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 and convention. The Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, 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 United States.
UNITED STATES-CANADA RELATIONS
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 border every day.
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 United States 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 United States 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, subject to periodic review. Since 2002, Canada has participated in diplomatic, foreign assistance, and joint military actions in Afghanistan. Canadian Forces personnel are presently deployed 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 through 2011.
While bilateral law enforcement cooperation and coordination were excellent prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, they have since become even closer through such mechanisms as the Cross Border Crime Forum. Canada, like the United States, has strengthened its laws and realigned resources to fight terrorism. Canadian and U.S. federal and local law enforcement personnel fight cross-border crime through cooperation on joint Integrated Border Enforcement Teams. Companies on both sides of the border have joined governments in highly successful partnerships and made significant investments to secure their own facilities and internal supply chains. Crossing the border is now both more secure and faster than in 2001.
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 United States 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 is active in international efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering. Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990. Canada seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
The United States and Canada also work closely to resolve trans-boundary environmental and water 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.
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 United States. 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 United States, 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.
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.
Trade and Investment
The United States and Canada share the world's largest and most comprehensive trading relationship, which supports millions of jobs in each country. Canada is the leading export market for 35 of the 50 U.S. states and is a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 countries of the European Union. The United States-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 United States and Canada has grown by more than 265%.
U.S. immigration and customs inspectors provide preclearance services at eight airports in Canada, allowing air travelers direct connections in the United States. During the 12 months ending in June 2007, nearly 21.9 million passengers flew between the United States and Canada on scheduled flights.
Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of energy to the United States--providing 20% of U.S. oil imports and 18% of U.S. natural gas imports. Recognition of the commercial viability of Canada's oil sands in Alberta has raised Canada's proven petroleum reserves to 170 billion barrels, making it the world's second-largest holder of reserves after Saudi Arabia. Canada and the United States operate an integrated electricity grid which meets jointly developed reliability standards and provide 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.
Bilateral trade disputes are managed 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 United States, 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. The two countries negotiated the application to Canadian goods of “Buy America” provisions for state and local procurement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The United States has encouraged Canada to strengthen its intellectual property laws and enforcement. The United States 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.
The United States 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 United States 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.
Canada and the United States have one of the world's largest investment relationships. The United States 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 United States. At the end of 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department estimated that Canadian investment in the United States was $159 billion at historical cost basis. Canadian investment in the United States is concentrated in finance and insurance, manufacturing, banking, information and retail trade, and other services.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--James D. Nealon
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--Sam Brock
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Susan Saarnio
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs--Susan Crystal
Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Richard Steffens
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs--Sylvia Johnson
Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs--Robin Tilsworth
Counselor for Environment, Science, Technology, and Health--Marja D. Verloop
Defense Attaché--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--Peter O’Donohue
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 a democratic tradition dating from the late 18th century. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982, guarantees basic individual and group rights. Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, is the head of state. She appoints the governor general, who serves as her representative in Canada, on the advice of the prime minister, 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 (“confidence”) in the House of Commons.
Canada's Parliament consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Legislative power rests with the 308-member Commons. According to Canadian law, elections are held every fourth October, but it is possible for the governor general to dissolve Parliament early if the cabinet loses the confidence of the House of Commons. The next election is scheduled for October 15, 2012, but as there is a minority government in the House, an election may take place before that date. 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.
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 Queen, who is the legal head of state of each province.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Michaëlle Jean (Governor General-designate David L. Johnston assumes office October 1, 2010)
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).
The Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, was sworn in as Canada's twenty-second Prime Minister on February 6, 2006, succeeding Paul Martin of the Liberal Party. Harper rose from the ranks of Progressive Conservative political party staffers, and was a member of Parliament for the defunct Reform Party and Canadian Alliance. He was elected the first leader of the Conservative Party of Canada when it was created in 2003 through the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party. The January 23, 2006 election victory by the Conservative Party ended 12 years of Liberal Party rule under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. In the most recent federal election on October 14, 2008, the Conservatives formed a second minority government with 143 seats in the House of Commons and 38% of the vote. (As of September 2010, they held 144 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 strong public opposition in the English-speaking provinces.
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 Bloc Quebecois, a party advocating Quebec sovereignty, holds 48 of Quebec’s 75 seats. The social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) now has 37 seats. One independent sits in Parliament.
Policy priorities of the Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper have remained fairly consistent since 2006: lower federal taxes, especially on consumption; reducing crime; increasing defense spending; asserting sovereignty in the Arctic; and raising the profile of Canada's role abroad, through its combat mission in Afghanistan, contributions to earthquake relief in Haiti, and renewed engagement in the Americas.
Quebec, which represents 23% of the national population and has 75 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, seeks to preserve its distinctive French-speaking nature, and is perceived by the 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 often expressed concern that Ottawa did not attend to their interests. Based upon a pledge of what it called “open federalism,” the Harper government ceded some power in the cultural and social domains while seeking to strengthen the federal role in economic areas such as inter-provincial trade and the regulation of securities.
Popular support for sovereignty has declined in Quebec over the past decade. However, pride in that province's unique cultural and linguistic identity remains very strong and continues to be one of the central issues in the province’s politics. While most Quebec voters still aspire to constitutional reform recognizing Quebec’s distinctiveness, they generally appreciate the economic benefits of “Confederation” and aim to advance their francophone identity within the federal system. 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, Action démocratique du Québec, holds 4 seats.