Canada, the second largest country in the world, encompasses an area of 3.8 million sq. mi. (9.9 million sq. km); stretching from the Atlantic, to the Pacific, to the Arctic Oceans. Its capital city, Ottawa (population 1.1 million) lies in the southeastern section of the Province of Ontario. Other major cities include: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton (all with populations over 1 million). Canada's terrain is mostly plains with mountains in the west and lowlands in the southeast. Its climate is temperate to arctic.
Canada has an estimated population of 33.1 million. Both English and French are the official languages of Canada. It also boasts a 99% literacy rate among its population of those aged 15 and over. The government of Canada is a federation, with a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is represented by the Governor General. The House of Commons has 308 members; the Senate has 105 members.
Natural resources in Canada include: petroleum and natural gas, hydroelectric power, metals and minerals, fish, forests, wildlife, and abundant fresh water. Agricultural products include: wheat, livestock and meat, feed grains, oil seeds, dairy products, tobacco, fruits, and vegetables.
The relationship between the United States and Canada is the closest and most extensive in the world. It is reflected in the staggering volume of bilateral trade--the equivalent of $1.5 billion a day in goods--as well as in people-to-people contact. About 300,000 people cross the shared border every day. Beginning January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens aged 19 and older traveling into the U.S. from Canada by land or sea (including ferries) must present documents denoting citizenship and identity. This change primarily affects American and Canadian citizens who have previously been permitted entry into the U.S. or Canada by oral declaration alone.
During the Ice Age all of Canada was covered by a continental ice sheet that scoured and depressed the land surface, leaving a covering of glacial drift, depositional landforms, and innumerable lakes and rivers. Aside from the Great Lakes, which are only partly in the country, the largest lakes of North America (Great Bear, Great Slave, and Winnipeg) are entirely in Canada. The country has eight major physiographic regions: the Canadian Shield, the Hudson Bay Lowlands, the Western Cordillera, the Interior Lowlands, the Great Lakes–Saint Lawrence Lowlands, the Appalachians, the Arctic Lowlands, and the Innuitians. The Shield is rich in minerals, especially iron and nickel, and in potential sources of hydroelectric power.
Canada’s climate is influenced by latitude and topography. The Western Cordillera serves as a climatic barrier that prevents polar air masses from reaching the Pacific coast and blocks the moist Pacific winds from reaching into the interior. The Cordillera has a typical highland climate that varies with altitude; the Western slopes receive abundant rainfall, and the whole region is forested.
Vancouver, British Columbia will host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games from February 12th-28th. Canada has hosted the Olympics in the past: Calgary, Alberta in 1988 and Montreal, Quebec in 1976.
U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 11/2008; 2/2010