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Canada - Background:  
A land of vast distances and rich natural resources, Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining ties to the British crown. Economically and technologically the nation has developed in parallel with the US, its neighbor to the south across an unfortified border. Canada's paramount political problem is meeting public demands for quality improvements in health care and education services after a decade of budget cuts. The issue of reconciling Quebec's francophone heritage with the majority anglophone Canadian population has moved to the back burner in recent years; support for separatism abated after the Quebec government's referendum on independence failed to pass in October of 1995.  

Location:
Northern North America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean on the east, North Pacific Ocean on the west, and the Arctic Ocean on the north, north of the conterminous US  

Climate:
varies from temperate in south to subarctic and arctic in north  

Geography - note:
second-largest country in world (after Russia); strategic location between Russia and US via north polar route; approximately 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 km of the US border  

People
Population:  32,805,041 (July 2005 est.)  

Ethnic groups:
British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Amerindian 2%, other, mostly Asian, African, Arab 6%, mixed background 26%  

Religions:
Roman Catholic 46%, Protestant 36%, other 18%
note: based on the 1991 census  

Languages:
English 59.3% (official), French 23.2% (official), other 17.5%  

Country name:
conventional short form: Canada  

Government type:
confederation with parliamentary democracy  

Capital:
Ottawa  

Administrative divisions:
10 provinces and 3 territories*; Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories*, Nova Scotia, Nunavut*, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory*  
Independence:  1 July 1867 (union of British North American colonies); 11 December 1931 (independence recognized)  

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Adrienne CLARKSON (since 7 October 1999)
head of government: Prime Minister Paul MARTIN (since 12 December 2003); Deputy Prime Minister Anne MCLELLAN (since 12 December 2003)
cabinet: Federal Ministry chosen by the prime minister from among the members of his own party sitting in Parliament elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister for a five-year term; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition in the House of Commons is automatically designated prime minister by the governor general  

Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (members appointed by the governor general with the advice of the prime minister and serve until reaching 75 years of age; its normal limit is 105 senators) and the House of Commons or Chambre des Communes (308 seats; members elected by direct, popular vote to serve for up to five-year terms)
elections: House of Commons - last held 28 June 2004 (next to be held by NA 2009)
election results: House of Commons - percent of vote by party - Liberal Party 36.7%, Conservative Party 29.6%, New Democratic Party 15.7%, Bloc Quebecois 12.4%, Greens 4.3%, independents 0.4%, other 0.9%; seats by party - Liberal Party 134, Conservative Party 99, Bloc Quebecois 54, New Democratic Party 19, independent 2  
Judicial branch:   Supreme Court of Canada (judges are appointed by the prime minister through the governor general); Federal Court of Canada; Federal Court of Appeal; Provincial Courts (these are named variously Court of Appeal, Court of Queens Bench, Superior Court, Supreme Court, and Court of Justice)  

Flag description:
two vertical bands of red (hoist and fly side, half width), with white square between them; an 11-pointed red maple leaf is centered in the white square; the official colors of Canada are red and white  

Economy   
As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, newly entered in the trillion dollar class, Canada closely resembles the US in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and affluent living standards. Since World War II, the impressive growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. The 1989 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which includes Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the US. Given its great natural resources, skilled labor force, and modern capital plant Canada enjoys solid economic prospects. Solid fiscal management has produced a long-term budget surplus which is substantially reducing the national debt, although public debate continues over how to manage the rising cost of the publicly funded healthcare system. Exports account for roughly a third of GDP. Canada enjoys a substantial trade surplus with its principal trading partner, the United States, which absorbs

Disputes - international:
managed maritime boundary disputes with the US at Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and around the disputed Machias Seal Island and North Rock; working toward greater cooperation with US in monitoring people and commodities crossing the border; uncontested sovereignty dispute with Denmark over Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland  
Illicit drugs:   illicit producer of cannabis for the domestic drug market and export to US; use of hydroponics technology permits growers to plant large quantities of high-quality marijuana indoors; transit point for heroin and cocaine entering the US market; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering because of its mature financial services sector

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