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Origin Of The Name Canada   Top

In 1535, two Indian Youths told Jacques Cartier about the route to "kanata." They were referring to the village of Stadacona; "kanata" was simply the Huron-Iroquois word for "village" or "settlement." But for want of another name, Cartier used "Canada" to refer not only to Stadacona (the site of present day Quebec City), but also to the entire area subject to its chief, Donnacona. The name was soon applied to a much larger area: maps in 1547 designated everything north of the St. Lawrence River as "Canada."

Cartier also called the St. Lawrence River the "rivière de Canada", a name used until the early 1600s. By 1616, although the entire region was known as New France, the area along the great river of Canada and the Gulf of St. Lawrence was still called Canada.

Soon explorers and fur traders opened up territory to the west and to the south and the area depicted as "Canada" grew. In the early 1700s, the name referred to all lands in what is now the American Midwest and as far south as the present day Louisiana.

The first use of "Canada" as an official name came in 1791 when the Province of Quebec was divided into the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada. In 1841, the two Canadas were again united under one name, the Province of Canada. At the time of Confederation, the new country assumed the name of Canada.

Canadian National Anthem   Top

O Canada!
Our home and native land
True patriot love in all
thy sons command.

With glowing hearts
we see thee rise,
the True North
strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada,
we stand on guard
for thee.

God keep our land
glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand
on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand
on guard for thee.

Governance   Top

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a federal state and parliamentary democracy with two official languages and two systems of law: civil law and common law.

Canada's Constitution was initially a British statute, the British North America Act, 1867, and until 1982, major amendments required action by the British Parliament. Since 1982 when Canadians obtained the right to amend all parts of the Constitution in Canada - this founding statute has been known as the Constitution Act, 1867-1982.

From the days of French colonization and British rule to today's self-government, Canadians have lived under a monarchy. Full independence for Canada, as for all British colonies, was established in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster.

Elizabeth II, Queen of England, is also Canada's Queen and sovereign of a number of realms. In her capacity as Queen of Canada, she delegates her powers to a Canadian Governor General. Canada is thus a constitutional monarchy: the Queen rules but does not govern.

Canada's 33 "Fathers of Confederation" adopted a federal form of government in 1867. In Canada, the responsibilities of the federal Parliament include national defence, interprovincial and international trade and commerce, the banking and monetary system, criminal law and fisheries. The courts have also awarded to the federal Parliament such powers as aeronautics, shipping, railways, telecommunications and atomic energy.

The provincial legislatures are responsible for such matters as education, property and civil rights, the administration of justice, the hospital system, natural resources within their borders, social security, health and municipal institutions.

The roots of Canada's parliamentary system lie in Britain. The Canadian Parliament is composed of the Queen (who is represented in Canada by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons. The Senate, also called the Upper House, is patterned after the British House of Lords. The House of Commons is the major law-making body. The Canadian Constitution requires the election of a new House of Commons at least every five years. Canada voters elect a single member for their electoral constituency, in one round of balloting. The party that wins the largest number of seats ordinarily forms the government. Its leader is asked by the Governor General to become Prime Minister.

The Constitution of 1867 had one serious flaw: it contained no general formula for constitutional amendment. It was necessary to address the British Parliament in London each time the founding statute needed change. After the Constitution Act, 1982, all parts of the Constitution can be amended only in Canada.

Law Enforcement The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), maintained by the federal government, is Canada's national police force. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have their own police forces. Some municipalities employ a local police force. Where no municipal force exists, local services are provided by either the federal or the provincial police force.

Rights and Responsibilities   Top

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the Canadian and provincial governments and guarantees citizens the following rights:

  • fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of expression;
  • the right to take up residence and work anywhere in Canada;
  • legal rights;
  • the rights of all individuals to equality before and under the law;
  • recognition of English and French as official languages;
  • the right to be educated in either official language, where the number of eligible children so warrants;
  • recognition of Canada's multicultural heritage;
  • recognition of the rights of Aboriginal peoples.

Geography   Top

Occupying the northern half of the North American continent, Canada has a land mass of 9 970 610 km2, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. From east to west, Canada encompasses six time zones.

In addition to its coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific, Canada has a third sea coast on the Arctic Ocean, giving it the longest coastline of any country.

To the south, Canada shares an 8892 km boundary with the United States. To the north, the Arctic islands come within 800 km of the North Pole. Canada's neighbour across the Arctic Ocean is Russia.

Because of the harsh northern climate, only 12 percent of the land is suitable for agriculture. Thus, most of the population of 30 million live within a few hundred kilometres of the southern border, where the climate is milder, in a long thin band stretching between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

If you fly over Manitoba or northern Ontario in summer, you will see more water than land: lakes, big and small, so many that they could not possibly be counted. It has been estimated that Canada has one-seventh of the world's fresh water. In addition to the Great Lakes, which it shares with the United States, Canada has many large rivers and lakes.