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Country facts

Area: 9,984,670 million sq km
Population: (estimated population) is 34.03 million (July 2011 est)
Capital city: Ottawa
People: Canada is a multicultural country with people from all over the world who have now made Canada their home. Ethnic Groups (wholly or partly): North American Origin 40%, British Origin 33%, French Origin 16%, Other European 29%, Aboriginal peoples 4%, South, East & South-East Asian 9%, Other (mostly Caribbean, Arab, African, Latin/Central/South American and West Asian) 6%. The total comes to more than 100% because many Canadians (approximately 38%) have a mixed background.
Languages: Canada has two official languages, English (59%) and French (23%). 17% of the population have another language as their ‘mother tongue’.
Religion(s): Roman Catholic 43%; Protestant 23% (including United Church 9%, Anglican 6%, Baptist 2%, Lutheran 2%), other Christian 4%, Muslim 1% other and unspecified 11%, none 16%.
Currency: Canadian Dollar. 1 Dollar is made up of 100 cents.
Major political parties: The main political parties at federal (i.e. national) level are: Conservative Party, Liberal Party, Bloc Quebecois (in Quebec Province only) and New Democratic Party (NDP). The Liberals and NDP are also represented at provincial level. There are also some notable provincial parties, e.g. the Progressive Conservative Party, the Parti Quebecois in Quebec, the Saskatchewan Party and the Yukon Party.
Government: Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federal state with a democratic system of government.
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General David Lloyd Johnston (since 1 October 2010).
Head of Government: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (since 6 February 2006)
Foreign Minister: The Honourable John Baird (May 2011)
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Member of the Commonwealth; North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA); North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO); Organisation of American States (OAS); G8; G20; World Trade Organisation (WTO); La Francophonie.

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Basic economic facts

Nominal GDP: C$ 1.333 trillion (2010 est.)
GDP per head: $ 39.400 (2010 est.)
GDP growth: 3.1% (2010 est.)
Inflation: 1.8% (2010 est.)
Labour force: 18.53 million (2010 est.)
Unemployment: 8% (2010 est.)
Major industries: Automobile manufacturing, pulp and paper, iron and steel work, machinery and equipment manufacturing, mining, extraction of fossil fuels, forestry and agriculture.
Major Trading Partners: United States, UK, Japan and China.
Exports: $393 billion (2010 est.)
Exports - commodities: Automobile vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, high-technology products, oil, natural gas, metals, and forest and farm products.
Imports: $401.7 billion (2010 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery, electric machinery and equipment, industry goods, motor vehicles and parts, minerals fuels and oils, plastics.
Debt - External: $1.181833.8 trillion (30 June 2011 est.)
Government debt (% of GDP): 84% (2010 est.)
Exchange rate: £1 = C$1.60 (December 2011)

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People migrating from Asia, probably crossing the Bering Strait, first settled the North American continent. They formed a number of tribes that can be distinguished by language. The largest group was the Algonquian, often migratory, who inhabited the eastern sub-arctic and maritime areas but by the 18th century had spread into the prairies and plains of the mid-west. The Iriquioian speaking tribes lived mostly in the St Lawrence Valley and around Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Salishan, Athabascan and other linguistic groups lived along the rivers and coastline of British Columbia. Small, isolated Inuit bands developed a unique culture in the harsh environment of the Arctic. The first Europeans to reach North America were probably from Greenland in about AD 1000. But the firm knowledge of the existence of land was not established until around 1480 to 1500 AD. John Cabot, a Venetian working in the service of the English sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. This and later explorations formed the basis of the English claim to Canada. The Frenchman Jacques Cartier undertook a series of explorations, mainly along the route of the St Lawrence River during the 1530s and 1540s and he claimed the land for France.

Hunting and trading was the principal interest of the European settlers in Canada and rival companies, including the Hudson’s Bay Company, dominated economic activity. But the rivalries in Europe spilled over into North America and a number of conflicts were fought leading up to the truce agreed in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The peace was short-lived however and the period from about 1745 to 1760 was one of Anglo-French conflict leading to the surrender of Montreal to the British. The 1763 Treaty of Paris brought British rule to the area known as British North America. Tensions between the French and English speaking communities continued to affect the Colony although in the War of 1812 against the Americans most Canadians sided with the British army in the defence of what was known as Upper and Lower Canada.

Partly arising from concern about developments in the USA (the American Civil War of 1861-1865) came a movement for the unification of the colonies of British North America. A new nation, called the Dominion of Canada, was created by the British North America Act of 1867 and proclaimed in Canada on 1 July 1867. The federation included Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland refused to join. The Province of Manitoba was created in 1870 and with the North West Territories joined the confederation. British Columbia joined the confederation in 1871. Prince Edward Island agreed to join in 1873. The District of Saskatchewan was created in 1882. The Yukon Territory joined Canada in 1898. In 1905 Saskatchewan and Alberta joined the Dominion. Newfoundland joined in 1949. In 1999 Nunavut was created.

Further information about the road to Confederation: The National Library of Canada (

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Relations with neighbours

Canada has particularly close relations with its immediate neighbour, the United States of America. US President Barack Obama made his first official overseas visit to Canada in February 2009. The United States is Canada’s main trading partner and with Mexico, comprise the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA). Canada and the US are both members of NATO. The United States remains Canada's most important bilateral relationship, which includes joint Canadian and US membership of the NORAD defence alliance.

Canadian relations with the international community

Canada is a strong supporter of the World Trade Organisation and of the World Trade Organisation and of expanded free trade areas. The other strand in foreign policy includes the promotion of international peace/security through multilateral bodies and of respect for human rights/human security (e.g. on landmines, where the Canadians were instrumental, strongly supported by UK, in concluding the Landmines Treaty in 1997). Canada has made a substantial contribution to stability in Afghanistan and was a key member of the 2011 NATO mission in Libya. Following the withdrawal of combat troops earlier in the year, Canadian Forces began a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2011.

