CANADA

 

Basic information Political system Encyclopedia of ESC

Geography Educational system Exercises, revision

Climate National economy Projects

People Places of interest PDF version

Languages Cultural life Menu ESC 

History Sports

   

 

   

BASIC INFORMATION

 

Official name

Canada

Population

over 32 million

Total area

9,976,140 sq km

Capital

Ottawa

Form of government

Federal parliamentary state

Head of state and government

Prime Minister

Official languages

English, French

Date of independence

July 1st, 1867

Monetary unit

Canadian dollar

National anthem

O Canada

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

GEOGRAPHY

 

Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia) - its area is nearly 10 million sq. km.  It is situated in the Northern Hemisphere and occupies the northern part of the North American continent (about two-fifths) and many islands (e.g. Baffin Island, Newfoundland, Vancouver, Prince Edward Island etc.). Canada borders with 12 states of the USA in the south (on the 49 parallel and the Great Lakes Area), the Pacific Ocean and Alaska (USA) in the west, the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. The border with the USA is the longest undefended border in the world (8,895 km).

This huge country extends 4,627 km from the north to the south and 5,187 km from the east to the west. More lakes than land can be seen in some parts of the country, e.g. along the frontier with the USA or in the northern parts of Manitoba and Ontario. The biggest lakes are as follows - Lake Superior (area 82,103 sq. km), Lake Huron (59,570 sq. km), Lake Erie (25,667 sq. km), Lake Ontario (19,000 sq. km). These lakes are shared by the USA and Canada and it is the largest area of fresh water in the world. There are famous Niagara Falls between Lake Erie and Ontario. The Canadian fall is called the Horseshoe Fall and is 49 m high and almost 1 km wide. Lakes that are entirely in Canada are Great Bear Lake (31,328 sq. km), Great Slave Lake (28,570 sq. km) and Lake Winnipeg (24,390 sq. km).

The rivers can be divided into three systems. The Atlantic system is represented by the St. Lawrence River which makes the longest waterway system in the inner part of Canada. This river is 3,669 km long. Other rivers of the Atlantic system are the Winnipeg River and the Saskatchewan River. The Pacific system is made up mainly by the Columbia, the Frazer and the Yukon rivers. The Mackenzie (4,241 km long) is the backbone of another - mainly summer - waterway system which is 2,736 km long. It belongs to the Arctic system and flows from the Rocky Mountains to the Arctic Ocean.

Canada is divided into seven regions, each with a very different landscape and climate. The climate varies from Arctic cold in the North with winter temperatures as low as minus 50°C, to moderate climate in the east and west. The north of the country near the Arctic is a cold tundra with large and beautiful forests to the south. The central plains form the prairies.

The Pacific Coast - influenced by the Pacific. It has the most moderate climate of Canada's regions. This area includes the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island.

The Cordillera - this region is made up of the Rocky Mountains, the Coast Mountains and other ranges running north to south. Canada's highest peaks, however, are not in the Rockies, but in the St. Elias Mountains, an extension of the Cordillera stretching north into the Yukon and Alaska. The highest point in Canada, Mount Logan (6,050 m high), is in the southwest corner of the Yukon. The British Columbia interior varies from alpine snowfields to deep valleys, where desert-like conditions prevail.

The Prairies - the plains of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are among the richest grain-producing regions in the world. Alberta is Canada's leading producer of petroleum. The sedimentary rocks underlying the Prairies have important deposits of oil, gas and potash.

The Canadian Shield - an area of very ancient rock, rounded hills, numerous lakes and swamp including also a huge inland sea called Hudson Bay. The Shield is Canada's largest geographical feature; it stretches east to Labrador, south to Kingston on Lake Ontario and northwest as far as the Arctic Ocean. It is considered to be the nucleus of the North American continent and is made up of roofs of ancient mountains. The region is a storehouse of minerals, including gold, silver, zinc, copper and uranium.

The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Lowlands, an area of low-lying land. Southern Quebec and Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, contain Canada's two largest cities, Montreal and Toronto. In this small region, 50% of Canadians live and 70% of Canada's manufactured goods are produced. This region is the maple sugar country, producing also grapes, peaches, pears and other fruit.

