Canada is a huge country but has a relatively small population of 35,702,707. Canada is also one of the most culturally diverse nations on the planet. In the province of Ontario alone, well over 25% of the population is foreign-born.
Canada's government is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the official head-of-state. In reality, however, her power is extremely limited and she serves almost entirely as a figurehead.
Canada's government is based on the Westminster parliamentary model. This means Canada has a Prime Minister acting as the executive of government - the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons. Opposition parties in Canada are vibrant, and political participation is encouraged.
Personal freedom and human rights are entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Among the most important rights that everyone in Canada enjoys:
Canada was founded on a unique blend of English and French cultures. As such, both languages enjoy official status throughout the country. Canadians are entitled to receive federal government services in English or French anywhere in the country.
Although English and French are the only two official languages in Canada, countless other languages are spoken on the streets and in homes. Almost every language and culture in the world can find some representation, and a home, in Canada.
Although most Canadians identify themselves as Christian, Canada is a secular and tolerant society. All religions are free to assemble and worship as they wish.
The majority of Canadians live in major cities within 200 kilometres of the American border. Canada's large cities, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, all have unique styles, climates, economies and cultural characteristics. Toronto is a large cosmopolitan centre often compared to New York. Montreal is a bohemian, bilingual city with a thriving cultural scene and European flavour. Vancouver is sometimes called the "city of glass" for its scenic natural setting and glittering glass architecture. Calgary is an economic success story, and the centre of the booming Canadian oil industry.
Canada's geography is highly varied. The West Coast is mountainous, and largely covered in an old-growth rain forest. The Prairies of Western Canada are flat with wide-open space stretching from horizon to horizon. Central Canada is covered by a rocky face called the Canadian Shield and littered with lakes and rivers. Southern Ontario and Quebec are home to rolling hills, fertile farmland and hundreds of cities and towns. The East coast is known for its attractively rugged Atlantic shore and windswept beaches.
Canada's economy is booming. As of 2012, Canada's GDP is approximately C$1.183 trillion, with a GDP per capita of approximately C$41,500. In 2013, Canada's unemployment level fell to a 5-year low of 7.1%. In practical terms, this means that anyone who wants a job can usually find one.
Canada is in the enviable position of having a rich natural resource base on which to base its economy, with the oil, timber and mining industries driving the economy. Canada's manufacturing and service sectors are also highly advanced. Canada's technology, research, and pharmaceuticals sectors are world-class, and it is a world leader in biotechnology, telecommunications and aerospace engineering.
Canada's proximity to the United States makes cross-border trade easy and efficient. Most of Canada's exports are sold to the American market. Indeed, although this fact is little-known in America, Canada is by far the biggest trading partner of the United States. As well, Canada's Membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has meant that Canadian companies have almost unfettered access to the wider North American market.
Canada uses a decimal-based currency, 100 cents make up one Canadian Dollar, symbolized with a standard dollar sign ($). In general, one American Dollar is worth approximately C$1.10. Coins and banknotes are issued in the following denominations: