Canada is located in northern North America and shares a border with the United States to the south. Canada covers 3.85 million square miles (9.98 million square kilometers), making it the second-largest country in the world by total area. The southern border with the United States is the longest land border in the world. Canada consists of 10 provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan) and 3 territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon).
The population of Canada is just over 36 million, with four-fifths living in urban areas along the southern border with the United States. The capital city is Ottawa, and the largest city is Toronto. Both are located in the province of Ontario. Other notable metro areas include Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec City, and Vancouver.
History of Canada
The original inhabitants of Canada and the rest of North America arrived from Siberia via the Bering land bridge, or Beringia, at least 15,000 years ago. The archeological sites of Bluefish Caves and Old Crow Flats in Yukon show some of the earliest known proof of human habitation in North America. Some of these Paleo-Indian societies demonstrated complex social hierarchies, trading networks, agriculture, and permanent settlements.
Vikings, the first known European settlers, arrived in Canada in approximately 1000 AD at L’Anse aux Meadows in present-day Newfoundland. However, no further exploration is recorded until 1497, when the Italian sailor John Cabot claimed the Atlantic coast of Canada for King Henry VII of England. At the time of European exploration, the Aboriginal population of Canada is estimated to have been between 200,000 and 2 million (Canada officially recognizes a native population of 500,000). While early interaction with the Inuit and First Nations people was typically peaceful, contact with European diseases reduced the indigenous population by up to 80 percent in the following centuries.
There were no permanent European settlements in Canada, until the early 17th century, when Samuel de Champlain arrived from France and established Port Royal in 1605 and Quebec City in 1608. Montreal was founded in 1642, and the burgeoning colony became known as New France. By 1685, New France’s population is estimated to have been approximately 10,000.
However, the British also laid claim to Canadian territories. The Hudson’s Bay Company was created by the English in 1670 and came to monopolize the fur trade with the indigenous population. After the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, France ceded control of Nova Scotia to the British. After the Seven Year’s War, the Treaty of Paris in 1763 granted control of most of New France to Britain.
The Constitution Act officially declared Canada a self-governing country on July 1, 1867. Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick made up the original 4 provinces. Manitoba and the Northwest Territories joined the confederation in 1870, British Columbia joined in 1871, Prince Edward Island joined in 1873, Yukon joined in 1890, Saskatchewan and Alberta joined in 1905, Newfoundland joined in 1949, and lastly, Nunavut joined in 1999. Canada received more definitive independence with the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and with the repatriation of the constitution 1982. In 1969, France was made equal to Britain in the Canadian government.
A census in 2011 put the population of Canada at 33,476,688. This marked a 5.9 percent increase over the 2006 census. Between 1990 and 2008, the Canadian population rose 20.4 percent, largely in part due to a relaxed immigration policy. Canada currently has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world.
About 80 percent of the Canadian population lives within 93 miles (150 kilometers) of the southern U.S. border, and the three largest cities in Canada – Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver – are all located along this border. In 2011, the population of Toronto was 5,583,064, the population of Montreal was 3,824,221, and the population of Vancouver was 2,313,328.
In 2011, the average age in Canada was approaching 40 years old, and the average life expectancy was 81 years old. Approximately 70 percent of Canadians live in a family household, with an average household size of 2.5 people. The 2011 census also showed that 76.7 percent of the population is of European descent, 14.2 percent is Asian, 4.3 percent is Aboriginal, 2.9 percent is black, 1.2 percent is Latin American, and .8 percent is multiracial or “other”.
Religion is Canada is fairly diverse. There is no official church, and religion is widely considered to be a private matter. While most Canadians believe in God, religion does not feature prominently in their daily lives. According to the census in 2011, 67.3 percent of the Canadian population identifies as Christian, with Catholicism making up the largest Christian group at 38.7 percent. In the same census, 23.9 percent of the respondents claimed no religious affiliation at all. This number was up from 16.5 percent in 2001. The final 8.8 percent of the total population is affiliated with non-Christian religions. Islam, the most prevalent in this group, makes up 3.2 percent of the population.
English and French are the two official languages of Canada. Approximately 60 percent of Canadians speak English as a first language and 20 percent speak French as a first language. The federal government practices official bilingualism, in which French and English maintain equal status in parliament, federal court, and other federal institutions. Other first languages spoken in Canada are, in order, Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish, German, and Italian.
Geography and Climate of Canada
Canada shares land borders with the 48 contiguous United States to the south and the state of Alaska to the northwest. Greenland borders on the northeast. By total area, Canada is only smaller than Russia. However, taking into account just land area, Canada drops to fourth place. This is due to the large number of fresh water lakes dotted extensively throughout the country. Canada contains over 2,000,000 fresh water lakes, which is more than any other nation on Earth. Canada also boasts the world’s longest coastline.
Due to its climate, large size, and settlement patterns, Canada is one of the most scarcely populated countries on the planet, with a population density of 9.1 people per square mile. The Canadian Forces Station Alert is the northernmost settlement in the world and is located on the tip of Ellesmere Island, just 518 miles away from the North Pole.
The physical geography of Canada is varied. The country supports boreal forests, prairies, tundra and permafrost, mountains, and lowlands. Western Canada is also home to numerous volcanoes, which are grouped into 5 distinct volcanic belts. The longest rivers in Canada are the Mackenzie at 2,600 miles long and the St. Lawrence at over 1,900 miles long. Mount Logan in Yukon is the highest peak, rising to an elevation of 19,551 feet.
Canada also has a diverse climate that ranges from temperate on the west coast of British Columbia to subarctic in the northern territories. Canada’s very northernmost regions have snow most of the year and a polar climate, while the southwest region of Ontario has a hot summer humid climate. Temperature records in the country are 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Midale, Saskatchewan on July 5, 1937 and -81.4 degrees Fahrenheit in Snag, Yukon on February 3, 1947.
As of 2015, Canada claimed the eleventh-largest economy in the world. The Canadian economy is largely dominated by the service industry, which employs approximately three-fourths of the country’s population. Unsurprisingly, it also has a large manufacturing sector. The nominal GDP of Canada is 1.79 trillion U.S. dollars, with a growth rate of .5 percent.
Canada is unique among developed nations in that it places great importance on the primary sector. The abundance of natural resources is reflected in the industries of fishing, forestry, agriculture, petroleum, and mining. Canada’s commercial fishing and seafood industry is the eighth-largest in the world, and the prosperous logging industry is linked to the pulp and paper sector, which is one of Canada’s largest manufacturing industries. Canada is also a net exporter of energy. The country has 13 percent of the global oil reserves, impressively coming in third after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Culture in Canada
Canadian culture has largely been influenced by European culture and indigenous culture. Throughout the years, elements from other immigrant populations have also been integrated into mainstream culture. Because of the proximity and shared language, American culture further influences Canadian culture. This confluence of different cultural elements can be seen in Canadian art, literature, music, and theater.
Ice hockey is the most prevalent winter sport in Canada, as well as the most popular spectator sport in the country. It is also Canada’s most successful sport in various international competitions. Regarded as a national pastime, hockey is played by a high percentage of children and adults at various competition levels.
Canada has seven teams in the National Hockey League. The Stanley Cup originated in the country in 1893, and nearly half of all NHL players are Canadian. Hockey Night in Canada is a popular national broadcast on Saturday nights featuring Canadian NHL teams. Beyond professional hockey, junior-age hockey is also a popular spectator sport in the hockey-obsessed nation.