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Canada country profile

Map of Canada
Map of Canada

The world's second-largest country by surface but relatively small in terms of population, Canada punches above its weight in economic terms.

A federation of former British colonies, Canada follows the British pattern of parliamentary democracy. Ties with the US are now vital, especially in terms of trade, but Canada often goes its own way.

Both English and French enjoy official status, and mainly French-speaking Quebec - where pressure for full sovereignty has abated in recent years - has wide-ranging cultural autonomy. Indigenous peoples make up around 4% of the population.

Canada is one of world's top trading nations - and one of its richest. Alongside a dominant service sector, Canada also has vast oil reserves and is a major exporter of energy, food and minerals.


  • Capital: Ottawa

  • Area: 9,984,670 sq km

  • Population: 39.2 million

  • Languages: English, French

  • Life expectancy: 79 years (men) 83 years (women)


Head of state: King Charles III, represented by a governor general

Prime minister: Justin Trudeau

The leader of Canada's Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, speaks at a news conference in Calgary, Alberta, October on 18 2015.
The leader of Canada's Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, speaks at a news conference in Calgary, Alberta, October on 18 2015.

Justin Trudeau - son of Pierre Trudeau, who dominated Canadian politics in the 1970s - won a third election victory for his Liberal Party in the September 2021 federal elections.

It is Trudeau's second minority government. The results were little changed from the 2019 federal election.] The Liberals won the most seats at 160; as this fell short of the 170 seats needed for a majority in the House of Commons, they formed a minority government with support from other parties.

The Liberals set a record for the lowest vote share of a party that would go on to form government, winning 32.6% of the popular vote, while losing the popular vote to the Conservatives as they did in 2019.

The Conservatives led by Erin O'Toole won 119 seats, two fewer than their result in 2019, and continued as the official opposition.


Fireworks are let off off from the CN Tower in Toronto during the opening ceremony for the 2015 Pan American Games on 10 July 2015.
Toronto's CN Tower - used for TV and radio broadcasts - is an internationally renowned Canadian landmark

Canada has a long history of public broadcasting and a lively commercial media sector. The public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) runs national radio and TV networks in French and English, as well as services for indigenous people in the north.

The Canadian media are free to present a wide range of views and opinions. Quotas exist for broadcasts of Canadian material.


Parliament building in Ottawa, Canada
After lengthy debate, Ottawa was chosen as Canada's capital by Queen Victoria in 1857

Key dates in the history of Canada:

15,000-20,000 before present - North America's first humans migrate from Asia.

11th Century - Norse explorers reach North America, establishing the first known European settlement in the Americas on Newfoundland.

1497 - Italian-born navigator John Cabot reaches the coasts of Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

1534 - Jacques Cartier explores the St Lawrence river, and claims the shores of the Gulf of St Lawrence for France.

1583 - Newfoundland becomes England's first overseas colony.

1600s - Fur trade rivalry between the French, English and Dutch; the Europeans exploit existing rivalries between local peoples to form alliances.

1627 - Company of New France established to govern and exploit "New France" - France's North American colonies.

1670 - Hudson's Bay Company established by London traders. The company holds trading rights for regions whose rivers drain into Hudson Bay.

1756 - Seven Years' War begins between New France and the larger and economically-stronger British colonies. After early French successes, Quebec falls in 1759 and the British advance on Montreal.

1763 - Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain acquires all French colonies east of the Mississippi including New France, which becomes the colony of Quebec.

1774 - The Quebec Act recognises the French language and Roman Catholicism in the colony.

1776 onwards - Loyalist refugees from the American War of Independence settle in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.

1800s - Immigration picks up. Thousands of newcomers from England, Scotland and Ireland arrive each year.

1812-14 - War of 1812 between the US and Britain, largely over the effects on the US of British blockades of French ports. There are naval battles on the Great Lakes and a US attack on York, now Toronto. But the US fails to realise its plans to invade Canada.

1837-38 - Armed rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada, caused by disaffection with the ruling elites, poverty and social divisions.

1867 - British North America Act unites Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the Dominion of Canada.

1870 - Manitoba becomes fifth province, followed by British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

1885 - Canadian Pacific railroad is completed.

