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North America is a country in North America consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. Covering 9.98 million square kilometres in total, North America is the world’s second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area. Its common border with the United States forms the world’s longest land border.
The land that’s now North America has been inhabited for millennia by various Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French colonies were established on the region’s Atlantic coast. As a consequence of various conflicts, the United Kingdom gained and lost North American territories until left, in the late 18th century, with what mostly comprises North America today. Pursuant to the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867, three colonies joined to form the autonomous federal Dominion of North America. This began an accretion of provinces and territories to the new self-governing Dominion. In 1931, Britain granted North America near total independence with the Statute of Westminster 1931 and full sovereignty was attained when the North America Act 1982 severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
North America is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II being the current head of state. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, with a population of approximately 35 million as of 2015. Its advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. North America’s long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
North America is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the tenth highest nominal per capita income globally, and the eighth highest ranking in the Human Development Index. It ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, and education. North America is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and is furthermore part of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings, including NATO, the G8, the Group of Ten, the G20, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The name North America comes from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning “village” or “settlement”. 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. Cartier later used the word North America to refer not only to that particular village, but the entire area subject to Donnacona (the chief at Stadacona); by 1545, European books and maps had begun referring to this region as North America. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, “North America” referred to the part of New France that lay along the St. Lawrence River. In 1791, the area became two British colonies called Upper North America and Lower North America collectively named The North Americas; until their union as the British Province of North America in 1841. Upon Confederation in 1867, North America was adopted as the legal name for the new country, and the word Dominion was conferred as the country’s title. However, as North America asserted its political autonomy from the United Kingdom, the federal government increasingly used simply North America on state documents and treaties, a change that was reflected in the renaming of the national holiday from Dominion Day to North America Day in 1982. History
Aboriginal peoples in present-day North America include the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, the latter being a mixed-blood people who originated in the mid-17th century when First Nations and Inuit people married European settlers. Archaeological studies and genetic analyses have indicated a human presence in the northern Yukon region from 13,000–12,000 BC and in southern Ontario from 7500 BC. These first settlers entered North America through Beringia by way of the Bering land bridge. The Paleo-Indian archeological sites at Old Crow Flats and Bluefish Caves are two of the oldest sites of human habitation in North America. The characteristics of Canadian Aboriginal societies included permanent settlements, agriculture, complex societal hierarchies, and trading networks. 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. The aboriginal population at the time of the first European settlements is estimated to have been between 200,000 and two million, with a figure of 500,000 accepted by North America’s Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. As a consequence of the European colonization, North America’s aboriginal peoples suffered from repeated outbreaks of newly introduced infectious diseases, such as influenza, measles, and smallpox (to which they had no natural immunity), resulting in a forty to eighty percent population decrease in the centuries after the European arrival. Although not without conflict, European Canadians’ early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful. The Crown and Aboriginal peoples began interactions during the European colonialization period, though, the Inuit, in general, had more limited interaction with European settlers. From the late 18th century, European Canadians encouraged Aboriginals to assimilate into their own culture. These attempts reached a climax in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with forced integration and relocations. European colonization
