The first inhabitants of Canada were aboriginal peoples, believed to have arrived from Asia thousands of years ago by way of a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.
Explorers from France and Great Britain, including John Cabot (hired by King Henry VII), Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson began to land in Canada in 1497. Permanent settlement by these two nations began in the early 1600s.
Canada became a nation on July 1, 1867 as four provinces - Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - came together to form the Dominion of Canada. Sir John A. MacDonald became the country's first Prime Minister. The remaining provinces and territories would join Canada in the coming years.
In 1885, the last spike was hammered in the Canadian Pacific Railway. The completion of the national railroad, winding through Canada's diverse landscape, fulfilled a dream of linking the young country from west coast to east.
Up until World War II, most immigrants came from the British Isles or eastern Europe. Since 1945, however, Canada's cultural make-up has been enhanced by increasing numbers of southern Europeans, Asians, South Americans and people from the Caribbean Islands, with the greatest numbers of immigrants arriving from countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Today, the country is made up of 10 provinces and three territories, most of which are populated by Canadians who can trace their ancestry from virtually everywhere in the world. A recent census showed that over 11 million Canadians, or 42 per cent of the population, reported having an ethnic origin other than British or French.