The ‘About Canada’ section provides a brief introduction to living in Canada and Canadian society.
About Canadian Geography
Canada is the most northerly country of the Americas and the second largest country in the world. It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north and the United States of America (USA) on the South. It spans a total area that covers almost ten million square kilometers (9,984,670 sq km). To put it into clear perspective, Canada could contain 18 countries the size of France or 40 United Kingdoms (UK), and has six time zones. Canada also has the longest coastline of any country.
Canada is a mosaic of regions from the rugged mountains of the West, to the farm communities of the prairies, to the Industrial and political powerhouse of Ontario, to the modern French culture of Québec, to the quaint fishing communities of the east coast, and everything in between. The beauty and diversity of Canada are proud icons of what Canada has become.
Most of the country is made up of plains, with mountains in the west and prairies in the southeast. Approximately 90 per cent of the over 31 million people living in Canada are located within 160 km of the US border and about 75% of the total population lives in major cities or towns. There are more lakes and inland waters in Canada than in any other country. There are over 2 million lakes in Canada which translates into 7.6% (755,180 sq km) of fresh water.
Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The north most part of Canada extends into the frigid Arctic Circle, while the furthermost southern parts stretch below the US border. Canada and the United States share many geographic characteristics in common such as the Rocky Mountains, four of the Great Lakes, the Appalachian Highlands, and various rivers.
Canada has a boreal climate. Winters are cold with average temperatures ranging between -2.5oC and -10oC and summers are relatively warm by comparison, with temperatures ranging between 16oC and 28oC in the southern regions. Canadian temperature has climbed up to a scorching 35 degrees Celsius in the summer and has descended to a glacial -25 degrees Celsius during winter.
British Columbia receives the most temperate climate in all of Canada. It rarely snows in the low-lying areas, and the Coastal Range and the Rocky Mountains prevent the Pacific air from traveling to the Prairies.
The Canadian Prairies traverse east from the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Great Lakes. Farming is a major industry in this part of the Country. Cold winters and muggy, hot, summers are common. Ample spring rainfalls and clement autumns make the Prairies one of the top grain-growing areas of the world.
More than half of Canada’s population lives near the Great Lakes or along the St. Lawrence River. Winter is very snowy and wind-chilled, while summers are humid and longer than anywhere else in Canada. There’s enough rainfall to sufficiently sustain the region’s sizable farm industry.
This territory is quite inclement and has one of the most capricious weather systems anywhere in the country. In winter, temperatures can vary tempestuously as the Arctic’s breath is replaced by maritime air from cursory storms. Snowfall is relatively strong, and fog is frequently present in spring and at the beginning of the short summer season. July is the warmest month of the year and averages temperatures between 16 to 21 degrees Celsius.
North of the Prairies and the St. Lawrence is an expansive hyperborean forest. This area is snow-capped most of the year, and summer lingers for approximately two months. Above the tree-line lies the Arctic. Temperatures there rise above freezing only for a few weeks a year, and the ground is permanently frozen.
About Canadian Economy
Canada ranks among the 10 leading manufacturing nations. Most of Canada’s manufacturing industry is located in the provinces of Ontario and Québec. Other important manufacturing sectors in Canada include food and beverages, paper and allied products, primary metals, fabricated metals, petrochemicals and chemicals.
The Atlantic, Prairie, and Pacific regions of Canada have concentrated on establishing their natural resource-based economies such as fishing, forestry, and mining. The Prairie Provinces are dependent on agriculture and mineral fuels and British Columbia’s primary industries are forestry and mining, and tourism.
The economic hub of Canada is situated in the east, with western provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia playing an important and ever-increasing role in Canada’s diverse and growing economy. From oil and gas to precious minerals, lumber, and agriculture, the country is rich in natural resources.
About Canadian Education
Canada has both a public and private education system. From kindergarten through to university, the Canadian government subsidizes a great portion of the financial burden of educating its young minds.
Canada has one of the highest educational standards when compared to other industrialized nations. The school year normally runs from September through to the following June. Secondary studies go up to Grades 11, 12 or 13, depending on the province. After which, students may choose to attend university, college, or Cegep (in Quebec) studies.
Canada has many internationally recognized university programs located in both urban and rural regions throughout the Nation. Degrees awarded from Canadian universities are recognized as equivalent to those from American and other Commonwealth universities. The university year usually runs from September to May.
International students may choose to study in either one of Canada’s two official languages. Some universities even offer instruction in both. However, students need not be fluent in both languages to attend school in Canada.
About Canadian Health Care
Canada has a public health care system that makes critical care accessible to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents alike. Although the health care systems are run by Provincial ministries of health, the Federal Government sets the standards for health care across the country.
There are three Provinces that charge health care premiums (BC, Alberta & Ontario). In the remaining Provinces and Territories health care is paid for through taxes and Provincial governments are responsible for the actual administration and delivery of health care in their jurisdictions.
About Canadian Culture
With only 32 million people, Canada is a modest nation compared to its densely populated southern neighbor. There are over 200 distinct cultures in Canada. In fact, the Nation is often defined as a “cultural mosaic” and has a greater mix of people from diverse backgrounds than almost anywhere else on Earth. It is home to the world’s immigrants and encourages its people to hold closely to their traditions and culture. Around two-fifths of the Country’s population comes from an origin other than British or French.
In recognizing multiculturalism, the federal government has developed multiculturalism policies, formalized in The Multiculturalism Act to, among other things “promote the understanding and creativity that arise from the interaction between individuals and communities of different origins.”
Bilingualism in Canada
There are two official languages in Canada: English and French.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms assures the protection of both languages and is required by law to recognize, preserve, and support the equality of both languages in Canadian society. All of the services offered by the Federal Government are available in both languages and almost every product sold in the country has English and French labeling and packaging.
Quebec is Canada’s only French province and New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in the country. The city of Montreal, Quebec, is recognized as the world’s largest French-speaking metropolis outside of France. Outside the borders of Quebec, most people speak English with about 18 percent of all Canadians being fluently bilingual.