal. Nearly 2 percent of the population are Eastern Orthodox, and Muslim and Jewish adherents each number about 1 percent. Immigration in recent years has brought a substantial number of Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs to the country. Nearly 13 percent of Canadians claim no religion.

Education and Culture

The educational system in Canada is derived from the British and American traditions and the French tradition, the latter particularly in the province of Québec. English or French is the language of instruction, and some schools provide instruction in both official languages. Each of the ten provinces has responsibility for establishing and maintaining its own school system. In Québec, the French-Canadian tradition is followed by the Roman Catholic schools. The province also maintains Protestant schools, however, which are widely attended. Although Canada does not have a central ministry of education, the federal government provides schools for children of Native Americans on reserves, inmates of federal penitentiaries, and the children of military personnel.


The earliest Canadian schools, which were conducted by French Catholic religious orders, date from the early 17th century. Higher education was inaugurated in 1635 with the founding of the Collège des Jésuites in the city of Québec. It was not until the transfer of Canada from French to British jurisdiction in 1763 that an educational system began to emerge that encompassed church, governmental, and private secular schools. The early 19th century saw the establishment of the large universities, beginning with McGill University in 1821 and followed by the University of Toronto in 1827 and the University of Ottawa in 1848. Since World War II ended in 1945, a notable expansion in higher education has occurred. Many new institutions have been founded, and the older universities have increased in size, scope, and influence. The federal and provincial governments fund the university system in Canada, and students pay only a small portion of the cost. Universities are still the predominant institutions offering higher education, but the number of nonuniversity postsecondary institutions, particularly community colleges, has increased sharply in recent decades.

Elementary and Secondary Schools

Education is generally compulsory for children from ages 6 or 7 to ages 15 or 16, depending on the province in which they live, and it is free until the completion of secondary school studies. In the early 1990s Canada had more than 16,000 elementary and secondary schools, with a total enrollment of nearly 5.3 million students.

Specialized Schools

In the early 1990s Canada maintained 19 specialized schools for the blind and the deaf. These institutions together enrolled about 2400 pupils, who were instructed by some 575 teachers. Canada had several schools for mentally handicapped children.

Nursing education, formerly concentrated at special schools attached to hospitals, has been transferred to community colleges, which numbered 203 in the early 1990s. Similarly, teacher training has been shifted from specialized institutions to colleges and universities.


In the early 1990s Canada had 69 degree-granting universities and colleges, which together enrolled some 572,900 full-time students. Among the country's larger universities are the following: the University of Alberta (1906) and the University of Calgary (1945), in Alberta; the University of British Columbia (1908) and Simon Fraser University (1963), in British Columbia; the University of Manitoba (1877); the University of Moncton (1864) and the University of New Brunswick (1785), in New Brunswick; Memorial University of Newfoundland (1925); Acadia University (1838) and Dalhousie University (1818), in Nova Scotia; Carleton University (1942), McMaster University (1887), the University of Ottawa (1848), the University of Toronto (1827), the University of Waterloo (1957), and York University (1959), in Ontario; the University of Prince Edward Island (1969); Concordia University (1974), Laval University (1852), McGill University (1821), the University of Montréal (1878), and the University of Québec (1968), in the city of Québec; and the University of Saskatchewan (1907).

Cultural Life and Institutions

The federal government especially encourages the arts through the Canada Council, established in 1957, which awards fellowships and grants. It favors decentralizing policies that bring cultural resources within reach of the most isolated communities. Since 1972 it has supported a multicultural policy to reflect the varied influences that make up the mosaic of Canadian life, including the culture of aboriginal peoples.

Museums and Libraries

Of Canada's more than 2100 museums, archives, and historic sites, the most important are in the National Capital Region. These include, in Hull, Québec, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which celebrates Canada's multicultural heritage; and, in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Nature (formerly the National Museum of Natural Sciences), the National Museum of Science and Technology, and the National Gallery of Canada. The latter exhibits European art, a growing collection of Asian art, and a large body of work by Canadians. The National Museum Policy (1972) has encouraged and supported the growth of regional museums.

The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has collections of art, life and earth sciences, and Canadiana. Among more specialized museums are Upper Canada Village, a restoration of 18th- and 19th-century buildings in Morrisburg, Ontario; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Museum, in Regina, Saskatchewan; and the Royal British Columbia Museum, in Victoria, which contains important displays of Native American artifacts.

The National Library of Canada, in Ottawa, issues the national bibliography and maintains union catalogs of the collections of more than 300 other libraries. Its holdings, including a comprehensive collection of Canadian newspapers, exceed 14.5 million items. The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, also in Ottawa, is the center for the dissemination of scientific and technical data. Provinces and cities have their own libraries. Particularly outstanding university libraries are those of McGill, Toronto, British Columbia, and Montréal.

Theater and Music

The performing arts in Canada are supported by government and private grants. The National Arts Centre, in Ottawa, opened in 1969, has a resident symphony orchestra and theater companies in French and English. Visiting opera and dance companies perform there, and in summer its terraces along the Rideau Canal are the scene of band concerts and arts and crafts fairs.

A number of major theater, opera, dance, and musical groups are found in the large cities; these groups also tour the provinces and travel abroad. The chief theatrical centers are the cities of Québec, Montréal, and Toronto. The theaters of these cities make an effort to present new Canadian plays as well as imports and classics. Opera companies include the Canadian Opera, in Toronto; two companies in Montréal; and six in the west—in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon. Among the principal dance companies are the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (Montréal). The Toronto Dance Theatre presents modern dance. The prominent orchestras include the Montréal Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, and the Vancouver Symphony.

Canadians and visitors also enjoy summer festivals, such as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario; the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario; and Cultures Canada, a series of multicultural events in Ottawa. Local traditions are preserved in the Highland Games on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia; the Sherbrooke Festival de Cantons (Québec), celebrating French-Canadian culture and cuisine; and the Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, Manitoba. Discovery Day in Dawson, Yukon Territory, marks the 1896 discovery of gold. A large variety of smaller festivals are held throughout the country.


Until the early 20th century, Canada was primarily an agricultural nation. Since then it has become one of the most highly industrialized countries in the world. To a large extent the manufacturing industries are supplied with raw materials produced by the agricultural, mining, forestry, and fishing sectors of the Canadian economy.

Between 1973 and 1993 Canada's output of goods and services, or gross domestic product (GDP), increased in real terms by 76 percent to $551.6 billion. Federal government annual revenues in the early 1990s were $92.34 billion; expenditures for the same year were $123.04 billion, leaving a deficit of $30.7 billion.


The Canadian economy depends heavily on agriculture, which employs about 4 percent of the labor force. In the early 1990s Canada had some 280,000 farms, which averaged 242 hectares (598 acres) in size. The annual value of farm output amounted to $18.6 billion in the early 1990s. Because of its abundant production and relatively small population, Canada is a leading exporter of food products. Farms in Canada are about equally divided between crop raising and livestock production. Wheat is the most important single crop, and the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan form one of the greatest wheat-growing areas of the world, with an average annual production of more than one-fifth of the world's supply. One-half of Canada's wheat is grown in Saskatchewan. The prairie provinces also grow a large percentage of the coarse grains and oilseeds produced in Canada. After wheat, the major cash receipts from field crops are obtained from sales of canola, vegetables, barley, maize, potatoes, fruits, tobacco, and soybeans. Annual output totals in the early 1990s included (in metric tons) wheat, 29.9 million; barley, 10.9 million; maize, 5.6 million; canola, 3.7 million; potatoes, 2.9 million; and oats, 3.0 million.

Livestock and livestock products account for about 50 percent of yearly farm cash receipts. Ranching prevails in the west, and the raising of livestock is a general enterprise, except in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where beef cattle form a specialized industry. Ontario and Québec rank highest in production of dairy products, with about 71 percent of the national output; in poultry farming, with 64 percent; and in egg production, with 54 percent. Québec produces 82 percent of the maple products, and Ontario produces 89 percent of the nation's tobacco crop.

In early 1990s the livestock population of Canada included about 14.7 million cattle and calves, of which approximately 1.2 million were milk cows; 10.7 million hogs; and 949,000 sheep and lambs. Fruit farming is done in Ontario, British Columbia, and Québec, with apples contributing about 40 percent of the total value. Berries, peaches, grapes, and cherries are other important crops. Tomatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, peas, and beans are major vegetable crops; Ontario produces about one-half of the total vegetable crop, followed by Québec and British Columbia.

Forestry and Fishing

Forestry is a major source of Canada's wealth, and forest products annually account for nearly 14 percent of Canadian exports. Forests cover some 4.2 million sq km (some 1.6 million sq mi) of the country, and the provincial and federal governments own about 90 percent of this land. Canada has more than 150 varieties of native trees; about 80 percent of them are softwoods, such as spruce, Douglas fir, hemlock, cedar, pine, and balsam. Canada's annual timber harvest in the early 1990s was about 186 million cu m (about 6.6 billion cu ft). Forestry sustains a complex and diversified export and domestic industry, employing more than 250,000 people. Canada leads the world in newsprint production, with about 28 percent, and accounts for more than one-half of world exports; most of the Canadian export is sent to the United States. The sawmill and planing-mill industry is centered in British Columbia. Québec and Ontario lead the nation in pulp and paper production.

