The first inhabitants of Canada were native Indian peoples, primarily the Inuit (Eskimo). The Norse explorer Leif Erikson probably reached the shores of Canada (Labrador or Nova Scotia) in 1000, but the history of the white man in the country actually began in 1497, when John Cabot, an Italian in the service of Henry VII of England, reached Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. Canada was taken for France in 1534 by Jacques Cartier.
The actual settlement of New France, as it was then called, began in 1604 at Port Royal in what is now Nova Scotia; in 1608, Québec was founded. France's colonization efforts were not very successful, but French explorers by the end of the 17th century had penetrated beyond the Great Lakes to the western prairies and south along the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, the English Hudson's Bay Company had been established in 1670. Because of the valuable fisheries and fur trade, a conflict developed between the French and English; in 1713, Newfoundland, Hudson Bay, and Nova Scotia (Acadia) were lost to England.
During the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), England extended its conquest, and the British general James Wolfe won his famous victory over Gen. Louis Montcalm outside Québec on Sept. 13, 1759. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 gave England control.
Later in 1776, the year of American Independence, colonists loyal to the British Empire fled USA and settled in Canada.
Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations, with a high per-capita income, and it is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G8.
It is one of the world's top ten trading nations. Canada is a mixed market, ranking above the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom and higher than most western European nations.
As of October 2009, Canada's national unemployment rate was 8.6%. Provincial unemployment rates vary from a low of 5.8% in Manitoba to a high of 17% in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. Canada is one of the world's largest suppliers of agricultural products. It is the largest producer of zinc and uranium, and is a global source of many other natural resources, such as gold, nickel, aluminum, and lead.
Canada also has a sizable manufacturing sector centered in southern Ontario and Québec, with automobiles and aeronautics representing particularly important industries.
In Canada, there are four different seasons: spring, summer, autumn (fall), and winter. In the winter, the days are shorter and colder. In the summer, the days are longer and warmer. Overall, the climate varies dramatically across Canada. Many factors influence climate, such as distance from large bodies of water, latitude, elevation, and prevailing winds.
Some regions, particularly the southern coastal regions, have relatively mild climates. Temperatures might range from -10° to 5° Celsius in the winter and 10°C to 30°C in the summer. In these coastal regions, there is more rain than snow during the winter. Some parts of Canada, such as the West Coast, are quite humid. Other parts, like the Prairies, are very dry.
Canadian culture has historically been influenced by British, French, and Aboriginal cultures and traditions. Many Canadians value multiculturalism and see Canada as being inherently multicultural. The country's culture has been heavily influenced by American culture because of its proximity and the high rate of migration between the two countries. The great majority of English-speaking immigrants to Canada between 1755 and 1815 were Americans from the Thirteen Colonies; during and immediately after the War of Independence (46,000 Americans loyal to the British crown came to Canada).
American media and entertainment are popular, if not dominant, in English Canada; conversely, many Canadian cultural products and entertainers are successful in the United States and worldwide. Many cultural products are marketed toward a unified "North American" or global market
Favorite foods of Canadians vary slightly from region to region, and are strongly influenced by their family heritage , especially in relation to holiday celebrations. Along the Atlantic coast, seafood and dishes derived from English tradit ions (except in Québec) are common. In Québec, favorite foods come from the area's French heritage. Throughout Canada, maple syrup and maple products are popular, reflecting the significance of the maple tree, whose leaf adorns the flag of Canada.