Canada has a rich history going back to Palaeolithic times, but modern history effectively started with British and French expeditions in the late 15th Century. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America to Britain in 1763 and in 1867 Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces.
In 1931 the Statute of Westminster was signed and the final vestiges of legal dependency on the British Parliament were erased in 1982 with the Canada Act.
Today Canada is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. It consists of ten provinces and three territories with the province of Quebec being the only one where the majority of people speak French.
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Head of State.
The federal parties are not represented as such at provincial level, although there are many ties. In the case of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois stands in that province and no others at federal level.
The first democratic election in Canada took place in 1867 and was won by the Conservative Party led by John A. Macdonald. The Conservatives went on to win five of the seven general elections into the early 1900s.
In 1900 the Liberals won and went on to win 18 of the 27 general elections held in the 20th Century.
The Conservatives won periodically in the early 1900s; and then in 1957, 1958 and 1962 the Progressive Conservatives (the forerunners of the modern day Conservatives) were the governing force.
In 2000 the Liberals won, taking 172 seats with the Canadian Alliance, which had been created only months earlier, coming second with 66 seats. The Progressive Conservatives, having been reduced to just two seats in 1993 were able to win 12 seats in 2000.
In 2004 the Liberals lost 37 seats and were reduced to 135 seats whilst a new Conservative party, merged from the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance under the leadership of Stephen Harper, took 99 seats.
Because the Liberals were running a minority government it was inevitable that another election would happen soon, and in 2006 there was another general election.
This time the Conservatives took 124 seats and the Liberals dropped back to 103 seats in the 308 seats parliament. The Conservatives formed a minority government with another election on the cards.
Sure enough in 2008 the Conservatives were forced to call an election and won an additional 19 seats to take them to 143 seats. However it was not enough for an outright majority and so they formed a further minority government. The Liberals lost 26 seats and were reduced to 77 seats.
By 2011 the Conservatives were struggling to keep their minority government afloat and another election was called for 2nd May following their defeat in a vote of no confidence.
Currently Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State.
The Canadian Parliament consists of bicameral chambers.
The Senate has 105 members appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister and serve until 75 years of age.
The House of Commons has 338 members elected by direct, popular vote to serve five year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Canada at 9th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 82 (where 100 is least corrupt).