The entire northern region of the North American continent is occupied by Canada, which is a country that is both enormous and breathtaking. The country is comprised of ten different provinces and three different territories, and it stretches from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east, as well as northward into the Arctic Circle, which is a region that sees very little human traffic. Canada is the world’s second-largest country (after Russia) by total area, and the land border that it shares with its one and only neighbor, the United States, is the world’s longest land border shared by the same two countries. Canada’s total land area is nearly 10 million square kilometers, making it the world’s second-largest country after Russia.
In the following article, we will examine the nation of Canada and provide some relevant information regarding its history, governmental structure, economic climate, demographic makeup, and cultural traditions.
A Concise Overview of Canadian History
Canada Maple Leaf, the Original In the early 11th century, a Viking expedition led by the famous explorer Leif Eriksson was the first group of Europeans to arrive in Canada. This voyage was led by the Vikings. However, the Vikings did not found a colony in the new land, and the area that is now Canada was largely forgotten until the end of the 15th century, when in 1497, the English King Henry VII sent an Italian explorer named Jean Cabot on an expedition across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. Cabot was the first European to set foot on the island of Newfoundland. In the early 16th century, a Frenchman named Jacques Cartier embarked on two voyages to Canada, the first of which entered the St. Lawrence River in the month of August 1535.
It wasn’t until the early 17th century that the first permanent European settlements were established in Canada. This happened in 1603, when a Frenchman named Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) sailed up the St. Lawrence River. In 1604, he established Port Royal in Acadia, which is now known as Nova Scotia. In 1608, he established Quebec (the name Quebec is believed to be an Algonquin word meaning a narrow part of a river). Montreal was established by the French in 1642, and they named their new colony in what is now Canada New France.
A competition between England and France for Canada that would persist for centuries was stoked by the fact that the English were also interested in the territory. Following their colonization of the territory in and around what is now known as the Hudson Bay in the early 17th century, the English would go on to take Quebec in 1629. However, the region would eventually be given back to the French in 1632.
During the Seven Years War, which took place between 1756 and 1763, England and France engaged in a deadly conflict for sovereignty of Canada. The French fortress of Louisbourg, located on Cape Breton Island, was taken by the British in the year 1758, and the city of Quebec was taken by the English General Wolfe in the year 1759. Wolfe’s victory at Quebec meant that Canada would be taken over by the British rather than the French. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, and it stipulated that the French were required to cede all of their possessions in Canada to the British.
Following the British triumph in the Seven Years’ War, they were faced with the challenge of determining how to interact with their French Canadian subjects. The British government wanted to prevent further conflict, so in 1774 they passed a law called the Quebec Act. This law gave French Canadians the right to practice their own religion, which at the time was Roman Catholicism, as well as the right to maintain French civil law in addition to British criminal law. In the year 1775, the population of Canada was somewhere around 90,000.
The arrival of a large number of people from Europe in the early 19th century contributed significantly to the explosive growth of Canada’s population. When the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were brought together to form the Dominion of Canada in 1867, the country of Canada formed its first democratic government. The year 1870 saw the establishment of Manitoba as a province, while the year 1871 saw British Columbia become a member of the federation. After some time, in 1905, Alberta and Saskatchewan merged into a single province.
The population of Canada continued to increase during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, which coincided with the expansion of both the country’s economy and its railway network. In 1885, construction of a transcontinental railroad known as the Canadian Pacific was finally finished. In the year 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike District of the Yukon, which set off a gold rush that would persist for a number of years.
More than 60,000 Canadians lost their lives in the First World War, which took place around the turn of the 20th century. After the war, during the 1920s, Canada experienced a number of years of economic success, but during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the country, along with the rest of the world, endured significant hardships. The decrease in exports of timber, fish, and grain was precipitous, and by 1933, the unemployment rate had skyrocketed to an astounding 23 percent. Even though the government began relief efforts, the country continued to struggle economically throughout the decade. World War II broke out at the beginning of the 1940s and claimed the lives of an additional 45,000 Canadians throughout the course of the conflict.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the population of Canada increased to 18 million, and the country experienced a major economic boom that lasted until the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when unemployment once again rose to over 11 percent. During this time, the country also went through a period of rapid industrialization. Canada experienced prosperity once more in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the nation, along with the rest of the world, is just now beginning to shake off the effects of the global recession that began in 2008. The unemployment rate in Canada was at an all-time high of 8.1 percent in 2012, but it has since fallen to its current level of 6.9 percent, which is the lowest percentage the country has experienced since before the global financial crisis in 2008.
The Canadian Federal Government
The national or federal government of Canada is one of a kind due to the fact that it takes inspiration from both the British and American models of government. This results in a system that is a little bit peculiar, but one that is also very efficient. The government of Canada, much like the governments that are installed in developed countries around the world, uses a system of checks and balances between the various branches of government. This ensures that no single branch can use or abuse its powers to the detriment of the people. Checks and balances are also used in most of the governments that are installed in developing countries.
