For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 9.9 million sq. km. (3.8 million sq. mi.); second-largest country in the world.
Cities: Capital--Ottawa (pop. 1.1 million). Other major cities--Toronto (5.1 million), Montreal (3.6 million), Vancouver (2.1 million), Calgary (1.1 million), Edmonton (1.0 million), Quebec City (0.7 million), Winnipeg (0.7 million), Hamilton (0.7 million).
Terrain: Mostly plains with mountains in the west and lowlands in the southeast.
Climate: Temperate to arctic.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Canadian(s).
Population (2009 est.): 33.7 million.
Ethnic groups: British/Irish 28%, French 23%, other European 15%, Asian/Arab/African 6%, indigenous Amerindian 2%, mixed background 26%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 43.6%, Protestant 29.2%, other Christian 4.3%, Muslim 2.0%, Jewish 1.1%, Buddhist 1.0%, Hindu 1.0% other 1.3%, none 16.5%.
Languages: English (official) 57.8%, French (official) 22.1%, other 20.1% (including Chinese and aboriginal languages).
Education: Literacy--99% of population aged 15 and over has at least a ninth-grade education.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5.4/1,000. Life expectancy--77.7 yrs. male, 82.5 yrs. female.
Work force (2009, 18.4 million): Goods-producing sector--25%, of which: manufacturing 15%; construction 6%; agriculture 2%; natural resources 2%; utilities 1%. Service-producing sector--75%, of which: trade 16%; health care and social assistance 11%; educational services 7%, accommodation and food services 7%; professional, scientific, and technical services 7%; finance 6%; public administration 5%; transportation and warehousing 5%; information, culture, and recreation 5%; other services 4%.
Type: Federation, parliamentary democracy, and constitutional monarchy.
Confederation: July 1, 1867.
Constitution: The British North America Act of 1867 patriated to Canada on April 17, 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and unwritten custom. The British North America Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are collectively referred to as the Constitution Act.
Branches: Executive--Queen Elizabeth II (head of state represented by a governor general), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--bicameral Parliament (308-member House of Commons; 105-seat Senate). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Federal-level political parties: Liberal Party, Conservative Party of Canada, Bloc Quebecois (BQ), New Democratic Party (NDP).
Subdivisions: 10 provinces, 3 territories.
GDP (2008): $1.2 trillion.
Real GDP growth rate (2008): 2.7%.
Per capita GDP (2008): $47,131 (nominal); $37,722 (PPP).
Natural resources: Petroleum and natural gas, hydroelectric power, metals and minerals, fish, forests, wildlife, abundant fresh water.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, livestock and meat, feed grains, oil seeds, dairy products, tobacco, fruits, vegetables.
Industry: Types--motor vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, aircraft and components, other diversified manufacturing, fish and forest products, processed and unprocessed minerals.
Trade: U.S. merchandise exports to Canada (2008)--$264.2 billion: motor vehicles and spare parts, industrial and electrical machinery, plastics, computers, chemicals, petroleum products and natural gas, and agricultural products. In 2008, 63% of Canada's imports came from the United States. U.S. merchandise imports from Canada (2008)--$347.9 billion: motor vehicles and spare parts, crude petroleum and natural gas, forest products, agricultural products, metals, industrial machinery, and aircraft. In 2008, 75% of Canada's exports went to the U.S.
The relationship between the United States and Canada is the closest and most extensive in the world. It is reflected in the staggering volume of bilateral trade--the equivalent of $1.6 billion a day in goods--as well as in people-to-people contact. About 300,000 people cross the shared border every day.
A 2004 law has phased in new rules for travel between Canada and the United States. Since January 2007 U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Canada have needed a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States. Beginning January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens aged 19 and older traveling into the U.S. from Canada by land or sea (including ferries) have had to present documents denoting citizenship and identity. This change primarily affects American and Canadian citizens who had previously been permitted entry into the U.S. by oral declaration alone, and marks the transition toward standard and consistent documents for all travelers entering the U.S. Acceptable documentation includes a valid passport or government-issued photo identification such as a driver's license and proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate. Children aged 18 and under need only to present a birth certificate. A list of acceptable documents is found at http://canada.usembassy.gov. Travelers who do not present acceptable documents may be delayed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry attempt to verify identity and citizenship. Since June 2009, all travelers, including U.S. citizens, have had to present a passport or other secure document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. from Canada.
In fields ranging from law enforcement to environmental protection to free trade, the two countries work closely on multiple levels from federal to local. In addition to their close bilateral ties, Canada and the U.S. cooperate in multilateral fora. Canada--a charter signatory to the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and a member of the G8 and G20--takes an active role in the United Nations, including peacekeeping operations, and participates in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990 and hosted the OAS General Assembly in Windsor in June 2000, and the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001. Canada seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), and hosted the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver-Whistler, British Columbia in 2010.
Canada views good relations with the U.S. as crucial to a wide range of interests, and often looks to the U.S. as a common cause partner promoting democracy, transparency, and good governance around the world. Nonetheless, it sometimes pursues policies at odds with our own. Canada decided in 2003 not to contribute troops to the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq (although it later contributed financially to Iraq's reconstruction and provided electoral advice). Other recent examples are: Canada's leadership in the creation of the UN-created International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes; its decision in early 2005 not to participate directly in the U.S. missile defense program; and its strong support for the Ottawa Convention to ban anti-personnel mines. The U.S., while the world's leading supporter of demining initiatives, declined to sign the treaty due to unmet concerns regarding the protection of its forces and allies, particularly those serving on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the lack of exemptions for mixed munitions.
U.S. defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense, established in 1940, provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters and the U.S. and Canada share NATO mutual security commitments. In addition, U.S. and Canadian military forces have cooperated since 1958 on continental air defense within the framework of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The military response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States both tested and strengthened military cooperation between the U.S. and Canada. The new NORAD Agreement that entered into force on May 12, 2006 added a maritime domain awareness component and is of "indefinite duration," albeit subject to periodic review. Since 2002, Canada has participated in diplomatic, foreign assistance, and joint military actions in Afghanistan. Approximately 2,500 Canadian Forces personnel are deployed at any given time in southern Afghanistan under a battle group based at Kandahar and as members of the Canadian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar. The Canadian Parliament has approved the extension of this mission in Kandahar until 2011. Canada has also contributed to stabilization efforts in Haiti, initially with troops and later with civilian police and electoral assistance, and humanitarian and developmental aid.
The U.S. and Canada also work closely to resolve trans-boundary environmental issues, an area of increasing importance in the bilateral relationship. A principal instrument of this cooperation is the International Joint Commission (IJC), established as part of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to resolve differences and promote international cooperation on boundary waters; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon celebrated the treaty's centenary in June 2009. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978 (as amended in 1987) is another historic example of joint cooperation in controlling trans-boundary water pollution; President Barack Obama's administration has committed itself, along with Canada, to update the agreement. The two governments also consult regularly on trans-boundary air pollution. Under the Air Quality Agreement of 1991, both countries have made substantial progress in coordinating and implementing their acid rain control programs and signed an annex on ground level ozone in 2000.
Canada ratified the Kyoto Accord in 2002, despite concern among business groups and others that compliance would place Canada's economy at a lasting competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis the U.S. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government announced in 2006, however, that Canada would not be able to meet its original Kyoto Protocol commitments. In April 2007, the Canadian Government announced a new regulatory framework for greenhouse gas emissions that was to be implemented beginning in 2010; however, progress on that framework has been somewhat slower than anticipated and the implementation date has slipped to 2012. Moreover, since late 2008 Canada has emphasized that it would prefer to see a harmonized cap and trade regime and coordinated greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan for both Canada and the United States. In February 2009 President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the bilateral Clean Energy Dialogue (CED), which is charged with expanding clean energy research and development; developing and deploying clean energy technology; and building a more efficient electricity grid based on clean and renewable energy in order to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change in both countries. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Canadian Minister of Environment Jim Prentice serve as the lead government officials for moving the Clean Energy Dialogue forward.
Canada also participates in the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the world's 17 largest economies as well as the UN; the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which joins it with the U.S., Japan, Australia, South Korea, China, and India in a broad effort to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in major industrial sectors; and the International Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, which researches effective ways to capture and store carbon dioxide.
While bilateral law enforcement cooperation and coordination were excellent prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, they have since become even closer through such mechanisms as the Cross Border Crime Forum. Canada, like the U.S., has strengthened its laws and realigned resources to fight terrorism. U.S.-Canada security cooperation to create a safe and secure border is exemplary. Canadian and U.S. federal and local law enforcement personnel fight cross-border crime through cooperation on joint Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs). Companies on both sides of the border have joined governments in highly successful partnerships and made massive investments to secure their own facilities and internal supply chains. Over 70% of Canada-U.S. trade is transported by truck. Some commercial drivers crossing the border have volunteered to undergo background security checks under the bilateral Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program and many companies participate in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). These initiatives have helped secure trade while speeding border processing.
Canada is a significant source of marijuana and synthetic drugs (methamphetamines, ecstasy) reaching the U.S., as well as precursor chemicals and over-the-counter drugs used to produce illicit synthetic drugs. Implementation and strengthening of regulations in Canada and increased U.S.-Canadian law enforcement cooperation have had a substantial impact in reducing trafficking in precursor chemicals and synthetic drugs, but cannabis cultivation, because of its profitability and relatively low risk of penalty, remains a thriving industry. Canada increased maximum penalties for methamphetamine offenses in August 2005 and implemented new controls over various precursors in November 2005. Canada is active in international efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering.
Canada is a large foreign aid donor and targets its annual assistance of C$4.4 billion toward priority sectors such as good governance; health (including HIV/AIDS); basic education; private-sector development; and environmental sustainability. Canada is a major aid donor to Iraq, Haiti, and Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Harper, who entered office stating he intended to bring a new, more positive tone to bilateral relations while still defending Canadian interests, held his first meeting with President Obama in Ottawa on February 19, 2009. Harper visited Washington September 15-17, 2009. The two leaders have also met several times at multilateral events, including the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, in July 2009, and the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009.
Trade and Investment
The U.S. and Canada enjoy an economic partnership unique in the world. The two nations share the world's largest and most comprehensive trading relationship, which supports millions of jobs in each country. In 2008, total trade between the two countries exceeded $610 billion. The two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario equals all U.S. exports to Japan. Canada's importance to the U.S. is not just a border-state phenomenon: Canada is the leading export market for 36 of the 50 U.S. States, and ranked in the top three for another 10 States. In fact, Canada is a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 countries of the European Community combined, whose population is more than 15 times that of Canada. The comprehensive U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which went into effect in 1989, was superseded by the North American Free Trade Agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico (NAFTA) in 1994. NAFTA, which embraces more than 450 million people of the three North American countries, expanded upon FTA commitments to move toward reducing trade barriers and establishing agreed upon trade rules. It has also resolved long-standing bilateral irritants and liberalized rules in several areas, including agriculture, services, energy, financial services, investment, and government procurement. Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, total two-way merchandise trade between the U.S. and Canada has grown by more than 265%, creating many new challenges for the bilateral relationship.
Canada is an urban services-dependent economy with a large manufacturing base. Since Canada is the largest export market for most states, the U.S.-Canada border is extremely important to the well-being and livelihood of millions of Americans.
The U.S. is Canada's leading agricultural market, taking 55% of its agro-food exports in 2007. However, U.S. imports of Canadian livestock products, particularly ruminants, fell drastically after the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, mad cow disease) in early 2003. Shipments of most Canadian beef to the U.S. were resumed in late 2003, and trade in live cattle under 30 months resumed in July 2005. The remaining U.S. restrictions were lifted in November 2007. Canada is the largest U.S. agricultural market, primarily importing fresh fruits and vegetables and livestock products.
The U.S. and Canada enjoy the largest energy trade relationship in the world. Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of energy to the U.S.--providing 17% of U.S. oil imports and 18% of U.S. natural gas demand. Recognition of the commercial viability of Canada's oil sands in Alberta has raised Canada's proven petroleum reserves to 179 billion barrels, making it the world's second-largest holder of reserves after Saudi Arabia. Canada is planning Arctic pipelines to provide more natural gas to the North American market. Canada and the U.S. operate an integrated electricity grid which meets jointly developed reliability standards and provide almost all of each other's electricity imports. Canada is a major supplier of electricity (mostly clean and renewable hydroelectric power) to New England, New York, the Upper Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and California. Canadian uranium helps fuel U.S. nuclear power plants.
