at a glance
Canada is among the top countries in the world in regards to upholding political rights and civil liberties. Citizens have recently been more vocal advocating for more humane treatment of prisoners, improving privacy rights, and increasing religious freedom. Vulnerable populations, such as indigenous groups, still face numerous economic, social, and political challenges. The government, currently under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has acknowledged the inequalities and made some moves to address the problem.
Technically, the British monarch is head of state. This role is represented though by a ceremonial governor general who is appointed on the advice of the prime minister. The head of government is the prime minister, which is usually held by the leader of the majority party or governing coalition in parliament. Presidential systems in contrast fuse the role of the head of state and government together (as seen in the U.S. and most of Latin America).
Canada’s official languages are English and French. Declared in the Official Languages Act in 1969, both English and French have official federal status and all federal legislation is enacted bilingually. Canada is the only country in North America to have an official language declaration. Several of the provinces have also given language an official status, though not all. The majority of people in Quebec speak French and it is the only province to declare French as the sole official language, although English is used as well. New Brunswick is the only province to declare both English and French as official. The country is also home to many indigenous languages, however altogether less than one percent of the population reports the regular use of these languages.
With 9,984,670 square kilometers of area, Canada has one of the lowest population densities in the world. By geographic size it is the second largest country, but only roughly the 39th largest by population size. Moreover, the majority of Canada’s population is found within 175 kilometers of its southern border with the United States, leaving most of its territory sparsely inhabited. It’s largest cities are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
Canada has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world. Lately, the largest share of immigrants come from India, Philippines and China. Canada also welcomes more refugees than most countries, exceeding the United States. In part due to its geographic proximity, British Colombia is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada. About 5% of the population identifies as Indigenous, and are further distinguished as primarily First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. While this may be a small percentage, it is more than double the United States’ 1-2% that self identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.
On average, 22 million tourists visit Canada each year. Furthermore, tourism plays an important role in the national economy, generating an estimated $104.9 billion in tourism expenditures in 2019 alone. Some of the largest attractions for travelers are Toronto, Niagara Falls, Vancouver, Montreal, the Canadian Rockies, Quebec City, and Ottawa. By far, the greatest number of visitors come from the United States.