Canada Voted as Best Travel Destination by Lonely Planet
With a landmass of 9,976,140 km2 and bordered by three oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic) Canada is the second largest country in the world, surpassed only by the Russian Federation. Canada also borders the United States in the south and the northwest. The population of Canada is approximately 34.4 million people, with the majority (81%) living in towns and cities. The largest cities in Canada are: Toronto (5.60 million), Montréal (3.83 million), Vancouver (2.32 million), Ottawa-Gatineau, the National Capital Region (1.24 million). At approximately 4 persons per square kilometer, Canada has a lower population density compared to many other advanced economies.
There are six time zones in Canada from Newfoundland Standard Time in the east (3.5 hours behind GMT) to Pacific Standard Time in the west (8 hours behind GMT). In fact, standard times zones are a Canadian invention, developed by the Canadian engineer Sir Sanford Fleming in the 1870s.
Officially, Canada is a bilingual country, with English and French enjoying equal status. While most people communicate in English, there are several French-speaking areas in various parts of the country, while in the Province of Quebec, French is the dominant language.
CANADA KEY FACTS
• Second largest country by area: 9,976,140 km2
• Longest coastline in the world: 202,080 km
• Most freshwater surface area of any country: 891,163 km2
• Population (2011): 34,342,800
• National Holiday: Canada Day July 1st
• Capital City: Ottawa
• Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General David Johnston
• Measurement: Metric System
With a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.8 trillion (at PPP in US$), the Canadian economy is the 15th largest in the world. This economic wealth is generated from a diversity of economic sectors that in many cases, is reflective of key regional strengths as you move across the country. While approximately 78% of the workforce is employed in the services sector nationally, the production of natural resources, particularly agriculture, logging, oil and gas is important in western and eastern Canada. With a long coastline, Canada has the 8th largest commercial fishing and seafood industry in the world. Central Canada (especially the provinces of Ontario and Quebec) contains much of the country’s manufacturing activity particularly in the automotive, aerospace and high technology industries.
With a relatively small population, the domestic market for Canadian produced goods and services is limited. As a result, international trade is an important aspect of Canada’s economic profile. Most of Canada’s two-way trade is with the United States (approximately 80% of exports and 57% of imports). The remaining share of two-way trade is predominantly with the United Kingdom, China, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union. The importance of international trade to Canada is shown by its membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In addition, Canada recently negotiated a trade agreement with the European Union (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement or CETA) and is in negotiations with trading partners along the Pacific Rim (Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP). Canada is also a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Group of Seven (G7).
• GDP per capita (2014): US$50,235
• Inflation: 1.8%
• Labour Force (2015): 19.3 million
• Unemployment Rate (2015): 6.9%
• Unit of Currency: Canadian Dollar
Exchange Rate (February 2016)
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Politically, Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories. The federal or national government contains three branches: a Legislature comprising the elected House of Commons (also known as the Parliament), and an appointed upper house or Senate; an Executive comprising the Prime Minister and Cabinet; and an independent Judiciary, headed by the Supreme Court of Canada. The federal government leads in managing national infrastructure, economy, defence and immigration. Each province or territory has their own Parliament and Judiciary, and is responsible for economic development, social services, health care, education, culture and transportation.
There are currently three political parties formally represented in the House of Commons. The Liberal Party forms the Government of Canada with 184 of 338 seats (54%). Its leader, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister in October 2015. The Official Opposition is represented by the Conservative Party of Canada with 99 seats (29%) and is led by interim leader Rona Ambrose. The Third Party, the New Democratic Party led by Thomas Mulcair, holds 44 seats (13%). The remaining seats are held by the Bloc Quebecois (10 seats), and the Green Party (1 seat).
Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, who include the First Nations, Metis and Inuit number approximately 1.5 million, represent almost 4.5% of the Canadian population. Politically, organizations and institutions representing the interests of the Aboriginal peoples vary considerably, and are found all across Canada. The National, Provincial and Territorial governments are legally obligated to consult with Aboriginal peoples on decisions or actions that may adversely impact asserted or established Aboriginal or treaty rights.
Photo: Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada
A defining principle of Canadian society is the respect for and protection of individual freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association. The freedoms are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). In many ways, the charter has helped establish an environment that welcomes and respects all people irrespective of culture, belief, ethnicity and language. This is, in essence, Canada’s national identity.
Evidence of Canada’s identity can be seen in the long history of extending the hand of welcome to immigrants and visitors from around the world. Approximately 250,000 immigrants arrive in Canada annually from all corners of the globe. Across the country, over 150 different languages are spoken in addition to English and French.