While the overwhelming majority of U.S.-Canada trade flows smoothly, there are occasional disputes affecting a small sliver of bilateral commerce. Usually these issues are managed amicably through bilateral consultative forums or referral to World Trade Organization (WTO) or NAFTA dispute resolution procedures. For example, in response to WTO challenges by the U.S., the two governments negotiated an agreement on magazines providing increased access for the U.S. publishing industry to the Canadian market, and Canada amended its patent laws to extend patent protection to 20 years. Canada has challenged U.S. trade remedy law in NAFTA and WTO dispute settlement mechanisms. It has also questioned the “Buy America” provisions for procurement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Some of these cases involved actions taken by the U.S. Government on softwood lumber imports from Canada. However, the two countries implemented a comprehensive settlement on softwood lumber in late 2006 and these cases were dropped. The U.S. is pressing Canada to strengthen its intellectual property laws and enforcement. The U.S. and Canada resolved a WTO dispute over dairy products in 2003. The U.S. and Canada also have resolved several major issues involving fisheries. By common agreement, the two countries submitted a Gulf of Maine boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice in 1981; both accepted the Court's October 12, 1984 ruling that delineated much of the boundary between the two countries' Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
The U.S. and Canada signed a Pacific Salmon Agreement in June 1999 that settled differences over implementation of the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty. In 2001, the two countries reached agreement on Yukon River salmon, implementing a new abundance-based resource management regime and effectively realizing coordinated management over all West Coast salmon fisheries. The U.S. and Canada reached agreement on sharing another trans-boundary marine resource, Pacific hake. The two countries also have a treaty on the joint management of albacore tuna in the Pacific, and closely cooperate on a range of bilateral fisheries issues and international high seas governance initiatives.
U.S. immigration and customs inspectors provide preclearance services at eight airports in Canada, allowing air travelers direct connections in the U.S. During the 12 months ending in June 2007, nearly 21.9 million passengers flew between the U.S. and Canada on scheduled flights. Toronto's Pearson International Airport is the third-largest international passenger gateway to the U.S. after London (Heathrow) and Tokyo (Narita) airports. A bilateral Open Skies agreement signed in March 2007 removed all economic restrictions on civil aviation services between Canada and the U.S. The two countries also share in operating the St. Lawrence Seaway, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
Canada and the U.S. have one of the world's largest investment relationships. The U.S. is Canada's largest foreign investor. Statistics Canada reports that at the end of 2007, the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Canada was $289 billion, or about 59% of total foreign direct investment in Canada. U.S. investment is primarily in Canada's mining and smelting industries, petroleum, chemicals, the manufacture of machinery and transportation equipment, and finance.
Canada is the fifth-largest foreign investor in the U.S. At the end of 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department estimates that Canadian investment in the United States was $159 billion at historical cost basis. Canadian investment in the U.S. is concentrated in finance and insurance, manufacturing, banking, information and retail trade and other services.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Terry A. Breese
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--Scott Bellard
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Eric Benjaminson
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs--Linda C. Cheatham
Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Stephan Wasylko
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs--David Hopper
Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs--Robin Tilsworth
Counselor for Environment, Science, Technology, and Health--Marja D. Verloop
Defense Attache--Col. Joseph P. Breen
Consul General Vancouver--Phillip Chicola
Consul General Calgary--Laura Lochman
Consul General Toronto--Kevin Johnson
Consul General Montreal--Lee McClenny
Consul General Quebec--David Fetter
Consul General Halifax--Anton Smith
Consul Winnipeg--Michelle Jones
The U.S. Embassy in Canada is located at 490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario. The mailing address is P.O. Box 866, Station B, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5T1 (tel. 613-238-5335).
Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal system, a parliamentary government, and strong democratic traditions. The 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees basic rights in many areas. Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, serves as a symbol of the nation's unity. She appoints a governor general, who serves as her representative in Canada, on the advice of the prime minister of Canada, usually for a 5-year term. The prime minister is the leader of the political party in power and is the head of the cabinet. The governing party remains in office as long as it retains majority support in the House of Commons on major issues.
Canada's Parliament consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Legislative power rests with the 308-member Commons. Legislation to provide for federal elections to be held on fixed dates, every four calendar years, was passed in the spring of 2006. However, no elections have taken place under this provision; the October 2008 vote took place a year ahead of schedule. The next fixed election date is scheduled for 2012, but the prime minister may ask the governor general to dissolve Parliament and call new elections at any time should the governing party lose the support of the House of Commons. Vacancies in the 105-member Senate, whose members serve until the age of 75, are filled by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Recent constitutional initiatives have sought unsuccessfully to strengthen the Senate by making it elective and assigning it a greater regional representational role. In an effort to bring about incremental Senate reform without a constitutional amendment, the government plans to re-introduce bills to place term limits upon Senators and to create a process of public consultation in the appointment of Senators. However, the bills face substantial opposition, both from within Parliament and from certain provinces, which question the constitutionality of the proposed legislation, putting the success of the legislation in doubt.
Criminal law, based largely on British law, is uniform throughout the nation and is under federal jurisdiction. Civil law is also based on the common law of England, except in Quebec, which has retained its own civil code patterned after that of France. Justice is administered by federal, provincial, and municipal courts.
Each province is governed by a premier and a single, elected legislative chamber. A lieutenant-governor, appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, represents the Crown in each province.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Michaëlle Jean
Prime Minister--Stephen Harper
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Lawrence Cannon
Ambassador to the United States--Gary Doer
Ambassador to the United Nations--John McNee
Canada maintains an embassy in the United States at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202-682-1740).
On February 6, 2006, Stephen Harper was sworn in as Canada's twenty-second Prime Minister, succeeding Liberal Party leader Paul Martin. An admitted "policy specialist," Harper rose from the ranks of conservative political party staffers. Prior to becoming Prime Minister, he sat as a Member of Parliament, including as Leader of the Opposition since 2002 when he became head of the western-based Canadian Alliance. He was elected the first leader of the Conservative Party of Canada when it was created in 2003 through the merger of Canadian Alliance and Peter MacKay's Progressive Conservative Party. The January 23, 2006 election victory by the Conservative Party ended 12 years of Liberal Party rule that, in the end, was tainted by corruption and ethics concerns. In a subsequent federal election on October 14, 2008, the Conservatives won 38% of the vote and formed a second minority government with 143 seats in the House of Commons. (As of December 2009, they held 145 seats.) The Liberals won 26% of the vote and 77 seats in the House of Commons. As the party with the second-largest number of seats, the Liberals form the "official opposition." In December 2008, the three opposition parties explored deposing the Harper government and replacing it with a Liberal-New Democratic coalition supported on confidence and budgetary matters by the Bloc Quebecois. The Liberal Party ultimately backed away from the plan in the face of public skepticism.
The Conservatives made unexpected gains in Quebec by winning 10 seats in the January 2006 election, but failed to increase their number of seats in the province in the 2008 election. The separatist Bloc Quebecois (BQ) has a majority (48) of Quebec's 75 seats (the BQ runs candidates only in Quebec). The left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) now has 37 seats, and one independent also sits in Parliament.
Policy priorities of the Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper have remained fairly consistent since 2006: improving accountability and ethics in government; lower taxes; fighting crime and urban violence; reinvesting in defense; bolstering Canada's Arctic sovereignty; promoting national unity; and raising the profile of Canada's role abroad, through its combat mission in Afghanistan, contributions to stabilization in Haiti, and renewed partnership with the Americas.
In Canada's political system, a key challenge for any federal government is balancing the conflicting interests of Canada's 10 provinces and 3 territories. Recognizing the advantages of a coordinated approach in dealing with the federal government, the provinces and territories created a Council of the Federation in 2003, with their leaders (Canada's first ministers) meeting regularly in that forum to develop common positions. Prime Minister Harper met with the provincial premiers and territorial leaders formally on January 15, 2009 and on August 5, 2009.
Quebec, which represents 23% of the national population (and has a similar proportion of seats in the House of Commons), seeks to preserve its distinctive francophone nature, and is perceived by the less-populous western provinces as wielding undue influence on the federal government. At least until the January 2006 election of Albertan Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, the western provinces had sometimes expressed concern that Ottawa did not fully attend to their interests. Ontario believes that it pays out significantly more to the federal government than it gets back in revenues, while the Atlantic Provinces seek to assert greater control over fishing and mineral rights off their shores. The federal government ceded some power in a few areas of provincial jurisdiction, while seeking to strengthen the federal role in many other areas such as inter-provincial trade and the regulation of securities.
Popular support for sovereignty appears to be on the wane in Quebec, although pride in that province's unique cultural and linguistic identity remains very strong. Most Quebec voters seem to appreciate the economic benefits of remaining in the Canadian confederation and aim to advance their separate francophone identity within the confederation. In the December 2008 provincial election, the ruling provincial Liberals garnered 42% of the vote, and Premier Jean Charest heads a narrow majority government with 66 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. The opposition Parti Québécois holds 51 seats, and the third party is Action démocratique du Québec, which holds 4 seats after having been the second-largest party in the previous Assembly.