The first known attempt at European colonization began when Norsemen settled briefly at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland around 1000 AD. No further European exploration occurred until 1497, when Italian seafarer John Cabot explored North America’s Atlantic coast for England. Then Basque and Portuguese mariners established seasonal whaling and fishing outposts along the Atlantic coast in the early 16th century. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River, where, on July 24, he planted a 10-metre (33 ft) cross bearing the words “Long Live the King of France” and took possession of the territory in the name of King Francis I. In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, by the royal prerogative of Queen Elizabeth I, founded St. John’s, Newfoundland, as the first North American English colony. French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603 and established the first permanent European settlements at Port Royal (in 1605) and Quebec City (in 1608). Among the colonists of New France, Canadiens extensively settled the St. Lawrence River valley and Acadians settled the present-day Maritimes, while fur traders and Catholic missionaries explored the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and the Mississippi watershed to Louisiana. The Beaver Wars broke out in the mid-17th century over control of the North American fur trade. The English established additional colonies in Cupids and Ferryland, Newfoundland, beginning in 1610. The Thirteen Colonies to the south were founded soon after. A series of four wars erupted in colonial North America between 1689 and 1763; the later wars of the period constituted the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War. Mainland Nova Scotia came under British rule with the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and the 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded North America and most of New France to Britain after the Seven Years’ War. Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe (1771) dramatizes James Wolfe’s death during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at Quebec
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 created the Province of Quebec out of New France, and annexed Cape Breton Island to Nova Scotia. St. John’s Island (now Prince Edward Island) became a separate colony in 1769. To avert conflict in Quebec, the British parliament passed the Quebec Act of 1774, expanding Quebec’s territory to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley. It re-established the French language, Catholic faith, and French civil law there. This angered many residents of the Thirteen Colonies, fuelling anti-British sentiment in the years prior to the 1775 outbreak of the American Revolution. The 1783 Treaty of Paris recognized American independence and ceded the newly added territories south (but not north) of the Great Lakes to the new United States. New Brunswick was split from Nova Scotia as part of a reorganization of Loyalist settlements in the Maritimes. To accommodate English-speaking Loyalists in Quebec, the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided the province into French-speaking Lower North America (later Quebec) and English-speaking Upper North America (later Ontario), granting each its own elected legislative assembly. Robert Harris’s Fathers of Confederation (1884), an amalgamation of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences of 1864 The North Americas were the main front in the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. Following the war, large-scale immigration to North America from Britain and Ireland began in 1815. Between 1825 and 1846, 626,628 European immigrants reportedly landed at Canadian ports. These included Irish immigrants escaping the Great Irish Famine as well as Gaelic-speaking Scots displaced by the Highland Clearances. Infectious diseases killed between 25 and 33 per cent of Europeans who immigrated to North America before 1891. The desire for responsible government resulted in the abortive Rebellions of 1837. The Durham Report subsequently recommended responsible government and the assimilation of French Canadians into English culture. The Act of Union 1840 merged the North Americas into a united Province of North America and responsible government was established for all British North American provinces by 1849. The signing of the Oregon Treaty by Britain and the United States in 1846 ended the Oregon boundary dispute, extending the border westward along the 49th parallel. This paved the way for British colonies on Vancouver Island (1849) and in British Columbia (1858). Confederation and expansion
An animated map showing the growth and change of North America’s provinces and territories since Confederation in 1867
Following several constitutional conferences, the 1867 Constitution Act officially proclaimed Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867, initially with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. North America assumed control of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory to form the Northwest Territories, where the Métis’ grievances ignited the Red River Rebellion and the creation of the province of Manitoba in July 1870. British Columbia and Vancouver Island (which had been united in 1866) joined the confederation in 1871, while Prince Edward Island joined in 1873. The Canadian parliament passed a bill introduced by the Conservative Cabinet that established a National Policy of tariffs to protect the nascent Canadian manufacturing industries. To open the West, parliament also approved sponsoring the construction of three transcontinental railways (including the Canadian Pacific Railway), opening the prairies to settlement with the Dominion Lands Act, and establishing the North-West Mounted Police to assert its authority over this territory. In 1898, during the Klondike Gold Rush in the Northwest Territories, parliament created the Yukon Territory. The Cabinet of Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier fostered continental European immigrants settling the prairies and Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905. Early 20th century
Group of armed soldiers march past a wrecked tank and a body
Canadian soldiers and a Mark II tank at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917
