The below information is only a brief highlight about Canada and various topics such as its currency, culture and politics. For more information on Canada please visit the Stats Can Website.
Population: 34 703 663 (estimation as of February 9, 2012)
Total area: 9 984 670 square kilometers
Capital city: Ottawa
Bordering Nations: United States of America (southern land border plus northwestern land border with Alaska), Greenland (sea border), St. Pierre and Miquelon (sea border)
Largest City: Toronto
Canada spans six time zones, Pacific Standard (PST), Mountain Standard (MST), Central Standard (CST), Eastern Standard (EST), Atlantic Standard (AST) and Newfoundland Standard (NST).
Regions of Canada
Canada is a giant, unwieldy thing, sprawling over 5 000 miles from coast to coast and containing over nine million square kilometers of land. As all Canadian schoolchildren are proudly taught, it’s the world’s “second biggest country,” surpassed only by Russia. To get a handle on all this geography, Canadians split up their country in a number of different ways.
Politically, Canada is a federation of 10 provinces and three northern territories, with each territory or province being a self-contained, self-governing unit within the larger Canadian system of government. In more casual conversation, it’s also common to talk of Canada as being split into around six “regions;” large geographic zones that share certain things in common, such as climate, landscape, industry, demographics, and (increasingly) political ideology and identity.
The People of Canada
The population of Canada sits somewhere around 34 million, making Canada an officially “midsizedcountry. Smaller than places like Brazil, Poland or Egypt, but bigger than Peru, Taiwan or Holland. As we’ll learn elsewhere in this guide, the majority of this 34 million live in urban or suburban communities, work in service sector jobs, vote occasionally and have government backed health insurance.
As mentioned, Canadians from different ethnic backgrounds have not always found it easy to coexist. Tension, bigotry, and discrimination have been more common than not for much of Canadian history, which may help explain why so many Canadians celebrate the idea of multiculturalism today.
What exactly “multiculturalism” means is hard to define, since not everyone uses the same definition. Broadly speaking though, it means that Canadians agree to respect the diversity of their population — it’s how this “respect” can (or should be) proven that’s the subject of debate.
To some, multiculturalism means not imposing an undue burden on immigrants to assimilate to some idealized norm of “what a Canadian should be.” Under this logic, a Canadian bank might hire Chinese-speaking tellers, or a Canada Day festival might include Ukrainian folk dancing. In both cases, the principle of inclusion reigns supreme. Others, however, might argue that multiculturalism means creating unity out of diversity, and encourage Canadians of all backgrounds to unite behind shared patriotic symbols or ideas, like the flag, Remembrance Day or democracy, and keep their background identities a more private, personal matter.
No matter how you define it, multiculturalism remains controversial. Today, Canada welcomes more immigrants per capita than any other nation on Earth — roughly 230 000 a year — and the rapid pace at which Canadian demographics have transformed (as recently as 1981, Canada was close to 99 per cent white) has not been without debate over what such population changes mean
for the future of the Canadian identity — and the unity of the country.
Canada is an officially bilingual country, which means it has two official languages: French and English.
Without a doubt, one of Canada’s most notable characteristics is its wealth. Canada is one the world’s richest industrialized nations, with a highly sophisticated economy and a top-tier standard of living. Though obviously not everyone in Canada is equally well-off, most Canadians nevertheless hold reasonably well-paying jobs and access to ample creature comforts that citizens in many other countries can only dream of.
About Canada’s Foreign Policy
As an activist former colony of the once-mighty British Empire, Canada is a nation long accustomed to thinking of itself as an important player in the international arena and a country whose interests and ideas extend far beyond her own borders. Now an independent nation, the challenge to establish a truly “Canadian style” of foreign policy has proved a leading priority for many generations of politicians, diplomats, and generals.
In general, Canadian foreign policy has been largely in sync with that of the greater western world, with the Canadian government serving as a loyal partner in the dominant western alliances of the day. This has included service in both world wars, active participation in the United Nations and NATO, defence for democratic-capitalist values during the Cold War, and a strong commitment to international stability and policing in the modern era of terrorism and rogue states.
At the same time, however, Canadian policy makers have long championed the idea that Canada should always be pragmatic and cautious in its deeds and rhetoric, and shy away from overly divisive or belligerent actions that would threaten the country’s reputation as a calm, honest, friendly nation. The central challenge of Canadian foreign policy is thus trying to square the Canadian public’s strong commitment to abstract, feel-good principles like democracy, freedom and the rule of law with the country’s practical desire to protect its interests and safety.
Canada has one of the world’s oldest independent currencies. First introduced to Britain’s North American colonies in 1853, the Canadian Dollar ($) has remained the basic unit of Canadian cash ever since.