Canadian relations with the UK

The UK/Canada bilateral relationship is strong. Both countries work together across a wide range of bilateral and international initiatives.

Cultural relations with the UK

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. In its support of cultural relations between the UK and Canada, the British Council works closely with British diplomatic posts and trade promotion agencies. More information is available on the British Council website ( .

Recent visits

The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has visited the UK on a number of occasions and in September 2011 David Cameron visited Ottawa, where he had the honour of addressing a special Joint Session of the Canadian Parliament. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their first official overseas visit to Canada in June 2011, taking in Ottawa, Quebec, Yellowknife and Calgary.

Other high level visits to Canada within the past year have included Business Secretary Vince Cable and Treasury Minister Lord Sassoon.

Diplomatic representation

UK Representation in Canada (
Canadian High Commission, London (

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Location: Northern North America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean, north of the conterminous US
Area: total - 9,984,670 sq km; land – 9,093,507 sq km; water - 891,163 sq km. Canada is the second-largest country in world (after Russia) with a strategic location between Russia and US via north polar route. It is slightly larger than the US. Approximately 85% of the population is concentrated within 300 km of the US/Canada border.
Land boundaries: total - 8,893 km; border countries - US 8,893 km (includes 2,477 km with Alaska).
Coastline: 243,791 km
Climate: varies from temperate in south to sub-arctic and arctic in north.
Terrain: mostly plains with mountains in west and lowlands in south-east.
Elevation extremes: lowest point - Atlantic Ocean 0 m; highest point - Mount Logan 5,959 m
Natural hazards: continuous permafrost in the north is a serious obstacle to development. Cyclonic storms form east of the Rocky Mountains, a result of the mixing of air masses from the Arctic, Pacific, and North American interior, and produce most of the country's rain and snow.

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Trade and investment with the UK

Canada is an important trade and investment partner for British companies of all sizes and across the spectrum of business activity. Canada is one of the world’s richest and most developed countries, ranks among the top ten industrial powers and is recognised as having one of the highest standards of living in the world. With low inflation and steady economic growth, Canada offers good trade and investment opportunities for British companies in many sectors e.g. energy, food and drink, aerospace and biotechnology. A recent study comparing business costs in Canada, Europe and the USA placed Canada ahead of other G7 countries across a broad range of business operating costs. Canada’s market economy has maintained a varied structure with both small companies and multinational giants playing important parts. Natural resources remain a major factor, but the growth of hi-tech industries often involving small dynamic enterprises, is of ever increasing significance. The Canadian Government announced plans in 2002 to invest $108m into the Canadian digital content industry. Service industries too have increased greatly in recent years and along with the possible expansion of the privatisation programme by Federal and Provincial governments, opportunities are expected to continue to present themselves over a number of sectors. The proximity of the huge US market to much of Canada’s industrial activity (based largely in Ontario and Quebec), Canada’s close relationship with the UK, its well-educated and skilled labour force help create a good business environment with opportunities for British companies in most sectors including services. There are also good opportunities for strategic business partnerships and technology transfers between UK and Canadian companies. The market remains very receptive to British products and Canadian businesspeople are familiar with UK business practices. Neglecting business opportunities in Canada by failing to recognise its strategic role in tackling the wider NAFTA region - could prove costly for UK companies.

Trade In goods

Canada is the UK's third largest export market outside Europe, the US and China. The value of UK goods exported to Canada totalled approximately £3.6 billion in 2008. Energy products, industrial goods and machinery products dominated UK goods exported to Canada in 2008. Between January-May 2009 the value of UK exports was £1.5 billion.

Trade in services

The UK is Canada’s primary European trading partner. Canada is the UK’s 11th largest market, with exports reaching £3.3bn in 2007. The UK is the second largest foreign direct investor in Canada after the US.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Canada (


Travel advice: Canada (

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Canada is divided into 308 electoral districts (or ridings). Voters in each district elect one Member of Parliament (MP) to send to the House of Commons. There are two chambers in the Canadian Parliament (Bicameral) which consists of the House of Commons (308 seats) and the Senate (normally limited to 105 senators). The House of Commons is elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms. The Senate members are appointed to serve until reaching 75 years of age by the Governor General and selected on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Recent political developments

The Conservative Party of Canada, led by Stephen Harper, won the country’s federal election in May 2011, having previously ruled as a minority government since 2006.

The results gave the Conservatives 166 (up from 143) seats in the House of Commons, the New Democratic Party (NDP) 103 (up from 36), the Liberals 34 (down from 77) and the Bloc Quebecois (representing constituencies in Quebec Province only) four (down from 47) The Greens secured one seat. The Conservatives received 39.6 percent of the votes cast.

On 3 June the Governor General delivered his first Throne Speech to a joint sitting of the 41st parliament. Overall what it outlined was a focus on economic recovery and action to address and eliminate the deficit. Other substantive planks in the platform are anti-crime legislation and parliamentary reform.

Canada’s Official Opposition Leader Jack Layton died early on 22 August 2011. Layton, who was 61, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2010. In May 2011 he had led his New Democratic Party (NDP) from fourth place to become the Official Opposition, winning a record number of seats.

Human Rights

Core Human Rights Treaties Canada is a signatory to:
-- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

-- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

-- Optional Protocol (allowing individual complaints)

-- Second Optional Protocol (aiming at abolishing the death penalty)

-- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

-- Optional Protocol (permitting individual complaints) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Convention Against Torture

-- Convention on the Rights of the Child

Optional Protocol (Children in armed conflict)

-- Amendment to Article 43(2)

-- Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

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Last Updated: December 2011

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