Capital city: Ottawa
Population: 35.4 million (Statistics Canada)
Government: Federal parliamentary democracy, constitutional monarchy
Currency: Canadian dollar ($, CAD)
Main languages: English, French
Canada is the second-largest country in the world by total area, stretching across the top of the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and northwards into the Arctic region. The country is divided into ten provinces and 3 territories, and is governed under a federal system that shares some characteristics with its near-neighbour the USA, although the two countries are far more different than many people imagine.
Although evidence of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Canada can be traced back for several centuries more, modern Canadian culture owes much to the British and French colonists who arrived in the region in the fifteenth century. Despite many years of political independence from Britain, Canada remains in the Commonwealth. Continued immigration has given the country an extremely diverse culture, with over 75% of Canadians identifying themselves as of European origin.
With the fusion of British, French and Aboriginal culture as well as the distinct Canadian identity, it is perhaps not surprising that the country boasts a large number of cultural festivals and museums. During September, many of these types of activities can be enjoyed for free through the Culture Days initiative. Sports are also very popular in Canada, with ice hockey, lacrosse, baseball and basketball among the most popular spectator sports. Winter conditions in the country mean that skiing, snowboarding and other ice and snow activities also remain popular, while hiking in one of the many National Parks offers a spectacular summer activity.
Food and drink
Because of the colonial heritage of the country, Canadian food styles have a distinctly regional feel. While traditional dishes often feature the game, fish and foraged foods that are indigenous to the whole country, the styles of cooking vary more. In Québec for example, there is a strong French influence to the culinary trends, whereas the maritime areas use much more seafood and shellfish in their local dishes. Canada is famously associated with maple syrup production and there are various uses for it in sweet and savoury cooking, as well as to make maple liquor. Although not particularly renowned for either, Canada also produces beers and wines.
The official languages in Canada are English and French, and a large proportion of the population is bilingual. At a federal level, most documentation is available in both languages. Québec is the only province with French as the official language, the rest predominantly using English with the exception of New Brunswick, which recognises both.
To the untrained ear the Canadian accent is similar to the American accent. However, Canadian English is in many ways closer to British English in terms of dialect and accents – albeit with some distinctive Canadian quirks!
Although its reputation for cold and snowy winters is not undeserved with lows of around -25°C (-13°F), outside its Arctic regions Canada has four distinct seasons and summer temperatures can regularly exceed 30°C (86°F). Spring and autumn are more moderate. Winters are usually cold although some areas, including the cities of Vancouver and Victoria on the west coast, experience milder, wetter conditions than much of the country.
Safety and security
Crime rates in Canada tend to be low, although the western provinces have slightly higher rates than the rest of the country. The majority of incidents are petty crimes such as bag snatching and thefts from cars. A greater risk to public safety in Canada is the climate, which can feature natural phenomenon including hurricanes, earthquakes and other extreme conditions. The country is well prepared to tackle such events, but make sure you are familiar with emergency plans in your area. For more information, visit the Get Prepared website. If you are hiking or camping in Canada, it’s best to be aware of the wildlife you may encounter in case of a threat, but the risk is relatively low.