The land that is now Canada was inhabited for millennia by various groups of Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French expeditions explored, and later settled, along 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 was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom. This widening autonomy was highlighted by the Statute of Westminster 1931 and culminated in the Canada Act 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
Canada is a federal state that is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual nation with both English and French as official languages at the federal level. One of the world's most highly developed countries, Canada has a diversified economy that is reliant upon its abundant natural resources and upon trade – particularly with the United States, with which Canada has had a long and complex relationship. It is a member of the G7, G8, G20, NATO, OECD, WTO, Commonwealth of Nations, Francophonie, OAS, APEC, and UN. With the eighth-highest Human Development Index globally, Canada has one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Canadian Studies is a Collegiate study of Canadian culture, Canadian languages, literature, Quebec, agriculture, history, and their government and politics. Most universities recommend that students take a double major (i.e. Political Science, International Relations) and French, if not included in the course. Some careers for students who take Canadian Studies include the foreign service and working at Canadian embassies or the US Embassy in Canada.
Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations, with a high per-capita income. It is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G8, and is one of the world's top ten trading nations. Canada is a mixed economy, ranking above the US and most western European nations on the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom. The largest foreign importers of Canadian goods are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
In the past century, the growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy to a more industrial and urban one. Like other First World nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians. Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of its primary sector, in which the logging and petroleum industries are two of the most important.
Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. Atlantic Canada has vast offshore deposits of natural gas, and Alberta has large oil and gas resources. The immense Athabasca oil sands give Canada the world's second-largest oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia.