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Canada is a country in North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean , covering over 9. Its southern and western border with the United States , stretching 8, kilometres 5, mi , is the world’s longest binational land border. Canada’s capital is Ottawa , and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto , Montreal , and Vancouver. Indigenous peoples have continuously inhabited what is now Canada for thousands of years.
Beginning in the 16th century, British and French expeditions explored and later settled along the Atlantic coast. As a consequence of various armed conflicts , France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in In , 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 and culminated in the Canada Act , which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy in the Westminster tradition.
The country’s head of government is the prime minister —who holds office by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the elected House of Commons —and is appointed by the governor general , representing the monarch , who serves as head of state. The country is a Commonwealth realm and is officially bilingual English and French at the federal level. It ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom , and education.
It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many other countries. Canada’s long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture. A highly developed country , Canada has the 24th highest nominal per capita income globally and the sixteenth-highest ranking on the Human Development Index. Its advanced economy is the eighth-largest in the world , relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks.
While a variety of theories have been postulated for the etymological origins of Canada , the name is now accepted as coming from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata , meaning “village” or “settlement”. From the 16th to the early 18th century, ” Canada ” referred to the part of New France that lay along the Saint Lawrence River. These two colonies were collectively named the Canadas until their union as the British Province of Canada in Upon Confederation in , Canada was adopted as the legal name for the new country at the London Conference , and the word Dominion was conferred as the country’s title.
Laurent ended the practice of using Dominion in the statutes of Canada in The Canada Act , which brought the constitution of Canada fully under Canadian control, referred only to Canada. Later that year, the name of the national holiday was changed from Dominion Day to Canada Day. The first inhabitants of North America are generally hypothesized to have migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 14, years ago.
The Indigenous population at the time of the first European settlements is estimated to have been between ,  and two million,  with a figure of , accepted by Canada’s Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Although not without conflict, European Canadians ‘ early interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful.
It is believed that the first European to explore the east coast of Canada was Norse explorer Leif Erikson. John’s, Newfoundland , as the first North American English seasonal camp. The English established additional settlements in Newfoundland in along with settlements in the Thirteen Colonies to the south. John’s Island now Prince Edward Island became a separate colony in After the successful American War of Independence, the Treaty of Paris recognized the independence of the newly formed United States and set the terms of peace, ceding British North American territories south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River to the new country.
Many moved to Canada, particularly Atlantic Canada, where their arrival changed the demographic distribution of the existing territories. New Brunswick was in turn split from Nova Scotia as part of a reorganization of Loyalist settlements in the Maritimes, which led to the incorporation of Saint John, New Brunswick , as Canada’s first city. Peace came in ; no boundaries were changed. The desire for responsible government resulted in the abortive Rebellions of Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in To open the West and encourage European immigration, Parliament approved sponsoring the construction of three transcontinental railways including the Canadian Pacific Railway , opening the prairies to settlement with the Dominion Lands Act , and establishing the North-West Mounted Police to assert its authority over this territory.
Because Britain still maintained control of Canada’s foreign affairs under the British North America Act, , its declaration of war in automatically brought Canada into World War I. The Great Depression in Canada during the early s saw an economic downturn, leading to hardship across the country.
The delay underscored Canada’s independence. The first Canadian Army units arrived in Britain in December In all, over a million Canadians served in the armed forces during World War II and approximately 42, were killed and another 55, were wounded.
The Canadian economy boomed during the war as its industries manufactured military materiel for Canada, Britain, China , and the Soviet Union.
The financial crisis of the Great Depression had led the Dominion of Newfoundland to relinquish responsible government in and become a Crown colony ruled by a British governor. Canada’s post-war economic growth, combined with the policies of successive Liberal governments, led to the emergence of a new Canadian identity , marked by the adoption of the Maple Leaf Flag in ,  the implementation of official bilingualism English and French in ,  and the institution of official multiculturalism in Finally, another series of constitutional conferences resulted in the UK’s Canada Act , the patriation of Canada’s constitution from the United Kingdom, concurrent with the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At the same time, Quebec underwent profound social and economic changes through the Quiet Revolution of the s, giving birth to a secular nationalist movement. Attempts to accommodate Quebec nationalism constitutionally through the Meech Lake Accord failed in In addition to the issues of Quebec sovereignty, a number of crises shook Canadian society in the late s and early s.
