In order to understand Canada, it is essential to understand North America. The vast continent on which Canada and its neighbours stand is the geopolitical reality which has shaped our history. Settlement, ideological conflict, and the competition between British-Canadian and American expansion westward shaped the development of both cultures and institutions. This means that deep ties of heritage, culture, and political traditions continue to exist between the various regions of Canada and the United States. Our branch of global European civilization is continental in nature.