The Canadian Constitution of 1867, which was an act of the British Parliament, was the document that established the national government of Canada. However, in 1982, the constitution was changed to give Canada political independence from Great Britain. The monarch still maintains some executive powers, despite the fact that Canada now has political independence. In addition, the amendment in 1982 included a general description of the political rights and liberties that are reserved for Canadian citizens. This general outline was comparable to the Bill of Rights that is presented at the beginning of the Constitution of the United States.
At the national level, the government of Canada is divided into three distinct branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Each of these branches is responsible for a unique set of responsibilities.
The Executive Department
Queen Elizabeth II of England is the official head of the executive branch of the Canadian government. She also serves as the active head of state and is entrusted with broad powers over the legislative and judicial branches of government. However, throughout history, the position of the British monarch has been more ceremonial than authoritative; however, should the monarch choose to do so, she is in a position to exert a significant amount of power over Canada. Although it is customary for the executive branch to defer to the will of parliament and the constitution, this deference is more a result of longstanding practice than of any particular statute or act of law.
The Queen of Great Britain appoints a governor-general in Canada to oversee the executive powers that are reserved for the monarchy. This is because Canada is located a significant distance away from Great Britain. David Lloyd Johnston is serving as the Governor General of Canada at the present time.
The Prime Minister of Canada, who is currently Steven Harper, is the head of the Canadian federal government and holds the majority of the executive power in the country. This position is appointed by the Governor General of Canada to serve in this capacity. In Canada, one of the two legislative bodies is called the House of Commons. If there is no party that holds a majority in the House of Commons, the prime minister is typically appointed from the party that has the most members in that particular house. However, if there is no party that holds a majority, the prime minister is almost always chosen from the party that holds the majority in the Senate. An “act of no confidence” in the government can be passed by the House of Commons, which will typically result in the resignation of the prime minister as well as the prime minister’s cabinet members. However, the prime minister cannot be removed from office directly.
The duties of the prime minister of Canada are varied, including presiding over Cabinet meetings, interacting with formal foreign delegations and addressing questions in the House of Commons. Since the Prime Minister is usually a member of the Parliament, he/she also spends time helping the constituents who put him/her in office.
Branche de la législation
The name given to the members of the Canadian government who serve in the legislative branch is “Parliament.” A bicameral structure exists within Parliament, which means that there are two houses or assemblies that are vested with legislative authority. The Senate is the name given to the house that is composed entirely of appointees, and its members are selected by the governor-general on the recommendation of the prime minister. The House of Commons is the name given to the legislative branch of government that is elected by the people. Elections held in accordance with democratic principles take place every four to five years to select the members of this house. The House of Commons is generally regarded as the most powerful arm of the Canadian government and is responsible for presenting a greater number of bills to the Parliament on an annual basis. This is despite the fact that in theory, both branches of legislative government wield roughly the same amount of power.
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the land, and its members are appointed by the Governor-General based on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Judicial Branch of the Canadian Government is responsible for both the oversight of all cases involving criminal law as well as the maintenance of the Supreme Court. Matters of civil law are supervised using principles of British common law, except for in Quebec, where a French code of law is adhered to. The Supreme Court comprises of nine jurists or judges and is utilized as a “court of ultimate circumstance” in matters where the subordinate courts cannot appropriately come to a legal conclusion.
The formation and functioning of Canada’s professional judiciary are both mandated under the Constitution Act of 1867. It gives the federal government exclusive lawmaking power over criminal law and criminal procedure (but not over the establishment of criminal courts), and it gives the provinces exclusive lawmaking power over the administration of justice in each province. However, the establishment of criminal courts remains in the hands of the federal government.
The national or federal government of Canada is responsible for the appointment of judges to all levels of Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, and even some of the provincial courts. These latter justices are frequently referred to as “section 96 judges,” after Act 96 of the Constitution, the constitutional provision that authorized the appointment of these judges by the federal government. In most cases, these judges work in the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal of their respective provinces, or in equivalent courts such as the Court of the Queen’s Bench, the Superior Court (in Quebec), or the General Division of the Court of Justice (in Ontario).
Canada’s Organizational Landscape and Economy
Because of its vast supply of natural resources and highly developed network of commercial trade routes, Canada has one of the world’s most advanced economies and also ranks among the largest economies in the world. The long and tumultuous relationship that Canada has had with the United States has had a significant impact that has been extremely beneficial to the country’s economy as well as its culture.
Experts in the field of economics claim that historically, Canada has had one of the most resilient economies among the economies of the developed nations of the world. This achievement can primarily be ascribed to a better regulated and less leveraged financial sector—a market that, throughout the history of the nation, has not allowed debt levels to spiral out of control, and one that has always depended on the immense depth of the country’s natural resources. The tremendous variety of some of the world’s most treasured natural resources found in Canada are exported primarily to the United States and Western European nations, but in recent years there has also been increasing demand for these resources and products from China and several other emerging markets around the globe.
While exporting only comprises around one-third of Canada’s overall economic production, the stability of the country’s financial markets have kept exports from crumbling (even during the big global crisis that began in 2008), thereby ensuring a consistent level of consumer domestic spending.