The Atlantic Provinces - Appalachian Region consisting of rounded hills. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland are the smallest Canadian provinces, and were the first to be settled by Europeans. Evidence of contact as far back as AD 1000 has been found at a Norse settlement at l'Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland. Besides the "wheat fields" of Newfoundland the mixing of ocean currents has created one of the richest fishing areas in the world here. In the other provinces agriculture flourishes in the fertile valleys.

The Arctic is no longer an inaccessible frontier. Many places can be reached by road, and every community is served by air. Most have electricity, stores and health services. During the short summer, when daylight is nearly continuous and flowers bloom on the tundra, the temperature can reach 30°C. The winters are long, bitterly cold, dark and unforgiving.

 

 

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

CLIMATE

 

Canada's climate is greatly influenced by its mountain ranges, plains and water surfaces. The mountain ranges of the Cordilleran region prevent humid Pacific air from reaching the interior, and also prevent the westward flow of cold Arctic air from reaching the West Coast. The central plains of the North American continent form a corridor for the flow of warm air north from the Gulf of Mexico and cold air from north to south and east. This air movement creates sudden and drastic weather changes in Canada's interior. The large water surfaces in Central and Eastern Canada (Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes) produce considerable modification in the climate.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

POPULATION

 

Now the population of Canada is more than 30 million people which means that the density is one of the lowest (2.6 people to one sq. km). 89 per cent of the land has no permanent population. 80 per cent of Canadians live in large urban centres located within 300 km of the southern border (with the USA) by the St. Lawrence River where the first French colonists settled.

45% of the Canadians are of British origin, 30% of French origin and 23% have their origins in other European countries. Most French speaking Canadians live in Quebec, but there are also many in other parts of the country, notably New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba. The English speaking population has increased mainly by immigration from the British Isles and the United States. A lot of them are of Scottish and Irish origin; many other are descendants of the thousands of American colonists who moved into Canada at the time of the American Revolution (1776-1783). The third largest ethnic group in Canada are the Germans. Other large groups are the Ukrainians, Italians, Scandinavians, Dutch and Poles. In the second half of the 20th century the number of immigrants from other European countries, Southeast Asia, and Latin America has increased and has made Canada more multicultural.

There are also native Canadians - Indians and Eskimos (they are sometimes called the Inuits) in Canada. Indians probably gave the country its name: one of their tribes used the world "KANATA" for settlement, village. Most of Indians live on government reserves, Eskimos live in the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec and Labrador.

More than 85 percent of Canada's population belong either to the Roman Catholic or a Protestant Church. The major Protestant churches are the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Lutheran Church. The balance of the population adhere to the Jewish Eastern Orthodox and other faiths or have no affiliation. In Quebec more than 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and New Brunswick also has a Roman Catholic majority. The other provinces have Protestant majorities.

Life expectancy is 76 for male and 82 for female.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

LANGUAGES

 

Canada is a bilingual country. 60 per cent of population speak English, about 30 per cent speak French, the rest are the languages spoken by various ethnic minorities (Italian, German, Chinese, Native Canadians). Most of the French speaking population live in the province Quebec.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

HISTORY

 

The first people are thought to have arrived to America from Asia about 30,000 years ago crossing a land bridge - over what is now the Bering Strait - from Siberia to Alaska. Some of them settled in Canada, while others continued to the south. The descendants of these people are today's Eskimos and Indians.

The first contact between the native people and Europeans probably occurred about 1,000 years ago when Icelandic Norsemen (the Vikings) settled for a short time on the island of Newfoundland.

John CabotSeeking a new route to the rich markets of the Orient, the French and the English explored the waters of North America. They did not find a route to China and India, but they found rich fishing grounds and many animals valued for their furs. They constructed a number of posts - the French mainly along the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, the English around Hudson Bay and along the Atlantic coast. In 1497 an Italian Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) sailing for England claimed the land for the English crown. But the first real exploration took place only after 1534 when Jacques Cartier discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence River. He erected a cross on the Gaspé Peninsula and sailed up the St. Lawrence River to the Indian settlements of Stadacona (Quebec) and Hochelega (Montreal).

The true founder and settler of French Canada was the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who, impressed by the rich furs bartered by the friendly Indians, established between 1604 and 1634 tiny settlements of French pioneers along the Bay of Fundy and along the shores of the St. Lawrence River.

British attempts at settlement in Canada occurred as early as 1628 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Exploitation of the fisheries and the fur trade led to intense rivalry between these two imperial powers, paving the way for the conflict which culminated in the Treaty of Paris 1763. This agreement gave the British all French territory east of the Mississippi, except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the island of Newfoundland. In 1774 Britain passed the Quebec Act, which granted official recognition to French civil laws and guaranteed religious and linguistic freedoms.

Large number of English-speaking people, called Loyalists - wishing to remain faithful to the British Crown - came to Canada after the USA won its independence in 1776. They settled mainly in the colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and along the Great Lakes.

In 1794 Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec) were created and both were granted their own representative governing institutions. Rebellions in the 1830s prompted the British to form the united Province of Canada giving it responsible government - except in matters of foreign affairs - in 1848.

The development of Canada's powerful neighbour - the USA - led Canada East, Canada West, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to join together under the terms of the British North America Act into the Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867. Other provinces gradually joined: Manitoba in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905, and Newfoundland in 1949.

From 1914 to 1918, Canada's contribution in men and material to the Allied victory earned important international recognition both economically and politically.

During the pre-war period, Canada profited from the prosperous world economy and established itself as an industrial as well as an agricultural power. In 1931 Canada's constitutional autonomy from Britain was confirmed with the passing of the Statute of Westminster. Canada became a completely autonomous nation so far as its domestic and international policies were concerned.

Since World War II, Canada's economy has continued to expand. This growth, combined with government social programmes such as family allowances, old-age security, universal medicare and unemployment insurance has given Canadians a high standard of living.

The discussions among the French-speaking Quebeckers led to a referendum about the autonomy of Quebec, but the majority voted to maintain the status quo.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

POLITICAL SYSTEM

 

Canada is an independent federal state and a member of the British Commonwealth with parliamentary democracy, two official languages and two systems of law: civil law and common law. In 1982 the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was entrenched in the Canadian Constitution. The head of state is the British monarch represented by the Governor General.

In Canada, the responsibilities of the central - federal Parliament include national defence, interprovincial and international trade and commerce, immigration, the banking and monetary system, criminal law, postal services and fisheries, patents and copyrights, national statistics, navigation, shipping, railways, canals and telegraphs. The Canadian Parliament is composed of the Queen (who is represented by the Governor General), the Senate and the House of Commons.

The Senate, also called the Upper House, has 104 members, who are appointed and are divided essentially among Canada's four main regions of Ontario, Quebec, the West and the Atlantic Provinces. They may hold their office until they are 75 years old. The Senate has the same powers as the House of Commons, with a few exceptions.

The House of Commons is the major lawmaking body. It has 301 members elected by the people of Canada in their constituencies (he who has the largest number of votes is elected) for the term of five years.

The leader of the party which gets the largest number of seats in the Parliament is asked by the Governor General to become the Prime Minister. The real executive authority is the Cabinet, under the direction of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are advisors of the monarch.

Canada has three major political parties: Progressive Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic.

Canada's laws are interpreted and applied by the courts, which are presided over by judges whose independence is guaranteed. Each province is responsible for its own courts and, in addition, the Federal Parliament has established a general court of appeal for Canada and a number of courts of specialized jurisdiction.

 

 ADMINISTRATION

 

Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories.

The three territories are the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. They are administrated by the federal government, but they have both elected representation in the House of Commons and also a local self-government. Although the territories occupy nearly 50 per cent of all Canadian area they are very thinly inhabited by mainly native people - the density here is about 1 person in 65 sq. km (less than one half of 1 percent of Canadian population lives here). This area is wild, full of mountains and tundra, ice-peaks, giant lakes and subarctic bushland.

Provinces:

Quebec (French-speaking province, capital Quebec City)

Newfoundland (capital St. John's)

Prince Edward Island (capital Charlottetown)

Nova Scotia (capital Halifax)

New Brunswick (capital Fredericton)

Manitoba (capital Winnipeg)

Ontario (capital Toronto)

Saskatchewan (capital Regina)

Alberta (capital Edmonton)

British Columbia (capital Victoria).

In each province the sovereign is represented by a lieutenant governor appointed by a governor-general, usually for a term of five years. His powers in provincial sphere are essentially the same as those of the governor-general in the federal sphere.

The legislature of each province is unicameral and its assembly is elected for five years. The provinces have powers concerning mainly matters of local or private questions such as property and civil rights, education, civil law, provincial company charters, municipal government, hospitals, licenses, management and sale of public lands, and direct taxation within the province for provincial purposes.

The capital of Canada is Ottawa. The biggest city is Toronto. Other large cities are Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Quebec.

 

 

 

NATIONAL SYMBOLS

 

Canada has its own flag since 1964. It is red and in the centre there is a white square with a simple maple leaf. The red stripes are symbols of Canada's positions between the two oceans. A maple leaf has been used as Canada's national symbol for the past century or more. Red colour symbolizes the blood of the Canadians who died in WWI, white represents the snow of the Canadian North. The Canadian anthem is called O Canada.

O Canada, Our home and native land!

True patriot love in any thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

From far and wide, o Canada,

We stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

 

 

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

 

Education in Canada comprises 10 provincial and 3 territorial systems, including public schools, "separate" schools, and private schools.

Public education in Canada is co-educational and free up to and including secondary school. The school attendance is compulsory for children from the age of 6 or 7 until they are 15 or 16 years old. In Quebec, free education is extended and includes the general and vocational colleges (CEGEPs) which charge only a minimum registration fee. The student pays tuition for most other post-secondary education.

Canada spends 8 per cent of its gross domestic product on education, which is among the highest of the industrialized countries.

The provincial departments of education - headed by an elected minister - set standards, draw up curriculums and give grants to educational institutions. Responsibility for the administration of elementary and secondary (or high) schools is delegated to local elected school boards or commissions. The boards set local budget, hire and negotiate with teachers, and shape school curriculums within provincial guidelines.

In some provinces children can enter kindergarten at the age of four before starting the elementary grades at six. In some provinces enriched or accelerated programmes are available for gifted children while slow learners and disable students can be placed in special programmes.

In general, high school programmes consists of two streams. The first prepares students for university, the second for post-secondary education at a community college or institute of technology, or for the workplace.

For parents seeking alternatives to the public system, there are separate as well as private schools. Separate schools are mostly established by religious groups. Private or independent schools offer a great variety of curriculum options based on religion, language, or social academic status.

In most provinces, individual schools now set, conduct and mark their own examinations. In some provinces, however, students need to pass a graduation examination in certain key subjects in order to gain access to the post-secondary level. University entrance thus depends on course selection and marks on high school. Requirements vary from province to province.

University and other post-secondary education is subsidized by the provincial and federal governments, so that university student fees only account for an average 17.8 per cent of operating revenues. All these institutions offer both full and part-time adult education. In 1992-93 academic year, an estimated 551,300 students in Canada were studying at the college level and 867,300 were at the university level, with just 60 percent in each enrolled in full-time studies. The emphasis is put on lifelong learning. Currently, more than 55% of all university students are women.

Canada has more than 65 degree-granting institutions. They range from institutions with a single faculty and enrolment of a few hundred to institutions with many faculties and research institutes and more than 40,000 students, such as Université du Québec, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia.

The oldest university in Canada, Laval, in Quebec, was founded during the French regime, universities in English-speaking Canada were established after the American Revolution. Most other universities in the pioneer days were began by churches, but almost all have since become secular.

There are no truly private universities in Canada.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

NATIONAL ECONOMY

 

The Canadian economy is among the world's most successful. It belongs to the G-7 countries (the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries comprising Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States). It is oriented to the private sector, with only relatively few state enterprises such as postal services, electric utilities and transportation services. The agricultural industry is private too.

Canada has enormously rich sources of raw materials - coal, gold, uranium, other metal ores, oil and gas. It occupies the first place in the world in the mining of uranium (34% of the world production), zinc (19.6%); it produces the biggest amount of the world's sulphur (20%) and paper for newspapers (63%). It occupies the second or third places in many other raw materials including metals such as e.g. nickel (27%) and production of aluminium and natural gas etc. The main mining province is Alberta.

Machine-building and chemical industries are highly developed, too. Hamilton and Sydney are main centres of iron and steel industries. Motor-car industry has its biggest works in Chatham and Oshawa, ships are built on the banks of Great Lakes, in Montreal and Toronto. The provinces of Ontario and Newfoundland have large paper mills.

Hydro-electric industry is highly developed especially in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia with their large forests provide wood for building, furniture and paper production. Almost half the land area of Canada is covered by forests.

Although only 7 per cent of the land is suitable for farming, agriculture is the world's fifth largest producer of wheat (after former USSR, the USA, China and India) and the second largest wheat exporter. 80 per cent of Canada's farmland is in the prairies. Other important agricultural items are live-stock production, oats, vegetables, fruits, tobacco, dairy products, leather.

As in many other industrial countries there has been a shift in employment toward services industries (including community, business and personal) which now employ about two-thirds of the Canadian work force. At the same time, the growing role of knowledge-based activity has put pressure on industry and on the whole society in promoting further education.

Valid currency is Canadian Dollar.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

PLACES OF INTEREST

 

QUEBEC CITY

It is North America's most European city and it is the seat of the only French speaking administration on the continent. The city is the cradle of French civilization in North America. More than 95 per cent are French speaking.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the location of Quebec City was strategically important. One of the first constructions was a fortification called the Citadel which was built in the shape of a star.

The Old Post Office was built in 1871. In front of it there is the Champlain Monument, built in memory of the founder of Quebec in 1608.

The dominant point is the Chateau Frontenac Hotel, the symbol of the city built in 1893 as the Pacific Railway Hotel. It is the most famous hotel in Canada.

East of the city there are Montmorency Falls which are, at 83 meters, one and half times higher than Niagara Falls.

The most popular festival there is an international summer festival of music and song. Many folk dance groups from various parts of the world present their traditions there.

Near the city there are the Laurentian Mountains. In winter they become major ski centers. Parc du Ste-Anne, which is a part of them, offers many activities and world class skiing facilities.

  

MONTREAL

Montreal is the largest city in Quebec, Canada's largest province. It is also the second largest city in Canada after Toronto with a population of 3,127,000. Montreal was founded by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuvre in 1642. Later Montreal became a center for the fur trade. In the middle of the 18th century it was Canada's major financial and industrial town.

The city is a mixture of French and English cultures as are most cities in Canada. More than 80 per cent of the population is French speaking having their own culture and dialect.

Historical buildings and beautiful parks are situated in the Old City which is the heart of Montreal surrounded by modern architecture and skyscrapers. The Mont-Royal Park (200 acres) is situated right in the middle of the city. In the winter people go skiing and skating there.

Speaking of strange looking buildings, there is an apartment complex situated by the river. In 1967, when Montreal hosted Expo 67, it was built as its pavilion.

The main attraction is the Olympic Stadium, the site of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.

Montreal is also famous for its good food. Crescent Street, Drummond Street, and Prince Arthur Street are the main restaurant centers

Montreal is a place you should not miss on your way across Canada.

 

OTTAWA

The federal capital Ottawa is in southeastern Ontario at the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau rivers. Ottawa became the capital because there were political quarrels between Quebec City and Toronto and Montreal and so the leaders were induced to call upon Queen Victoria to designate a capital for all of Canada. When Ottawa became the capital it developed rapidly because the national government was based there, and the federal government employs most people nowadays.

 

When you go to Ottawa you can visit the Federal Parliament Buildings and see the "Changing of the Guard" in summer, the National Gallery, or the Royal Ontario Museum, which is Canada's largest one.

 

 

Back to the top

 

 

CULTURAL LIFE

 

Canada has become a cultural blend in which ethnic groups have been able to maintain their life-style and traditions. The British and French heritage and the influence of the United States has led to a broad variety of artistic endeavour.  Thanks to the high standard of living and increasing number of immigrants, there have been more talented people and more people appreciate their performances and films or read their books. Most provincial governments provide some form of financial assistance for the arts and for cultural organizations. Various cultural projects are funded by an endowment, by an annual grant from the federal government, and by private donations.

 

  

Back to the top

 

 

SPORTS

 

Several of the sports played in Canada are taken from the first inhabitants or  the early settlers.

Lacrosse, adopted as Canada's national game, was played by Indians in all parts of the country and adopted by later immigrants.

Ice hockey is also Canadian. It remains one of the most popular winter sports. The  original teams of the National Hockey League, established in 1917, were all Canadian.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) plays football only a little different from than of the United States.

 

 

 

 

Back to the top