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Country Profile: Canada

In Countries by Continental Staff1 Comment

We’ve road tripped through the US, traveled across the world to ancient and modern sites in China, hiked the Highlands in Scotland and the mountains of Wales, relaxed on the beaches of Brazil and Portugal, discovered the magic of Tallinn’s Old Town in Estonia, lost ourselves in the medinas of Morocco, and much more – but it’s high time we came home. As we celebrate Canada Day, there’s no better opportunity to explore how our country came to be, what makes it tick, and what you can find within its borders. So without further ado, we present our home and native land – Canada!

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  • Capital: Ottawa
  • Largest City: Toronto
  • Population (2015): 35,749,600 (37th)
  • Total Area: 9,984,670 km² (2nd)
  • Official Languages: English, French
  • Currency: Canadian dollar ($) (CAD)
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Parliament in downtown Ottawa – the nation’s capital

Thy History is an Epic

The first to live in what’s now Canada were aboriginals, with some of these peoples believed to have inhabited the area 15,000 or so years ago. European colonization began in 1000 AD when the Norsemen arrived in Newfoundland, but the colony was soon abandoned and no further exploration occurred until 1497. John Cabot was the first to map the east coast of the country. Following this, Basque, Portuguese, and French settlers began to brave the Atlantic crossing and settle in Canada as well. Starting in the late 16th century and continuing through the 17th, many settlements were established from St. John’s to Quebec City.

As the British and French continued to claim land in the area (from the thirteen colonies in the south to New France) tensions eventually came to a head with the Seven Years War. In the end, France was forced to cede much of their territory to the British, and coupled with the annexation of most of the Maritimes, this meant the Brits now controlled most of eastern Canada by 1763. The secession of the thirteen colonies and creation of the United States necessitated a re-juggling of the Canadian territories to accommodate more English speaking loyalists, which resulted in the creation of what would become Ontario and Quebec. War once again gripped the nation in 1812 as the British fought the buoyant Americans. In addition, the country had to contend with increased immigration from Ireland (due to the famine) and Scotland (thanks to the Highland clearances).

Throughout the 1800’s, the boundaries of Canada were updated, expanded, and resolved. On July 1, 1867, the Constitution Act created the Canadian Confederation – essentially creating the Dominion of Canada (which consisted of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick at the time). Western provinces were later incorporated into Canada as the British already controlled them.

By the time of World War I, Canada was automatically entered into the conflict as the British dictated the country’s foreign policy. The Battle of Vimy Ridge remains the most famous conflict involving Canadian troops, and stands as an example of newfound national identity and the country standing on its own two legs on the international stage. This eventually helped pave the way for independence, with Canada first joining the League of Nations on its own in 1919 and finally achieving full autonomy in 1931.

The country suffered through the Great Depression and World War II, though managed to come out of the war stronger and more independent than ever before. In 1949, Newfoundland voted (barely) to join Canada – fully creating the country we know today. In recent years, Canada has managed to find an ever-increasing role on the world stage, whether participating in economic initiatives or military coalitions with Western allies. While questions about aboriginal rights and Quebec sovereignty remain, Canada has succeeded in maintaining a highly developed, multi-cultural society.

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The Toronto skyline, dominated by the CN Tower

Our Home and Native Land

It’s hard to define Canadian culture in one simple thought. Centuries of immigration and colonization have created a diverse makeup, with many traditions ranging from aboriginal to European to Asian. Quebec maintains a unique French-Canadian culture while English Canada takes inspiration from Britain, though it is constantly mixing and growing with other cultures – especially East Asian along the West Coast.

That being said, everyone shares a unifying Canadian identity that can be expressed in a variety of ways. Whether it’s a simple maple leaf on the backpack of a traveller or a crowd clad head to toe in red and white – Canadians are proud of where they’re from and eager to share it. Canada Day especially brings out the patriotic spirit in the country from Newfoundland to the Yukon.

Speaking of patriotism, perhaps the most visible examples of this occur during sporting events – especially hockey. As the birthplace of ice hockey, Canada has been consumed by the sport for decades – with some of the most storied NHL franchises and greatest players hailing from Canada. The Winter Olympics offer a chance for the best of the best to play together and compete against rivals on the world stage (especially America).

From Far and Wide

Canada is a vast country, second only to Russia in size in the entire world. Despite the massive area, the population is relatively small, with most of the major centres concentrated near the long land border with the US. Major cities include Toronto (one of the largest in North America), Montreal (the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris), and Vancouver (the city that doesn’t know what snow looks like). There are many more famous and old cities and towns throughout the country, including the vibrant capital Ottawa, the first capital of Canada (Kingston), Alberta’s Edmonton and Calgary, and the far easterly St. John’s (the first English North American colony).

With most of the people living to the south, Canada is home to some of the world’s largest swathes of untouched wilderness. The massive Rockies in the West, great plains in the centre, long coastlines, Arctic wastes, endless forests, and a huge variety of wildlife are just some of the natural features of this large country. There are natural landmarks everywhere, from Niagara Falls to the cliffs of Baffin Island. Even the south has its thrills, with many Canadians taking advantage of warm summer weather and the plentiful lakes to escaping into cottage country for a weekend.

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Sunset over a Canadian lake – a common scene for many a cottage-goer

Did you know?

  • 20% of the world’s freshwater is found in Canada
  • The Trans-Canada Highway is the longest highway in the world
  • There is no daylight savings time in Saskatchewan
  • Quebec City is the only walled city in Canada or the US
  • The flag’s maple leaf should have 11 points
  • Nunavut used to have polar bear shaped license plates
  • 77% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec
  • 35-50% of all music on the radio has to be Canadian
  • Canada and the US share the longest undefended border in the world
  • Canada has more lake area than any other country of in the world
  • Alert, Nunavut is the northernmost inhabited place on earth
  • Canada has the longest coastline in the world
  • 10% of the world’s forests are found in the country
  • Bay of Fundy has the biggest tidal range in the world
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The inukshuk is an Inuit stone sculpture – it is increasingly used as a symbol of Canada

Last Word

This just barely scratches the surface of Canada’s history and culture. As you prepare your celebrations, take some time to reflect on our country, and what being Canadian means to you


Stay tuned to Continental’s Countries! We’ll explore the familiar and the foreign, plus uncover some hidden gems. Keep exploring Canada with our Travel Guide and Currency Spotlight.

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