Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia. However, its population is only about one-fifth of Russia’s.
OFFICIAL NAME: Canada
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal parliamentary state
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: English, French
HEAD OF STATE: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-General
PRIME MINISTER: Stephen Harper
MONEY: Canadian dollar
AREA: 3,849,674 square miles (9,970,610 square kilometers)
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Rockies, Coast, Laurentian
MAJOR RIVERS: St. Lawrence, Mackenzie
Canada is a vast and rugged land. From north to south it spans more than half the Northern Hemisphere. From east to west it stretches almost 4,700 miles (7,560 kilometers) across six time zones. It is the second largest country in the world, but it has only one-half of one percent of the world’s population.
Canada features black-blue lakes, numerous rivers, majestic western mountains, rolling central plains, and forested eastern valleys. The Canadian Shield, a hilly region of lakes and swamps, stretches across northern Canada and has some of the oldest rocks on Earth.
Canada’s far north lies in the frozen grip of the Arctic, where ice, snow, and glaciers dominate the landscape. Few trees grow here, and farming is not practical. Native Canadians, called First Nations people, live in this region by hunting and fishing.
Canada’s remote north and extensive forests are home to wildlife, from bears, wolves, beavers, deer, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep to smaller animals like raccoons, otters, and rabbits. The country’s lakes and rivers, which contain about 20 percent of all fresh water on Earth, are full of fish such as trout and salmon.Canada’s prairies in the south are home to bison and pronghorn antelope. Farther north are Canada’s sprawling evergreen forests, which have lots of wildlife, including moose and black bears. Even farther north is the cold, bare tundra, where herds of caribou and musk ox live.Canadians work hard to protect the native wildlife. Canada has 41 national parks and three marine conservation areas. Nevertheless, species like wolves, lynx, and Atlantic fish have been overhunted and overfished.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
In some ways Canada is many nations in one. Descendents of British and French immigrants make up about half the population. They were followed by other European and Asian immigrants. First Nations peoples make up about four percent of the population.
Inuit people live mostly in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Many Native Canadians live on their traditional lands, but many others have moved to cities across Canada. First Nations artwork is widely recognized and is seen as a symbol of Canadian culture.
Prime minister: Stephen Harper
The Conservative Party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a third consecutive term in office in snap elections held in May 2011.
Mr Harper’s government had been toppled by the opposition in March 2011. A motion, brought by the main opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, declared the government was in contempt of parliament and had lost its confidence in a row centered on Mr Harper’s budget plans.The party gained support, transforming its minorty in parliament into a majority.
The opposition said Mr Harper’s government was in contempt of parliament for failing to provide the estimated costs for a number of spending programmes.
It was the first time that a Canadian government had been found in contempt of parliament.
Mr Harper became prime minister in 2006, after elections that brought to an end 12 years of Liberal government.
However, the Conservatives failed to win an overall majority and had to work with opposition parties in order to govern.
Two years into his first term, Mr Harper called an early election in an attempt to win a working majority. His party improved its position in the October 2008 election, winning 16 more seats than in the 2006 election, but still fell short of an overall majority.
Two months later, Mr Harper came close to being toppled by an alliance of the opposition Liberal and New Democrat parties over his handling of the economic crisis, but avoided a no-confidence vote by suspending parliament for a month.
He prorogued parliament for a second time in January 2010, this time for two months. He described the suspension as “routine”, but it drew an angry response from opposition leaders.
They said the move was aimed at avoiding a potentially embarrassing debate on the government’s role in the torture of Afghan terror detainees.
Born in Toronto, Ontario in 1959, Stephen Harper studied economics at the University of Calgary in Alberta. He became an MP in 1993 and became leader of the newly-merged Conservative party in 2004.
He is married and has two children. Aside from politics and intellectual pursuits, he is passionate about ice hockey.