Canada is a highly developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, holding the eighth-highest per capita income globally, and the eleventh-highest rating in the Human Development Index. Education, government openness, civil rights, quality of life, and economic independence are all areas in which this nation achieves exceptionally high rankings on an international scale. Canada’s consistent participation in economic, international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings includes its membership in the G8 (Group of Eight); the Group of Ten (an economic group); the Group of Twenty (G-20 major economies); the North American Free Trade Agreement; and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Canada’s alliances include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations (UN) (UN).
Demographics of Canada
As of the last census, Canada boasted a total population of approximately 35 million, an increase of nearly 6 percent over the last five years. About 80 percent of the population lives within 93 miles (150 km) of the United States border. As mentioned briefly above, Canada is home to ten provinces and three territories. The breakdown for these regions by population is outlined below:
12,8 million for the Canadian province of Ontario
7.9 million people live in the province of Quebec
4.4 million people live in the province of British Columbia.
3.6 million people live in the Alberta province.
1,2 million residents in the province of Manitoba
Province of Saskatchewan—1 million
Province of Nova Scotia—922,000
751 000 residents in the province of New Brunswick
515 000 people live in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Province of Prince Edward Island—140,000
Nearly 80 percent of the Canadian population lives in urban areas concentrated primarily in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, the British Columbia Lower Mainland, and the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor in Alberta. Canada, many other developed countries, is undergoing a demographic shift toward an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. This shift is causing a decline in the overall population. The average age was 39.5 years in 2006, but by 2011 it had increased to 39.9 years. In 2006, the number was 39.5. The current life expectancy of a Canadian is 81 years, which is a significant increase from previous years.
The Canadian Educational System
Education is a responsibility that falls on the individual Canadian provinces and territories, not the federal government. Because education is required for all children between the ages of six and sixteen (or eighteen in certain provinces), the adult literacy rate in Canada is one of the highest in the world, coming in at over 99 percent overall. A study done in 2012 found that Canada has the highest level of education of any country in the world. According to the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the academic achievement of students in Canada is significantly higher than that of students in other OECD countries, notably in the fields of mathematics, science, and reading.
Canada’s cultural landscape
Canada, like its neighbor to the south, is a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, customs and traditions; it is a place where people of all different types of cultural backgrounds live and work together in an environment that is generally peaceful.
Languages in Canada
The lengthy history and deep colonial roots of Canada are reflected in the country’s linguistic diversity thanks to its many official languages. Officially, Canada is a bilingual nation, with both English and French being recognized as the nation’s national languages. However, there are also a great number of languages that are not recognized as the nation’s official languages that are spoken in Canada. These languages include everything from German and Spanish to Punjabi and Chinese. This does not take into account the large number of indigenous languages that are still spoken today across Canada, particularly in the country’s most remote regions. There are over 50 distinct languages and many more native dialects spoken throughout Canada, according to the most recent census information. These languages are categorized into 11 different groups based on their Aboriginal origin. Only Ojibway, Inuktitut, and Cree are spoken by a sizable enough population of native speakers to be considered significant. The other native languages are not widely used. There are also speakers of Salishan languages in the Northwest Plateau cultural area, whereas the Eastern Woodlands cultural area is home to speakers of Iroquoian and Algic languages.
Religions practiced in Canada
The freedom of religion, which used to be a contentious issue in Canada’s early years, is now explicitly protected by the constitution of the country. Religion has consistently played a significant part in the lives of Canadians at all points in time throughout our nation’s history. Due to the fact that so many different religious faiths and traditions are practiced within the nation, it has also served as a major source of conflict at various points in time. In contrast to people living in other parts of the world, residents of Canada can never be certain that their friends and neighbors subscribe to the same belief system as them, or even believe in anything at all.
Regardless, the people of Canada are generally very religious, and nearly 70 percent of the population believes in God and belongs to some type of organized church. However, like many western nations, Canada is also becoming increasingly secular (rather than more religious), with religion acting as a continuing issue of debate.
As a result of the government’s decision to stop collecting data on people’s religious preferences following the completion of the national census in 2001, compiling religious statistics in modern day Canada is neither a simple task nor an exact science. Despite this, many separate organizations have taken it upon themselves to compile statistics regarding the numerous religions that are followed in the country.
According to recent surveys, Christianity is by far the largest religious faith adhered to in Canada, accounting for roughly 70 percent of the population. 43 percent of the population considers themselves to be Roman Catholic, 23 percent of the population identifies as practicing Protestantism as their primary religion, and the remaining 4 percent of the population engages in some other form of Christian practice. Within the broad category of Protestantism, 9.5 percent of Canadians belong to the United Church of Canada, 6.8 percent to the Anglican Church, 2.4 percent to the Baptist Church, and 2 percent to the Lutheran Church. Other faiths practiced in the country include Judaism, Islam, and, in much smaller numbers, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, among others. Sixteen percent of the population claims to follow either no religion (agnostic) or has no belief in God (atheist) whatsoever.