The fishing resources of the country are harvested from the northwestern Atlantic and northeastern Pacific oceans and from the most extensive bodies of fresh water in the world. In the early 1990s the number of people employed in fishing or fish-processing operations was approximately 114,600. Canada is a leading exporter of fish products, with annual exports in the early 1990s valued at about $2 billion, or about three-quarters of the country's annual production. The United States receives more than one-half of exports, followed by Japan and the nations of the European Union. The catch, which totaled about 1.2 million metric tons annually in the early 1990s, includes herring, cod, redfish, scallops, salmon, flatfish, lobsters, and crab.


Fur trapping had an important role in Canada's early economic development, and the practice continues today. The value of trapped and farm-raised pelts rose from $26.5 million in the 1960-1961 to $110.8 million in 1986-1987, but declined rapidly in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Production was worth just $36.8 million in 1990-1991. Farming operations consist mainly of raising mink, which contributes more than 90 percent of the annual value of pelts from fur farms, with fox accounting for virtually all the remainder. The fur farms are mainly concentrated in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Québec, and British Columbia. In the early 1990s, 1.9 million pelts of all types were harvested annually. Trapping is carried on primarily in northern Canada; Ontario, Québec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are the main producers of wildlife pelts (see Fur Industry).


The mining industry in Canada has a long history of exploration. The most significant period of growth, however, has been since World War II ended in 1945, with mineral discoveries in almost every region of the country. Mining is an important source of national wealth; in the early 1990s annual mineral production was valued at about $29.3 billion. The Canadian mining industry is strongly oriented toward exports, and Canada is one of the world's leading mineral exporters. The United States, the European Union, and Japan are the leading purchasers of Canadian minerals.

The growth of the mining industry is due in part to petroleum and natural gas discoveries in western Canada; development of huge iron-ore deposits in Labrador and Québec; the discovery and development of large deposits of nickel in Ontario and Manitoba, uranium in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and potash in Saskatchewan; extraction of sulfur from natural gas in the western provinces; development of copper, lead, and zinc deposits; and the production of gold in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Northwest Territories. The leading minerals, in order of value, are crude petroleum (591.2 million barrels annually in the early 1990s), natural gas (118.9 billion cu m/4.2 trillion cu ft), natural gas by-products (26.6 million cu m/939 million cu ft), gold (157,600 kg/347,300 lb), copper (744,700 metric tons), zinc (1.2 million metric tons), nickel (189,100 metric tons), coal (64.6 million metric tons), and iron ore (32.8 million metric tons). These minerals together typically account for more than four-fifths of the value of annual mineral production. Alberta leads the country by a wide margin in the yearly value of mineral output; it is usually followed by Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Québec, and Manitoba. Canada usually leads the world in the annual production of asbestos and zinc and ranks second in production of nickel, potash, and uranium. Other minerals in which the country is among the leading producers are cobalt, copper, gold, gypsum, iron ore, lead, molybdenum, natural gas, platinum-group metals, silver, sulfur, and titanium concentrates. The mining industry is subject to market fluctuations that adversely affect dependent local economies.


The Canadian economy is largely dependent on manufacturing, and industry, which employs about 15 percent of the labor force, and accounts for about 17 percent of the annual gross domestic product. Manufacturing has grown remarkably since 1945. In the early 1990s the leading manufactures, measured by value of output, were transportation equipment, food products, paper and allied products, chemicals and chemical products, primary metals, refined petroleum and coal products, electrical and electronic products, fabricated metal products, wood, and printed materials. The most important manufacturing provinces are Ontario, which now accounts for more than one-half the manufacturing production of Canada, and Québec, which accounts for nearly one-fourth. The chief manufacturing cities include Toronto, Montréal, Hamilton, Vancouver, Windsor, Winnipeg, and Kitchener.


Endowed with many fast-flowing rivers, Canada is the world's leading producer of hydroelectricity. More than 85 percent of the country's hydroelectric output is generated in the provinces of Québec, Ontario, Newfoundland, and British Columbia. In 1979 the first of three planned hydroelectric stations on La Grande Rivière, near James Bay in Québec, began operations; when completed in 1985, these installations, owned and operated by Hydro-Québec, had a capacity of 10.3 million kilowatts, more than any other hydroelectric complex in Canada or in the United States. The powerhouses on La Grande Rivière constitute the first phase of a larger hydroelectric project that is now stalled (see James Bay Project). Churchill Falls, in the Labrador region of Newfoundland, is another major Canadian hydroelectric facility.

Since the early 1950s, Canada has sought to use its abundant resources of natural uranium to generate electricity. The first nuclear power plant, a demonstration station at Rolphton, Ontario, was completed in 1962. A huge nuclear plant was opened at Pickering, Ontario in the early 1970s. In addition, a great complex of nuclear facilities on the Bruce Peninsula, in Ontario, owned and operated by Ontario Hydro, was completed in the early 1990s. No new nuclear facilities are under construction or in the design stages.

In the early 1990s Canada had an installed electricity-generating capacity of 112 million kilowatts. During that period, the annual output of electricity was about 511 billion kilowatt-hours, of which 63 percent was provided by hydroelectric plants, 17 percent by nuclear power plants, and 20 percent by conventional plants using fossil fuels. Canada exports about 10 percent of its energy production to the United States.


The natural variety of seasons and scenic wonders of Canada draw large numbers of tourists. In the spring, blossom festivals flourish across Canada, especially in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Noteworthy is the Ottawa Festival of Spring (Tulip Festival) in May. Alberta's Calgary Exhibition and Stampede in July is world-famous. The Niagara Grape and Wine Festival and autumn-color tours in central Ontario and the Laurentian Mountains of Québec are among the other attractions. In the winter the abundant snowfall has been exploited; skiing centers are expanding. Also attracting visitors are more than 730,000 sq km (more than 282,000 sq mi) of natural areas preserved in Canada's federal, marine, and provincial parks.

Tourism has become one of the leading industries of Canada. In the early 1990s the country was visited by some 36.8 million tourists annually, of whom about 91 percent came from the United States. Expenditures were about $6.8 billion a year, with U.S. residents spending some 46 percent of the total.

Currency and Banking

The unit of currency in Canada is the Canadian dollar, which consists of 100 cents ($1.36 Canadian equals U.S.$1; 1995). The Bank of Canada has the sole right to issue paper money for circulation. Chartered commercial banks operated more than 7600 domestic branches in the early 1990s and had combined assets exceeding $515 billion. Under the Bank Act of 1980, no Canadian subsidiary of a foreign bank may hold assets equal to more than 16 percent of the assets of the entire banking system. A major revision of the Bank Act in 1992 permitted banks, trust companies, and insurance companies to diversify into each other's markets. In the mid-1990s there were 9 domestic and 54 foreign-owned banks operating in Canada. Most foreign-owned and major domestic banks have their head offices in Toronto; a few are based in Montréal. Trust and mortgage loan companies, provincial savings banks, and credit unions also provide banking services. Securities exchanges operate in Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver.

Foreign Trade

From the 16th to the 18th century, the leading Canadian items of export were fish and furs. During the 19th century, the exploitation of the white-pine forests of the Laurentian region was initiated, and timber became the staple item of export. With the improvement of railroad lines early in the 20th century, the western prairie regions were opened, and wheat became the chief item of export. The mining industry began to grow at about the same time; valuable mineral deposits were discovered in the Laurentian region (previously mining had been confined largely to iron and coal in Nova Scotia, and gold, silver, and copper in British Columbia), and exploitation of the spruce timber of northern Ontario and Québec began. Manufacturing industries developed to supply and process the goods of the three primary industries, agriculture, forestry, and mining. The advance of hydroelectric and thermoelectric technology contributed immensely to the economic expansion in northern Canada.

The per capita foreign trade of Canada ranks among the highest of any nation in the world. The growth since 1945 of Canada's external trade has been remarkable. The value of exports in 1946 in Canadian funds was $2.34 billion; this figure increased to $3.16 billion in 1950, to $5.39 billion in 1960, to $16.82 billion in 1970, and to $64.3 billion in 1980. By 1994 the export total was $219.4 billion (U.S. $162.5 billion). Imports showed a comparable increase, from $1.93 billion in Canadian funds in 1946 to $3.17 billion in 1950, to $5.50 billion in 1960, to $13.95 billion in 1970, and to $58.5 billion in 1980. The import total rose to $202.3 billion (U.S. $149.9 billion) in the mid-1990s.

