Features of the development of Canada
Canada - is a country occupying most of northern North America, extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is the world's second largest country by total area. Canada's common border with the United States to the south and northwest is the longest in the world.
The land occupied by Canada was inhabited for millennia by various groups of Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French expeditions explored, and later settled, along the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763 after the Seven Years' War. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom. This widening autonomy was highlighted by the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and culminated in the Canada Act of 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
A federation consisting of ten provinces and three territories, Canada is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual nation with both English and French as official languages at the federal level. One of the world's highly developed countries, Canada has a diversified economy that is reliant upon its abundant natural resources and upon trade--particularly with the United States, with which Canada has had a long and complex relationship. It is a member of the G8, G-20, NATO, OECD, WTO, Commonwealth, Francophonie, OAS, APEC, and UN.
Confederation and expansion
When Canada was formed in 1867 its provinces were a relatively narrow strip in the southeast, with vast territories in the interior. It grew by adding British Columbia in 1871, P.E.I. in 1873, the British Arctic Islands in 1880, and Newfoundland in 1949, Its provinces grew both in size and number at the expense of its territories.
Following several constitutional conferences, the Constitution Act, 1867 officially proclaimed Canadian Confederation, creating "one Dominion under the name of Canada" on July 1, 1867, with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Canada assumed control of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory to form the Northwest Territories, where the Metis' grievances ignited the Red River Rebellion and the creation of the province of Manitoba in July 1870. British Columbia and Vancouver Island (which had united in 1866) and the colony of Prince Edward Island joined the Confederation in 1871 and 1873, respectively. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's Conservative government established a national policy of tariffs to protect nascent Canadian manufacturing industries.
To open the West, the government sponsored construction of three trans-continental railways (including the Canadian Pacific Railway), opened the prairies to settlement with the Dominion Lands Act, and established the North-West Mounted Police to assert its authority over this territory. In 1898, after the Klondike Gold Rush in the Northwest Territories, the Canadian government created the Yukon territory. Under Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, continental European immigrants settled the prairies, and Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905.
Early 20th century
Because Britain still maintained control of Canada's foreign affairs under the Confederation Act, its declaration of war in 1914 automatically brought Canada into World War I. Volunteers sent to the Western Front later became part of the Canadian Corps. The Corps played a substantial role in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and other major battles of the war. Out of approximately 625,000 who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 173,000 were wounded. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 erupted when conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden brought in compulsory military service over the objection of French-speaking Quebecers. In 1919, Canada joined the League of Nations independently of Britain and in 1931, the Statute of Westminster affirmed Canada's independence.
The Great Depression brought economic hardship all over Canada. In response, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in Alberta and Saskatchewan enacted many measures of a welfare state (as pioneered by Tommy Douglas) into the 1940s and 1950s. Canada declared war on Germany independently during World War II under Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, three days after Britain. The first Canadian Army units arrived in Britain in December 1939.
Canadian troops played important roles in the failed 1942 Dieppe Raid in France, the Allied invasion of Italy, the D-Day landings, the Battle of Normandy, and the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944. Canada provided asylum and protection for the monarchy of the Netherlands while that country was occupied, and is credited by the country for leadership and major contribution to its liberation from Nazi Germany. The Canadian economy boomed as industry manufactured military materiel for Canada, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. Despite another Conscription Crisis in Quebec, Canada finished the war with one of the largest armed forces in the world, and the second-wealthiest economy. In 1945, during the war, Canada became one of the founding members of the United Nations.
The Dominion of Newfoundland (now Newfoundland and Labrador), at the time equivalent in status to Canada and Australia as a Dominion, joined Canada in 1949. Canada's growth, combined with the policies of successive Liberal governments, led to the emergence of a new Canadian identity, marked by the adoption of the current Maple Leaf Flag in 1965, the implementation of official bilingualism (English and French) in 1969, and official multiculturalism in 1971. There was also the founding of socially democratic programmes, such as universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada Student Loans, though provincial governments, particularly Quebec and Alberta, opposed many of these as incursions into their jurisdictions. Finally, another series of constitutional conferences resulted in the 1982 patriation of Canada's constitution from the United Kingdom, concurrent with the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 1999, Nunavut became Canada's third territory after a series of negotiations with the federal government.
At the same time, Quebec was undergoing profound social and economic changes through the Quiet Revolution, giving birth to a nationalist movement in the province and the more radical Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ), whose actions ignited the October Crisis in 1970. A decade later, an unsuccessful referendum on sovereignty-association was held in 1980, after which attempts at constitutional amendment failed in 1990. A second referendum followed in 1995, in which sovereignty was rejected by a slimmer margin of just 50.6% to 49.4%. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that unilateral secession by a province would be unconstitutional, and the Clarity Act was passed by parliament, outlining the terms of a negotiated departure from Confederation.
In addition to the issues of Quebec sovereignty, a number of crises shook Canadian society in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These included the explosion of Air India Flight 182 in 1985, the largest mass murder in Canadian history; the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in 1989, a university shooting targeting female students; and the Oka Crisis in 1990, the first of a number of violent confrontations between the government and aboriginal groups. Canada also joined the Gulf War in 1990 as part of a US-led coalition force, and was active in several peacekeeping missions in the late 1990s. It sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001, but declined to send forces to Iraq when the US invaded in 2003.
Government and politics
Canada has a parliamentary government with strong democratic traditions. Parliament is composed of The Crown, an elected House of Commons, and an appointed Senate. Each Member of Parliament in the House of Commons is elected by simple plurality in an electoral district or riding. General elections must be called by the prime minister within five years of the previous election, or may be triggered by the government losing a confidence vote in the House.
Members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, are chosen by the prime minister and formally appointed by the Governor General and serve until age 75. Four parties had representatives elected to the federal parliament in the 2008 elections: the Conservative Party of Canada (governing party), the Liberal Party of Canada (the Official Opposition), the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Bloc Quebecois. The list of historical parties with elected representation is substantial.
Canada's federal structure divides government responsibilities between the federal government and the ten provinces. Provincial legislatures are unicameral and operate in parliamentary fashion similar to the House of Commons. Canada's three territories also have legislatures, but with fewer constitutional responsibilities than the provinces and with some structural differences (for example, the legislative assemblies of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have no parties and operate on consensus).
The Senate chamber within the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.