Bounded by the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, Canada is a country that occupies the northern part of the continent of North America. It shares a border with the United States and in terms of land mass, Canada is the second largest country in the world. For millions of years, aboriginal people occupied the land until it was discovered by European explorers in the late 15th century. At one time in its history, France and Britain shared the land and had colonies, but this came to an end with the British defeat of the French in 1763. France ceded all its land in North America to Britain and the area was known as British North America.
Canada, as a country, did not come into being until Confederation in 1867. The name of the land comes from the native people that Jacques Cartier met when he sailed up the St. Lawrence River to what is now Montreal and Quebec City. He asked the chief what the name of the land was and the chief pointed to his village and said “Kanata”. Kanata actually means village in the Algonquin language, but Cartier assumed it referred to the whole country and so the name stuck.
The fur trade with the natives and the fishery off the coast was largely responsible for the exploration of this extensive country. When Canada was first formed, it consisted only of four provinces – Upper Canada, Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Upper Canada later became Ontario and Lower Canada later became Quebec. As other areas of the country were settled and developed their own governments, they joined the Confederation. Newfoundland, an island off the east coast, is the youngest province having joined the union in 1949 even though it was the oldest British colony in the New World.
The capital of Canada is Ottawa, which is in Ontario. There are ten provinces and three northern territories in Canada. The provinces, starting in the East are:
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- British Columbia
The three territories are:
- The Northwest Territories
Canada has a parliamentary democracy. The federal government rules the country, but each of the provinces has their own legislature and are responsible for handling their own affairs. The territories have their own system of government as well, but it is not as far reaching as that of the provinces. The Head of State is Queen Elizabeth 11 and a Governor-General acts in her name in Canada.
There is a wide variety of geographic and geological landscapes in Canada. From the windswept cliffs of the Atlantic coast to the flat prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and on to the warm climate of Southern British Columbia one will see marked differences in every province. The northern most areas of the country are frozen and there are many areas that are not inhabited at all. The northern towns do experience bitterly cold winters, whereas those in the south have short winters and cold temperatures for a short period of time.