Background: A land of vast distances and rich natural resources, Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining ties to the British crown. Economically and technologically the nation has developed in parallel with the US, its neighbor to the south across an unfortified border. Canada's paramount political problem is meeting public demands for quality improvements in health care and education services after a decade of budget cuts. The issue of reconciling Quebec's francophone heritage with the majority anglophone Canadian population has moved to the back burner in recent years; support for separatism abated after the Quebec government's referendum on independence failed to pass in October of 1995.
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