Canada is an independent country in North America. The word Canada is probably derived from Kanata, a word of Huron and Iroquois Indians meaning a village or community. This term was first noted in 1535 by the French explorer Jacques Cartier, who reported that the Indians at the site of what is now the city of Quebec used it for their village and tribal lands.

Canada retains to a great extent the cultural stamp of its two founding groups—the French, mainly in Quebec, and the British elsewhere. Ties with Great Britain are particularly strong. Canada is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and is the only independent country in mainland North America having a monarch—the British sovereign is Canada's symbolic head of state. Canada also has strong ties with the United States.

Canada is a federal union of 10 provinces and 3 territories. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are collectively called the Maritime Provinces. With Newfoundland included they are known as the Atlantic Provinces. Quebec and Ontario are sometimes called the Central Provinces. The Prairie Provinces are Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Canada in brief
General information
Capital: Ottawa.
Official languages: English and French.
National anthem: "O Canada."
National symbols: Maple leaf and beaver.
Largest cities: (2006 census) Toronto (2,503,281); Montreal (1,620,693); Calgary (988,193); Ottawa (812,129); Edmonton (730,372); Mississauga (668,549); Winnipeg (633,451); Vancouver (578,041); Hamilton (504,559); Quebec (491,142).
Symbols of Canada: The flag of Canada features a red, 11-pointed maple leaf, a national symbol of the country, in a field of white. Two wide, vertical red stripes are at either side of the white. It became Canada's official flag in 1965. The Canadian coat of arms includes three red maple leaves below the royal arms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France.
Land and climate
Land: Canada lies in northern North America. It borders the United States and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. Canada is mountainous in the west, where the Coastal and Rocky Mountains stand. The country is mostly flat or gently rolling from the eastern edge of the Rockies to the low Laurentian Mountains in Quebec. Several low mountain ranges rise in the east. Canada shares four of the five Great Lakes (all but Lake Michigan) with the United States. Its chief rivers include the Churchill, Fraser, Mackenzie, Nelson, and Saint Lawrence rivers.
Area: 3,855,103 mi2 (9,984,670 km2), including 291,577 mi2 (755,180 km2) of inland water. Greatest distances—east-west, 3,223 mi (5,187 km), from Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Mount St. Elias, Yukon; north-south, 2,875 mi (4,627 km), from Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island to Middle Island in Lake Erie. Coastline—151,485 mi (243,791 km), including mainland and islands. Shoreline—Great Lakes, 5,251 mi (8,452 km).
Elevation: Highest—Mount Logan, 19,551 ft (5,959 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level.
Climate: Canada is extremely frigid in the north and generally cold elsewhere. However, warmer temperatures occur along the west coast and in the far southeast. The west coast has mild summers and cool winters, with temperatures rarely falling much below freezing. The west coast also has abundant precipitation. Central Canada has short, mild to warm summers and bitterly cold winters. Far southeastern Canada (southeastern Ontario and the Atlantic coast) has warm summers and cool to cold winters.
Form of government: Constitutional monarchy.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is queen of Canada. The queen, on the recommendation of Canada's prime minister, appoints a governor general to represent her.
Head of government: Prime minister.
Parliament: Senate—105 members, appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister. House of Commons—308 members elected by the people.
Political subdivisions: 10 provinces, 3 territories.
Population: Current estimate—33,063,000; 2006 census—31,612,897.
Population density: 9 per mi2 (3 per km2).
Population distribution: 80 percent urban, 20 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups: 79 percent of European descent (chiefly British, Irish, and French, but also some Germans, Italians, Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups), 11 percent Asian (mostly Chinese, with Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, and others), 4 percent American Indians and Inuit.
Major religions: 43 percent Roman Catholic, 29 percent Protestant. Other groups include Buddhists, Eastern Orthodox, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs.
Chief products: Agriculture—beef cattle, canola, chickens, corn, eggs, hogs, milk, nursery products, wheat. Fishing industry—crab, lobster, shrimp. Forestry—fir, pine, spruce. Manufacturing—aluminum, steel, and other metals; chemicals; fabricated metal products; machinery; motor vehicles and parts; paper products; processed foods and beverages; wood products. Mining—coal, copper, gold, iron ore, natural gas, nickel, petroleum, potash, uranium, zinc .
Money: Basic unit—Canadian dollar. One hundred cents equal one dollar.
International trade: Major exports—motor vehicles and parts; petroleum; precious metals; wheat; wood, newsprint, and wood pulp. Major imports—computers, fruits and vegetables, machinery, motor vehicles and parts, scientific equipment. Major trading partners—The United States is Canada's most important trading partner. Other major commercial partners of Canada include China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.