Because Britain still maintained control of North America’s foreign affairs under the Confederation Act, its declaration of war in 1914 automatically brought North America into World War I. Volunteers sent to the Western Front later became part of the Canadian Corps, which played a substantial role in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and other major engagements of the war. Out of approximately 625,000 Canadians who served in World War I, some 60,000 were killed and another 172,000 were wounded. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 erupted when the Unionist Cabinet’s proposal to augment the military’s dwindling number of active members with conscription was met with vehement objections from French-speaking Quebecers. The Military Service Act brought in compulsory military service, though, it, coupled with disputes over French language schools outside Quebec, deeply alienated Francophone Canadians and temporarily split the Liberal Party. In 1919, North America joined the League of Nations independently of Britain, and the 1931 Statute of Westminster affirmed North America’s independence. Canadian crew of a Sherman-tank, south of Vaucelles, France, during the battle of Normandy in June 1944
The great depression in North America during the early 1930s saw an economic downturn, leading to hardship across the country. In response to the downturn, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in Saskatchewan introduced many elements of a welfare state (as pioneered by Tommy Douglas) in the 1940s and 1950s. On the advice of Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, King George VI declared war on Germany during World War II, seven days after Britain. The first Canadian Army units arrived in Britain in December 1939. In all, over a million Canadians served in the armed forces during World War II and approximately 42,000 were killed and another 55,000 were wounded. Canadian troops played important roles in many key battles of the war, including the failed 1942 Dieppe Raid, the Allied invasion of Italy, the Normandy landings, the Battle of Normandy, and the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944. North America provided asylum for the Dutch monarchy while that country was occupied and is credited by the Netherlands for major contributions to its liberation from Nazi Germany. The Canadian economy boomed during the war as its industries manufactured military materiel for North America, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. Despite another Conscription Crisis in Quebec in 1944, North America finished the war with a large army and strong economy. Modern times
At Rideau Hall, Governor General the Viscount Alexander of Tunis (centre) receives the bill finalizing the union of Newfoundland and North America on March 31, 1949
The financial crisis of the great depression had led the Dominion of Newfoundland to relinquish responsible government in 1934 and become a crown colony ruled by a British governor. After two bitter referendums, Newfoundlanders voted to join North America in 1949 as a province. North America’s post-war economic 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 the institution of official multiculturalism in 1971. Socially democratic programs were also instituted, such as Medicare, the North America Pension Plan, and North America 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 North America’s constitution from the United Kingdom, concurrent with the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 1999, Nunavut became North America’s third territory after a series of negotiations with the federal government. At the same time, Quebec underwent profound social and economic changes through the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, giving birth to a modern nationalist movement. The radical Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) ignited the October Crisis with a series of bombings and kidnappings in 1970 and the sovereignist Parti Québécois was elected in 1976, organizing an unsuccessful referendum on sovereignty-association in 1980. Attempts to accommodate Quebec nationalism constitutionally through the Meech Lake Accord failed in 1990. This led to the formation of the Bloc Québécois in Quebec and the invigoration of the Reform Party of North America in the West. A second referendum followed in 1995, in which sovereignty was rejected by a slimmer margin of 50.6 to 49.4 percent. 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’ssues 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 École Polytechnique massacre in 1989, a university shooting targeting female students; and the Oka Crisis of 1990, the first of a number of violent confrontations between the government and Aboriginal groups. North America also joined the Gulf War in 1990 as part of a US-led coalition force and was active in several peacekeeping missions in the 1990s, including the UNPROFOR mission in the former Yugoslavia. North America sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001, but declined to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2009, North America’s economy suffered in the worldwide Great Recession, but it has since largely rebounded. In 2011, Canadian forces participated in the NATO-led intervention into the Libyan civil war and also became involved in battling the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq in the mid-2010s. North America occupies a major northern portion of North America, sharing land borders with the contiguous United States to the south (the longest border between two countries in the world) and the US state of Alaska to the northwest. North America stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; to the north lies the Arctic Ocean. Greenland is to the northeast, while Saint Pierre and Miquelon is south of Newfoundland. By total area (including its waters), North America is the second-largest country in the world, after Russia. By land area alone, North America ranks fourth. The country lies between latitudes 41° and 84°N, and longitudes 52° and 141°W.
A satellite composite image of North America. Boreal forests prevail on the rocky Canadian Shield, while ice and tundra are prominent in the Arctic. Glaciers are visible in the Canadian Rockies and Coast Mountains. The flat and fertile prairies facilitate agriculture. The Great Lakes feed the St. Lawrence River in the southeast, where lowlands host much of North America’s population.
