Country occupying the northern part of the North American continent, bounded S by the US, N by the Arctic Ocean, NW by Alaska, E by the Atlantic Ocean, and W by the Pacific Ocean.
The Canada Act of 1982 gave Canada power to amend its constitution and added a charter of rights and freedoms. This represented Canada's complete independence, though it remains a member of the British Commonwealth.
Canada is a federation of ten provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, and Saskatchewan; and two territories: Northwest Territories and Yukon. Each province has a single-chamber assembly, popularly elected; the premier (the leader of the party with the most seats in the legislature) chooses the cabinet. The two-chamber federal parliament consists of the Senate, whose maximum of 112 members are appointed by the government for life or until the age of 75 and must be resident in the provinces they represent; and the House of Commons, which has 295 members, elected by universal suffrage in single-member constituencies.
The federal prime minister is the leader of the best-supported party in the House of Commons and is accountable, with the cabinet, to it. Parliament has a maximum life of five years. Legislation must be passed by both chambers and then signed by the governor-general.
Inhabited by indigenous Indian and Inuit groups, Canada was reached by an English expedition led by John Cabot 1497 and a French expedition under Jacques Cartier 1534. Both countries developed colonies from the 17th century, with hostility between them culminating in the French and Indian Wars (1756–63), in which France was defeated. Antagonism continued, and in 1791 Canada was divided into English-speaking Upper Canada (much of modern Ontario) and French-speaking Lower Canada (much of modern Québec and all of modern mainland Newfoundland). The two were united as Canada Province 1841, when the self-governing Dominion of Canada was founded.
In 1870 the province of Manitoba was added to the confederation, British Columbia joined 1871, and Prince Edward Island 1873. The new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created from the Northwest Territories 1905. An improving economy led to vast areas of fertile prairie land being opened up for settlement. The discovery of gold and other metals, the exploitation of forests for lumber and paper, the development of fisheries and tourism, and investment from other countries gradually transformed Canada's economy into one of the most important manufacturing and trading nations in the world. World War II stimulated further rapid industrialization, and in the postwar period discovery and exploitation of mineral resources took place on a vast scale. Newfoundland joined the confederation 1949.
The Progressive Conservatives returned to power 1957, after 22 years of Liberal Party rule. In 1963 the Liberals were reinstated in office under Lester Pearson, who was succeeded by Pierre Trudeau 1968. Trudeau maintained Canada's defensive alliance with the US but sought to widen its influence internationally. Faced with the problem of Québec's separatist movement, he promised to create equal opportunities for both English- and French-speaking Canadians throughout the country. He won both the 1972 and 1974 elections.
In 1979, with no party having an overall majority in the Commons, the Progressive Conservatives formed a government under Joe Clark. Later that year Trudeau announced his retirement from politics, but when, in Dec 1979, Clark was defeated on his budget proposals, Trudeau reconsidered his decision and won the 1980 general election with a large majority.
Trudeau’s third administration was concerned with “patriation”, or the extent to which the British Parliament should determine Canada’s constitution. The position was resolved with the passing of the Constitution Act 1982, the last piece of UK legislation to have force in Canada.
In 1983 Clark was replaced as leader of the Progressive Conservatives by Brian Mulroney, a corporate lawyer who had never run for public office, and in 1984 Trudeau retired to be replaced as Liberal Party leader and prime minister by John Turner, a former minister of finance. Within nine days of taking office, Turner called a general election, and the Progressive Conservatives, under Mulroney, won 211 seats, the largest majority in Canadian history.
Soon after taking office, Mulroney began an international realignment, placing less emphasis on links established by Trudeau with Asia, Africa, and Latin America and more on cooperation with Europe and a closer relationship with the US. The election of 1988 was fought on the issue of free trade with the US, and the Conservatives won with a reduced majority. Despite the majority of voters opting for the Liberals or New Democratic Party (NDP), who both opposed free trade, an agreement was signed with the US 1989. Turner and Ed Broadbent, leader of the NDP, both resigned 1989.
The 1990s began with the collapse of the Meech Lake accord, a 1987 compromise between the Canadian provinces aimed at getting Québec's acceptance of the 1982 constitutional reforms. Canada joined the coalition opposing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait 1990–91.
In Sept 1991 Mulroney presented a constitutional reform package to parliament, designed primarily to persuade Québec to remain as part of the Canadian federation. The plan, known as the Charlottetown Accord, was passed Aug 1992, giving greater autonomy to Québec, increased powers to all provinces, and a reformed senate. A subsequent national referendum Nov 1992 rejected the plan, although its reforms were supported by all major Canadian parties except the Reform Party and the Bloc Québecois (for opposed reasons).
In Feb 1992 Canada, a key partner in NATO, announced a phased withdrawal of its forces in Europe.
rights granted to Inuit
In May 1992 an Inuit self-governing homeland was approved by voters in Canada's Northwest Territories.
Conservatives routed by Liberals
In Feb 1993 Mulroney resigned the leadership of the Conservative Party but remained prime minister until June 1993 when Kim Campbell succeeded him as Canada's first female prime minister. In the same month the Canadian parliament ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and Mexico. The Oct 1993 general election brought a humiliating defeat for the Conservative Party, their seat tally in the House of Commons falling from 169 to 2, with Kim Campbell losing her own seat. The Liberals won 178 seats and their leader, Jean Chretien, became prime minister. The Bloc Quebecois, led by Lucien Bouchard, won 54 seats and became the official opposition. Kim Campbell resigned as Conservative Party leader Dec 1993.
new trading partner
In 1994, on a visit to China, Prime Minister Chretien together with representatives from Canada's provincial government and business community signed trade deals worth an estimated C$8.6 billion (US$6.3 billion).A nation in northern North America; the French were the first Europeans to settle in mainland Canada.