The history of Canada covers the period from the arrival of Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago to the present day. Canada has been inhabited for millennia by distinctive groups of Aboriginal peoples, with distinct trade networks, spiritual beliefs, and social hierarchies. Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first European arrivals and have been discovered through archaeological investigations. Various treaties and laws have been enacted European settlers and the Aboriginal populations.
Beginning in the late 15th century French and British expeditions explored, and later settled, along the Atlantic coast. France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America to Britain in 1763 after the Seven Years' War. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the British Empire, which became official with the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and completed in the Canada Act of 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
Over centuries, elements of Aboriginal, French, British and more recent immigrant customs have combined to form a Canadian culture. Canadian culture has also been strongly influenced by that of its linguistic, geographic and economic neighbour, the United States. Since the conclusion of the Second World War,Canadians have supported multilateralism abroad and socioeconomic development domestically. Canada currently consists of ten provinces and three territories and is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.