Canada ( ( listen) KAN-ə-də; French: [kanadɑ]) is a country located in the northern part of North America . Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean , covering 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles), making it the world 's second -largest country by total area . Canada's southern border with the United States is the world 's longest bi-national land border . Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land territory being dominated by forest and tundra and the Rocky Mountains . It is highly urbanized, with 82 percent of the 35.15 million people concentrated in large and medium-sized cities , many near the southern border . Its capital is Ottawa , and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto , Montreal , and Vancouver . Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area , ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.
Various indigenous peoples have inhabited what is now Canada for thousands of years prior to European colonization. Beginning in the 16th century , the British and French established colonies, the first being the colony of Canada established by France in 1535. As a consequence of various armed conflicts, British North America gained and lost territory until, by the late 18th century, it controlled most of what comprises Canada today.