AN INTRODUCTION TO CANADA

In 1867, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia formed a confederation. On July 1, 1867, the British North America Act declared Canada a country. We celebrate Canada's national day on July 1 as Canada Day. The name "Canada" originally came from a First Nations' word "kanata" meaning village. Later, European map makers changed it to "Canada" to identify all the land north of the St. Lawrence River. In 1965, we adopted the red and white flag with the maple leaf as our official flag.

Queen Elizabeth II of England is still Canada's Head of State, and until 1982 Canada could not make any changes to its constitution without the approval of the British Government. In 1982 the Constitution Act came into effect, which allows Canada to make these changes without British approval. We made the Charter of Rights and Freedoms part of the Constitution in 1982. The Official Languages Act protects English and French, the two official languages in Canada.

Canada is the second largest country in the world with 10 million square kilometres of land mass. The country has a population of approximately 30 million people. Three oceans border the country - the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic. Due to its size, there are many different geographical areas and regions. We divide these into the following: the Atlantic region, Central Canada, the Prairie Provinces, the West Coast and the North. We divide the country into 10 provinces and 3 territories each with its own capital. The capital of Canada is Ottawa.

People from 150 different countries call Canada home. The first people who lived in Canada were the aboriginals, the native people of Canada. They are separated into three distinct groups: First Nations who lived in all areas of Canada, the Inuit who lived in the northern region, and the Metis who are descendants of First Nations women and English and French fur traders.

The Atlantic Provinces

Fishing is the oldest industry in this region. Agricultural crops such as fruit and potatoes and extensive forests which produce pulp, paper and lumber form part of the industry. Traditionally dependent on fishing and farming, they are developing other natural resources such as oil, copper, nickel and cobalt. For more information on the Atlantic provinces, click here.

Central Canada

Ontario and Quebec form the industrial and manufacturing heart of Canada. They produce 3/4 of Canada's manufactured goods. More than half of Canada's population live in the cities in the southern part of Ontario and Quebec. Three quarters of the people living in Quebec speak French. Quebec's major products include gold, copper, silver and iron ore. Quebec is also the country's largest producer of hydroelectricity. One third of Canadians live in Ontario. Products from Ontario's auto industry are one of Canada's key exports. Another is steel and machinery. For more information, click here.

The West Coast

Europeans settled British Columbia in the early 1800's. The railroad being built by the Government in the late 1800's made moving easier. Thousands of Chinese came to B.C. during this period to work on the railroad. British Columbia has the most valuable forest industry in Canada. Salmon fishing is not only a popular sport, but also an important economic factor. Pacific salmon is exported all over the world. For more information on the West Coast, click here.

Prairie Provinces

Quebec is the only Canadian province that selects its new immigrants which regularly sends its officers on missions around the world.This land of opportunity, first settled in the seventeenth century, is a destination of choice for new immigrants because of its geographical location, the diversity of its population and its exceptional lifestyle. Growth and development touch every field of economic activity, from aeronautics to environment, pharmaceutical research to information technology and natural resources to cultural events. For more information on the West Coast, click here.

The North

The Yukon and the Northwest Territories cover 1/3 of Canada. This vast region has a very small population of which most are Aboriginals. We have given several Aboriginal languages equal status as English and French. During the Gold Rush at the end of 1800, thousands of miners came to make their fortune. Mining is still an important industry in this region. For more information, click here.

The Government

Canada is a democracy with a parliamentary Government. The Prime Minister is the leader of the political party with the largest number of elected Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. We usually hold federal elections every four years. Our Government consists of three parts: Federal, Provincial and Municipal. The Federal Government is responsible for things that affect all of Canada such as national defence. Provincial Governments are responsible for education, health care, etc. and shares some issues with the Federal Government. Municipal Governments are in charge of the police force, the fire department and environmental issues. For more information on Canada and the Canadian Government, click here.

The Justice System

As a citizen or a landed immigrant, you have equal access to the justice system. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every resident fundamental freedoms, legal rights and equality under the law. For more information, click here.

We hope that you will take the time to learn more about Canada, its history and role in the political world of today.


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