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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 5-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 301-member Commons, which is elected for a period not to exceed 5 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 November 2000. 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
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Adrienne Clarkson
Prime Minister--Jean Chretien
Minister of Foreign Affairs--John Manley
Ambassador to the United States-- Michael Kergin
Ambassador to the United Nations-- Paul Heinbecker

Canada maintains an embassy in the United States at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202-682-1740).

Political condions

Prime Minister Jean Chretien?s Liberal Party won a major victory in the November 2000 general elections. Chretien became the first Prime Minister to lead three consecutive majority governments since 1945, as the Liberals increased their majority in Parliament to 57% (172 of the 301 Parliamentary seats). The Canadian Alliance Party, which did well in western Canada but was unable to make significant inroads in the East, won the second-highest total of seats (66).

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 past 14 years, 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 code.

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 proposal. 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 referendum.

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.

In December 1999, the Chretien administration introduced the so-called "Clarity Bill", setting out the federal role in any future referendum on Quebec?s status. Both houses of Parliament subsequently approved the legislation.

Bernard Landry, who succeeded Lucien Bouchard as Premier of Quebec in March 2001, pledged to promote independence for Quebec.

Country name:

Data code: CA

Government type: confederation? with [parliamentary democracy]?

Capital: Ottawa

Administrative divisions: 10 provinces and 3 territories*; Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories*, Nova Scotia, Nunavut*, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, [Yukon Territory]?*

Independence: 1 July 1867 (from UK)

National holiday: Canada Day, 1 July (1867)

Constitution?: 17 April 1982 (Constitution Act); originally, the machinery of the government was set up in the [British North America Act]? of 1867; charter of rights and unwritten customs

Legal system: based on [English common law]?, except in Quebec, where a civil law system based on [French law]? prevails; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage?: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (a body whose members are appointed to serve until reaching 75 years of age by the governor general and selected on the advice of the prime minister; its normal limit is 104 senators) and the House of Commons or Chambre des Communes (301 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges are appointed by the prime minister through the governor general

Political parties and leaders: Bloc Quebecois [Gilles DUCEPPE]; Liberal Party [Jean CHRETIEN]; New Democratic Party [Alexa MCDONOUGH]; Progressive Conservative Party [Joe CLARK]; Canadian Alliance Party [Stockwell DAY]

International organization participation: ABEDA, ACCT, AfDB?, APEC, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, C, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE (observer), EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECLAC, ESA (cooperating state), FAO, G- 7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURCA, MINURSO, MIPONUH, MONUC, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNTAET, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:

Diplomatic representation from the US:

Flag description: three vertical bands of red (hoist side), white (double width, square), and red with a red maple leaf centred in the white band

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