The nation of Canada gained its independence from Great Britain through the passing of the Canada Act of 1982. This act severed the final ties to the British parliament and gave Canada the right to amend its own constitution. Great Britain had previously granted Canada autonomy on most of its affairs through the 1931 Statute of Westminster.
After gaining independence, Canada adopted a new constitution, but it was not approved by the province of Quebec. In 1995, a referendum was held on Quebec's independence and was narrowly defeated by a 1 percent margin. The 1977 Charter of the French Language officially established French as the language of Quebec, where more than 85 percent of French-speaking Canadians live. The country remains officially bilingual at the federal level.
The government of Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy. It is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The North American nation consists of 10 provinces and three territories. It extends west from the Atlantic to the Pacific and also extends northward to the Arctic Ocean. With an area of more than 3.8 million square miles, Canada is the second-largest country in the world by total area. The nation's common land border with the United States is the longest shared border worldwide.