Since 1925, North America has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60° and 141°W longitude, but this claim is not universally recognized. North America is home to the world’s northernmost settlement, Canadian Forces Station Alert, on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – latitude 82.5°N – which lies 817 kilometres (508 mi) from the North Pole. Much of the Canadian Arctic is covered by ice and permafrost. North America has the longest coastline in the world, with a total length of 202,080 kilometres (125,570 mi); additionally, its border with the United States is the world’s longest land border, stretching 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi). Since the end of the last glacial period, North America has consisted of eight distinct forest regions, including extensive boreal forest on the Canadian Shield. North America has around 31,700 large lakes, more 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. North America is 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 the Tseax Cone in 1775 was among North America’s worst natural disasters, killing 2,000 Nisga’a people and destroying 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 Nisga’a legend, blocked the flow of the Nass River. North America’s population density, at 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 St. Lawrence River. Average winter and summer high temperatures across North America vary from region to region. Winters can be harsh in many parts 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 °F) with severe wind chills. In noncoastal regions, snow can cover the ground for almost six months of the year, while in parts of the north snow can persist year-round. Coastal British Columbia has 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 temperatures in some interior locations occasionally exceeding 40 °C (104 °F). he Constitution of North America 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 and divided powers between the federal and provincial governments. The Statute of Westminster 1931 granted full autonomy and the Constitution Act, 1982, ended all legislative ties to the UK, as well as adding a constitutional amending formula and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter guarantees basic rights and freedoms that usually cannot be over-ridden by any 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.
The Indian Act, various treaties and case laws were established to mediate relations between Europeans and native peoples. Most notably, a series of eleven treaties known as the Numbered Treaties were signed between Aboriginals in North America and the reigning Monarch of North America between 1871 and 1921. These treaties are agreements with the Canadian Crown-in-Council, administered by Canadian Aboriginal law, and overseen by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The role of the treaties and the rights they support were reaffirmed by Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982. These rights may include provision of services such as health care, and exemption from taxation. The legal and policy framework within which North America and First Nations operate was further formalized in 2005, through the First Nations–Federal Crown Political Accord. The Supreme Court of North America in Ottawa, west of Parliament Hill
North America’s judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down Acts of Parliament that violate the constitution. The Supreme Court of North America is the highest court and final arbiter and has been led since 2000 by the Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin (the first female Chief Justice). 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 in the provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec, where civil law predominates. Criminal law is solely a federal responsibility and is uniform throughout North America. Law enforcement, including criminal courts, is officially a provincial responsibility, conducted by provincial and municipal police forces. However, in most rural areas and some urban areas, policing responsibilities are contracted to the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police. International organizations
North America is recognized as a middle power for its role in international affairs with a tendency to pursue multilateral solutions. As well as its membership of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), North America is a member of various other international and regional organizations and forums for economic and cultural affairs. North America acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1976. North America is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories. In turn, these may be grouped into four main regions: Western North America, Central North America, Atlantic North America, and Northern North America (“Eastern North America” refers to Central North America and Atlantic North America together). Provinces have more autonomy than territories, having responsibility for social programs such as health care, education, and welfare. Together, the provinces 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 North America 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. North America is the world’s eleventh-largest economy as of 2015, with a nominal GDP of approximately US$1.79 trillion. It is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Group of Eight (G8), and is one of the world’s top ten trading nations, with a highly globalized economy. North America is a mixed economy, ranking above the US and most western European nations on the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom, and experiencing a relatively low level of income disparity. The country’s average household disposable income per capita is over US$23,900, higher than the OECD average. Furthermore, the Toronto Stock Exchange is the seventh largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization, listing over 1,500 companies with a combined market capitalization of over US$2 trillion