The land that is now Canada has been inhabited for millennia by various Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century, British and French colonies were established on the region's Atlantic coast. As a consequence of various conflicts, the United Kingdom gained and lost North American territories until left in the late 18th century with what mostly comprises Canada today. Pursuant to an act of the British Parliament, on July 1, 1867 three colonies joined to form the autonomous federal dominion of Canada. This began an accretion of provinces and territories to the new self-governing dominion. In 1931 Britain granted Canada full independence in most matters, with the last ties being dissolved in 1982.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Canada is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, with a population of approximately 35 million as of December 2012. Its advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed trade networks. Canada's long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
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