Background Notes: Canada, Canada Official Info - RealAdventures

Background Notes: Canada

Canada Official Info

Listing # RA-1024140


Details of Background Notes: Canada, Canada Official Info
Details for Background Notes: Canada

Canada Official Info

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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Canadian(s).
Population: 31.0 million.
Ethnic groups: British 28%, French 23%, other European 15%, Asian/Arab/African 6%, indigenous Indian and Eskimo 2%, mixed background 26%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 40%.
Languages: English, French.
Education: Literacy--99% of population aged 15 and over have at least a ninth-grade education.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5.5/1,000. Life expectancy--76 yrs. male, 83 yrs. female.
Work force (15 million): Trade--17%; manufacturing--15%; transportation and communications--8%; finance--6%; public administration--6%; construction--5%; agriculture--4%; forestry and mining--2%; other services--37%.



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Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal system, a parliamentary government, and strong democratic traditions. Many of the country's legal practices are based on unwritten custom, but the federal structure resembles the U.S. system. The 1982 Charter of Rights guarantees basic rights in many areas.

Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, serves as a symbol of the nation's unity. She appoints a governor general on the advice of the prime minister of Canada, usually for a 5-year term. The prime minister is the leader of the political party in power and is the head of the cabinet. The cabinet remains in office as long as it retains majority support in the House of Commons on major issues.

Canada's parliament consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. Legislative power rests with the 301-member Commons, which is elected for a period not to exceed 5 years. The prime minister may ask the governor general to dissolve parliament and call new elections at any time during that period. Federal elections were last held in June 1997. Vacancies in the 104-member Senate, whose members serve until the age of 75, are filled by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Recent constitutional initiatives have sought unsuccessfully to strengthen the Senate by making it elective and assigning it a greater regional representational role.

Criminal law, based largely on British law, is uniform throughout the nation and is under federal jurisdiction. Civil law also is based on the common law of England, except in Quebec, which has retained its own civil code patterned after that of France. Justice is administered by federal, provincial, and municipal courts.

Each province is governed by a premier and a single, elected legislative chamber. A lieutenant-governor appointed by the governor general represents the Crown in each province.

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Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Adrienne Clarkson
Prime Minister--Jean Chretien
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Lloyd Axworthy
Ambassador to the United States--Raymond Chretien (after September 2000: Michael Kergin)
Ambassador to the United Nations--Robert Fowler (after September 2000: Paul Heinbecker)

Canada maintains an embassy in the United States at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202-682-1740).

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Prime Minister Jean Chretien's liberal government was elected to a second term on June 2, 1997, winning 155 of Parliament's 301 seats. These results reflected slippage from the Liberals' 1993 total, when the party took 178 of 295 seats. In the 1997 vote, the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois (with 44 seats), which constituted Canada's official opposition from 1993-97, was displaced by the western-based Reform Party, which won 60 seats. Canada's two historic opposition parties--the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party--regained official party status in the 1997 election with 20 and 21 seats, respectively, after their near total eclipse in the 1993 poll. In March 2000, the Reform Party merged with former members of the Progressive Conservative Party to form the Canadian Alliance.

Federal-provincial interplay is a central feature of Canadian politics: Quebec wishes to preserve and strengthen its distinctive nature; western provinces desire more control over their abundant natural resources, especially energy reserves; industrialized central Canada is concerned with economic development; and the Atlantic provinces have resisted federal claims to fishing and mineral rights off their shores.

The Chretien government has responded to these different regional needs by seeking to rebalance the Canadian confederation, giving up its spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction, while attempting to strengthen the federal role in other areas. The federal government has reached agreement with a number of provinces returning to them authority over job training programs and is embarked on similar initiatives in other fields. Meanwhile, it has attempted to strengthen the national role on interprovincial trade, while also seeking national regulation of securities.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien's liberal government was elected to a second term on June 2, 1997, winning 155 of Parliament's 301 seats. These results reflected slippage from the Liberals' 1993 total, when the party took 178 of 295 seats. In the 1997 vote, the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois (with 44 seats), which constituted Canada's official opposition from 1993-97, was displaced by the western-based Reform Party, which won 60 seats. Canada's two historic opposition parties--the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party--regained official party status in the 1997 election with 20 and 21 seats, respectively, after their near total eclipse in the 1993 poll. In March 2000, the Reform Party merged with former members of the Progressive Conservative Party to form the Canadian Alliance.

