Country Spotlight: CANADA

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Capital city: Ottawa
Population: 37,412,852 (1 April 2019)
GDP in Current prices: USD $1,733.7 billion (2018)
GDP real growth: 1.8% (2018)
Area: 9,984,670 km² (land 9,093,507 km²)
Government: Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II
Governor-General: Julie Payette
Prime Minister: Justin Trudeau
Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
HDI: 12th (2018)
Ease of doing business index: 22nd (2018/19)
Time Zones: Ontario and Quebec GMT -4
                     Alberta GMT -6, British Columbia GMT -7
Dialling code: 1


Canada is a country in the continent of North America, stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean to the east and sharing a land border with the United States to the south and the US state of Alaska to the northwest. Its northern territories extend well into the Arctic Ocean with the Danish territory of Greenland situated off to the northeast.

By total area, it is the second-largest country in the world after Russia, although this includes nearly two million lakes, with nearly 9% of Canada’s surface area covered by freshwater. With a population of over 37 million people, Canada is the 38th most populous nation and has a strong multi-cultural heritage. However, because of the size of the country and with most of its terrain comprising forests and tundra, Canada is the 8th least densely populated country. Over 38% of Canada’s area is covered by forests and they provide 10% of the world’s total forest cover, as well as being rich in biodiversity.

Canada is a highly advanced country with the tenth largest economy in the world and a very high Human Development Index (HDI). Importantly for anyone thinking of migrating, Canada is one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural countries in the world with extremely high degrees of civil liberties and quality of life. A founder member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations, it is also a member of the G7. Canada is also one of the wealthiest countries globally, ranking 8th in the 2018 Credit Suisse listings with USD $ 8,319 billion.


European expeditions to North America began colonisation in the late 15th and early 16th centuries with generally peaceful integration with the indigenous Inuit people. Canada was originally one of the five self-administering colonies that comprised New France and included the city of Quebec which was founded in 1608. The English had established colonies in Newfoundland from 1610 and what became the Thirteen Colonies further south.

Over the next few decades, there were several skirmishes as the different settlements worked with indigenous tribes to gain control of the lucrative North American fur trade. By 1713, Nova Scotia had come under British domain as France renounced its claim to a trade monopoly with the indigenous tribes. The decisive French and Indian War of 1754-1763, which was effectively the North American stage of the worldwide Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), culminated in Britain gaining huge territorial gains from the French including the province of Quebec, which was granted rights of self-administration by the British Parliament’s Quebec Act of 1774.

However, simmering anti-British discontent within the Thirteen Colonies led to the American War of Independence, following which the 1783 Peace Treaty of Paris formally recognised the United States of America as Britain ceded its territories south of the Great Lakes to the USA. This prompted many British loyalists to head north to central Canada, leading to the Constitutional Act of 1791 which divided the province into two provinces – Lower Canada (predominantly French-speaking) to the east and Upper Canada (predominantly English-speaking) to the west – each with its own legislative assembly.

On 1 July 1867, the Confederation of Canada was officially constituted, uniting the then four provinces of Canada into one Dominion under the British Empire. Lower Canada and Upper Canada had reunited as one province in 1841 but they separated again upon Confederation into the provinces of Quebec and Ontario respectively, with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia being the other provinces. The capital was established at Ottawa in Ontario and is still the national capital today, despite not being the capital of Ontario province.

Over the next few years, other British colonies including areas to the northwest previously owned and run by the Hudson Bay Company, joined the Confederation. Newfoundland, however, voted in 1869 to remain a British crown colony and in 1907 was granted dominion status. The Great Depression of the early 1930s affected Canada and Newfoundland more than most countries, and in 1933, Newfoundland relinquished its self-governing status and accepted the recommendations of a British and Canadian royal commission to be governed by a Commission of Government. Ironically, the Second World War provided a huge boost to the economy of Newfoundland with the United States building many military bases there and many servicemen settling there. With new found prosperity after the war, Newfoundland held several referendums which narrowly decided upon joining Canada as its tenth province on 31 March 1949.

By this time, Canada’s independence had been recognised by the 1931 Statute of Westminster, although it wasn’t until the Constitution Act of 1982 that Canada’s patriation was confirmed, giving Canada complete sovereignty from 17 April 1982.

Government and administration

The Canada Act confirmed Queen Elizabeth II as constitutional monarch of Canada separate from the monarchy of the United Kingdom. The governor general carries out most of the royal federal duties in Canada as directed by the Cabinet responsible to the House of Commons of Canada and led by the prime minister, currently Justin Trudeau. The upper house of the Canadian Parliament is called the Senate. This is a group of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, with regional quotas. The House of Commons is the lower house and has 338 elected members of parliament representing their local constituencies.

Each parliament was limited to a term of five years but this has recently been amended to four years. However, there is no binding time limit on the prime minister’s term of office as he or she is appointed by the governor general on behalf of the monarch, subject to winning or retaining a seat at the election and being able to hold the support and confidence of the majority of MPs.

Each of the ten provinces has its own legislative assembly with one parliamentary house and shares government responsibilities with the federal government. The three territories also have their own legislative councils but with no sovereignty and fewer responsibilities.

Canada’s official languages are English and French and these have equal status in parliament, the courts and in all federal institutions. French is the official language in Quebec and New Brunswick is officially bilingual under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The rest of the provinces use mainly English as their primary language, while the territories give official status to several indigenous languages, with Inuktitut the majority language in Nunavut as one of its three official languages. According to the 2016 Census, 56% of the Canadian population spoke English as their mother tongue and 21% spoke French as their mother tongue, with around 98% able to speak one or both languages.

Table 1. List of administrative provinces and territories of Canada  

The Canadian population is mainly centred in urban areas relatively close to the southern border with the US. The percentage of the population living in rural areas has declined gradually over the past years to 18.7% in 2018, mainly because of a migration of younger people to urban population centres. 30% of the total Canadian population live in the three largest metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. By contrast, the three territories to the north have over 39% of the country’s total area, but only 0.33% of the population.

Economy and trade

During the course of the 20th century, Canada’s economy transformed from being largely rural to becoming a principally industrial urbanized economy. Since World War II, Canada’s economic relations with the United States has increased substantially, helped by the discovery of large oil fields in Alberta in 1947. In January 1965, Canada and the United States signed a trade pact (known as the Auto Pact or APTA) to trade in automobile manufacturing and automotive products. Then in 1988, Canada signed a free trade agreement with the USA which was expanded from January 1994 to include Mexico in the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In 2018, over three-quarters (75.1%) of Canada’s exports by value were to the US with Mexico taking 1.4%. The other main trading partners were China (4.7% of Canada’s exports), the UK (2.8%) and Japan (2.2%). Mineral fuels including oil was both the number one and fastest growing export commodity last year, representing 22% of total share by value and up by 16.9% over 2017. Canada is one of the few developed countries that is a net exporter of energy. It is also unusual amongst developed nations in that its primary sector – the extraction of natural resources such as forestry, agriculture, minerals and petroleum – is such an important part of its economy.

Much of Canada’s manufacturing industry is based in Ontario and Quebec and the country is a net exporter of transportation equipment and parts. Canada is also one of the world’s major players in science and technology. The federal and provincial governments have provided billions of dollars in research and development and Canada has produced many renowned scientists who are pioneers in their fields. In 1962, Canada became only the third country to launch a satellite into space (after the USSR and the USA) and the Canadian Space Agency has an active programme of interplanetary and deep space research, while its aerospace industry has designed and built many rockets and satellites as well as developing the use of robotics in space.

In all, Canada’s exports of goods and services accounted for 30.2% of its 2018 GDP. In all, services account for approximately 70.7% of GDP, with industry 27.7% and agriculture 1.6%. Canada’s economic growth rate has tended to fluctuate in real terms, although it’s been positive every year since 2009. 2018 saw real growth of 1.8% compared with 3.0% in 2017 and 1.4% in 2016. On a nominal GDP per capita basis, Canada currently ranks 19th with US $48,601.

Citizenship by investment

 Canada was one of the first countries to operate immigration investment programmes, launching its Federal Immigrant Investor Program (FIIP) in 1986. However, this was closed permanently and suddenly in 2014. Currently, the only Canadian citizenship by investment program open is the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP). This is a very popular scheme for business owners and company directors, particularly as there are no age limitations and no language or minimum education requirements, but it only opens for fixed time-periods. The QIIP program now only accepts a maximum of 660 applicants per year.

The 2019/20 program is due to start in August 2019 and interested applicants are advised to prepare their applications as soon as possible. The required level of investment has increased since the 2018 program and the new qualification requirements are as follows:

  • The applicant (and spouse) have to show they have a legally obtained minimum net personal wealth of CAD $2,000,000 or the equivalent in foreign currency; previously this benchmark was CAD $1,600,000.
  • The applicant must have been a shareholder of a private company for the past two years, or to have been one for at least two of the past five years. If the applicant does not or has not owned a company, they must have at least two years’ managerial experience as a paid employee in an admissible company.
  • The applicant must make a risk-free deposit of CAD $1,200,000 (previously $800,000) into an authorised investment fixed-term account guaranteed by the Government of Quebec within 60 days of receiving provisional approval, and must keep the money invested for five and a half years without taking any interest but paying the related costs, after which time the money is returned. The interest generated by the deposit is used by the government to help fund new businesses and generate new jobs.
  • As most applicants may be reluctant or unable to liquidate assets to meet the mandatory investment amount within the time allowed, applicants may make use of the QIIP Financing Option which is to make a one-time non-refundable payment of CAD $350,000 which covers all government broker fees, but not does not cover the legal professional fees to prepare and follow the application process.

Once the applicant has received a Permanent Residency Visa under the QIIP, this entitles them to live, work, invest or study anywhere in Canada and to enjoy all the benefits of Canadian citizens. Canada is one of the safest and most liberal countries in the world and offers free universal health care, free education and highly reputable universities.

After the applicant has been physically present in Canada for just three years (and not necessarily consecutively if one is a frequent traveller), he or she is able to ask for and receive full Canadian citizenship including a Canadian passport, which gives visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 184 countries, plus the right to vote.

Provincial Nominee Entrepreneur programmes

Although the National programme was closed down a few years ago, many of the provinces have signed agreements with the federal government to develop their own business immigration programmes. The Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allows participating provinces and territories to nominate a set number of economic immigrants they would like to put forward to the IRCC for applying for permanent residence each year. These are predominantly targeting graduate entrepreneurs and SME businesses and skilled workers, as well as experienced young farmers in some provinces including British Columbia and Manitoba.

Each of the provinces and territories (except Quebec and Nunavut) has its own immigration ‘streams’ with its own features and minimum qualifying criteria, but all of them require a medical examination and a police check. It is also desirable – and in most cases mandatory – to make an exploratory visit to the province you are thinking of relocating to and to prepare a business plan that should include provision for the creation of at least two jobs for local Canadian citizens.

Most of the programmes are fixed for a determined period and have a maximum limit of applications within those timeframes. In 2017, Canada welcomed 159,262 permanent residents through its Economic Class programmes, of whom a record 49,724 (from 23,504 accepted applications) came through the Provincial Nominee Programs. For 2018 the IRCC had set a target of 55,000 rising to 61,000 for 2019 and 71,300 in 2021.

These programmes are constantly changing and they are usually over-subscribed, so it is advisable to check online with the Canadian Immigration Services website at and look up the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

For more information about the Canada’s Provincial Business Immigration Programs Click here


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