Since the mid-20th century Canada has been a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy with a federal system of parliamentary government. Canada’s constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists of written text and unwritten traditions and conventions.
Until November 1981 Canada’s government retained strong ties to the British parliament; the Canadian constitution could only be amended by an act of Great Britain’s parliament. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s negotiations between the provinces and the federal government that were designed to patriate the constitution and provide an amending procedure were unsuccessful. These negotiations between the federal government and the English-speaking provinces finally bore fruit in 1981, giving Canada full amendment powers over its own constitution.
Prior to this, Queen Elizabeth II of England had been the chief of state, and despite the patriation of the constitution, ties between Canada and the Commonwealth of Nations remain close. On September 27, 2005, Michaëlle Jean was appointed by the queen, on the advice of the prime minister, as governor-general of Canada for a five-year term.
In February 2006 Stephen Harper became prime minister. This position belongs to the leader of the political party that can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, whose members are elected by the citizens by simple plurality in one electoral district. General elections are called by the governorgeneral when the prime minister so advises, and must occur every five years or less.
Ever since its founding, Canada has had two official languages, English and French, which are the mother tongues of 56 percent and 28 percent of the population, respectively. On July 7, 1969, the Official Languages Act was proclaimed, and French was made commensurate to English throughout the federal government. This started a process that led to Canada’s redefining itself as a “bilingual” nation. French is mostly spoken in Quebec province, parts of New Brunswick, eastern and northern Ontario, Saskatchewan, the south of Nova Scotia, and the southern Manitoba province. Several aboriginal languages also have official status in the Northwest Territories. Inuktitut is the majority language in Nunavut and has official status there.
Since the mid-20th century religion patterns have not changed much. They changed with the arrival of new immigrants, as they did during the country’s early days. Seventy-seven percent of Canadians identify themselves as Christians, and of that Catholics make up the largest group (43 percent). The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada; about 17 percent of Canadians have no religious affiliation; and the remaining 6 or 7 percent practice religions other than Christianity.
Canada’s entertainment industry grew alongside the United States’s leading film and music industry, having had a quick development during the 1950s and 1960s, but the most rapid development after the 1990s. For decades the Canadian film market was dominated by the American film industry, but then Canadians developed a vigorous film industry that produced a variety of well-known films, actors, and directors.
Canada’s film industry is in full expansion as a site for Hollywood productions. The series The X-Files was famously shot in Vancouver, as was Stargate, the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica, and The Outer Limits. The American series Queer as Folk was filmed in Toronto. After the 1980s Canada—and Vancouver in particular—became known as Hollywood North.
Canadian literature shows a mixture of French and Anglo-Saxon trends. After the mid-20th century there were many advances in literature, mainly since the 1980s. But before those years Canada’s literature also had some important authors. Whether written in English or French, Canadian literature reflects three main parts of the Canadian experience: nature and the relation with the sea, frontier life, and Canada’s position in the world.