Most of Canada's foreign trade is with the United States, which typically takes about four-fifths of Canada's exports and supplies more than two-thirds of its imports. The value of the Canada-United States merchandise trade is greater than between any other two countries in the world. Components of Canadian exports are increasingly manufactured items; while resource exports such as minerals, timber, and grains are still important, their share of total export volume is decreasing. Leading export items to the United States are motor vehicles and motor-vehicle parts, an exchange which began in the mid-1960s under an agreement providing for free trade in transportation equipment. The cross-border exchange increased particularly after Canada and the United States entered into a free-trade agreement in 1989. The agreement was superseded in 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was approved, which admitted Mexico into the pact and continued trade liberalization policies.

In the early 1990s principal trading partners (in addition to the United States) for exports were Japan, Great Britain, Germany, China, the Netherlands, South Korea, and France. Chief sources for imports were Japan, Great Britain, Germany, Mexico, France, Taiwan, and China.

The leading products Canada sells abroad include automobiles, trucks, motor-vehicle parts, crude petroleum, lumber, newsprint, wood pulp, wheat, industrial machinery, natural gas, office machines, and aluminum. Principal imports are motor-vehicle parts, automobiles, general purpose and specialized machinery, chemicals, computers, crude petroleum, telecommunications equipment, and fruit and vegetables.


The natural water and mountain barriers of Canada, combined with a dispersed population, necessitate efficient and economical transportation facilities. Since the earliest explorations of the country, water transportation has been indispensable. The Saint Lawrence-Great Lakes navigation system extends about 3769 km (about 2342 mi) from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence into the center of the continent. The opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959 contributed greatly to industrial expansion. In the early 1990s cargo carried through the Montréal-Lake Ontario section of the seaway exceeded 32 million metric tons. Nearly 59,000 vessels engaged in foreign trade entered and cleared Canadian ports annually; cargo unloaded totaled some 69.1 million metric tons, and about 153.8 million metric tons were loaded. The ports in Vancouver, Sept-Îles, Montréal, Port-Cartier, Québec, Halifax, Saint John (New Brunswick), Thunder Bay, Prince Rupert, and Hamilton together handled most of the total. Canadian merchant vessels of 1000 gross tons or more numbered 59 in the early 1990s, with a total deadweight tonnage of nearly 640,000.

The government-owned Canadian National Railways is the largest public utility in Canada and operates nearly one-half of the 85,563 km (53,169 mi) of track in the country. The system serves all ten provinces and the Northwest Territories. The privately owned Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) serves all of Canada except Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and the two territories; it operates 21,490 km (13,354 mi) of railroad track. Nationwide passenger rail transport is provided by VIA Rail Canada, founded in 1977 to take over the passenger services of Canadian National Railways and CP Rail. In 1989, in response to the growing rate of airplane and automobile travel, the federal government announced cuts of more than 50 percent in passenger services, which are heavily subsidized. Further cuts were announced in 1993.

The total length of the federal and provincial highway and road system in Canada in the early 1990s was about 290,194 km (about 180,327 mi). The Trans-Canada Highway, completed in 1962, stretches from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Vancouver, British Columbia. In the early 1990s about 13.1 million passenger cars, 3.7 million commercial vehicles, and 324,000 motorcycles and mopeds were registered.

Two major airlines, Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International, maintain a broad network of domestic and international routes. Other smaller carriers are licensed. Of the more than 510 airfields certified by Transport Canada, the busiest are Lester B. Pearson International Airport, in Toronto; Vancouver International Airport; Dorval and Mirabel international airports, near Montréal; and Calgary International Airport.


The publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) owned and operated 65 originating radio stations, including AM, FM, and short-wave, and 29 originating television stations in the early 1990s. Broadcasts are in English, French, and a variety of Native American languages. A total of 695 private originating radio stations (362 AM, 333 FM) and 116 private television stations were operating. Of the 10.1 million households in Canada in the early 1990s, 99 percent had radios and televisions; about 88 percent had access to cable television systems.

In the early 1990s more than 15.9 million telephone lines were in service in Canada. Most domestic telephone service is provided by the Stentor Alliance, a consortium of regional networks that includes nine telephone companies. Seven of the firms are privately owned; the other two are owned and operated by the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Québec-Téléphone is an associate member. Also within this consortium is Telesat Canada, which was established in 1969 by the federal government and private firms to provide commercial communications via satellite. In 1972 it launched the world's first stationary communications satellite designed for domestic commercial use. Called Anik I, after an Inuit word for "brother," the satellite helped provide television broadcasting and telephone service to remote northern Canada. Numerous satellites have been put into orbit since that time. Teleglobe Canada provides international telephone service.

In the early 1990s Canada had 106 daily newspapers, with an aggregate daily circulation of 5.8 million copies. Widely read newspapers include the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, in Alberta; The Province and Vancouver Sun, both in Vancouver, British Columbia; Winnipeg Free Press, in Manitoba; Chronicle-Herald, in Halifax, Nova Scotia; The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun, all in Toronto, Ontario; and The Gazette, Le Journal Montréal, and La Presse, all in Montréal, Québec. The Globe and Mail receives national distribution. The country also was served by many other publications, including Maclean's, a weekly news magazine; Châtelaine, a women's journal published in English and French; and Canadian Geographic. The government-controlled Canada Post provides mail delivery throughout the country.


The civilian labor force in Canada during the early 1990s was made up of approximately 13.8 million people. Employment was concentrated in services (73 percent), and in industry (23 percent). Approximately 533,000 people worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and trapping.

Union membership in the early 1990s exceeded 4 million people, or nearly one-third of all workers. About 60 percent of the union members belonged to organizations affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC); many of these unions were also linked with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Smaller union groupings included the Québec-based Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU), the Centrale des Syndicats Démocratiques, and the Canadian Federation of Labour.


Canada is mainly governed according to principles embodied in the Constitution Act of 1982, which gave the Canadian government total authority over its constitution. Previously, the British North America Act of 1867 and subsequent laws had reserved some constitutional authority with the British Parliament. Canada is a federal union, with a division of powers between the central and provincial governments. Under the original 1867 act, the central government had considerable power over the provinces, but, through amendments to the act and changes brought by practical experience, the provincial governments have increased the scope of their authority. However, considerable tension continues to exist between the federal government and the provincial governments over the proper allocation of power.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, added by the passage of the 1982 Constitution Act to the country's constitution, guarantees to citizens "fundamental freedoms," such as those of conscience and the press; "democratic rights" to vote and seek election; "mobility," "legal," and "equality" rights to move throughout Canada, to enjoy security of person, and to combat discrimination; and the equality of the French and English languages. The charter changed the Canadian political system by enhancing the power of the courts to make or unmake laws through judicial decisions. It also contains the so-called "notwithstanding" clause, which allows Parliament or the provincial legislatures to designate an act operative even though it might clash with a charter provision. Although the constitution and charter apply uniformly throughout Canada, the province of Québec has never formally signed the agreement.

The head of state of Canada is the sovereign of Great Britain. In theory, the head of the national government is the governor-general, who represents the British monarch; the actual head of government, however, is the prime minister, who is responsible to Parliament.

Central Government

The central government of Canada exercises all powers not specifically assigned to the provinces; it has exclusive jurisdiction over administration of the public debt, currency and coinage, taxation for general purposes, organization of national defense, fiscal matters, banking, fisheries, commerce, navigation and shipping, energy policy, agriculture, postal service, census, statistics, patents, copyright, naturalization, aliens, indigenous peoples affairs, marriage, and divorce. Among the powers assigned to the provincial governments are education, hospitals, provincial property and civil rights, taxation for local purposes, the regulation of local commerce, and the borrowing of money. With respect to certain matters, such as immigration, the federal and provincial governments possess concurrent jurisdiction.

The nominal head of the government is the governor-general, the representative of the British crown, who is appointed by the reigning monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister of Canada. The governor-general adheres to the advice of the majority in the House of Commons (the lower chamber of the legislature) in appointing the prime minister, who is the effective head of government, and follows the prime minister's wishes in appointing the Cabinet. The Cabinet consists of as many as 40 members, most of whom are ministers presiding over departments of the federal government. The cabinet has no formal legal power but submits its decisions to Parliament.


The Canadian Parliament consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Commons. Senators are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister to terms that last until the age of 75; there are normally 104 senators (6 from Newfoundland; 10 each from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; 4 from Prince Edward Island; 24 each from Québec and Ontario; 6 from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia; and 1 each from the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory). In 1990 the Conservative federal government found that proposed legislation was being held up by the Liberal-controlled Senate. Invoking a measure in Canada's consitution that had never been used before, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney added 8 new senators, thereby increasing the total number of senators to 112 and achieving a Conservative majority. The number of senators has since returned to 104.

Members of the House of Commons are elected in 295 federal electoral districts whose boundaries are periodically adjusted to reflect population growth or redistribution. Each district contains, on average, about 100,000 constituents. Federal elections are held at the prime minister's discretion, but must be called within a five-year period; in practice, they are called about every four years. Laws are first debated in the House of Commons, but must also be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor-general before coming into effect. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons; if no majority exists, the party with the most seats in Parliament leads a "minority government."


