Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia) by land mass.
Canada has a total area of 9.9 million sq. km. and touches the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans (which is why, its motto, “from sea to sea”, is quite logical), making it the country with the longest coastline (243,791 km. long). It is composed of 10 provinces and three territories with Ottawa as its capital. The provinces are: Alberta (capital: Edmonton) , British Columbia (Victoria), Manitoba (Winnipeg), New Brunswick (Fredericton), Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John’s), Nova Scotia (Halifax), Ontario (Toronto), Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), Quebec (Quebec City), and Saskatchewan (Regina). The three territories are: Northwest Territories (Yellowknife), Nunavut (Iqaluit), and Yukon (Whitehorse).
Land of Lakes
Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined. At last count, there may be as many as two million, with 563 lakes larger than 100 square kilometres. Canada’s largest include Lake Huron (Ontario), Great Bear Lake (Northwest Territories), and Lake Superior (Ontario). Lake Winnipeg, Canada’s fifth and the world’s 11th largest, is in Manitoba.
Canada is the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism, embracing diversity and pluralism. Today, of Canada’s total population of more than 35 million, a fifth are immigrants. In fact, based on the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), Canada is home to people from over 200 ethnic origins. Around 4.3 per cent of the total Canadian population reported an Aboriginal identity and 19.1 per cent belong to a visible minority. The largest groups among these visible minorities are South Asians, Chinese and Africans, followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese. (Learn more about Canada’s multiculturalism here).
Canada is a Parliamentary Democracy headed by a Prime Minister. However, it is also a constitutional monarchy with executive authority vested in the Queen. This means that the Queen is the head of state, while the Prime Minister is the head of government. A parliamentary democracy has three parts: the Sovereign (Queen), the Senate, and the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the government has three levels: federal, provincial and municipal. The federal government is based in Ottawa and is headed by the Prime Minister. Provincial and territorial governments are headed by premiers, while municipal governments are led by mayors.
Canada means “village”
The country’s name is derived from “Kanata”, a Huron-Iroquois word meaning village or settlement. Two Indigenous youths used this word to describe the settlement of Stadacona (now Quebec City) to European explorer Jacques Cartier. Cartier then used “Canada” to describe a bigger area beyond Stadacona. This soon spread throughout the entire region, surpassing its former name, New France.
The maple leaf and other symbols
Did you know that it took 40 years for the Canadian parliament to finally decide on a Canadian flag? The red and white flag with the prominent maple leaf was officially launched on February 15, 1965 (making Feb. 15 National Flag of Canada Day) after much debate and rigorous study. But have you ever wondered why the maple leaf is so identified with Canada? Well, for years even prior to the coming of European settlers, aboriginal peoples have been using maple sap as a food staple. Throughout history, the leaf has found its way into Canadian coins, emblems and coats of arms. The maple tree is also very important to Canadians and is the official arboreal emblem. Incidentally, Canada continues to produce three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup output.
Meanwhile, the beaver as a national emblem dates back to the 1700s, when the lucrative trade of beaver pelts (for fur hats) put Canada on the map. The Hudson’s Bay Company honoured the animal by putting it in its coat of arms. Another Canadian symbol is the Maple Leaf Tartan designed by David Weiser which became an official symbol in 2011.
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