The high street of the gold mining town Dawson City in Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush.
The promise of gold lured tens of thousands to the Yukon in northwest Canada

1896-99 - Klondike Gold Rush: Some 100,000 prospectors migrate to the Klondike region of Yukon, in north-western Canada.

1898 - The Yukon is split off from the North West Territories to become a separate territory

1905 - Alberta and Saskatchewan become provinces of Canada.

1914-18 - World War One: Canadian forces play a key role in the fighting in France, particularly in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917.

1931 - Statute of Westminster grants British dominions, including Canada, complete autonomy.

1939-45 - World War Two: Canadian forces are active in Italy, Europe, the Atlantic and elsewhere. Canadian troops play important roles in many key battles including the 1942 Dieppe Raid, 1943 Allied invasion of Italy, the Normandy landings and Battle of Normandy, and Battle of the Scheldt in 1944.

1947 - Canada is declared to be of equal status with Great Britain within the Commonwealth.

1949 - Canada becomes a founder member of Nato. Newfoundland, until then a British dominion, becomes a province of Canada.

1950 - Korean War: Canadian forces participate in the United Nations war effort.

1963 - Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ), a militant Quebec separatist group established. It carries out a sustained bombing campaign between 1963-70 in its bid to create an independent, socialist Quebec.

1965 - New Canadian flag is adopted, replacing one incorporating the British flag.

1967 - Expo 67 in Montreal provides impetus to Canadian national identity. French President Charles de Gaulle visits and causes diplomatic incident when he declares "Vive le Quebec libre" - Long live free Quebec.

1968 - Pierre Trudeau of the Liberal party wins elections and governs until 1984, with the exception of a nine months in 1979-80. Parti Quebecois (PQ) is formed to push for complete independence for Quebec.

1969 - FLQ militants bomb the Montreal Stock Exchange, injuring 27 people.

Montreal 1970: Canadian soldiers are sent in as part of the security crackdown against the FLQ militant separatist group
Montreal 1970: Canadian soldiers are sent in as part of the security crackdown against the FLQ militant separatist group

1970 - October Crisis: FLQ separatists kidnap British Trade Commissioner James Cross. Canadian armed forces are deployed across Quebec. Cross is freed but during talks, Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte is kidnapped and murdered by the FLQ, leading to a drastic loss of support for the group.

1980 - A referendum on the separation of Quebec is defeated.

1982 - The UK transfers its remaining final legal powers over Canada, which adopts its new constitution, including a charter of rights.

1991 - Canadian forces participate in the Gulf War following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

1992 - Canada, US and Mexico finalise the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

1995 - A referendum in Quebec narrowly rejects independence by a margin of only 1%.

1999 - Territory of Nunavut (meaning "our land" in the Inuit language) is created in northern Canada - the first Canadian territory to have a majority indigenous population.

2002 - Canada sends first contingent of regular troops to Afghanistan as part of the post-Taliban stabilising mission.

2003 - Canada opts not to join the US-led coalition against Iraq, sparking fierce domestic political debate.

2006 - Parliament agrees that the Quebecois should be considered a "nation" within Canada.

2010 - Canada hosts Winter Olympics.

Suspected ringleader of Islamic extremist group is jailed for life for plot to bomb Toronto stock exchange.

2014 - Canada launches a mission to map the Arctic seabed, in support of its bid to extend its territory up to the North Pole.

Two Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks - one in Quebec and one at Parliament Hill in Ottawa - leave two Canadian soldiers dead.

2016 - Canada signs a free trade agreement with EU.

2017 - French-Canadian student Alexandre Bissonnette is charged over the shooting of six Muslims at a Quebec mosque.

Government says it will pay compensation to thousands of indigenous people who were taken from their families as children to be brought up by primarily white middle-class families decades ago.

2018 - US, Canada and Mexico reach a new trade deal - the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) - to replace Nafta.

2023 - Canada sees its worst wildfire season on record, with thousands evacuated from threatened towns and about 15m hectares (37m acres) of land burnt.

View of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Canada.
Founded by the French in 1608, Quebec City is one of North America's oldest European settlements