Learn About Canada

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria, British Columbia

Canada is a big place

Did you know that Canada is the second-largest country in the world at 10 million square kilometers. It is only surpassed by Russia in terms of land size.

Canada’s border with the USA is the world’s longest land border, with hundreds of thousands of crossings (both ways) each day.

Canada touches three oceans – the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Arctic Ocean to the north.  It contains ten provinces and three territories – the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Although physically large, there are only about 33 million of us here – that’s about 4 million less than the population of California.

So we have lots of space and relatively few people. If you like to get away from it all, it’s tough to beat Canada.

Click here and here for some photos of Canada.  Here is the official atlas of Canada.

Canada’s history is a short one

Let me back-up a bit here. The history of aboriginal peoples in Canada is a very long one. Aboriginal peoples have been in Canada since the dawn of time.

Canada as a country has a fairly short history, much of that trying to prevent the Americans from taking over. Canada was first settled by Vikings on its east coast in A.D. 1000.  Many of those early settlements have been excavated and explored, leading to new discoveries about Viking travel and culture.

Canada was further explored in the fifteenth century by French and British Explorers. France had colonies in Canada but those were ceded to Britain in the 1700′s. However, the French culture remained and thrived and can now be found within the French province of Quebec.

Canada was created as a federal dominion and shook off its colonial status in 1867 under the British North America Act. This first dominion consisted of four provinces, with six other provinces added later over time, along with three territories. The last province to join Canada (and leave its British rulers) was Newfoundland in 1949.

Canada is democratic

Canada is a federal country with a parliamentary democracy. This means that the Canadian people elect representatives to the House of Commons in Ottawa (the capital of the country). Elections are run by an arms-length oranization to the government called Elections Canada.  Canada is also a constitutional monarchy, which means that technically the Queen of England is still the “head of state” of Canada. In practise however, the Queen has very little to do with Canada legally, as her powers are vested in the Lieutenant Governor in Canada. However, there could in theory be some very unusual circumstances where the Queen would have to exercise her power in Canada, but that would be rare indeed.

Canada is officially bilingual – English and French – which is why your immigration application asks if you have any abilities in English or French.

Unlike England (for example), Canada has a written Charter of Rights and Freedoms that ensures our citizens of life, liberty and security of the person.

An essential part of a democratic society is a free media and Canada has two major national newspapers – the National Post and the Globe and Mail.

Sports and Recreation

If you had to pick one sport that Canada is known for, I’m guessing you would say hockey, right?

Hockey is a major part of Canadian sports and culture, and it is played in every city and small town across the country, from recreational to professional levels.

However, hockey is not the official sport of Canada. The official sport of our country is lacrosse. Lacrosse is a bit of an unusual sport that uses sticks with nets on the end used to throw and catch a very hard rubber ball. It is played on a hard surface (not ice) and is a fast, exciting, and often very rough game.

Cultural elements of Canada that are well-known include maple syrup, which is drawn from the sap of maple trees, primarily in Quebec and Ontario but also from other provinces.

Perhaps less known are “beaver tails” which are deep fried pastries that resemble a beaver tail and are served with brown sugar or syrup.

Geography

Canada contains some amazing geography.  For example, the Saint Lawrence River is a giant.  Almost 2,000 miles, it flows from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Ontario.  This river is a major shipping routes to transport goods from overseas into Canada.  The Saint Lawrence River was the major exploration route, first explored in 1535 by Jacques Cartier with the help of native tribes.  Another famous explorer – Samuel de Camplain – used the river to explore the country as well.

Canada contains the Great Lakes (along the border shared with the USA), which are the largest collection of fresh water lakes in the world, comprising an astonishing 21% of the world’s fresh water.  The lakes consist of Lakes Michigan, Erie, Huron, Superior and Ontario.

Hudson Bay is the massive saltware bay that you can see so clearly on any map of Canada.  It is in the northeast and borders five provinces and Nunavut.

In the west stand the Rocky Mountains, a major mountain range that stretches over 3,000 miles from northern British Columbia to New Mexico.

Main Cities

The major cities of Canada (from West to East) are Vancouver (British Columbia), Edmonton, Calgary (Alberta), Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Winnipeg (Manitoba), Toronto, Ottawa (Ontario), Montreal (Quebec), Fredericton (New Brunswick), Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Halifax (Nova Scotia), St. John’s (Newfoundland).  I’ll discuss each city in more detail in future.

Vancouver

Vancouver is probably best known as the home of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games which took place not only in Vancouver, but also in Whistler, one of Canada’s premier skiing destinations, about an hour’s drive from Vancouver.

Vancouver is located on British Columbia’s west coast, tucked between the coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean. This limited geography means that Vancouver has some of the highest property prices in Canada. However, you can still enjoy Vancouver by moving to a bedroom community such as Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster and others, where house prices are less, and transportation into Vancouver is easy.

Vancouver has a mild climate, matched only by other coastal communities (such as Victoria, the capital of British Columbia). Summers are warm but rarely uncomfortably hot. However, winters are wet and grey, with long periods of rain and cloud cover, though it rarely goes below freezing unlike most of the rest of Canada. Vancouver’s mild winters are what draws immigrants to this city (and surrounding cities) as a top immigration destination.

Ottawa

Ottawa (located in the Province of Ontario) is the capital city of Canada. It is one of the most culturally rich city in terms of Canadian history, museums and monuments. For example, the Canadian Museum of Civiliation, the Museum of Nauture, the Museum of Science and Technology and the Canada War Museum are all located in Canada. In addition, Ottawa has the very popular Byward Market where vendors sell their wares.

Ottawa is not a top three immigrant destination, however, it has a lot to offer new Canadians including reasonable housing prices.

Toronto

Toronto is Canada’s center of business and commerce.  It is located in Ontario and is also Canada’s largest city with a population of 2.7 million people and is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes.

I’ll continue to add to this page in the future with interesting facts about Canada.