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Canada is the world's second-largest country by total area, occupying most of northern North America. Extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, Canada shares land borders with the United States to the south and to the northwest.
Inhabited first by aboriginal peoples, Canada was founded as a union of British and former French colonies. Canada gained independence from the United Kingdom in an incremental process that began in 1867 and ended in 1982; it remains a Commonwealth Realm.
Canada is a federal constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy. Comprising ten provinces and three territories, Canada is a bilingual and multicultural country, with both English and French as official languages at the federal level. A technologically advanced and industrialized nation, Canada maintains a diversified economy that is heavily reliant on trade—particularly with the United States, with which Canada has had a long and complex relationship—and its abundant natural resources.
The name Canada comes from a word in the language of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement". In 1535, inhabitants of the present-day Quebec City region used the word to direct Jacques Cartier towards the village of
Stadacona. Cartier used the word 'Canada' to refer to not only that village, but the entire area subject to Donnacona, Chief at Stadacona; by 1547, maps began referring to this and the surrounding area as
The 2001 national census recorded 30,007,094 people; the population was estimated by Statistics Canada to be 32.623 million people in September
2006. Population growth is largely accomplished through immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth. About three-quarters of Canada's population live within 160 kilometres (100 mi) of the U.S.
border. A similar proportion live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor (notably the Golden Horseshoe - South Central Ontario, Montreal, and Ottawa metropolitan areas, the BC Lower Mainland (Vancouver and environs), and the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor in
Canada is an ethnically diverse nation. According to the 2001 census, it has 34 ethnic groups with at least one hundred thousand members each. The largest ethnic group is "Canadian" (39.4%), followed by English (20.2%), French (15.8%), Scottish (14.0%), Irish (12.9%), German (9.3%), Italian (4.3%), Chinese (3.7%), Ukrainian (3.6%) and First Nations
(3.4%). Canada's aboriginal population is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the Canadian population. In 2001, 13.4% of the population belonged to visible
minorities. According to the federal government, Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the
world, driven by economic, family reunification, and humanitarian reasons. Immigrants are particularly attracted to the major urban areas of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
Toronto, Ontario is one of the world's most multicultural cities.
Canadians adhere to a wide variety of religions, as people in Canada have the freedom of religion as one of their rights. According to 2001
census, 77.1% of Canadians identified as being Christians; of this, Catholics make up the largest group (43.6% of Canadians). The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada; about 16.5% of Canadians declared no religious affiliation, and the remaining 6.3% were affiliated with religions other than Christianity, of which the largest is Islam.
In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for education; thus Canada has no national department of education. Each of the thirteen education systems are similar while reflecting their own regional history, culture and
geography. The mandatory school age varies across Canada but generally ranges between the ages of 5-7 to
16-18, contributing to an adult literacy rate that is 99%. Postsecondary education is the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments that provide most of their funding; the federal government provides additional funding through research grants. In 2002, 43% of Canadians aged between 25 and 64 had post-secondary education; for those aged 25 to 34 the postsecondary attainment reaches
Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary depending on the location. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, particularly in the Prairie provinces, where daily average temperatures are near −15°C (5°F), but can drop below -40°C (-40°F) with severe wind chills. Coastal British Columbia is an exception and enjoys a temperate climate with a mild and rainy winter.
On the east and west coast average high temperatures are generally in the low 20°C (68 to 74°F), while between the coasts the average summer high temperature range between 25°C to 30°C (78 to 86°F) with occasional extreme heat in some interior locations exceeding 40°C (104°F).
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