The legal system in Canada is derived from English common law, except in Québec, where the provincial system of civil law is based on the French Code Napoléon. The federal judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court of Canada, made up of a chief justice and eight puisne (associate) judges, three of whom must come from Québec. It sits in Ottawa and is the final Canadian appellate court for all civil, criminal, and constitutional cases. The next leading tribunal, the Federal Court of Canada, is divided into a Trial Division and an Appeal Division. It hears a variety of cases, notably involving claims against the federal government. Provincial courts are established by the provincial legislatures, and, although the names of the courts are not uniform, each province has a similar three-tiered court system. Judges of the Supreme Court and the Federal Court and almost all judges of the higher provincial courts are appointed by the federal government.

Provincial and Territorial Government

The government of each of Canada's ten provinces is in theory headed by a lieutenant governor, who represents the sovereign of Great Britain and is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the federal prime minister. Like the governor-general, however, the lieutenant governor has little actual power, and in practice the chief executive of each province is the premier, who is responsible to a unicameral provincial legislature. Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories are both governed by federally appointed commissioners, assisted in the Northwest Territories by a legislative assembly and in Yukon Territory by an elected council and legislature. A third territory, Nunavut, will be formally created in 1999 and will have a similar governmental makeup to the other two territories.

Political Parties

The strongest national political parties in Canada during the 20th century traditionally have been the Liberal party and the Progressive Conservative party, also known as Tories. However, a voter backlash in the early 1990s has resulted in great upheaval in the Canadian political picture, and established groups such as these two parties have lost much of their powers. Although they agree on many issues, the Liberals have generally supported government intervention to promote the general welfare, while the Conservatives have favored free enterprise and the limited state. The smaller New Democratic party, by contrast, endorsed social democracy and the rights of organized labor, and found support in Ontario and the western provinces. The new Alberta-based Reform party has become an increasingly significant vehicle of conservative sentiment in English Canada, outside the Maritime provinces. The Bloc Québécois, a splinter from the Conservatives, has risen in prominence by espousing Québec sovereignty. To a degree, this party acts as the federal arm of the Parti Québécois, a Québec-based party that held power in the province from 1976 to 1985.

Health and Welfare

All levels of government share the responsibility for social welfare in Canada. The federal government administers comprehensive income-maintenance measures, such as the Canada Pension Plan, Canada Assistance Plan, old-age security pensions, family allowances, youth allowances, and unemployment insurance, in which nationwide coordination is necessary. The federal government gives aid to the provinces in meeting the costs of public assistance; it also provides services for special groups, such as Native Americans, veterans, and immigrants. Administration of welfare services is mainly the responsibility of the provinces, but local authorities, generally with financial aid from the province, often assume the provision of services. Provincial governments have the major responsibility for education and health services in Canada, with municipalities also assuming authority over matters delegated to them by provincial legislation. Health and Welfare Canada is the chief federal agency in health matters.

The Medical Care Act, passed in 1966, has permitted the federal government to contribute about half the cost of the Medical Care Insurance Program (Medicare), with the respective province contributing the remainder. The program establishes the following minimum criteria: (1) comprehensive coverage, to cover all medically required services rendered by physicians and surgeons; (2) universal availability to all residents; (3) portability, to cover temporary or permanent change in residence to another province; and (4) nonprofit basis.


The Canadian armed forces are integrated and are headed by the chief of the defense staff, who reports to the civilian minister of national defense. Under the defense staff are five major commands, organized according to function: maritime command, land force command, air command, communication command, and headquarters northern area command. Canada is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and allocates air and land forces to support NATO in Europe. Canada participates jointly with the United States in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD; see Defense Systems). It also contributes troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations. In the early 1990s the Canadian armed forces included about 78,100 people.


Canada's history has been shaped by the rigors and riches of its vast land base as well as the complex interactions between its diverse inhabitants— indigenous peoples, the French, the British, and other immigrants from around the world. Since confederation in 1867 Canada has become steadily less linked with Great Britain and more an integral part of North America. This process of continentalization has primarily entailed economic change but has also involved ongoing cultural, social, and political accomodations. In that light, the United States has had a pervasive influence on Canada's development as a nation.

Native Americans


In a series of migrations that occurred during the last stages of the Pleistocene Ice Age, Mongoloid peoples from Asia entered North America, probably crossing the Bering Strait. Gradually they spread over the continent and into South America. By 1600, more than 250,000 of their aboriginal descendants inhabited what is now Canada. Developing a Stone Age economy, they hunted, fished, and gathered food and, in warmer areas, also farmed. The basic social unit was the band, which varied from a few families to several hundred people. In areas of higher settlement density, bands were organized into tribes and even larger units.

The largest linguistic group was the Algonquian, which included migratory hunting tribes such as the Cree and Naskapi in the eastern subarctic region and the Abenaki and Micmac in the eastern woodlands on the coast. By the 18th century, Algonquians had spread west, where the Ottawa, Ojibwa, Blackfoot, Plains Cree, and others roamed the prairies and plains in search of buffalo. The Iroquoian-speaking tribes—the Huron and the Iroquois—lived in permanent farm settlements and had a highly developed tribal organization in the St. Lawrence Valley and around Lakes Ontario and Erie (see Iroquoian Family).

Tribes of Salishan, Athabascan, and other linguistic groups occupied fishing villages along the rivers of interior British Columbia. On the Pacific coast, Salishan tribes, such as the Bellacoola, and related Wakashan-speaking tribes—the Kwakiutl and Nootka—developed a rich culture, based on salmon fishing, expressed in potlatch ceremonies and carved wood totem poles. In the western subarctic, the Athabascan group—Carrier, Dogrib, and others—led a primitive hunting existence similar to that of the Algonquians. Small, isolated Inuit bands developed a unique culture based on hunting seals and caribou, enabling them to survive the harsh environment of the Arctic.

European Intruders

The first Europeans to reach North America were probably the Icelandic colonizers of Greenland. According to Icelandic sagas, Leif Ericson reached Vinland—somewhere along the North Atlantic coast—about AD 1000. Archaeological evidence suggests that Nordic people later established short-lived settlements in Labrador and Newfoundland. Claims that they penetrated deep into the mainland have not been substantiated.

A second wave of European exploration, between 1480 and 1540, firmly established the existence of the new land in European minds. Many of the explorers, under government auspices, sought a northwest passage by sea from Europe to Asia's riches and thus regarded the Canadian landmass as an obstacle as well as a potentially useful discovery. The voyage to Newfoundland in 1497 of John Cabot, a Venetian in English service, inspired a series of further explorations and laid the basis for English claims to Canada.

During the 1530s and 1540s the French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River, claiming the land for France. His failure to find a Northwest Passage—or gold, as the Spanish had found in Peru—discouraged further exploration. France was also too preoccupied with domestic religious wars to make any substantial commitment. Canada was important, however, to English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese fishing fleets, all of which regularly fished the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.

English and French interest in Canada revived in the late 16th century, largely for commercial reasons. The English explorers Martin Frobisher in the 1570s and Henry Hudson (in Dutch service) in 1610 and 1611 continued the fruitless search for a passage to Asia. English fishing interests in the 1630s secured a virtual prohibition on efforts to colonize Newfoundland.

Earliest French Settlements

The French were more successful. Fishermen had noticed the abundance of beaver, whose pelts merchants were eager to market in Europe. The French government, motivated by visions of building an empire in the New World, decided to work through commercial monopolies, which in return for control of the fur trade would foster colonization. A monopoly granted to Pierre du Guast, sieur de Monts in 1603 established trade settlements in Acadia in 1604 (now New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) and at the city of Québec on the Saint Lawrence. The settlement of the city of Québec in 1608 owed much to Samuel de Champlain, an explorer hired by de Monts, who became the foremost champion of French colonization. Eventually Champlain convinced Cardinal Richelieu, chief adviser to Louis XIII, of the importance of North America to his mercantilist system of state-aided economic development. In 1627 Richelieu organized a joint-stock company, the Company of One Hundred Associates, to found a powerful center of French civilization in the New World.

This European intrusion over the next 300 years completely disrupted the aboriginal cultures, primarily through the devastating consequences of the introduction of diseases, such as smallpox, for which indigenous North Americans had no immunity. In many parts of the continent, 90 to 95 percent of the indigenous population died, with an associated cultural collapse. Aboriginal cultures were further weakened by the introduction of alcohol and the undermining of traditional belief systems through Christian missionary activities. Perhaps most destructive was the Europeans' demand for land, which deprived the aborigines of their access to traditional resources, eventually eliminating some tribes. As their way of life was curtailed, the Native Americans became a subjugated minority.

New France (1627-1763)

As a French possession, New France reflected the interests of the parent country.

