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 
unprocessed minerals. 
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%.

U.S.-Canada Relations

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 
peacekeeping operations. 
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 
dispute resolution.
	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 
	Affairs--Christine Shelly 
Minister-Counselor for Economic
	Affairs--Vladimir Sambaiew
Minister-Counselor for Public
	Affairs--Gail Gulliksen 
Minister-Counselor for Commercial
	Affairs--Dale Slaght

The U.S. embassy in Canada is located at 100 Wellington 
Street, Ottawa (tel. 613-238-5335), directly across from 
Parliament Hill.


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 
their shores.
	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.
National Unity 

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 
nationwide referendum.
	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 


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 
system: 202-647-3000.
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are 
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: 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 
communications program
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; 
fax 202-512-2250. 

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 
(TDD: 1-900-225-7778).
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 ( and on CD-ROM. Call 
the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information. 

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