Federal-provincial interplay is a central feature of Canadian politics: Quebec wishes to preserve and strengthen its distinctive nature; western provinces desire more control over their abundant natural resources, especially energy reserves; industrialized central Canada is concerned with economic development; and the Atlantic provinces have resisted federal claims to fishing and mineral rights off their shores.

The Chretien government has responded to these different regional needs by seeking to rebalance the Canadian confederation, giving up its spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction, while attempting to strengthen the federal role in other areas. The federal government has reached agreement with a number of provinces returning to them authority over job training programs and is embarked on similar initiatives in other fields. Meanwhile, it has attempted to strengthen the national role on interprovincial trade, while also seeking national regulation of securities.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien's liberal government was elected to a second term on June 2, 1997, winning 155 of Parliament's 301 seats. These results reflected slippage from the Liberals' 1993 total, when the party took 178 of 295 seats. In the 1997 vote, the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois (with 44 seats), which constituted Canada's official opposition from 1993-97, was displaced by the western-based Reform Party, which won 60 seats. Canada's two historic opposition parties--the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party--regained official party status in the 1997 election with 20 and 21 seats, respectively, after their near total eclipse in the 1993 poll. In March 2000, the Reform Party merged with former members of the Progressive Conservative Party to form the Canadian Alliance.

Federal-provincial interplay is a central feature of Canadian politics: Quebec wishes to preserve and strengthen its distinctive nature; western provinces desire more control over their abundant natural resources, especially energy reserves; industrialized central Canada is concerned with economic development; and the Atlantic provinces have resisted federal claims to fishing and mineral rights off their shores.

The Chretien government has responded to these different regional needs by seeking to rebalance the Canadian confederation, giving up its spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction, while attempting to strengthen the federal role in other areas. The federal government has reached agreement with a number of provinces returning to them authority over job training programs and is embarked on similar initiatives in other fields. Meanwhile, it has attempted to strengthen the national role on interprovincial trade, while also seeking national regulation of securities.

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Nominal GDP (1999): $644.7 billion.
Real GDP growth rate (1999): 4.5%.
Nominal per capita GDP (1999): $19,111.
Natural resources: Petroleum and natural gas, hydroelectric power, metals and minerals, fish, forests, wildlife.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, livestock and meat, feed grains, oil seeds, dairy products, tobacco, fruits, vegetables.
Industry: Types--motor vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, aircraft and components, other diversified manufacturing, fish and forest products, processed and unprocessed minerals.
Trade: Merchandise exports (1999)--$242.7 billion: motor vehicles and spare parts, lumber, wood pulp and newsprint, crude and fabricated metals, natural gas, crude petroleum, wheat. 86% of 1999 Canadian exports went to the United States. Merchandise imports (1999)--$219.9 billion: motor vehicles and parts, industrial machinery, crude petroleum, chemicals, agricultural machinery. Seventy-six percent of 1998 Canadian imports came from the United States.

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The bilateral relationship between the United States and Canada is perhaps the closest and most extensive in the world. It is reflected in the staggering volume of trade--over $1 billion a day--and people--more than 200 million a year--crossing the U.S.-Canadian border. In fields ranging from environmental cooperation to free trade, the two countries have set the standard by which many other countries measure their own progress. In addition to their close bilateral ties, Canada and the U.S. also work closely through multilateral fora. Canada--a charter signatory to the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)--has continued to take an active role in the United Nations, including peacekeeping operations. It is currently a member of the UN Security Council (1999-2000). Canada is also an active participant in discussions stemming from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990 and has been an active member, hosting the OAS General Assembly in Windsor in June 2000. In 2001, Canada will host the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Canada also seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) of which the U.S. also is a member.

Although Canada views its relationship with the U.S. as crucial to a wide range of interests, it also occasionally pursues policies at odds with the United States. This is particularly true of Cuba, with regard to which the U.S. and Canada have pursued divergent policies for nearly 40 years, even while sharing the common goal of a peaceful democratic transition.

U.S. defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense, established in 1940, provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters. The United States and Canada share NATO mutual security commitments. In addition, U.S. and Canadian military forces have cooperated since 1958 on continental air defense within the framework of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

The two countries also work closely to resolve transboundary environmental issues, an area of increasing importance in the bilateral relationship. A principal instrument of this cooperation is the International Joint Commission (IJC), established as part of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to resolve differences and promote international cooperation on boundary waters. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972 is another historic example of joint cooperation in controlling transboundary water pollution. The two governments also consult semiannually on transboundary air pollution. Under the Air Quality Agreement of 1991, both countries have made substantial progress in coordinating and implementing their acid rain control programs.

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