By total area including its waters , Canada is the second-largest country in the world, after Russia. Canada can be divided into seven physiographic regions: the Canadian Shield , the interior plains , the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River in the southeast where the lowlands host much of Canada’s economic output. Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary from region to region. Coastal British Columbia has a temperate climate, with a mild and rainy winter.
Much of Northern Canada is covered by ice and permafrost. The future of the permafrost is uncertain because the Arctic has been warming at three times the global average as a result of climate change in Canada. Canada is divided into fifteen terrestrial and five marine ecozones. Approximately It is dominated by old-growth forest with over 2, lakes and 1, kilometres of streams and rivers. Canada is described as a ” full democracy “,  with a tradition of liberalism ,  and an egalitarian ,  moderate political ideology.
At the federal level, Canada has been dominated by two relatively centrist parties practising “brokerage politics”, [a] the centre-left leaning Liberal Party of Canada and the centre-right leaning Conservative Party of Canada or its predecessors. Canada has a parliamentary system within the context of a constitutional monarchy —the monarchy of Canada being the foundation of the executive, legislative , and judicial branches. The person who is the Canadian monarch is the same as the British monarch , although the two institutions are separate.
While the monarchy is the source of authority in Canada, in practice its position is mainly symbolic. The governor general or monarch may, though, in certain crisis situations exercise their power without ministerial advice.
Each of the members of Parliament in the House of Commons is elected by simple plurality in an electoral district or riding. General elections in Canada must be called by the governor general, either on the advice of the prime minister or if the government loses a confidence vote in the House. The members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, serve until age Canadian federalism divides government responsibilities between the federal government and the ten provinces.
Provincial legislatures are unicameral and operate in parliamentary fashion similar to the House of Commons. The Bank of Canada is the central bank of the country. In addition, the minister of finance and minister of innovation, science and industry utilize the Statistics Canada agency for financial planning and economic policy development. The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of the country, and consists of written text and unwritten conventions. Canada’s judiciary plays an important role in interpreting laws and has the power to strike down Acts of Parliament that violate the constitution.
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court and final arbiter and has been led since December 18, , by Richard Wagner , the chief justice of Canada. All judges at the superior and appellate levels are appointed after consultation with non-governmental legal bodies.
The federal Cabinet also appoints justices to superior courts in the provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Common law prevails everywhere except in Quebec, where civil law predominates.
Canadian Aboriginal law provides certain constitutionally recognized rights to land and traditional practices for Indigenous groups in Canada. Canada is recognized as a middle power for its role in international affairs with a tendency to pursue multilateral solutions. Canada and the United States share the world’s longest undefended border, co-operate on military campaigns and exercises, and are each other’s largest trading partner.
Canada maintains historic ties to the United Kingdom and France and to other former British and French colonies through Canada’s membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. During the Suez Crisis of , future prime minister Lester B.
Pearson eased tensions by proposing the inception of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force , for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In , Canada deployed troops to Afghanistan as part of the U.
The nation employs a professional, volunteer military force of approximately 79, active personnel and 32, reserve personnel. Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories.
Together, the provinces collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act ; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so in practice.
Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces. The major difference between a Canadian province and a territory is that provinces receive their power and authority from the Constitution Act, , whereas territorial governments have powers delegated to them by the Parliament of Canada.
The territories being creatures of the federal government, changes to their role and division of powers may be performed unilaterally by the Parliament of Canada. Since the early 20th century, the growth of Canada’s manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy to an urbanized, industrial one. Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy.
The vastness of the Athabasca oil sands and other assets results in Canada having a 13 percent share of global oil reserves , comprising the world’s third-largest share after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Canada also has a sizeable manufacturing sector centred in southern Ontario and Quebec, with automobiles and aeronautics representing particularly important industries.
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