3.2 Canada


Geopolitical map of Canada

As of 2019, Canada had a population of just over thirty-seven million, which is less than the population of California. Canada is larger than the United States, making it the second-largest country in the world. However, despite this vast territory for a relatively small population, more than 90 percent of Canadians live within 150 miles of the US border. Northern Canada is not considered part of Canada’s ecumene (habitable zone) for permanent human settlement. Only a narrow band of territory in southern and eastern Canada has the climate and physical geography suitable for agricultural production and widespread settlement. Moreover, Canada’s economy is so closely tied to that of the United States that it makes sense for people to live close to the US border.

Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories. Ottawa is the nation’s capital, and Toronto is its largest city.

Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Canada

Type D (continental) climates dominate most of central Canada, with their characteristically warm summers and cold winters, although the farther north you go, the cooler the summers are. Canada’s west coast receives the most rainfall—between eighty and one hundred inches a year—while coastal areas in the Maritime Provinces can receive up to sixty inches per year. The northern territory of Nunavut barely receives ten inches per year, usually in the form of snow. Of course, far northern Canada has an arctic type E climate, and conditions there are so harsh that only a very few people inhabit it.

Canada's climate
Canada’s climate

The cultural influence of the colder climates and the long winters on the people is evident by the sports that are enjoyed by most Canadian citizens. Ice hockey is Canada’s most prevalent sport and its most popular spectator sport. Other sports such as curling are also common in Canada.

Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to bowls, boules, and shuffleboard.

Canada has abundant natural resources for its population. Some of those resources are timber, minerals, fishing, and agriculture. There is also a large region of fossil fuel exploration centered in the province of Alberta. Coal, oil, and natural gas are found there in abundance, and much of it is exported to the United States for profit. Projections are that there is more oil in the tar sands of Canada than in the underground reserves of Saudi Arabia. The Yukon Territory, also located in the mountains, has experienced a gold rush in years past.

Journey by James A. Michener

You can read a novel about the Yukon: Journey by James A. Michener.
” James A. Michener captures a frenzied time when sane men and women risked their very lives in a forbidding Arctic land to win a dazzling and elusive prize: Yukon gold. In 1897, gold fever sweeps the world. The promise of untold riches lures thousands of dreamers from all walks of life on a perilous trek toward fortune, failure—or death. Journey is an immersive account of the adventures of four English aristocrats and their Irish servant as they haul across cruel Canadian terrain toward the Klondike gold fields. Vivid and sweeping, featuring Michener’s probing insights into the follies and grandeur of the human spirit, this is the kind of novel only he could write.”

French fishermen and fur traders initially colonized Canada, the British later took it from the French, and immigrants from various other countries moved there to farm and otherwise make a living. Although none of the provinces retain French names, countless cities—especially in Quebec—have French names, among them Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Charlesbourg, and Beauport.

The names of several provinces indicate the British connection: Nova Scotia means “New Scotland,” and it was so named by the British when they took over the island from the French. Prince Edward Island was named for the father of the famous nineteenth-century British queen, Victoria.

The book Anne of Green Gables takes place on Prince Edward Island. You can read it or listen to the audio book version for free via OpenLibrary.org!

You can see remnants of British colonialism in the way Canadian government is organized. Canada, like many countries of Europe, including Great Britain, is a parliamentary democracy.  The monarch of the United Kingdom is still the top-ranking government official in Canada, but only as a figurehead. The queen (or king) appoints a governor-general to be her (or his) representative in the Canadian federal government. 

A multitude of languages are used by Canadians, with English and French (the official languages) being the mother tongues of approximately 56 percent and 21 percent of Canadians, respectively.

The separation between French Canada and British Canada goes back to colonial times. Beginning in the 1530s, the French were the first to develop fur-trading activities in the region and colonize what is present-day Canada, calling it New France. When Britain began to dominate the eastern coast of North America in the 1680s, they entered into a series of wars with France. As a result of these wars, New France was eventually turned over to Britain.

Not wanting continued war with France, Britain allowed the French-dominated region to retain its land ownership system, civil laws, and Catholic faith. The Revolutionary War in 1776, which granted the United States independence from Great Britain, also pushed many people of English descent—especially those who had sided with the British during the Revolutionary War—from the United States into Canada. British North America no longer included the United States; Canada became the main British colony in North America.

In an attempt to keep the peace between French and English settlers, in 1791 the British Parliament divided Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, which later evolved into the provinces of English-speaking Ontario and French-speaking Quebec.

The cultural differences between Francophone Canada and the rest of Canada have since erupted into serious political conflicts. The Francophone areas, mainly southern Quebec, argue that they are treated unfairly, since they have to learn English but the rest of the country is not required to learn French.

Bilingual Canadian stop sign

French and English are the two official languages of the Canadian government as a whole, but the French people in Quebec, fearing that English was dominating the media, the Internet, and industry to such an extent that it was endangering their French culture, have declared French as the only official language of the province. To combat the encroachment of English, laws were enacted in Quebec requiring all public advertising to be in French, or if other languages are used, they must be half the size of the French letters. All businesses employing more than fifty employees are required to conduct all business in French. Immigrants who wish to be citizens of Quebec must learn French. All primary and secondary education takes place in French unless the child’s parents were educated in English elsewhere in Canada. Civil servants dubbed the “language police” monitor and enforce the French language laws. A business found to be out of compliance with the language laws could be fined or shut down. Even though the official language of Quebec is French, since the national government takes place in both English and French, some services are still available in Quebec in English.

J.J. McCullough: Bilingualism in Canada is a SCAM
Note: This video is 14 minutes long, but it will shed a lot of light on what parts of Canada speak French and which don’t and what that means for Canada.

Canada has a great deal of ethnic diversity. One measure of this is the number of languages spoken there. One source estimates that there are about 145 languages spoken in Canada, including English and French. This reflects both the rich native heritage and the history of immigration from around the world. The current surge of immigrants to Canada does not include many Europeans. Instead, these immigrants come from Asian countries, especially China and countries in South Asia such as India and Pakistan.

Statistics Canada: Welcome to Canada: 150 years of immigration

Canada is a great consumer of American popular culture. Canadians listen to, watch, and read tremendous quantities of American music; television and movies; and news, books, and other literature—so much so that some Canadians believed Canadian culture was in danger of being extinguished. In response to these concerns, a law was passed and a watchdog agency created so that a certain percentage of all radio and television broadcasts emanating from Canadian radio and television stations had to originate in Canada or have significant Canadian content.

Canada’s cuisine has many different influences such as English and French roots as well as native foods. Some foods Canada is known for are:

Maple syrup
Maple syrup
Poutine (French fried potatoes with cheese curds and beef gravy)
Poutine (French fried potatoes with cheese curds and beef gravy)
Saskatoon berries

Key Takeaways:

✎ Canada is a very large country with rich natural resources but a relatively small population that mostly lives in a narrow band in the southern part of the country.
✎  Canada’s English and French bilingualism is part of its British and French colonial past. The French culture is dominant in Quebec.
✎  More than one in five Canadians is an immigrant, and most of the recent immigrants come from non-Western countries, especially those in Asia.

Next: Chapter 4: Middle America

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Images and additional information credits:

Canadian provinces
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=668286
Canda’s climate
By Adam Peterson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51168581
Canadian curling team
By Bjarte Hetland – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1685383
Curling information
Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Canada
By Paolo Costa Baldi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18202592
Maple syrup
Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash
Canadian stop sign
By Elevatorrailfan – This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this file:  New Brunswick stop sign.svg., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52668036
By Jonathunder – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5185607
Saskatoon berries
By Ken Eckert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41916422

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