Canada (/ˈkænədə/ ( listen)French: [kanadɑ]) is a country located in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles), making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. The majority of the country has a cold or severely cold winter climate, but southern areas are warm in summer. Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land territory being dominated by forest and tundra and the Rocky Mountains. It is highly urbanized with 82 percent of the 35.15 million people concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.


While a variety of theories have been postulated for the etymological origins of Canada, the name is now accepted as coming from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement".[12] In 1535, indigenous inhabitants of the present-day Quebec City region used the word to direct French explorer Jacques Cartier to the village of Stadacona.[13] Cartier later used the word Canada to refer not only to that particular village, but to the entire area subject to Donnacona (the chief at Stadacona);[13] by 1545, European books and maps had begun referring to this small region along the Saint Lawrence River as Canada.[13]

From the 16th to the early 18th century "Canada" referred to the part of New France that lay along the Saint Lawrence River.[14] In 1791, the area became two British colonies called Upper Canada and Lower Canada collectively named the Canadas; until their union as the British Province of Canada in 1841.[15] Upon Confederation in 1867, Canada was adopted as the legal name for the new country at the London Conference, and the word Dominion was conferred as the country's title.[16] The transition away from the use of Dominion was formally reflected in 1982 with the passage of the Canada Act, which refers only to Canada. Later that year, the name of the national holiday was changed from Dominion Day to Canada Day.[17] The term Dominion is also used to distinguish the federal government from the provinces, though after the Second World War the term federal had replaced dominion.[18]


Indigenous peoples in present-day Canada include the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis,[19] the latter being a mixed-blood people who originated in the mid-17th century when First Nations and Inuit people married European settlers.[19] The term "Aboriginal" as a collective noun is a specific term of art used in some legal documents, including the Constitution Act 1982.[20]

The first inhabitants of North America are generally hypothesized to have migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge[21] and arrived at least 15,000 years ago, though increasing evidence suggests an even earlier arrival.[22][23][24][25] The Paleo-Indian archeological sites at Old Crow Flats and Bluefish Caves are two of the oldest sites of human habitation in Canada.[26]The characteristics of Canadian indigenous societies included permanent settlements, agriculture, complex societal hierarchies, and trading networks.[27][28] Some of these cultures had collapsed by the time European explorers arrived in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and have only been discovered through archeological investigations.[29]

The indigenous population at the time of the first European settlements is estimated to have been between 200,000[30] and two million,[31] with a figure of 500,000 accepted by Canada's Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.[32] As a consequence of European colonization, the population of Canada's indigenous peoples declined by forty to eighty percent, and several First Nations, such as the Beothuk, disappeared.[33] The decline is attributed to several causes, including the transfer of European diseases, such as influenza, measles, and smallpox to which they had no natural immunity,[30][34] conflicts over the fur trade, conflicts with the colonial authorities and settlers, and the loss of indigenous lands to settlers and the subsequent collapse of several nations' self-sufficiency.[35][36]

Although not without conflict, European Canadians' early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful.[37] First Nations and Métis peoples played a critical part in the development of European colonies in Canada, particularly for their role in assisting European coureur des bois and voyageurs in the exploration of the continent during the North American fur trade.[38] The Crown and indigenous peoples began interactions during the European colonization period, though the Inuit, in general, had more limited interaction with European settlers.[39] However, from the late 18th century, European Canadians encouraged indigenous peoples to assimilate into their own culture.[40] These attempts reached a climax in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with forced integration and relocations.[41] A period of redress is underway, which started with the appointment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada by the Government of Canada in 2008.[42]

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