Canada is a country in the northern half of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world’s second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area.
Canada’s border with the United States is the world’s longest land border. The majority of the country has a cold or severely cold winter climate, but southerly areas are warm in summer. Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land territory being dominated by forest and tundra and the Rocky Mountains.
It is highly urbanized with 82 per cent of the 35.15 million people concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. One third of the population lives in the three largest cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Its capital is Ottawa, and other major urban areas include Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hamilton.
Various aboriginal peoples had inhabited what is now Canada for thousands of years prior to European colonization. Beginning in the 16th century, British and French claims were made on the area, with the colony of Canada first being established by the French in 1534. As a consequence of various conflicts, Great Britain gained and lost territories within British North America until it was left, in the late 18th century, with what mostly geographically comprises Canada today.
Pursuant to the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867, the colonies of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia joined to form the semi-autonomous federal Dominion of Canada. This began an accretion of provinces and territories to the mostly self-governing Dominion to the present ten provinces and three territories forming modern Canada.