Wednesday, 10 June 2009

1st July: Canada Day

To be Canadian, by Leah Kimura
When I travel or have visitors stay with me in Vancouver, they always ask me about Canada. Physically, Canada is easy to describe. Canada is the second largest country in the world but our population is just over 32 million- similar to the population of California or Mexico City. Canada boasts beautiful mountains, dry deserts, rugged taiga, lush temperate rainforests, gorgeous lakes and endless grasslands. We also have the longest coastline in the world at 202,000 kilometres.

Politically, the country is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The most populated province is Ontario followed by Quebec. Canada follows a parliamentary system adopted from England. We have a Prime Minister not a President. We are part of the British Commonwealth like Australia and India etc.

Culturally, Canada is difficult to describe because it is a mosaic of cultures. Typically, people see Canada as French and English. French and English are our two official languages but if you visit Canada you will experience many other cultures. In our last census, Canadians represented more than 200 ethnic backgrounds and more than 20% of those surveyed weren’t even born in Canada! Since 1901, Canada has invited over 13 million immigrants into the country. For the first 60 years, most of the immigrants came from Europe but today most of them come from Asia. After English and French, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, and other Chinese languages) is the next most commonly spoken language, followed by Italian, German and Punjabi. These cultures help make Canada an interesting place to live in. I can listen to Spanish, Mandarin or French on the radio. I can shop at Japanese, Indian or Chinese markets. Unlike so many other countries, Canadians don’t really share a common culture but despite our differences, most of us share a belief in equality and diversity, and respect for all individuals in society.
People who have never been to Canada often think that it’s cold all year round. While it is true it can get cold, VERY cold in the winter, the weather varies from province to province. Most of the country has four distinct seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall). Canadians talk about the weather a lot and like to tease each other about having better weather than other provinces.

Historically, Canada’s economy has been resource-based including forestry, fishing, agriculture, mining and energy. These industries have played an important part in the country’s history and development. Recently, our economy has shifted focus to the service sector. This sector provides thousands of different jobs in areas like transportation, construction, banking, communications, retail services and education. More than 70 % of working Canadians now have jobs in service industries. In Canada we also have a small manufacturing industry. Manufactured products include paper, technological equipment, automobiles, food, and clothing. Our largest international trading partner is the United States and so our economy is very dependent on theirs. We share the world's largest and most comprehensive trading relationship with the USA.

Here are some interesting facts about Canada:

1) Lacrosse is our national sport but mostly we prefer to watch hockey.
2) We call our dollar the “Loonie” because of the picture of a loon on the back.
3) We live in cities. Almost 80% of Canadians live in urban centres most of which are located along the US border.
4) We say ‘eh’ a lot and pronounce ‘z’ as zed no zee!
5) Basketball, zippers, insulin and the telephone were invented by Canadians.
6) Canada is hosting the next winter Olympics in 2010. A Canadian has never won a gold medal on Canadian soil.
7) Canada's capital, Ottawa, has the coldest average temperature of any capital city in the world.
8) Canada has six time zones. British Columbia is 4.5 hours behind Newfoundland.
9) All Canadians have free access to health care.
10) Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, and Sarah McLachlan are Canadian.