Canada - A Country Overview

A brief overview of Canada: its geographic location, history, government, climate, security, tourism and international community...

History

Canada's founding people are the Aboriginal (first Nations, Inuit and Metis), French and British. The Dominion of Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Canadas, which are today southern Ontario and southern Quebec) was established in 1867, but was still under British control.

During the following 80 years, Canada incorporated the rest of the British territories in North America, with Newfoundland being the last to become a Canadian province in 1949. As a 'New World' country, Canada relied on immigration for population growth, with the majority of its immigration coming originally from Europe. Since the 1960s, immigration has expanded to include immigration from the Caribbean, Africa, east Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Canada now considers itself officially a multicultural nation. It proclaimed its multiculturalism in 1971, with the Multicultural Proclamation, which recognises its ethnic diversity. Quebec has twice held a referendum for independence from Canada in 1980 and 1995, both of which have been rejected. This separatist movement is, in part, due to Quebecers fear that the number of French speakers is declining in Canada.

Canada Today

Modern Canada comes predominately from English speaking and French speaking civilisations brought to Canada by European settlers. However, Canada today embraces many different cultures, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds; at least two fifths of the Canadian population has an origin other than British, French or First Nations.

Canada has one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world and embraces multiculturalism. The Canadian 'Multiculturalism Act' underpins multicultural policies in Canada.

Canadians have a number of core values indoctrinated in various Constitutional documents. One value of importance to Canadians is the right to equal opportunity for all people. Everyone is regarded as equal in Canada with individual freedoms protected by the Canadian Constitution.

Religious freedom is also protected in Canada under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, providing a legal basis to protect individual rights and freedom.

Government

Canada is a federal nation made up of ten provinces and three territories. These are:

Provinces

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

Territories

  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon

As Canada is a federal nation, government includes that at federal, provincial and municipal level. The Constitution of Canada forms the basis for the legislative abilities, of both federal and provincial government. The Constitution Act gives the federal government responsibility for things such as defence and citizenship. The individual provinces and territories are responsible for governing their own region with regards to social policies such as healthcare, education and welfare.

Canada is a democratic country, with a parliamentary government, and is part of the Commonwealth. Therefore Queen Elizabeth II is the sovereign, head of state. Canada has a Prime Minister who acts as head of government; this is currently Stephen Harper.

Geography

Canada is the world's second largest country including all its rivers and lakes. It is situated in North America and has a land mass of 9,970,610 square kilometres. Canada encompasses six time zones and has the longest coastline of any country. It takes seven hours to fly from Halifax in the east of Canada to Vancouver in the west of Canada. As expected from such a large country, its geography is varied including lakes, rivers, valleys, mountain ranges, rainforest and plains.

Mountains

There are numerous impressive mountain ranges found across Canada, including the well-known Rocky Mountains.

Lakes

Canada has over two million lakes. The largest being the Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, which covers an area of over 31,000 Km2.

Rivers

National Parks

Canada has 38 National Parks which support ancient forests, lush vegetation and an abundance of wildlife.

Time Zones

Canada has six time zones, all at one hour intervals except in Newfoundland which is 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Time.

Maps

For reference maps of Canada, refer to the online Atlas of Canada.

Climate

Canada is well known for its four distinct seasons, with temperatures ranging in central Canada from +30 degrees Celsius in the summer months, to -20 degrees Celsius in the winter months.

Temperatures vary depending on the region; the most northerly part of Canada experiences below zero temperatures for most of the year, dipping to below -30 degrees in the coldest parts. However, the more populated, southern parts of Canada have hot summers, cool springs and cold winters. British Columbia has the most temperate climate, where temperatures rarely dip below zero, while central, eastern Canada experiences hot humid summers and cold, snowy winters.

Economy

Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations, due to its wealth of natural resources; forests, minerals and fossil fuels. Other key parts of its economy include agriculture, mining, transportation and telecommunications.

Like many developed economies, Canada has a very large service sector, employing about three quarters of Canadians. The US is Canada's largest trading partner, followed by China and the United Kingdom.

Language

Canada has two official languages; English and French. Most Canadians speak either French or English, while many speak both. English is used all over Canada except in Quebec, where French is the official language. French is also spoken in other provinces and territories such as Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Manitoba. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province.

French speaking communities are commonly known as Francophones while English speaking communities are commonly known as Anglophones.

Crime

Crime rates in Canada are lower than that in the US and visiting Canada is generally considered safe. However, violent crimes do occur, especially in large cities, however, these rates are falling according to Statistics Canada.

It is more likely for visitors to fall victim to car crime, thefts or pick-pocketing. It is advised not to leave any possessions in unattended vehicles and in some cities, such as Montreal and Vancouver, a person can be fined for leaving vehicles unlocked or valuables in view. Car and recreational vehicle (RV) theft can also a problem in urban areas.

Federal government establishes criminal law in Canada, but provinces are responsible for law enforcement. Canada's national police force is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the size of the police force in relation to the population is relatively small for a developed country. However, there are regional differences.

Immigration to Canada

Canada is a multicultural nation with a reported 41 percent of people living in Canada being either first or second generation immigrants.

Canada has a very liberal immigration policy and is committed to developing a multicultural society. Canada is encouraging immigration of skilled and semi-skilled workers to support its economy and growth.

Tourism

Canada has a large domestic and international tourism market and is a popular tourist destination all year round. In 2014, tourism accounted for approximately 2 percent ($34.4 billion) of Canada's GDP.

The main tourist destinations in Canada are its major cities; Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. Canada's National Parks, for example Banff and Jasper National Parks, are also very popular tourist destinations.

Winter months attract winter sport enthusiasts, as Canada has some of the world's best ski and snowboarding resorts.

Further Information