Canada is a country, consisting of ten provinces and three territories, in the northern part of the continent of North America. It extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles) in total, making it the world's second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area. Canada's common border with the United States forms the world's longest land border.
Canada 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. Canada is a Commonwealth Realm member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a member of the Francophonie, and part of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the G8, the Group of Ten, the G20, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Canada'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 is distinct from English Canadian culture. However, as a whole, Canada 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 Canada's political and cultural values.
Education in Canada is for the most part provided publicly, funded and overseen by federal, provincial, and local governments. Education is within provincial jurisdiction and the curriculum is overseen by the province. Education in Canada is generally divided into primary education, followed by secondary education and post-secondary. Within the provinces under the ministry of education, there are district school boards administering the educational programs. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18, or as soon as a high school diploma has been achieved. In some provinces early leaving exemptions can be granted under certain circumstances at 14. Canada generally has 190 (180 in Quebec) school days in the year, officially starting from September (after Labour Day) to the end of June (usually the last Friday of the month, except in Quebec when it is just before June 24 – the provincial holiday).
In the past, private universities in Canada maintained a religious history or foundation. Although since 1999, the Province of New Brunswick passed the Degree Granting Act allowing private universities to operate in the Province. The University of Fredericton is the newest University to receive designation in New Brunswick.
Trinity Western University, in Langley British Columbia, was founded in 1962 as a junior college and received full accreditation in 1985. In 2002, British Columbia's Quest University became the first privately funded liberal arts university without a denominational affiliation (although it is not the first private liberal arts university). Many provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, have passed legislation allowing private degree-granting institutions (not necessarily universities) to operate there.
Many Canadians remain polarized on the issue of permitting private universities into the Canadian market. On the one hand, Canada's top universities find it difficult to compete with the private American powerhouses because of funding, but on the other hand, the fact that the price of private universities tends to exclude those who cannot pay that much for their education could prevent a significant portion of Canada's population from being able to attend these schools.
Canadian cuisine varies widely depending on the regions of the nation. The three earliest cuisines of Canada have First Nations, English, Scottish and French roots, with the traditional cuisine of English Canada closely related to British and Scottish cuisines, while the traditional cuisine of French Canada has evolved from French cuisine and the winter provisions of fur traders. With subsequent waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th century from Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe, South Asia, East Asia, and the Caribbean, the regional cuisines were subsequently augmented.
The traditional aboriginal cuisine of Canada was based on a mixture of wild game, foraged foods, and farmed agricultural products. Each region of Canada with its own First Nations and Inuit people used their local resources and own food preparation techniques for their cuisines.Maple syrup was first collected and used by aboriginal people of Eastern Canada and North Eastern US.
Canada is the world's largest producer of maple syrup. The origins of maple syrup production are not clear though the first syrups were made by repeatedly freezing the collected maple sap and removing the ice to concentrate the sugar in the remaining sap. Maple syrup is one of the most commonly consumed Canadian foods of Aboriginal origins.
The cuisines of Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces derive mainly from British and Irish cooking, with a preference for salt-cured fish, beef, and pork. Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia also maintain strong British cuisine traditions.
A multitude of languages are used in Canada. According to the 2011 census, English and French are the mother tongues of 56.9% and 21.3% of Canadians respectively. Over 85% of Canadians have working knowledge of English while 30.1% have a working knowledge of French. Under the Official Languages Act of 1969, both English and French have official federal status throughout Canada, in respect of all government services, including the courts, and all federal legislation is enacted bilingually.New Brunswick is the only Canadian province that has both English and French as its official languages to the same extent, with constitutional entrenchment. Quebec's official language is French, although in that province, the Constitution requires that all legislation be enacted in both French and English, and court proceedings may be conducted in either language.
Many Canadians believe that the relationship between the English and French languages is the central or defining aspect of the Canadian experience. Canada's Official Languages Commissioner (the federal government official charged with monitoring the two languages) has stated, "[I]n the same way that race is at the core of what it means to be American and at the core of an American experience and class is at the core of British experience, I think that language is at the core of Canadian experience."
To assist in more accurately monitoring the two official languages, Canada's census collects a number of demolinguistic descriptors not enumerated in the censuses of most other countries, including home language, mother tongue, first official language and language of work.
Canada is also home to many indigenous languages. Taken together, these are spoken by less than one percent of the population. About .6% Canadians (or 200,725 people) report an Aboriginal language as their mother tongue.