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.
Canada is also a constitutional monarchy, with The Crown acting as a symbolic or ceremonial executive. The Crown consists of Queen Elizabeth II (legal head of state) and her appointed viceroys, the governor general (acting head of state), and provincial lieutenant-governors, who perform most of the monarch's ceremonial roles. The political executive consists of the prime minister (head of government) and the Cabinet and carries out the day-to-day decisions of government. The Cabinet is made up of ministers usually selected from the House of Commons and headed by the prime minister, who is normally the leader of the party that holds the confidence of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is one of the most powerful institutions in government, initiating most legislation for parliamentary approval and selecting, besides other Cabinet members, senators, federal court judges, heads of Crown corporations and government agencies, and the governor general. The Crown formally approves parliamentary legislation and the prime minister's appointments. The leader of the party with the second-most seats usually becomes the Leader of the Opposition, and is part of an adversarial parliamentary system intended to keep the government in check. Michaelle Jean has served as Governor General since September 27, 2005; Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, has been prime minister since February 6, 2006; and Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party, has been Leader of the Opposition since December 10, 2008.
The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of the country, and consists of written text and unwritten conventions. The Constitution Act, 1867 (known as the British North America Act prior to 1982) affirmed governance based on parliamentary precedent "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom" and divided powers between the federal and provincial governments; the Statute of Westminster, 1931 granted full autonomy; and the Constitution Act, 1982 added the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees basic rights and freedoms that usually cannot be overridden by any level of government--though a notwithstanding clause allows the federal parliament and provincial legislatures to override certain sections of the Charter for a period of five years--and added a constitutional amending formula.
Although not without conflict, European Canadians' early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful. Combined with Canada's late economic development in many regions, this peaceful history has allowed Canadian Indigenous peoples to have a relatively strong influence on the national culture while preserving their own identity. The Canadian Crown and Aboriginal peoples began interactions during the European colonialisation period. Numbered treaties, the Indian Act, the Constitution Act of 1982 and case laws were established. A series of eleven treaties were signed between Aboriginals in Canada and the reigning Monarch of Canada from 1871 to 1921. These treaties are agreements with the Government of Canada administered by Canadian Aboriginal law and overseen by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982, which «recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights», reaffirmed the role of the treaties. These rights may include provision of services such as health care, and exemption from taxation. The legal and policy framework within which Canada and First Nations operate was further formalised in 2005, through the First Nations-Federal Crown Political Accord, which established cooperation as "a cornerstone for partnership between Canada and First Nations".
Canada's judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court and final arbiter and has been led by the Right Honourable Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, P.C. (the first female Chief Justice) since 2000. Its nine members are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. All judges at the superior and appellate levels are appointed after consultation with nongovernmental legal bodies. The federal cabinet also appoints justices to superior courts at the provincial and territorial levels. Judicial posts at the lower provincial and territorial levels are filled by their respective governments.
Common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec, where civil law predominates. Criminal law is solely a federal responsibility and is uniform throughout Canada. Law enforcement, including criminal courts, is a provincial responsibility, but in rural areas of all provinces except Ontario and Quebec, policing is contracted to the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Foreign relations and military
Canada and the United States share the world's longest undefended border, co-operate on military campaigns and exercises, and are each other's largest trading partner. Canada nevertheless has an independent foreign policy, most notably maintaining full relations with Cuba and declining to participate in the Iraq War. Canada also maintains historic ties to the United Kingdom and France and to other former British and French colonies through Canada's membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and the Francophonie. Canada is noted for having a strong and positive relationship with the Netherlands, and the Dutch government traditionally gives tulips, a symbol of the Netherlands, to Canada each year in remembrance of the latter country's contribution to its liberation.
Canada currently employs a professional, volunteer military force of about 67,000 regular and 26,000 reserve personnel. The unified Canadian Forces (CF) comprise the army, navy, and air force.
