|Canada is a country occupying most of northern North America, extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is the world's second largest country by total area, and shares land borders with the United States to the south and northwest.|
The lands have been inhabited for millennia by aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French expeditions explored and later settled the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763 after the Seven Years War. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada became a federal dominion. The country rapidly expanded, and a gradual process of increased autonomy from the United Kingdom culminated in the Canada Act 1982, severing the last vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
Canadian culture has historically been influenced by British, French, and Aboriginal cultures and traditions. It has also been influenced by American culture because of its proximity and migration between the two countries. American media and entertainment are popular if not dominant in Canada; conversely, many Canadian cultural products and entertainers are successful in the US and worldwide. Many cultural products are marketed toward a unified "North American" or global market.
The creation and preservation of distinctly Canadian culture are supported by federal government programs, laws and institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Canada is a geographically vast and ethnically diverse country. There are cultural variations and distinctions from province to province and region to region. Canadian culture has also been greatly influenced by immigration from all over the world. Many Canadians value multiculturalism, and see Canadian culture as being inherently multicultural. Multicultural heritage is enshrined in Section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
National symbols are influenced by natural, historical, and First Nations sources. Particularly, the use of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol dates back to the early 18th century and is depicted on its current and previous flags, the penny, and on the coat of arms. Other prominent symbols include the beaver, Canada goose, common loon, the Crown, and the RCMP.
Canada's official national sports are ice hockey (winter) and lacrosse (summer). Hockey is a national pastime and the most popular spectator sport in the country. It is the most popular sport Canadians play, with 1.65 million active participants in 2004. Canada's six largest metropolitan areas - Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton - have franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL), and there are more Canadian players in the league than from all other countries combined. After hockey, other popular spectator sports include curling and football; the latter is played professionally in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Golf, baseball, skiing, soccer, volleyball, and basketball are widely played at youth and amateur levels, but professional leagues and franchises are not as widespread. Canada recently hosted the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and will host the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia.
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