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Every July 1, millions of Canadians celebrate the anniversary of the nation's independence.
Stacey Newman/iStock
Canada has the longest coastline of any country.
Jim McMahon
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Chesnot/Getty Images
A lake in Banff National Park, Canada’s oldest national park
Jonathan Irish/Getty Images
A mother polar bear with a cub
National Geographic Creative
O Canada!
Our northern neighbor celebrates its 150th birthday.

By Jennifer Marino Walters

As America gets ready to celebrate its Independence Day on July 4, our neighbor to the north is preparing for a big celebration of its own. On July 1, Canada turns 150!

That day—also known as Canada Day—more than half a million people are expected to visit the capital city of Ottawa for the country’s biggest birthday celebration ever. At the same time, hundreds of parties, fireworks displays, performances, and other festivities are taking place across Canada to mark the occasion.

“Visitors from across the country and all around the world will be pouring in . . . to ring in this spectacular anniversary bash,” says Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly. “I invite everyone to join in and celebrate the past, present, and future of our incredible country!”

CANADA BECOMES A NATION

Native peoples like the First Nations and the Inuit have lived in the area that is now Canada for thousands of years. About 500 years ago, French and British explorers started arriving there. They claimed some of the land for their countries and set up colonies (communities settled by people from another country). The two countries often fought over control of the land. The British won full control of the area in 1763. But French remains one of the official languages of Canada, along with English.

In the first half of the 19th century, many people there wanted to be independent of Britain. Three British provinces (regions)—the Province of Canada (now Quebec and Ontario), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia—united to form an independent country. On July 1, 1867, the 1867 Constitution Act officially created the Canadian Confederation, which set up Canada as a semi-independent nation. The new nation governed itself, but it kept the British monarch as head of state and still allowed the British government to have some control, like running foreign affairs.

Canada became fully independent of Britain in 1982. Today, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is Canada’s head of state, but that’s mostly a ceremonial role. A prime minister, now Justin Trudeau, runs the country with a lawmaking body called Parliament.

Over the years, Canada has grown to include a total of 10 provinces and three territories. It is now the second-largest country in the world. (Russia is the largest.) And at more than 5,500 miles, its border with the U.S. is the longest border between two nations.

CANADIAN PRIDE

Canadians are proud of their country. Canada even recently made the list of the 10 happiest countries, according to a 2017 United Nations report.

From impressive mountain ranges to sweeping prairies, the nation boasts a range of beautiful landscapes. It also includes more than 2 million lakes. Located not far from the North Pole, its cold and icy north is home to about two-thirds of the world’s polar bears. Its icy and snowy landscapes also help explain why some of its popular sports are ice hockey, skiing, and curling, a game in which players slide stone discs across ice to a target area.

Canada is celebrating all of that—and much more. It’s also very proud of its history of welcoming immigrants from around the world and of its diverse population.

“[This milestone reminds] us of the values that unite us—openness, inclusion, and deep respect for our differences,” says Prime Minister Trudeau. “Today, and every day, let us celebrate the differences that make Canada strong, diverse, inclusive, and proud.”