Canada is an industrial nation with a highly-developed science and technology sector. Since the First World War, Canada has produced its own infantry fighting vehicle, anti-tank guided missile and small arms for the Canadian Forces and particularly for the Canadian Forces Land Force Command. The Canadian Forces operate state of the art equipments able to handle modern threats through 2030-2035. Despite the financial cut between 1987-2004, the Canadian Forces is well equipped. The Land Force Command currently operate approximatively 10 500 utility vehicles including G-wagon and 7000-MV and also operate approximatively 2 700 armoured fighting vehicles including the LAV-III and the Leopard 2. The land force also operate approximatively 150 field artillery including the M777 howitzer and the LG1 Mark II. The Canadian Forces Maritime Command currently operate 33 combat vessels. These include the Halifax class frigate and the Victoria class submarine. The Canadian Forces Air Command operate 333 aircraft. These include the CF-188 Hornet, CC-130 Hercule and the CH-146 Griffon.
Strong attachment to the British Empire and Commonwealth led to major participation in British military efforts in the Second Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War. Since then, Canada has been an advocate for multilateralism, making efforts to resolve global issues in collaboration with other nations. Canada was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and of NATO in 1949. During the Cold War, Canada was a major contributor to UN forces in the Korean War and founded the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in cooperation with the United States to defend against potential aerial attacks from the Soviet Union.
During the Suez Crisis of 1956, future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson eased tensions by proposing the inception of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, for which he was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize. As this was the first UN peacekeeping mission, Pearson is often credited as the inventor of the concept. Canada has since served in 50 peacekeeping missions, including every UN peacekeeping effort until 1989 and has since maintained forces in international missions in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere; Canada has sometimes faced controversy over its involvement in foreign countries, notably in the 1993 Somalia Affair. The number of Canadian military personnel participating in peacekeeping missions has decreased greatly in the past two decades. As of June 30, 2006, 133 Canadians served on United Nations peacekeeping missions worldwide, including 55 Canadian military personnel, compared with 1044 military personnel as of December 31, 1996.
Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990 and hosted the OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Ontario, in June 2000 and the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001. Canada seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
Since 2001, Canada has had troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. stabilization force and the UN-authorized, NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force. Canada has committed to withdraw from Kandahar Province by 2011, by which time it will have spent an estimated total of $11.3 billion on the mission. Canada and the U.S. continue to integrate state and provincial agencies to strengthen security along the Canada-United States border through the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
In February 2007, Canada, Italy, Britain, Norway, and Russia announced their funding commitments to launch a $1.5 billion project to help develop vaccines they said could save millions of lives in poor nations, and called on others to join them In August 2007, Canadian sovereignty in Arctic waters was challenged after a Russian underwater expedition to the North Pole; Canada has considered that area to be sovereign territory since 1925.
Geography and climate
Forests prevail on the rocky Canadian Shield. Ice and tundra are prominent in the Arctic. Glaciers are visible in the Canadian Rockies and Coast Mountains. The interior is mostly flat prairies. The Great Lakes feed the Saint Lawrence River in the southeast lowlands
A satellite composite image of Canada.
Canada occupies a major northern portion of North America, sharing the land borders with the contiguous United States to the south and the U.S. state of Alaska to the northwest, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; to the north lies the Arctic Ocean. By total area (including its waters), Canada is the second-largest country in the world--after Russia. By land area, Canada ranks fourth (land area is total area minus the area of lakes and rivers).
Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude, but this claim is not universally recognized. The northernmost settlement in Canada (and in the world) is Canadian Forces Station Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island--latitude 82.5°N--817 kilometres (450 nautical miles, 508 miles) from the North Pole. Much of the Canadian Arctic is covered by ice and permafrost. Canada also has the longest coastline in the world: 202,080 kilometres (125,570 mi).
The population density, 3.3 inhabitants per square kilometre (8.5/sq mi), is among the lowest in the world. The most densely populated part of the country is the Quebec City - Windsor Corridor, (situated in Southern Quebec and Southern Ontario) along the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River in the southeast.
Canada has an extensive coastline on its north, east, and west, and since the last glacial period it has consisted of eight distinct forest regions, including extensive boreal forest on the Canadian Shield. The vastness and variety of Canada's geography, ecology, vegetation and landforms have given rise to a wide variety of climates throughout the country. Because of its vast size, Canada has more lakes than any other country, containing much of the world's fresh water.There are also fresh-water glaciers in the Canadian Rockies and the Coast Mountains.
Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary according to the location. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, particularly in the interior and Prairie provinces, which experience a continental climate, where daily average temperatures are near ?15 °C (5 °F) but can drop below ?40 °C (?40.0 °F) with severe wind chills. In noncoastal regions, snow can cover the ground almost six months of the year (more in the north). Coastal British Columbia enjoys a temperate climate, with a mild and rainy winter. On the east and west coasts, average high temperatures are generally in the low 20s °C (70s °F), while between the coasts, the average summer high temperature ranges from 25 to 30 °C (77 to 86 °F), with occasional extreme heat in some interior locations exceeding 40 °C (104 °F).
Canada is also geologically active, having many earthquakes and potentially active volcanoes, notably Mount Meager, Mount Garibaldi, Mount Cayley, and the Mount Edziza volcanic complex. The volcanic eruption of Tseax Cone in 1775 caused a catastrophic disaster, killing 2,000 Nisga'a people and the destruction of their village in the Nass River valley of northern British Columbia; the eruption produced a 22.5-kilometre (14.0 mi) lava flow, and according to legend of the Nisga'a people, it blocked the flow of the Nass River.
Provinces and territories
Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories. In turn, these may be grouped into regions: Western Canada, Central Canada, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada (the latter made up of the three territories Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut). Eastern Canada refers to Central Canada and Atlantic Canada together. Provinces have more autonomy than territories. The provinces are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as health care, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so in practice. Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces.
Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations, with a high per-capita income, and it is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G8. It is one of the world's top ten trading nations. Canada is a mixed market, ranking above the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom and higher than most western European nations. The largest foreign importers of Canadian goods are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. In 2008, Canada's imported goods were worth over $442.9 billion, of which $280.8 billion was from the United States, $11.7 billion from Japan, and $11.3 billion from the United Kingdom.
As of October 2009, Canada's national unemployment rate was 8.6%. Provincial unemployment rates vary from a low of 5.8% in Manitoba to a high of 17% in Newfoundland and Labrador. As of 2008, Canada's total government debt burden is the lowest among the G8. The OECD projects that Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio will decline to 19.5% in 2009, which is less than half of the projected average of 51.9% for all G8 countries. According to these projections, Canada's debt burden will have fallen by more than 50 percentage points from its peak in 1995, when it was the second-highest in the G8. In 2008-09, the federal debt increased by $6.1 billion to $463.7 billion. In the past century, the growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy to a more industrial and urban one. Like other First World nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians. Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of its primary sector, in which the logging and petroleum industries are two of the most important.
Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. Atlantic Canada has vast offshore deposits of natural gas, and Alberta has large oil and gas resources. The immense Athabasca Oil Sands give Canada the world's second-largest oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia.
Canada is one of the world's largest suppliers of agricultural products; the Canadian Prairies are one of the most important producers of wheat, canola, and other grains. Canada is the largest producer of zinc and uranium, and is a global source of many
Economic integration with the United States has increased significantly since World War II. This has drawn the attention of Canadian nationalists, who are concerned about cultural and economic autonomy in an age of globalization, as American goods and media products have become ubiquitous. The Automotive Products Trade Agreement of 1965 opened the borders to trade in the auto manufacturing industry. In the 1970s, concerns over energy self-sufficiency and foreign ownership in the manufacturing sectors prompted Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government to enact the National Energy Program (NEP) and the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA).
In the 1980s, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives abolished the NEP and changed the name of FIRA to "Investment Canada" in order to encourage foreign investment. The Canada - United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of 1988 eliminated tariffs between the two countries, while the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) expanded the free-trade zone to include Mexico in the 1990s. In the mid-1990s, the Liberal government under Jean Chretien began to post annual budgetary surpluses and steadily paid down the national debt. The 2008 global financial crisis caused a recession, which could boost the country's unemployment rate to 10%.
Canada's 2006 census counted a total population of 31,612,897, an increase of 5.4% since 2001. Population growth is from immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth. About four-fifths of Canada's population lives within 150 kilometres (93 mi) of the United States border. A simila proportion live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City - Windsor Corridor (notably the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including Toronto and area, Montreal, and Ottawa), the BC Lower Mainland (consisting of the region surrounding Vancouver), and the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor in Alberta.
According to the 2006 census, the largest reported ethnic origin is English (21%), followed by French (15.8%), Scottish (15.2%), Irish (13.9%), German (10.2%), Italian (5%), Chinese (3.9%), Ukrainian (3.6%), and First Nations (3.5%). Approximately one third of respondents identified their ethnicity as "Canadian". There are 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands encompassing 1,172,790 people.
Canada's Aboriginal population is growing at almost twice the national rate, and 3.8% of Canada's population claimed aboriginal identity in 2006. Another 16.2% of the population belonged to non-aboriginal visible minorities. The largest visible minority groups in Canada are South Asian (4%), Chinese (3.9%) and Black (2.5%). In 1961, less than 2% of Canada's population (about 300,000 people) could be classified as visible minority and less than 1% as aboriginal. In 2006, 51.0% of Vancouver's population and 46.9% of Toronto's population were members of visible minority groups. Between 2001 and 2006, the visible minority population rose by 27.2%. According to a 2005 forecast by Statistics Canada, the proportion of visible minorities in Canada could reach as much as 23% by 2017. As of 2007, almost one in five Canadians (19.8%) were foreign-born. Nearly 60% of new immigrants hail from Asia (including the Middle East). By 2031, one in three Canadians will belong to a visible minority.
Canada has the highest per-capita immigration rate in the world, driven by economic policy and family reunification, and is aiming for between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents in 2010. Canada also accepts large numbers of refugees. New immigrants settle mostly in major urban areas like Toronto and Vancouver.
In common with many other developed countries, Canada is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2006, the average age of the population was 39.5 years. The census results also indicate that despite an increase in immigration since 2001 (which gave Canada a higher rate of population growth than in the previous intercensal period), the aging of Canada's population did not slow during the period.
Support for religious pluralism is an important part of Canada's political culture. According to the 2001 census, 77.1% of Canadians identify as being Christians; of this, Catholics make up the largest group (43.6% of Canadians). The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada (9.5% of Canadians), followed by the Anglicans (6.8%), Baptists (2.4%), Lutherans (2%), and other Christians (4.4%). About 16.5% of Canadians declare no religious affiliation, and the remaining 6.3% are affiliated with non-Christian religions, the largest of which is Islam (2.0%), followed by Judaism (1.1%).
Canadian provinces and territories are responsible for education. Each system is similar, while reflecting regional history, culture and geography. The mandatory school age ranges between 5-7 to 16-18 years, contributing to an adult literacy rate of 99%. Provincial and territorial governments, which provide most of the funding, also administer post-secondary education; the federal government administers additional research grants, student loans, and scholarships. In 2002, 43% of Canadians, aged 25 to 64 possessed a post-secondary education; for those aged 25 to 34, the rate of post-secondary education reached 51%.
Canada's two official languages are English and French. Official bilingualism is defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act, and Official Language Regulations; it is applied by the Commissioner of Official Languages. English and French have equal status in federal courts, Parliament, and in all federal institutions. Citizens have the right, where there is sufficient demand, to receive federal government services in either English or French, and official-language minorities are guaranteed their own schools in all provinces and territories.
English and French are the mother tongues of 59.7% and 23.2% of the population respectively, and the languages most spoken at home by 68.3% and 22.3% of the population respectively. 98.5% of Canadians speak English or French (67.5% speak English only, 13.3% speak French only, and 17.7% speak both). English and French Official Language Communities, defined by First Official Language Spoken, constitute 73.0% and 23.6% of the population respectively.
The Charter of the French Language makes French the official language in Quebec. Although more than 85% of French-speaking Canadians live in Quebec, there are substantial Francophone populations in Ontario, Alberta, and southern Manitoba; Ontario has the largest French-speaking population outside Quebec. New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province, has a French-speaking Acadian minority constituting 33% of the population. There are also clusters of Acadians in southwestern Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island, and through central and western Prince Edward Island.
Other provinces have no official languages as such, but French is used as a language of instruction, in courts, and for other government services in addition to English. Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec allow for both English and French to be spoken in the provincial legislatures, and laws are enacted in both languages. In Ontario, French has some legal status but is not fully co-official. There are 11 Aboriginal language groups, made up of more than 65 distinct dialects. Of these, only Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway have a large enough population of fluent speakers to be considered viable to survive in the long term. Several aboriginal languages have official status in the Northwest Territories. Inuktitut is the majority language in Nunavut, and one of three official languages in the territory.
Over six million people in Canada list a non-official language as their mother tongue. Some of the most common non-official first languages include Chinese (mainly Cantonese; 1,012,065 first-language speakers), Italian (455,040), German (450,570), Punjabi (367,505) and Spanish (345,345).