U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Canada, November 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Canada
Area: 9.9 million sq. km. (3.8 million sq. mi.); second-largest country
in the world.
Cities: Capital--Ottawa (pop. 833,000). Other cities--Toronto (3.5
million), Montreal (2.9 million), Vancouver (1.4 million).
Terrain: Mostly plains with mountains in the west and lowlands in the
Climate: Temperate to arctic.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Canadian(s).
Population (1994): 29 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.5%.
Ethnic groups: British 28%, French 23%, other European 15%,
Asian/Arab/African 6%, indigenous Indian and Eskimo 2%, mixed background
Religions: Roman Catholic 46%, Protestant 41%.
Languages: English, French.
Education: Literacy--99% of population aged 15 and over have at least a
Health: Infant mortality rate--7/1,000. Life expectancy--75 yrs. male,
82 yrs. female.
Work force (14.8 million, 1994): Trade--18%. Manufacturing--15%.
Transportation and communications--8%. Finance--7%. Public
administration--7%. Construction--6%. Agriculture--4%. Forestry and
mining--2%. Other services--33%.
Type: Confederation with parliamentary democracy.
Independence: July 1, 1867.
Constitution: The amended British North America Act of 1867 patriated
to Canada on April 17, 1982, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and
Branches: Executive--Queen Elizabeth II (head of state, represented by
a governor general), prime minister (head of government), cabinet.
Legislative--bicameral parliament (104-member Senate, 295-member House
of Commons). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Political parties: Liberal Party, Bloc Quebecois, Reform Party, New
Democratic Party, Progressive Conservative Party.
Subdivisions: 10 provinces, 2 territories.
GDP (1994): $548 billion.
Annual real growth rate: 4.6%.
Per capita GDP (1994): $18,700.
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 (1994): Merchandise exports--$160 billion: motor vehicles and
parts, lumber, wood pulp and newsprint, crude and fabricated metals,
natural gas, crude petroleum, wheat; partners--U.S. 84%, EU 5%, Japan
4%. Merchandise imports--$148 billion: motor vehicles and parts,
industrial machinery, crude petroleum, chemicals, agricultural
machinery; partners--U.S. 74%, EU 5%, Japan 4%.
U.S.-Canadian relations are close and cooperative, although occasional
differences occur; the bilateral relationship is varied and complex. Of
Canada's 29 million people, 80% live within 160 kilometers (100 mi.) of
the U.S. border. Investment and trade issues are a major feature of
U.S.-Canadian relations (see Trade and Investment).
Canada and the U.S. also work closely through multilateral forums.
Canada--a charter signatory to the United Nations and to the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)--has continued to take an active
role in the United Nations, including peacekeeping operations. It is a
NATO member and also an active participant in discussions stemming from
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Canada
joined the Organization of American States in 1990 and has been an
active member. It seeks to expand its economic ties across the Pacific
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--and while it has worked to remain anchored in
the West--it also has pursued policies that occasionally accentuate its
independence from the United States. These included Canada's early
"normalization" of relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba and the People's
Republic of China, as well as strong Canadian opposition to U.S.
involvement in the war in Vietnam.
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. As
the only other non-European ally, Canada participates in NATO commands
in Europe and the North Atlantic.
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, an integrated, bilateral military
command that exercises operational control over U.S. and Canadian air
defense forces and also provides early warning information on possible
air and missile attacks on North America. Canada and the U.S. work
closely in defense research and production.
The two countries 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, established in 1909 to promote international environmental
cooperation. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987, aimed at
preserving and enhancing the water quality of the Great Lakes, is a
historic example of joint cooperation in controlling transboundary water
pollution. The two governments also consult semi-annually 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.
Trade and Investment
Canada and the U.S. each serve as the largest market for the other's
goods. Like the United States, Canada enjoyed significant postwar
economic growth and prosperity. Cooperative economic efforts have
included the 1965 Auto Pact, which created a largely integrated two-
country market for automobiles, and defense economic arrangements, which
diminish obstacles to trade and technology exchange and encourage a
balance of trade in defense-related areas.
Canada's trade with the U.S. increased by about 50% between 1989--when
the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect--and 1994, when the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) superseded it. NAFTA--which
took effect on January 1, 1994--continues the FTA's moves toward
removing all tariffs and virtually all import and export restrictions.
It also resolves some long-standing bilateral irritants and liberalizes
rules in several areas, including agriculture, services, energy,
financial services, investment, and government procurement. NAFTA forms
the largest trading area in the world, embracing the 380 million people
of the three North American countries.
The value of U.S.-Canadian merchandise trade for 1994 was about $243
billion, more than that between any other two countries in the world.
Growth trends are expected to continue under NAFTA, which while
continuing FTA liberalizations, also extends trade openings to new areas
such as financial services.
Almost one-third of U.S.-Canadian trade is in the automotive sector.
Under the 1965 U.S.-Canada Automotive Agreement (Auto Pact)--which
provided for free trade in cars, trucks, and auto parts--two-way trade
in automotive products rose from $715 million in 1964 to $23 billion by
1978. In 1980-81, it declined to about $18 billion, but it rose to $58
billion in 1992. Auto Pact benefits are incorporated in NAFTA.
The U.S. is Canada's leading agricultural market, taking nearly one-
third of all food exports. Conversely, Canada is the second-largest
U.S. agricultural market (after Japan), primarily importing fresh fruits
and vegetables and livestock products.
Nearly two-thirds of Canada's forest products--including pulp and paper-
-is exported to the United States; almost 75% of Canada's total
newsprint production is exported to the United States.
The United States imports over 2 trillion cubic feet, or 12% of its
natural gas requirements, from Canada. Canada is the largest energy
supplier for the U.S.