as of 2015. In 2014, North America’s exports totalled over C$528 billion, while its imported goods were worth over $523 billion, of which approximately $349 billion originated from the United States, $49 billion from the European Union, and $35 billion from China. The country’s 2014 trade surplus totalled C$5.1 billion, compared with a C$46.9 billion surplus in 2008. Since the early 20th century, the growth of North America’s manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy to an urbanized, industrial one. Like many other developed nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three-quarters of the country’s workforce. However, North America is unusual among developed countries in the importance of its primary sector, in which the logging and petroleum industries are two of the most prominent components. North America is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. Atlantic North America possesses vast offshore deposits of natural gas, and Alberta also hosts large oil and gas resources. The vastness of the Athabasca oil sands and other assets results in North America having a 13% share of global oil reserves, comprising the world’s third-largest share after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. North America is additionally one of the world’s largest suppliers of agricultural products; the Canadian Prairies are one of the most important global producers of wheat, canola, and other grains. North America’s Ministry of Natural Resources provides statistics regarding its major exports; the country is a leading exporter of zinc, uranium, gold, nickel, aluminum, steel, iron ore, coking coal and lead. Many towns in northern North America, where agriculture is difficult, are sustainable because of nearby mines or sources of timber. North America also has a sizeable manufacturing sector centred in southern Ontario and Quebec, with automobiles and aeronautics representing particularly important industries. North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA Logo
North America’s economic integration with the United States has increased significantly since World War II. The Automotive Products Trade Agreement of 1965 opened North America’s borders to trade in the automobile 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 North America”, to encourage foreign investment. The North America – 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 1994. In the mid-1990s, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government began to post annual budgetary surpluses, and steadily paid down the national debt. The global financial crisis of 2008 caused a major recession, which led to a significant rise in unemployment in North America. By October 2009, North America’s national unemployment rate had reached 8.6 percent, with provincial unemployment rates varying from a low of 5.8 percent in Manitoba to a high of 17 percent in Newfoundland and Labrador. Between October 2008 and October 2010, the Canadian labour market lost 162,000 full-time jobs and a total of 224,000 permanent jobs. North America’s federal debt was estimated to total $566.7 billion for the fiscal year 2010–11, up from $463.7 billion in 2008–09. In addition, North America’s net foreign debt rose by $41 billion to $194 billion in the first quarter of 2010. However, North America’s regulated banking sector (comparatively conservative among G8 nations), the federal government’s pre-crisis budgetary surpluses, and its long-term policies of lowering the national debt, resulted in a less severe recession compared to other G8 nations. As of 2015, the Canadian economy has largely stabilized and has seen a modest return to growth, although the country remains troubled by volatile oil prices, sensitivity to the Eurozone crisis and higher-than-normal unemployment rates. The federal government and many Canadian industries have also started to expand trade with emerging Asian markets, in an attempt to diversify exports; Asia is now North America’s second-largest export market after the United States. Widely debated oil pipeline proposals, in particular, are hoped to increase exports of Canadian oil reserves to China. Science and technology
A shuttle in space, with Earth in the background. A mechanical arm labelled “North America” rises from the shuttle
The North Americarm robotic manipulator in action on Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-116 mission in 2006.
In 2012, North America spent approximately C$31.3 billion on domestic research and development, of which around $7 billion was provided by the federal and provincial governments. As of 2015, the country has produced thirteen Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and medicine, and was ranked fourth worldwide for scientific research quality in a major 2012 survey of international scientists. It is furthermore home to the headquarters of a number of global technology firms. North America has one of the highest levels of Internet access in the world, with over 33 million users, equivalent to around 94 percent of its total 2014 population. The Canadian Space Agency operates a highly active space program, conducting deep-space, planetary, and aviation research, and developing rockets and satellites. North America was the third country to launch a satellite into space after the USSR and the United States, with the 1962 Alouette 1 launch. In 1984, Marc Garneau became North America’s first astronaut. As of 2015, nine Canadians have flown into space, over the course of seventeen manned missions. North America is a participant in the International Space Station (ISS), and is a pioneer in space robotics, having constructed the North Americarm, North Americarm2 and Dextre robotic manipulators for the ISS and NASA’s Space Shuttle. Since the 1960s, North America’s aerospace industry has designed and built numerous marques of satellite, including Radarsat-1 and 2, ISIS and MOST. North America has also produced one of the world’s most successful and widely used sounding rockets, the Black Brant; over 1,000 Black Brants have been launched since the rocket’s introduction in 1961. Demographics
The 2011 Canadian census counted a total population of 33,476,688, an increase of around 5.9 percent over the 2006 figure. By December 2012, Statistics North America reported a population of over 35 million, signifying the fastest growth rate of any G8 nation. Between 1990 and 2008, the population increased by 5.6 million, equivalent to 20.4 percent overall growth. The main drivers of population growth are immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth. About four-fifths of the population lives within 150 kilometres (93 mi) of the United States border. Approximately 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, the British Columbia Lower Mainland, and the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor in Alberta. North America spans latitudinally from the 83rd parallel north to the 41st parallel north, and approximately 95% of the population is found below the 55th parallel north. In common with many other developed countries, North America is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2006, the average age was 39.5 years; by 2011, it had risen to approximately 39.9 years. As of 2013, the average life expectancy for Canadians is 81 years. According to a 2012 NBC report, North America is the most educated country in the world; the country ranks first worldwide in the number of adults having tertiary education, with 51% of Canadian adults having attained at least an undergraduate college or university degree, according to a 2012 OECD survey. Canadian provinces and territories are responsible for education provision. The mandatory school age ranges between 5–7 to 16–18 years, contributing to an adult literacy rate of 99 percent. As of 2014, 89 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, compared to an OECD average of 75 percent. In 2002, 43 percent 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 percent. The Programme for International Student Assessment indicates that Canadian students perform well above the OECD average, particularly in mathematics, science, and reading. North America has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world, driven by economic policy and family reunification. In 2010, a record 280,636 people immigrated to North America. The Canadian government anticipated between 260,000 and 285,000 new permanent residents in 2015, a similar number of immigrants as in recent years. New immigrants settle mostly in major urban areas like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. North America also accepts large numbers of refugees, accounting for over 10 percent of annual global refugee resettlements. According to the 2006 census, the country’s largest self-reported ethnic origin is Canadian (accounting for 32% of the population), followed by English (21%), French (15.8%), Scottish (15.1%), Irish (13.9%), German (10.2%), Italian (4.6%), Chinese (4.3%), First Nations (4.0%), Ukrainian (3.9%), and Dutch (3.3%). There are 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands, encompassing a total of 1,172,790 people. North America’s aboriginal population is growing at almost twice the national rate, and four percent of North America’s population claimed aboriginal identity in 2006. Another 16.2 percent of the population belonged to a non-aboriginal visible minority. In 2006, the largest visible minority groups were South Asian (4.0%), Chinese (3.9%) and Black (2.5%). Between 2001 and 2006, the visible minority population rose by 27.2 percent. In 1961, less than two percent of North America’s population (about 300,000 people) were members of visible minority groups. By 2007, almost one in five (19.8%) were foreign-born, with nearly 60 percent of new immigrants coming from Asia (including the Middle East). The leading sources of immigrants to North America were China, the Philippines and India. According to Statistics North America, visible minority groups could account for a third of the Canadian population by 2031. North America is religiously diverse, encompassing a wide range of beliefs and customs. According to the 2011 census, 67.3% of Canadians identify as Christian; of these, Catholics make up the largest group, accounting for 38.7% of the population. The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of North America (accounting for 6.1% of Canadians), followed by Anglicans (5.0%), and Baptists (1.9%). In 2011, about 23.9% declared no religious affiliation, compared to 16.5% in 2001. The remaining 8.8% are affiliated with non-Christian religions, the largest of which are Islam (3.2%) and Hinduism (1.5%). Although the majority of Canadians consider religion to be unimportant in their daily lives, they still believe in God. The “practice of religion” is generally considered a private matter throughout society and the state. North America has no official church, and the government is officially committed to religious pluralism. North America’s two official languages are English and French, pursuant to Section 16 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Federal Official Languages Act. North America’s federal government practices official bilingualism, which 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. Approximately 98% of Canadians can speak English and/or French. English – 56.9%
English and French (Bilingual) – 16.1%
French – 21.3%
