Canada is a country in North America consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. At 9.98 million square kilometres in total, Canada is the world's second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area. Its common border with the United States forms the world's longest land border.
The land that is now Canada has been inhabited for millennia by various Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French colonies were established on the region's Atlantic coast. As a consequence of various conflicts, the United Kingdom gained and lost North American territories until left, in the late 18th century, with what mostly comprises Canada today. Pursuant to the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867 three colonies joined to form the autonomous federal dominion of Canada. This began an accretion of provinces and territories to the new self-governing dominion. In 1931, Britain granted Canada full independence in most matters with the Statute of Westminster 1931. The Canada Act 1982 severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Canada is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, with a population of approximately 35 million as of December 2012. Its advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed trade networks. Canada's long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
Canada is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the eighth highest 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, and stands among the world's most educated countries- ranking first worldwide in the number of adults having tertiary education with 51% of adults having attained at least an undergraduate college or university degree (according to the OECD 2012 survey). Canada's participation in economic international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings includes the G8 (Group of Eight); the Group of Ten (economic); the Group of Twenty (G-20 major economies); the North American Free Trade Agreement; and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Canada's alliances include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The 2011 Canadian census counted a total population of 33,476,688, an increase of around 5.9 percent over the 2006 figure. By December 2012, Statistics Canada reported a population of over 35 million, signifying the fastest growth rate of any G8 nation. Between 1990 and 2008, the population increased by 5.6 million, equivalent to 20.4 percent overall growth. The main drivers of population growth are immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth.