Sections in this article:
Basic Information about Canada:
Population: As of 1997, Canada's population was approximately 30 million. Of these 30 million people, 72 percent live within 150 kilometres of the southern border with the United States.
Capital: The capital of Canada is found in Ottawa, which is in the province of Ontario.
Provinces and Territories: Like the United States, Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal. As of 1999, there will be three territories and ten provinces in the Canadian Federation. These provinces, from east to west, along with their capital cities in brackets, include:
The three Canadian territories, as listed from east to west, are as follows:
Major Cities: The following are the five largest Canadian cities listed in descending order by their population, as well as the province they are located in and their population.
Topography: With a surface area of 9 970 610 km², Canada is the second largest country in the word, surpassed only by the Russian Federation in terms of size. The highest elevation in Canada, at 5 959 m above sea level can be found at Mount Logan, in Yukon Territory.
Monetary Unit: Canadian dollar, which is composed of 100 cents. The Canadian dollar is worth approximately 70 cents American, or 45 British pence.
Climate: Contrary to popular belief, particularly among Americans, Canada is not exclusively a land of ice, polar bears and igloos. Canada's climate varies drastically by region and by season. In the far southern reaches of Ontario, as well as the coastal regions of British Columbia, where much of Canada's population resides, winters are quite mild, with average temperatures ranging from 0 to 10 Celsius. Summers in the southern regions of Canada can be very hot and humid, with average temperatures in Windsor, Ontario rising into the low 30's Celsius. Torrid conditions in which the maximum temperature approaches 35'C are not uncommon in Southern Ontario. By contrast, the far northern reaches of Canada have extremely cold and long winters, below -40'C, with very short summers in which the temperature only rises to a maximum of 15'C.
System of Measurement: In Canada, like every other nation in the world with the exception of such tinpot principalities as Liberia, the United States and Burma, the Metric system is the official system of measurement. Some examples of metric measurement include speed in km/h, distance in metres and kilometres, weight in kilograms and capacity (as in gasoline sales) in litres. However, some features of the imperial system remains in common unofficial usage for certain weights, and for body measurement.
Education: As education is a provincial responsibility, there are no set standards across all of Canada. Yet in most provinces, school is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, with over three quarters of students going on to complete high school.
Symbols: Official Canadian symbols include the beaver and the Maple Leaf.
Origin of the name "Canada": The name Canada is derived from the Iroquoian native word "Kanata", meaning village.
Some more detailed information about Canada:
Political System:, Officially, Canada remains a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of England, Elizabeth the Second, as its figurehead, yet in practice, executive power rest in the hands of the House of Commons, and in particular, the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Canada runs under a federal system, with municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. The House of Commons is elected under democratic principles, yet the Senate and the Governor General, who share responsibility in passing legislation, are appointed by decree of the prime minister.
There are five official federal political parties in Canada. The following is a list of the five major parties, and their position on the political spectrum:
At this present time, the Liberal Party of Canada functions as the governing party, while the Reform Party of Canada functions as "Her Majesties Loyal Opposition".
Jean Chrétien is currently serving as the Prime Minister of Canada and the head of the Liberal Party of Canada, while Preston Manning acts as the leader of Her Majesties Loyal Opposition as well as the head of the Reform Party of Canada.
Historical Facts about Canada: Above all else, Canada is a nation of immigrants. Its citizens, or the ancestors of its citizens, arrived from every continent except Antarctica, which had no people to send. According to anthropologists, the first settlers in what is now Canada were the progenitors of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, who are believed to have arrived from Siberia approximately 30,000 years ago. After thousands of years of native settlement of what is now Canada, Viking explorers first arrived in what is now Newfoundland during the early part of the 11th century, becoming the first Europeans to attempt to settle in Canada. Yet these tentative steps at European exploration were short-lived, as the Vikings abandoned their colony soon after its inception. It would be over five hundred years until Europeans would renew their attempts to explore, and later settle in Canada.
With the 1497 arrival of John Cabot to the shores of Newfoundland came a renewal of European initiatives to explore and settle Canada. Settlement began in earnest following Samuel De Champlain's founding of a French colony at what is now Quebec City. French exploration and settlement of their colony of New France continued until 1763, when Canada was ceded to Great Britain upon their victory in the Seven Years War against France.
This may come as a shock to Canadians as well as others, yet Canada was actually traded in negotiations between France and Great Britain for the Caribbean islet of All Saints, some 32 km² in area. Both nations were more keen on possessing tiny All Saints than Canada, believing it to be a bleak land of forests and beavers. With foresight, we can see how erroneous this perception of Canada really was.
During the time of British colonization, the Canadian colonies were increasingly inclined towards self-governance, which they achieved in a limited form in 1867, with Confederation, in which the colonies of Nova Scotia, Canada and New Brunswick joined to become the Dominion of Canada. Officially, July 1st, 1867 is marked as the day in which Canada became a nation, just as July 4th, 1776 is marked as the day in which the United States became independent. Yet in actual fact, Canada remained essentially under the control of Great Britain, without the authority to conduct its own foreign affairs until the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which effectively resulted in Canada's independence.
Over the course of the period from 1867 to 1949, Canada grew from 4 provinces to 10, and millions of immigrants arrived, mainly from Eastern Europe, seeking freedom and a better life. With this influx of immigrants, Canada's population grew by nine million people from the time of confederation, with a population of 11 million being attained by 1949.
Canada was poised for prosperity during the 1950's and 1960's, yet even so, the stability of the federation itself that unites Canada was threatened by a movement to separate Québec from Canada. This movement was brought about by the discontent of French Québecois who believed or were led to believe that their language and culture would be better protected if they had a separate nation, though Canada has taken many measures to ensure the protection of the French language in Canada. In 1980, a referendum on the question of Québec's separation from Canada was held, with the federalists coming out victorious. Shortly afterwards, in 1982, the Canadian constitution was repatriated, meaning that for the first time, Canadians, and not the British government, were responsible for the document on which our laws are based. However, the constitution of 1982 was not approved by Québec, nor were the proposed amendments that were sought by French Canadians in order to recongize their "distinct society". Thus, nationalist sentiment surged once again in Québec, with the election of the separatist Parti Québecois in the Québec provincial election of 1994. Shortly after, in October, 1995, the separatist government held a referendum on Quebec independence, which was narrowly defeated by a margin of only 1.2 percentage points.
At this present time, the government of Canada is again trying to renew federalism and strengthen the Canadian federation through the adoption of the Calgary Declaration of 1997 which would recognize Quebec's distinctiveness. However, the threat of separation still looms with the presence of separatists in both the federal and Quebec provincial legislatures. Even so, after 130 years of official nationhood, Canada remains the most favoured nation in the world according the United Nations, and it is hoped that our proud tradition of prosperity and unity can continue well into the future.