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The second largest country in the world in terms of landmass, Canada occupies the northernmost part of North America. The State is a stable and long established democracy which asserted its independence from the British gradually, a process completed in 1982 when the vestigial powers of the British Parliament ceased. Though human rights standards in Canada are generally high, the State has been widely criticised for ongoing discrimination against children from indigenous backgrounds.
Canada is located in the northern most part of North America, between the North Atlantic, the North Pacific and the Arctic Oceans. It is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass, but thirty sixth in population. The capital city is Ottawa.
Population and Language
The population is approaching 34 million, of which about seven million (21 per cent) are children. The percentage of the population under 18 varies significantly by province, from approximately 20 per cent to 40 per cent, and the child population is decreasing as a percentage of the total population. One in five children lives in a rural area. Some six per cent of children are aboriginal and another six per cent are immigrants. During the 20th century, immigration from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe grew, increasing ethnic and cultural diversity.
The original inhabitants of what is now Canada include Inuit and native American peoples. In Canadian usage the term First Nations describes indigenous peoples other than the Inuit and the term Aboriginal includes the Métis, descendants of French explorers and native peoples.
French and English share official language status, although numerous indigenous languages are also in use.
History and Politics
French and British exploration began in the 16th Century and settlement began in the 17th. In 1763 France recognised British sovereignty, in 1860 Upper and Lower Canada (present day Ontario and Quebec) were united, and in 1867 a federation of four provinces was formed, under the British Crown. The last province, Newfoundland, joined Canada in 1949. Canada achieved international sovereignty gradually. In 1931 the responsibility of Canadian government over foreign affairs was recognised, and in 1982 the vestigial powers of the British Parliament over the Canadian Constitution ceased.
Canada is a constitutional, parliamentary monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State. The Prime Minister is Head of Government. The Parliament of Canada is bi-cameral, consisting of a Senate and House of Commons, presided by the Governor-General, who represents the monarch. Canada is a federal State, comprising ten provinces and three territories. Nunavut, the largest and newest territory, was established in 1999 to give greater autonomy to the indigenous Inuit population. The respective competences of the federal and provincial/territorial governments are defined mainly by the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982. The division of powers between federal and provincial/territorial governments translates into a division of responsibilities for child related legislation, policy, budgeting and services.
Canada is rich in natural resources and has a strong economy. The per capita GNI (PPP) grew from US$27,630 in 2000 to US$36,220 in 2008. Nevertheless, almost one in every 10 children lives in poverty.
Human Rights and Children's Rights
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms , adopted in the Constitution Act 1982, recognises most of the political and civil rights included in international human rights standards, but does not specifically recognise any rights of children. Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 13 December 1991. The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography was ratified in 2005, and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2000.
- UNDP, Human Develpment Index, 2010
- UNICEF,State of the World’s Children, 2009, Tables 1, 6]
- Statistics Canada (STATCAN), Age Distribution by province/territory, 2011 Population Projections. CANSIM table 052-0004
- Third and Fourth Reports of Canada to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child CRC/C/CDN/3-4, 2009, Appendix 4, Table 9
- Core Document, HRI/CORE/1/Add.91, 1998, para.37
- Ibid, para.40-41
- Ibid, para.46
- Ibid, para.48, 51
- See the Nunavut Act
- Ibid, para.42
- World Bank, World Development Indicators Data Base
- Campaign 2000,2010 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms