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Canada is a sovereign country in North America, the northern-most country in the world, and the second largest in area. Bordering the United States, its territorial claims extend north into the Arctic Ocean as far as the North Pole. Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories, governed as a parliamentary representative democracy. Initially constituted through the British North America Act of 1867, Canada retains a constitutional monarchy, recognizing Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state with the title Queen of Canada. Canada''s official languages are English and French. Its official population estimate for May 2005 is 32.2 million people .
History of Canada
Canada has been inhabited by aboriginal peoples (known in Canada as First Nations) for at least 40,000 years. A Scandinavian expedition, visited about AD 1000, briefly settling in the area known as L''Anse aux Meadows.British claims to North America began when John Cabot reached what he called "Newfoundland" in 1497. French claims began with explorations by Jacques Cartier (from 1534) and Samuel de Champlain (from 1603). In 1604, French settlers, who became known as Acadians, were the first Europeans to settle permanently in Canada, followed by other French settlements in the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Canada regions.
British settlements were established along the Atlantic seaboard and around Hudson's Bay. With the expansion of these French and British colonies, and wars between France and England in Europe, four French and Indian Wars erupted from 1689 to 1763. In the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France surrendered to Great Britain nearly all of New France, including Acadia and what comprises present-day Quebec and Ontario. Britain established the colonies of Nova Scotia, Lower Canada, and Upper Canada. New colonies corresponding to the present-day jurisdictions of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island were soon formed. The Canadas were joined to form Canada. Cape Breton was merged with Nova Scotia.
During and after the American Revolution, many British Loyalists left the Thirteen Colonies to settle in Canada. Other settlers during this time of a population boom came from Europe, in particular the British Isles.On July 1, 1867, three colonies - Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick - were granted by Britain a constitution, the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada. It consisted of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec (formerly Canada East), and Ontario (formerly Canada West). The term "Confederation" refers to this 1867 act of union.
Other British colonies and territories soon joined Canada: by 1880, Canada included all of its present area except for Newfoundland and Labrador, which joined in 1949. The Statute of Westminster of 1931 established self-government for Canada. Patriation of Canada's constitution occurred when the British government passed the Canada Act 1982.
In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec sought independence ("sovereignty") in two referendums held in 1980 and 1995. In the 1980 referendum the vote against independence was 60%; in the 1995 Quebec referendum the vote against independence was 50.6%.