Canada Background Note 3/98
U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Canada, March 1998
Released by the Bureau of European and Canadian 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.
1 million). Other cities--Toronto
(4.2 million), Montreal (3.3 million), Vancouver (1.8
Terrain: Mostly plains with mountains in the west and
lowlands in the southeast.
Climate: Temperate to arctic.
Nationality: Noun and adjective÷Canadian(s).
Population: 30.2 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 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--
7/1,000. Life expectancy--75 years male, 82 years 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%.
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 unwritten custom.
Branches: Executive--Queen Elizabeth II (head of state,
represented by a governor general), prime minister (head of
government), cabinet. Legislative--bicameral parliament
(301-member House of Commons,
104-member Senate). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Political parties: Liberal Party, Reform Party, Bloc
Quebecois, New Democratic Party, Progressive Conservative
Subdivisions: 10 provinces, 2 territories.
GDP (1996): $585.1 billion.
Annual growth rate: 1.5%.
Per capita GDP: $19,621.
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,
Industry: Types--motor vehicles and parts, machinery and
equipment, aircraft and components, other diversified
manufacturing, fish and forest products, processed and
Trade: Merchandise exports--
$196.2 billion: motor vehicles and spare parts, lumber, wood
pulp and newsprint, crude and fabricated metals, natural
gas, crude petroleum, wheat. Partners--U.S. 81.1%, EU 5.8%,
Japan 3.9%. Merchandise imports--$170.9 billion: motor
vehicles and parts, industrial machinery, crude petroleum,
chemicals, agricultural machinery. Partners--U.S. 75.7%, EU
8.7%, Japan 3.1%.
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--
US$1 billion a day--and people÷nearly 100 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
It 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. 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. is also a member--and which it
hosted in 1997.
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 trans-boundary 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. serve as the largest market for each
other's goods. Bilateral trade increased by about 50%
between 1989, when the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) went into effect, and 1994, when the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) superseded it. Trade has since
increased by 40%. NAFTA continues the FTA's moves toward
reducing trade barriers and establishing agreed upon trade
rules. 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.
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 $104.6 billion in
1996. Auto Pact benefits are incorporated into 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, are exported to the
United States; almost 75% of Canada's total newsprint
production is also exported to the U.S.
The United States imports more than 2 trillion cubic
feet, or 12% of
its natural gas requirements, from Canada. Canada is the
largest energy supplier to the U.S.
While 95% of U.S.-Canada trade flows smoothly, there
are occasionally bilateral trade disputes over the remaining
5%, particularly in the agricultural and cultural fields.
Usually, however, these issues are resolved through
bilateral consultative forums or referral to WTO or NAFTA
The United States and Canada also 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.
Canada and the United States signed an aviation
agreement during President Clinton's visit to Canada in
February 1995, and air traffic between the two countries has
increased dramatically as a result. The two countries also
share in operation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, connecting
the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
The U.S. is Canada's largest foreign investor; at the
end of 1996, the stock of U.S. direct investment was
estimated at $87.6 billion, or about 71% 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 in the United States is
substantial. At the end of 1996, the stock of Canadian
direct investment in the United States was estimated at $60
billion. Canadian investment in the United States, which
includes investment from Canadian holding companies in the
Netherlands, is concentrated in manufacturing; wholesale
trade; real estate; and petroleum, finance, and insurance
and other services.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Gordon D. Giffin
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ann Peters
Minister--Counselor for Political
Minister-Counselor for Economic
Minister-Counselor for Public
Minister-Counselor for Commercial
The U.S. embassy in Canada is located at 100 Wellington
Street, Ottawa (tel. 613-238-5335), directly across from
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
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
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 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 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 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
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Romeo LeBlanc
Prime Minister--Jean Chretien
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Lloyd Axworthy
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, D.C. 20001 (tel. 202-
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
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
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.
Key to the national unity debate is the ongoing issue of
Quebec separatism. Following the failure of two
constitutional initiatives in the last decade, Canada is
still seeking a constitutional settlement that will satisfy
the aspirations of the French-speaking province of Quebec.
The issue has been a fixture in Canadian history,
dating back to the 18th-century 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
The early 1960s brought a Quiet Revolution to Quebec,
leading to a new assertiveness and heightened sense of
identity among the French-speaking Quebecois, 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
Subsequently, an agreement between the federal
government and all provincial governments except Quebec, led
to Canada in 1982 assuming from the United Kingdom 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 and bring it back into
Canada's constitutional fold. Quebec's provincial
government, then controlled by federalists, strongly
endorsed the accord, but lack of support in Newfoundland and
Manitoba prevented it from taking effect. Rejected in its
bid for special constitutional recognition, Quebec's
provincial government authorized a second sovereignty
Intense negotiations among Quebec, the federal
government, and other provinces led to 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 constitutional deadlock, many
Canadians prefer to focus on economic issues. Nonetheless,
the election of the sovereigntist 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 second
referendum on the issue.
This referendum, held in Quebec on October 30, 1995,
resulted in a narrow 50.56% to 49.44% victory for
federalists over sovereigntists. Quebec's status thus
remains a serious political issue in Canada, and the
province's Parti Quebecois government remains committed to
calling a third referendum if it wins a second term in
provincial elections that must be held before the end of
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 State Department 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, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S.
posts in the country.
Public Announcements are issued as a means to
disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and
other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose
significant risks to the security of American travelers.
Free copies of this information are available by calling the
Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin
Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number:
(301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal
to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal
emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the
password is info (Note: Lower case is required).
The CABB also carries international security information
from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's
Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers
publication series, which contain information on obtaining
passports and planninga safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800;
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling
abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens
Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays
and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport Services information can be obtained
by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35
per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-
Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674
Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call
1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can check the latest health information with
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives 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-95-8280) is available from
the U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402,
tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements,
currencyand 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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling
in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S.
embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S.
Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may
help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
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
magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published
on a semi-annual 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. Contact the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954,
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202)
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information.
It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call
the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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