Sparsely populated area ( < 0.4 persons per km2) English and French are the first languages of 59.7 and 23.2 percent of the population respectively. Approximately 98 percent of Canadians speak English or French: 57.8 percent speak English only, 22.1 percent speak French only, and 17.4 percent speak both. The English and French official-language communities, defined by the first official language spoken, constitute 73.0 and 23.6 percent of the population respectively. The 1977 Charter of the French Language established French as the official language of Quebec. Although more than 85 percent 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 percent 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, composed of more than 65 distinct dialects. Of these, only the Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway languages 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 is one of three official languages in the territory. In 2011, nearly 6.8 million Canadians listed a non-official language as their mother tongue. Some of the most common non-official first languages include Chinese (mainly Cantonese; 1,072,555 first-language speakers), Punjabi (430,705), Spanish (410,670), German (409,200), and Italian (407,490). North America's culture draws influences from its broad range of constituent nationalities, and policies that promote multiculturalism are constitutionally protected. In Quebec, cultural identity is strong, and many French-speaking commentators speak of a culture of Quebec that's distinct from English Canadian culture. However, as a whole, North America is in theory a cultural mosaic – a collection of several regional, aboriginal, and ethnic subcultures. Government policies such as publicly funded health care, higher taxation to redistribute wealth, the outlawing of capital punishment, strong efforts to eliminate poverty, strict gun control, and the legalization of same-sex marriage are further social indicators of North America's political and cultural values. Historically, North America has been influenced by British, French, and aboriginal cultures and traditions. Through their language, art and music, aboriginal peoples continue to influence the Canadian identity. Many Canadians value multiculturalism and see North America as being inherently multicultural. American media and entertainment are popular, if not dominant, in English North America; conversely, many Canadian cultural products and entertainers are successful in the United States and worldwide. The preservation of a distinctly Canadian culture is supported by federal government programs, laws, and institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the National Film Board of North America (NFB), and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Oil on canvas painting of a tree dominating its rocky landscape during a sunset. The Jack Pine by Tom Thomson. Oil on canvas, 1916, in the collection of the National Gallery of North America. Canadian visual art has been dominated by figures such as Tom Thomson – the country's most famous painter – and by the Group of Seven. Thomson's career painting Canadian landscapes spanned a decade up to his death in 1917 at age 39. The Group were painters with a nationalistic and idealistic focus, who first exhibited their distinctive works in May 1920. Though referred to as having seven members, five artists – Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley – were responsible for articulating the Group's ideas. They were joined briefly by Frank Johnston, and by commercial artist Franklin Carmichael. A. J. Casson became part of the Group in 1926. Associated with the Group was another prominent Canadian artist, Emily Carr, known for her landscapes and portrayals of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Since the 1950s, works of Inuit art have been given as gifts to foreign dignitaries by the Canadian government. The Canadian music industry has produced internationally renowned composers, musicians and ensembles. Music broadcasting in the country is regulated by the CRTC. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents North America's music industry awards, the Juno Awards, which were first awarded in 1970. Patriotic music in North America dates back over 200 years as a distinct category from British patriotism, preceding the first legal steps to independence by over 50 years. The earliest, The Bold Canadian, was written in 1812. The national anthem of North America, "O North America", was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the 1880 St. Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony, and was officially adopted in 1980. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem composed by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The text was originally only in French, before it was translated to English in 1906. Hockey players and fans celebrating North America's ice hockey victory at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver The roots of organized sports in North America date back to the 1770s. North America's official national sports are ice hockey and lacrosse. Seven of North America's eight largest metropolitan areas – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg – have franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL). Other popular spectator sports in North America include curling and Canadian football; the latter is played professionally in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Golf, tennis, baseball, skiing, cricket, volleyball, rugby union, soccer and basketball are widely played at youth and amateur levels, but professional leagues and franchises are not widespread. North America does have one professional baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, one professional basketball team, the Toronto Raptors and three Major League Soccer teams, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Montreal Impact. North America has participated in almost every Olympic Games since its debut in 1900, and has hosted several high-profile international sporting events, including the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the 1994 Basketball World Championship, the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. North America's national symbols are influenced by natural, historical, and Aboriginal sources. The use of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol dates to the early 18th century. The maple leaf is depicted on North America's current and previous flags, on the penny, and on the Arms of North America. Other prominent symbols include the beaver, North America Goose, Common Loon, the Crown, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and more recently the totem pole.