Canada occupies the major part of northern North America and is the second biggest country in the world. Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, it shares land borders with the USA, both to the south and north.
Long before the British and French arrived in the 15th century, the land had been inhabited by various groups of Aboriginal people. The name Canada stems from the St Lawrence Iroquoian word Kanata, which simply means village. In 1535, the then inhabitants of present day Quebec, used this term to direct Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, to the village of Stadacona. Cartier later used the word, not only to refer to that village, but the whole area around it, and by 1545, European books were using the word Canada to refer to this region. Eventually, the part of New France adjacent to the Lawrence River became known as Canada, along with the northern shores of the Great Lakes. By 1867 the name was recognised as the official name for the new country.
Modern day Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories, which are divided into regions; Western Canada is made up of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Central region is Quebec and Ontario. The Atlantic region consists of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, whilst the three territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut form Northern Canada. The northernmost settlement in the country, and indeed the world, is the Canadian Forces Station, which lies on the tip of Ellesmere Island and just 518 miles from the North Pole. Although the magnetic North Pole lies within Canadian territory, recent measurements have indicated that it is moving towards Siberia.
English and French are the official languages of the country, with English being the mother tongue of almost 60% of the population. More than 90% of Canadians speak English or French, whilst around 18% have both languages. The vast majority of French speaking Canadians live in Quebec, where French is the official language. Inuktitut is the most widely spoken language in Nunavut. Other languages spoken in the country are Cantonese, Italian, German and Punjabi.
Canada has an unusually large number of lakes, with 31,752 of these larger than 3 square kilometres. 561 lakes have a surface area of more than 100 square kilometres. The number of smaller lakes is not recorded officially.
Western Canada is rich with Volcanoes which are part the Pacific system of volcanoes often referred to as The Pacific Ring of Fire. More than two hundred young volcanoes stretch from the Cascade Range to the Yukon Territory, grouped into five volcanic belts.