A Proprietary Colony

Under the proprietorship of Richelieu's company, and later its colonial agent, the Community of Habitants (1645-1663), the new French colony took shape along the St. Lawrence. In the French feudal tradition, large fiefs of land were granted to seigneurs, men who promised to parcel it out among habitants, or tenant farmers. Frenchmen were induced to emigrate, resulting in a population of about 2000 by 1666. Hardy, adaptable, and tenacious, many entered the lucrative fur trade, which was brought under central control. New trade settlements were founded, notably at Trois-Rivières (1634) and Montréal (1642). Further explorations of the interior were carried out by coureurs de bois, adventurous, unlicensed fur traders who wanted to escape company restrictions. One of them, Pierre Esprit Radisson, explored west of Lake Superior in the 1650s.

Of more lasting significance was the role of the Roman Catholic church. French Protestants, defeated in France, were prohibited from settling in the new colony. Roman Catholic religious orders were charged with maintaining and spreading the faith. Franciscan Récollet friars arrived in 1614 to convert the aborigines, but were replaced in 1635 by priests of the richer, better-organized Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. Later came Ursuline nuns (1639), who educated girls, and Sulpicians (1657), who ran missions. In 1659 a vicar apostolic, the Jesuit-trained Bishop F. X. de Laval-Montmorency, arrived to take command of the missions and to found parishes. The church increasingly became a powerful, rigidly moralistic force in colonial life.

The survival of New France was uncertain, however, because of almost continuous warfare with the Iroquoian Confederacy. In 1608 Champlain had allied himself with the Algonquians and with the Hurons, who were amenable to missionary activities and acted as the principal suppliers of furs. This alliance, however, antagonized the Iroquoian Confederacy, traditional rivals of the Huron and suppliers of furs to the Dutch in New Amsterdam. After the Iroquois had ravaged Huron country north of the Saint Lawrence in 1648 and 1649, they turned against New France itself. The fur trade was no longer profitable, and the threat to the colony was now so great that the French considered abandoning it.

A Crown Colony

In 1663, Louis XIV's brilliant minister Jean Baptiste Colbert reorganized New France directly under royal authority. Administration was divided between a military governor and a more powerful intendant, both ruling from the city of Québec but under orders from France. The fur trade was granted to a new monopoly, the Company of the West Indies. Defense was improved by the arrival in 1665 of the French Carignan-Salières regiment, many of whose members stayed on as settlers. The Iroquois menace was ended, although attacks continued sporadically throughout the 17th century. Restructuring the seigneurial system, the Crown deprived uncooperative landowners of their fiefs, granted new blocs of land to promising candidates, and laid down rules to govern seigneurs and habitants. The church received land and special payments. The comte de Frontenac, as governor, encouraged further explorations. Those of Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette led to the exploration of the Mississippi River (1673) and those of Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, to the acquisition of Louisiana (1682).

Jean Talon, intendant from 1665 to 1672, set out to establish New France as a prosperous, expanding colony rivaling the thriving English colonies to the south. He invited many new settlers, including young women, until by 1675 the population was almost 8000. He also tried to diversify the economy beyond furs and build trade with Acadia and the West Indies. Talon was recalled before he could carry out his policies, however. After Colbert's death in 1683, French interest in the colony waned, and by 1700 it was clear that New France was not going to be self-sufficient.

Under the governor, the intendant, and the bishop, officials, military officers, and seigneurs constituted a little colonial nobility, overconscious of their rank. Leading merchants, also pursuing status, were influential in the towns. The clergy, almost a separate class altogether, controlled the morals, education, and social welfare of the colonists.

The theoretical authoritarianism of this regime was in fact limited by the vigorous spirit of independence among the people. The artisans were organized into strong guilds, each the focus of its own rituals and ways. They and the rural habitants successfully resisted the colonial government when it infringed on what they considered their traditional rights. The fur trade offered a more rugged alternative if the controls of society were too overbearing.

Anglo-French Rivalry

As the colony developed, it was caught up in the imperial rivalries of England and France, which, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, were locked in a struggle for worldwide control. Europe was one battlefield, North America another. The burgeoning English colonies along the Atlantic Ocean were hemmed in by Acadia and New France in the north and by French expansion in the Mississippi Valley. At the same time, the French felt themselves caught between the Hudson's Bay Company; (chartered in England in 1670), which dominated northern Canada, and the English colonies to the south. The inevitable conflict broke out in 1689 as King William's War (the American counterpart of the War of the Grand Alliance in Europe). After almost a decade of guerrilla warfare, the Peace of Ryswick (1697) merely confirmed the status quo, even returning Acadia, captured by the English, to the French.

This short-lived truce collapsed in 1702 with the outbreak of Queen Anne's War (paralleling the European War of the Spanish Succession). In the course of the war, the British recaptured Acadia (1710), this time permanently. By the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), the French ceded Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay region as well. They retained Cape Breton and the Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island).

To compensate for their loss, the French in 1720 built a fortress at Louisbourg on the southeast tip of Cape Breton. This expensive endeavor was in vain, however. When hostilities recommenced in King George's War (the American counterpart of the War of the Austrian Succession), the fortress fell to a joint British-New England force in 1745. Louisbourg was returned to France by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).

The succeeding French and Indian War (counterpart of the Seven Years' War) was disastrous for France. France had attempted to strengthen its position in North America by refurbishing Louisbourg, building forts in the Ohio Valley, and arranging new Native American alliances. New France, however, with a population of roughly 60,000 and an indifferent, war-weary parent country, was weak. It could not uphold French imperialism against a British population of more than 1 million in the 13 American colonies, backed by the military and naval capacity of an expanding Britain. Anglo-French competition in the Ohio Valley sparked conflict in 1754. The next year the British, presuming that their Acadian subjects were disloyal and urged by New Englanders fearing northern invasion, deported the Acadians. In 1758 a British expedition reconquered Louisbourg. A British army under the impulsive young James Wolfe won the crucial battle of the Plains of Abraham against the French, led by the experienced Marquis L. J. de Montcalm, and so gained Québec. British land forces won control of the west, and the arrival of a British fleet led to the surrender of Montréal in 1760. The result, confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, was that New France came under British rule.

British North America (1763-1867)

Under British rule, the population rapidly increased, and ethnic tensions developed.

The Shaping of a British Colony

British North America was formed more by historical chance than by design. In 1763 it consisted of four distinct regions. Three, long disputed with France, had been won in 1713. Newfoundland was considered merely a series of fishing stations even after settlement, until it became self-governing in the 19th century. The Hudson Bay region (Rupert's Land and the adjoining North-Western Territory) was a wilderness where the Hudson's Bay Company and small, aggressive Scottish companies competed for the fur trade. Acadia, conquered to protect New England and renamed Nova Scotia, was populated largely with New Englanders to replace the exiled French. Its capital, Halifax, was founded in 1749. Annexed to Nova Scotia was Prince Edward Island, which became a separate colony in 1769.

The conquest of the fourth region, New France, or Québec, placed the British, as rulers of French colonists, in something of a quandary. Eventually, two successive governors, James Murray and Sir Guy Carleton, finding that they could not govern effectively without the cooperation of the seigneurs, persuaded the Crown to guarantee the traditional language, civil law, and faith of its new subjects. This decision, embodied in the Québec Act of 1774, ensured the cooperation of the seigneurs and the clergy to the new regime. Indeed, they stood by the government during the American Revolution, although the habitants generally remained neutral. American troops captured Montréal in 1775 but, failing to take the city of Québec or elicit local support, soon withdrew.

The success of the rebellious 13 American colonies left the British with the less prosperous remnants of their New World empire and the determination to prevent a second revolution. They had, however, to accommodate the roughly 50,000 refugees from the American Revolution who settled in Nova Scotia and the upper St. Lawrence. There these United Empire Loyalists soon began to agitate for the political and property rights they had previously enjoyed. In response to Loyalist demands, the Crown created New Brunswick out of Nova Scotia in 1784 and by the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided Québec into Lower Canada (mostly French) and Upper Canada (mostly English from America).

In so doing, the Crown hoped to create a stable society that was distinctly non-American. Although French-Canadians retained the privileges granted by the Québec Act, the Anglican church received preferred status. An Anglo-French colonial aristocracy of rich merchants, leading officials, and landholders was expected to work with the royal governors to ensure proper order. Legislative assemblies, although elected by propertied voters, had little power. The threat of revolution, it appeared, had been banished.

This system worked surprisingly well, at least for a generation. Despite the arrival of large numbers of land-hungry Americans, the aristocracy managed to dominate the society. Minor trouble arose after 1806 when a governor attempted to anglicize Lower Canada, but he was able to quell dissent if not to achieve his goal. In the War of 1812, most Canadians, convinced that Americans were the aggressors, rallied to the British flag. Indeed, the militia aided the British army in the defense of Upper and Lower Canada. After the war, large-scale emigration of English, Scots, and Irish from Europe swelled the ranks of the English-speaking population.

Agitation for Reform

The older order came under attack during the 1820s and collapsed before the forces of reform in the succeeding two decades. The underlying cause was the emergence in all the colonies of a middle class composed of businesspeople (especially in the newly thriving timber and shipbuilding industries), lawyers and other professionals, and rich farmers. All resented the power and arrogance of the English-speaking, largely Anglican ruling class. Some, notably American immigrants, objected on political and economic grounds. Others, such as Methodists and Baptists in Upper Canada, French-Canadians in Lower Canada, and Irish Roman Catholics in Newfoundland, were opposed on the basis of religious and ethnic differences. The parallel development of political parties—proestablishment Tories and antiestablishment reform groups—and an energetic press enabled the champions of reform to reach more and more people.

Some reformers were moderate, especially in the Maritime colonies—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island—which had Loyalist populations. Others were radical. In Lower Canada, although the Roman Catholic church supported moderates, the seigneur Louis Joseph Papineau led radicals in a nationalist agitation for ethnic autonomy. In Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scot, led a demand for a more Americanized, that is, republican, form of government. The radicals, frustrated by the opposition of Canadian Tories and the indifference of Britain, led rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada in 1837 and 1838. The uprisings were swiftly quelled by the army and local militia. Suppression was particularly severe in Lower, or French, Canada.

Stirred by these events, the Crown appointed a liberal English aristocrat, John George Lambton, 1st earl of Durham, the first governor-general of all British North America, and ordered him to find a solution to colonial ills. Believing that the colonies must make economic progress in the pattern of the United States, he recommended in the important Durham Report (1839) the reunification of Upper and Lower Canada, the anglicization of the French-Canadians, and the creation of an executive responsible to the elected legislature. The next year the British Parliament passed the Act of Union, which joined the two Canadas into the Province of Canada and gave each equal representation in the joint legislature. Responsible government was secured in 1849 after much agitation by moderate reformers. The French-Canadians held enough political power to retain their language and institutions, however.

Progress and Tension

During the 1840s and early 1850s colonial life underwent a general liberalization. Municipal corporations were organized, government-aided common schools were founded, prisons were reformed, and Anglican church privileges and seigneurial tenure were abolished. Politics, once the domain of the elite, became the game of party politicians. Most important, the business community became dominant among conflicting interest groups. Its strength was reflected in the politics of the 1850s and 1860s, which often centered on economic issues such as the immigration of cheap labor, the building of railways, and commercial and industrial development. The last was much enlarged by the Reciprocity Treaty (1854-1866) with the United States.

Despite this progress, ethnic tensions re-emerged, especially in the two Canadas. Deep misunderstanding continued to separate urban, profit-minded British businesspeople from largely rural French farmers and professionals concerned with maintaining tradition. The Protestant British in Upper Canada particularly disliked what they considered undue Roman Catholic French influence in local affairs. The French in Lower Canada resented English efforts to dominate and anglicize the colony. In addition, a host of Irish Roman Catholics, fleeing famine in Ireland in the late 1840s, inspired much bigotry among Protestants. No coalition of parties was able to overcome these differences to win a stable majority, and by the mid-1860s the two Canadas were almost ungovernable. Furthermore, the American Civil War (1861-1865) seemed to threaten the survival of British North America. Colonists feared that a victorious North, angered by Britain's sympathy for the South, would retaliate by invading the British colonies.


Out of these concerns came a movement for the unification of the colonies of British North America. The initiators were three political leaders—George Étienne Cartier and John A. Macdonald of the Conservative party, successor to the Tories, and George Brown of the Liberal party, successor to the reformers—who formed a coalition government in 1864. A preliminary conference on unification was held at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in September of that year; a second conference, which met in the city of Québec in October, actually designed the Confederation. Many Maritimers objected, but Great Britain, hoping to strengthen its territory against U.S. influences, gave its support. The Québec resolutions, slightly modified, were passed by the British Parliament as the British North America Act in March 1867 and proclaimed in Canada on July 1, 1867. It was the first time a colony had achieved responsible government without leaving the empire.

The new nation, called the Dominion of Canada, was a federation of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec (Lower Canada), and Ontario (Upper Canada). Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland refused to join. The Dominion continued to be subject to the full authority of the Crown. Indeed, political rights remained limited, because the cautious unionists wished to avoid what they saw as the perils of American democracy. The federal government, established in Ottawa, Ontario, consisted of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Commons with the power to tax and grant subsidies. The provincial governments, under federal supervision, were granted powers sufficient to develop their own resources and fashion their own social institutions. That division of labor, unionists hoped, would prevent the kind of sectional squabbles that had disrupted the American republic.

Building a Nation (1867-1929)

Confederation had created a nation of comparatively few people in a vast territory. According to the census of 1871, the Dominion's population was 3.7 million (compared to about 40 million Americans in a smaller but more usable area). Of the total, about 1 million were French Roman Catholic, 850,000 Irish Roman Catholic and Protestant, and more than 1 million English and Scottish Protestants—all better known for mutual suspicion than for brotherly love. The remainder of the population was a mix of aboriginal peoples, other European immigrants, blacks escaping the slavery of the United States, and Chinese that were mostly railroad construction workers. Three-fourths of the population was rural. Only Montréal, Québec, and Toronto could be considered big cities. A mere 4185 km (2600 mi) of railroad linked the disparate provinces. The gross national product was $459 million, with agriculture the leading occupation.

Expansion Under Macdonald

Sir John Alexander Macdonald, elected prime minister in 1867, immediately took up the task of building a nation. Astutely, he began with a coalition government that drew support from all provinces and interests, although it soon became Conservative in cast. He extended Canada's domain north and west by purchasing Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870, largely to block possible American expansion. This move aroused the existing inhabitants, mostly of mixed European and Native American extraction, and especially the French-speaking métis (people of mixed Native American and European ancestry), who considered themselves a distinct nation. Both English- and French-speaking inhabitants were worried by the threatened incursion of Ontario settlers. The métis, led by Montréal-educated Louis Riel, revolted. The government subdued this first Riel rebellion and then created the province of Manitoba in 1870, wherein political power and school policy were supposed to reflect the French and English duality.

Expanding Canada still further, Macdonald added British Columbia (1871) and Prince Edward Island (1873). The former had been explored by Spanish and British naval expeditions in the 18th century. It was opened to the fur trade through the efforts of Sir Alexander Mackenzie and others and then, in the 1860s, flooded by European and American prospectors in search of gold. The colony joined the Canadian Confederation on Macdonald's promise of a federally financed railway to connect it to centers of population. Indeed, railways were necessary to bind the nation together. The government funded the Intercolonial Railway to the Maritimes and contracted with an entrepreneur with U.S. financial backing for the difficult and costly task of building the Canadian Pacific Railway across the prairies and the Rockies to the coast. The disclosure of corruption in the contract led to a scandal that produced a Liberal victory in the election of 1874.

A National Policy

The Liberal triumph, however, was short lived. The onset of an economic depression, which the Liberals were unable to check, soon rehabilitated Macdonald. He was reelected in 1878 on the promise of a "National Policy" to make Canada economically self-sufficient. Presuming an alliance of business and government, he set out to construct an east-west market with an industrial heartland in Québec and Ontario and an agricultural frontier in the prairies. Over the next 13 years he imposed a tariff on imports to foster industry, revived and aided the transcontinental railway (completed in 1880s), and encouraged prairie settlement. The last policy provoked the métis and some Native Americans to join in the second Riel rebellion, on the Saskatchewan River. This uprising was crushed by the army, which was rushed to the scene on the new railway, and Riel was hanged in 1885. His execution enraged sympathetic French-Canadians, inflaming the ethnic tensions that, together with provincial demands for more power, had already weakened the Macdonald government.

During these years, the Dominion underwent considerable social change. In the vast new western lands the surviving aboriginal peoples were being forced onto reservations as a result of government treaties offering them money, supplies, and farming aid in exchange for their hunting grounds (British Columbia excepted). In the east, despite a long depression, cities and industry grew rapidly, producing an urban working class. In response, churches, schools, newspapers, and department stores emerged as institutions to serve the new public. Ethnic differences notwithstanding, the middle-class citizenry embarked on a moral crusade to "Victorianize" society, that is, to defeat the liquor traffic, protect the Sabbath, eliminate prostitution and gambling, ban impure literature, and improve the moral education of schoolchildren. The United States, struggling with similar difficulties, did not seem to be so successful in surmounting them. Gradually, the image of a pure Canada and an immoral United States became fixed in the national mind.

The Laurier Years

The death of Macdonald in 1891 left the Conservatives without an effective leader. Thus, the election of 1896 was won by the Liberals, led by the French-Canadian lawyer Wilfrid Laurier. A period of prosperity ensued as he carried forward Macdonald's national policy. Protective tariffs supported rapid industrial expansion. A host of emigrants was attracted from Britain and central and eastern Europe and from the United States, where free land was running out. The prairies were finally settled, with Alberta and Saskatchewan becoming provinces in 1905. Two new transcontinental railways were built with public funds to serve the prairie granary. Private entrepreneurs with provincial aid extended railways to northern Ontario and Québec, where gold, silver, and base metals were discovered.

Laurier also won notice as a stalwart champion of Canadian rights against the United States in a dispute (1903) over the Alaskan boundary, which cut northwestern Canada off from the Pacific. He preserved Canadian autonomy by skillfully managing to limit its involvement in British imperialist expansion during the Boer War (1899-1902).

The business community benefited most from the Laurier years. Indeed, by 1911 railway development, industrial growth, and corporate mergers had produced a powerful big-business sector. Some Canadians, however, worried about the social costs of rapid growth, began to attack the supposed evils of plutocratic rule. The spread of slums and disease in overcrowded cities led to demands for government action to improve public health, welfare, and morality. Reformers agitated for the modernization of government and its services, along the lines of a similar reform movement in the United States. A new women's movement campaigned for prohibition, equal rights, and woman suffrage. Other Canadians feared that their way of life was being threatened by alien influences. One such influence was the nearly 600,000 "New Canadian" emigrants from central and southern Europe, many of them Slavic. The other was the steady Americanization of Canada through heavy industrial investment, the domination of the labor movement by the American Federation of Labor, and the enormous popularity of American culture in the cities of English Canada.

In addition to these new discontents, the old ethnic frictions were exacerbated. Objecting to the establishment of a single English school system in Manitoba (1890) and the new provinces, and to even limited Canadian military support of Britain, French-Canadians began again to agitate for autonomy. Consequently, when Laurier negotiated a new reciprocal trade agreement with the United States that seemed to increase American influence, both French-Canadian and business interests defeated him in the election of 1911.

World War I and Its Effects

Robert Laird Borden, the new Conservative prime minister, was responsive to reform demands but soon found his government's energies absorbed by World War I (1914-1918). The Canadian war effort was impressive. The population of 8 million spent $1.67 billion. It sent 425,000 Canadians overseas, at first under British command but by 1917 under Canadian, and lost about 60,000 troops in such actions as Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. As a result, in foreign affairs Canada's autonomy was expressed by its independent participation in the Paris Peace Conference. On the domestic scene, however, the war effort had undermined national unity. The French-Canadians had bitterly opposed Borden's decision to implement war conscription, and to counteract this Borden had attempted to forge a merger of the Conservative and Liberal parties. This joint government eventually split into two factions, the mostly English-speaking Unionists and the French-speaking Liberals. The Unionists dominated the election in 1917, winning every province but Québec.

The Union government granted woman suffrage in 1918 and briefly passed prohibition. It could not, however, handle postwar problems. The government, struggling under war debt, was further burdened by the acquisition of bankrupt railways, including the two subsidized by Laurier. All these were amalgamated as the Canadian National Railways in 1923. Wartime inflation followed by peacetime depression heightened class tensions. Winnipeg was crippled by a general strike in 1919, raising fears of a Communist takeover. Farmers in Ontario and the west, caught between the high cost of manufactured goods and declining wheat prices, revolted against the established parties. They formed the new National Progressive party, which swept the Prairie provinces in the election of 1921. The Progressives gave limited support to the Liberals, enabling them to form a minority government.

The Prosperous 1920s

In the 1920s, by contrast, prosperity returned, principally in the cities, attracting ambitious rural youth escaping farm drudgery or seeking new economic opportunity. The latter was based on a third wave of industrial development, especially of mineral and forest products from the north. Reflecting this economic upturn, the labor movement declined; farmers turned from political action to economic cooperatives; and businesspeople, as apparent creators of the good life, regained their prestige. People spent more on personal items such as cars and radios, setting off a retail boom. The moral rigor of the previous generation relaxed, as manifested by the popularity of hockey, horse racing, and other organized sports; the rising sales of liquor and tobacco; and the enthusiasm for American motion pictures and radio programs.

The new Liberal prime minister, the Ontario labor expert William Lyon Mackenzie King, benefited from the new mood of confidence and ease as he strove to unify the nation. He insisted that Canada determine its own domestic and foreign policies as an equal of Britain, a right recognized at the Imperial Conference of 1926 and confirmed in 1931 by the British Statute of Westminster (see Westminster, Statute of). His defense of Canadian autonomy was popular with both French-Canadians and western Canadians. He partly satisfied farmers by mildly reducing the tariff, won business support by cautious budgeting, and even earned praise from reformers for passage of an Old Age Pension Act (1927). Conservatives were a minority, and Progressives were in decline.

The Pursuit of Well-Being (1929-1957)

After the prosperity of the 1920s, Canada underwent depression and war and emerged into another era of material progress.

The Depression

In four years the world-wide Great Depression shook the foundations of the nation. The gross national product fell from a high of $6.1 billion in 1929 to a low of $3.5 billion in 1933. The value of industrial production was halved. In 1933 about 20 percent of the labor force was unemployed. The drought-stricken western provinces were particularly hard hit as grain prices toppled from $1.60 a bushel in 1928 to $0.28 in 1932. Total exports dropped by about $600 million, a disaster for a country so dependent on foreign markets. The consequence was a shift in the government's priority from nation building to the pursuit of social well-being—the security, health, and comfort of the mass of people.

Canadians quickly turned to politics for a solution. Rejecting Mackenzie King, they chose Conservative lawyer Richard Bennett, who promised swift action. He increased payments to the provinces to support the unemployed, who by 1933 had reached one-third of the population. He dramatically raised tariffs to protect industry and force concessions from foreign countries, and at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa in 1932 he arranged preferential trade agreements with Britain and other Commonwealth countries. He enlarged the sphere of government by creating the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (1932), the centralized Bank of Canada (1934), and a Wheat Board (1935). The economy did not recover, however, and the government lost prestige. In 1935, Bennett announced a more radical reform package similar to the American New Deal: unemployment insurance, a reduced workweek, make-work programs such as "environmental restoration," a minimum wage, industrial codes, and permanent economic planning.

The new policy did not save the Conservatives, however. Many voters turned to three small new parties, which promised solutions to the depression—the Reconstruction party, a Conservative offshoot; the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a socialist group; and the Social Credit party, a right-wing radical movement based in Alberta. Almost by default, Mackenzie King and the Liberals won the election of 1935.

Mackenzie King dropped Bennett's New Deal package, which was eventually declared unconstitutional in 1937 by the British Privy Council, which was then the final court of appeal. He did, however, make a new Reciprocity Treaty (1936) with the United States, convert the radio commission into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and fully nationalize the Bank of Canada. Fending off provincial demands for money to support relief programs, he instituted the Rowell-Sirois Royal Commission (1937), which recommended federal responsibility for many provincial social services and a more even distribution of revenue.

The War Years

The start of World War II (1939-1945) helped save Mackenzie King's government and the Canadian economy. Although Canada had followed an isolationist policy in the 1930s, when Britain went to war in 1939, Canada too joined the anti-Axis coalition. At first the government concentrated mainly on economic contributions of food, raw materials, and goods, thereby avoiding the conscription so odious to French-Canadians. The German invasion of France in 1940, however, forced Canadians to accept the realities of total war.

Taking command of the economy, the Liberal government set up boards to regulate resources and industry, wages and prices, and a rationing system. In 1944 it approved labor's right to collective bargaining. Most important, it agreed to a large army, which required conscription. Again, the war effort was impressive: Expenditure amounted to $21 billion by 1950. Out of a population of 12 million, about 1.5 million men and women served, 41,700 of whom died in action in Europe.

During the war the government planned a peacetime society that would ensure the well-being of the populace according to the recommendations of the Rowell-Sirois Commission. One key element was a minimum social-welfare package to establish a basic living standard. It consisted of unemployment insurance (1940), family allowance payments (1944), generous veterans' benefits, improved old-age pensions, subsidized housing, and various health plans. The other key element was an economic program to foster full employment with a minimum of inflation. After the war the government dismantled industrial controls, encouraged foreign trade, and stemmed the tide of postwar inflation.

After 22 years as prime minister, Mackenzie King retired in 1948, to be succeeded by Louis St. Laurent, a Québec lawyer. St. Laurent led the Liberals to an overwhelming victory in 1949, indicating national approval of the Liberal design for Canada. Another sign of approval was the decision of Newfoundland, including Labrador, to become a Canadian province. This union, in 1949, completed the Confederation.

Postwar Prosperity

The success of the Liberal design and the continued rule of the Liberal party were ensured by an enormous postwar economic boom. New oil supplies in Alberta and new iron-ore reserves in Ungava (in northern Québec) and Labrador were discovered during the late 1940s. In the next decade uranium resources were developed in northern Ontario, and hydroelectric power stations were built across the country. Manufacturing expanded and diversified, increasing in gross value from $8 billion in 1946 to $22 billion in 1953. The government encouraged modernization of the transportation system. The Trans-Canada Highway, a federal-provincial project, was begun in 1949. Trans-Canada Airways, a crown corporation founded in 1938, expanded. In 1956 the privately owned Trans-Canada Pipeline was approved to carry oil and gas from Alberta to Canadian and American markets. The boom was further fueled by the arrival of some 1.5 million immigrants, chiefly British and other Europeans, who provided cheap labor and a body of new consumers.

The gross national product rose from $12 billion in 1946 to more than $30 billion in 1957. The trade unions made economic gains for their members. In 1956 the two largest, the Canadian Congress of Labour and the Trades and Labour Congress, merged into the Canadian Labour Congress, which became a potent force in political and economic life. Much of this economic expansion, however, depended on heavy American investment in Canadian natural resources and American control of much Canadian manufacturing.

New Foreign Ties

Canada's postwar affluence enhanced its status in a world of devastated European countries and underdeveloped African and Asian lands. The government was especially active in foreign aid. In 1950 it joined the Colombo Plan for assisting underdeveloped members of the Commonwealth.

As the old ties with Britain slowly dissolved, Canada came gradually into the political orbit of the United States. In 1940 Mackenzie King and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the Ogdensburg Agreement providing for permanent joint planning of North American defense. After the war, Canada's foreign policy was closely linked to the United States strategy of containing Communist expansion. In 1949 Canada approved the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), guaranteeing the defense of Europe under U.S. leadership. It sent troops to the largely American-staffed UN army during the Korean War (1950-1953). In 1956, at the time of the Anglo-French occupation of the Suez Canal, it proposed, with American approval, a UN Emergency Force to preserve a new truce in the Middle East. This action further cemented Canada's independence from Britain, as it did not back Britain's action in the Middle East. Canada also negotiated the North American Air (now Aerospace) Defense Command (NORAD, 1958), confirming that Canadian defense was a U.S. responsibility. Thus, relations between the United States and Canada became, to the Canadian mind, as significant and intertwined as had been the ties with Britain.

A Time of Troubles (1957- )

Beginning in the late 1950s, a series of intractable problems emerged to threaten the very survival of Canada. Affluence and Liberalism had undermined the nation's traditional supports: the connection with Britain, a decentralized federalism, the accommodation of French- and English-Canadian ambitions, and social conservatism.

The 1957 election of the Conservative leader John Diefenbaker ended 22 years of Liberal rule in Ottawa. The next year his government won a sweeping parliamentary majority.

The Turmoil of the 1960s

A surge of social criticism, particularly among the young, challenged existing authority during the 1960s. The old CCF was reborn in 1961 as the prolabor New Democratic party (NDP), intent on creating a social democracy in Canada. A wave of anti-Americanism led many artists and intellectuals in English Canada to attack all signs of U.S. economic and cultural power. The most serious problem resulted from the revival of French-Canadian nationalism. After 1960 a new Liberal government in Québec sponsored a "Quiet Revolution" to modernize institutions, demand autonomy, and enhance the French-Canadian presence in economic life.

In Ottawa, Diefenbaker was unable to govern the country effectively, and his party was beaten in the election of 1963 by the revitalized Liberals led by Lester Pearson, a former diplomat. Pearson's minority government was responsive to the public mood. It unified the armed forces under a single command, revamped the broadcasting system, and laid the foundation for medical care for all citizens (which went into effect in 1969). The government also implemented "cooperative federalism" to allow Québec and other provinces a greater say in national affairs. Even so, some nationalists turned to new separatist organizations, notably René Lévesque's Parti Québécois (PQ), founded in 1968.

The Trudeau Era

In the 1968 election the policies and personality of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a French-Canadian, brought the Liberals a majority. Trudeau, who dominated national politics for some 15 years, elaborated a new vision of Canada. His government strengthened cultural policies to promote the media and subsidized Canadian participation in international sports events to provide a new focus for national pride. Trudeau liberalized immigration practices, over time attracting more Asian and Central and South American newcomers to Canada, and implemented the idea of multiculturalism, encouraging the persistence of distinct ethnic identities among the population. The government greatly expanded payments to the underprivileged, the young, and the aged in an effort to realize a social democracy in the European style.

Much of Trudeau's personal attention was focused on preserving national unity. His government passed the Official Languages Act (1969), which affirmed the equality of French and English in all governmental activities. In October 1970 he used martial law to impose order on Québec after the separatist Front de Liberation du Québec had seized a provincial cabinet minister and a British consul.

In foreign policy, an effort was made to forge links with Europe and Asia that might counterbalance the ties to the United States. The government also flirted with economic nationalism, establishing the Foreign Investment Review Agency (1974).

A serious blow was struck against the federal government with the victory of the PQ in Québec in 1976, and the implementation of a provincial law giving the French language preference there. The Liberals lost the May 1979 election to the Progressive Conservatives, led by Joseph Clark. He, however, was unable to form a stable majority in Parliament, and Trudeau returned to power in February 1980. In May the federal government triumphed in a provincial referendum on Québec sovereignty, with about 60 percent of Québec voters rejecting independence. Trudeau was also finally able to get the English-speaking provinces to agree to a new constitution, which was proclaimed in 1982; Québec, however, did not approve the constitution.

His efforts to remake Canada, however, had run into increasing difficulties. Provincial governments, especially in the west, were often angered by the centralist ambitions of Ottawa. Business bitterly criticized the government's economic policies. Many English-Canadians resented bilingualism and the signs of French power in Ottawa. Above all, government spending produced an unrelieved series of budget deficits, which reached $38.5 billion in 1984-1985 and resulted in a $233 billion national debt by 1986.

The Conservative Reaction

When Trudeau retired in June 1984, John Napier Turner became prime minister. In the September parliamentary elections the Conservatives, led by Brian Mulroney, easily won office and soon embarked on policies designed to undo Trudeau's vision of Canada.

Inspired by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the government tried to reduce the deficits, cut back on social and cultural policies, rebuild ties with business, and even privatize government enterprises. The most dramatic shift occurred in 1988 when Mulroney and Reagan signed a free-trade agreement. In the 1988 election Mulroney, strongly supported by business and bitterly opposed by English-Canadian nationalists, managed to eke out a win as candidates opposed to free trade split the vote. The benefits of free trade were undone by a combination of an overvalued Canadian dollar, corporate restructuring, a new goods and services tax (1991), and a severe recession that led to a decline in domestic manufacturing, a massive loss of jobs, and cross-border shopping by Canadians. In 1993 the Canadian government signed a further agreement with the United States and Mexico to create a free-trade zone. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect January 1, 1994.

An even more serious concern was the collapse of national unity. In a 1987 meeting at Meech Lake, Québec, national and provincial leaders had approved a series of constitutional amendments that would satisfy Québec's demand for recognition as a "distinct society" within the Canadian confederation. Although Mulroney worked hard to win over the provinces, English-Canadians objected to the accord and it was not ratified by Manitoba and Newfoundland in 1990. This failure sparked a major separatist revival in Québec, and led to another round of meetings in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 1991 and 1992. These negotiations culminated in the drafting of the Charlottetown Accord, a blueprint for extensive changes to the constitution, including self-government for indigenous peoples, a restructuring of parliament to achieve better representation, and recognition of Québec as a distinct society. Although supported by most leaders in politics, the press, and business, the agreement was defeated in a national referendum in October 1992, in part because of disenchantment with politicians and Mulroney himself.

A government agreement to create a vast self-governing homeland for the Inuit people in the Northwest Territories was approved by Canadian voters at large in May 1992 and by the Inuit in November of that year. The homeland, called Nunavut (Inuktitut for "our land"), is to have territorial status beginning in 1999. In February 1993, with Canada mired in recession and discord, Mulroney announced his resignation as prime minister and Conservative party leader. Kim Campbell replaced him as head of the party in June, becoming Canada's first woman prime minister. Just four months later, however, Campbell and her party, the Progressive Conservatives, were routed from office in the October election. The Liberals won 177 seats in Parliament, while the Conservatives dropped from 154 seats to 2 in the worst defeat for a governing political party in Canada's history. The head of the Liberal party, Jean Chrétien, was sworn in as prime minister on November 4, 1993.

In 1994 provincial elections in Québec, Jacques Parizeau, the outspoken separatist leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ), was pitted against Daniel Johnson, the new Liberal leader and a significant federalist voice. During the campaign, Parizeau promised another referendum on sovereignty. For this stance, Parizeau received the support of Lucien Bouchard, leader of the Bloc Québécois in Ottawa. The popular vote was almost tied, but the PQ emerged with a majority of the seats. After the election, the PQ initiated a series of regional commissions throughout the province in an effort to rally popular sentiment around the cause of independence. However, although the public had voted for the PQ in the election, the majority appeared to favor remaining in Canada. The PQ, recognizing that a referendum would probably fail, announced in March 1995 it would postpone the vote.