Energy and transportation problems--such as natural gas trade and
trucking regulations--can be nettlesome, although such issues usually
have been successfully managed or resolved through bilateral
consultative forums. Canada and the United States signed an aviation
agreement during President Clinton's visit to Canada in February 1995,
and flights have increased accordingly.
The United States and Canada have resolved several major issues
involving fisheries. By common agreement, the two countries submitted a
Gulf of Maine boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice in
1981; both accepted the court's October 12, 1984, ruling which
demarcated the territorial sea boundary. In 1990, the United States and
Canada signed a bilateral Fisheries Enforcement Agreement which has
served to deter illegal fishing activity and reduce the risk of injury
during fisheries enforcement incidents. Their success in achieving a
Pacific salmon treaty in 1985 has been tempered by difficulties in
negotiating multi-year extensions of its constituent fisheries regimes.
The U.S. is Canada's largest foreign investor; at the end of 1994, the
stock of U.S. direct investment in Canada was estimated at $70 billion,
or about 65% of total foreign direct investment in Canada. U.S.
investment is primarily in Canada's mining and smelting industries,
petroleum, chemicals, the manufacture of machinery and transportation
equipment, and finance.
Canada's investment exposure in the United States is substantial. At
the end of 1994, the stock of Canadian direct investment in the United
States was estimated at $49 billion, or 6% of total foreign direct
investment in the United States. Canadian investment in the United
States is concentrated in manufacturing, wholesale trade, real estate,
and petroleum, with recent growth in investment in services.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--James Walsh
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--David Jones
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Marshall Casse
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs--Gail Gulliksen
Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs (acting)--Dale Slaght
The U.S. embassy in Canada is located at 100 Wellington Street, Ottawa
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 five-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 295-member Commons,
which is elected for a period not to exceed five 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 October 1993. 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 is also 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.
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Romeo LeBlanc
Prime Minister--Jean Chretien
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Andre Ouellet
Ambassador to the United States--Raymond Chretien
Ambassador to the United Nations--Robert Fowler
Canada maintains an embassy in the United States at 501 Pennsylvania
Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202-682-1740).
Canada's current Liberal government was elected on October 25, 1993,
when it won 178 of 295 seats in parliament. This center-left party had
formed the official opposition to the moderate Progressive Conservative
Party (Tories), which governed Canada from 1984 to 1993. Broad popular
disenchantment with the former Mulroney government led to the Tories'
near-total displacement by two regional opposition parties--the
sovereignist Bloc Quebecois (with 54 seats) and the Western Reform Party
(with 52 seats), a popularly based conservative movement focused on law-
and-order issues, fiscal responsibility, and institutional reform.
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.
Canadians have responded to these different regional needs by trying to
strengthen both their confederation and the fundamental democratic
principles essential to a balanced federal-provincial political system.
But the setbacks of recent years--such as the June 1990 failure to
ratify the 1987 Meech Lake accord and the October 1992 rejection by
voters of another constitutional formula--have made this process more
Canada's early history was dominated by rivalry between France and
Britain. For more than a century, Canada was a French colony. Although
New France came under British control in 1759, it was permitted to
retain its religious and civil code. Canada is still trying to find a
constitutional formula that will satisfy the aspirations of the French-
speaking province of Quebec.
The early 1960s saw a new assertiveness and heightened sense of identity
among the French-speaking Quebeckers, who make up about one-quarter of
Canada's population. In 1976, the separatist Parti Quebecois won the
provincial election and began to explore a course for Quebec of greater
independence from the rest of Canada.
In a 1980 referendum, the Parti Quebecois sought a mandate from the
people of Quebec to negotiate a new status of "sovereignty-association,"
combining political independence with a continued economic association
with the rest of Canada. Sixty percent of Quebec voters rejected the
An agreement between the federal government and all provincial
governments--except Quebec--led to Canada assuming from the United
Kingdom, in 1982, full responsibility for its own constitution. Quebec
objected to certain aspects of the new arrangement, including a
constitutional amending formula that did not require consensus among all
provinces. The 1987 Meech Lake Accord sought to address Quebec's
concerns in order to bring it into Canada's new constitutional
framework. Quebec's provincial government, then controlled by
federalists, strongly endorsed the accord, but lack of support in
Newfoundland and Manitoba prevented the agreement from taking effect.
Rejected in its bid for special constitutional recognition, Quebec's
provincial government authorized a second sovereignty referendum.
Intense negotiations among Quebec, the federal government, and other
provinces led to drafting a second proposed constitutional accord in
1992, the Charlottetown Accord. Despite near-unanimous support from the
country's political leaders, this second effort at constitutional reform
was defeated in Quebec and the rest of Canada in an October 1992
Tired of the country's seemingly interminable constitutional deadlock,
many Canadians today prefer to focus on economic issues. Nonetheless,
the election of the sovereignist Bloc Quebecois as Canada's official
opposition in 1993 and the subsequent election of the separatist Parti
Quebecois as Quebec's provincial government in September 1994 kept
national unity in the forefront of political debate and resulted in a
call for another referendum on the issue.
This referendum, held in Quebec on October 30, 1995, resulted in a
narrow (50.56% to 49.44%) victory for Canadian federalists over Quebec
sovereignists. Quebec's status thus remains a serious political issue
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans avoid
travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security
information, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S.
embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can be obtained by
telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a
modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications
on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC, tel. 20402 (202) 783-3238.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559
provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on
food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication
number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal
Government Officials" listing in this publication).
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to
register with the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials"
listing in this publication). Such information might assist family
members in making contact en route in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc.
DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet:
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at
$80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh,
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS
information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(gopher. stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202)
482-1986 for more information.
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