11 basic facts about Canada

You are reading the Original Version (CLB5+) Read Simple Version (CLB3-4)

Skip to:

1. Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia) by land mass.

Canada has a total area of 9.9 million sq. km. and touches the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans (which is why, its motto, “from sea to sea”, is quite logical), making it the country with the longest coastline (243,791 km. long). It is composed of 10 provinces and three territories with Ottawa as its capital. The provinces are: Alberta (capital: Edmonton) , British Columbia (Victoria), Manitoba (Winnipeg), New Brunswick (Fredericton), Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John’s), Nova Scotia (Halifax), Ontario (Toronto), Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), Quebec (Quebec City), and Saskatchewan (Regina). The three territories are: Northwest Territories (Yellowknife), Nunavut (Iqaluit), and Yukon (Whitehorse).

2. Land of Lakes

Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined. At last count, there may be as many as two million, with 563 lakes larger than 100 square kilometres. Canada’s largest include Lake Huron (Ontario), Great Bear Lake (Northwest Territories), and Lake Superior (Ontario). Lake Winnipeg, Canada’s fifth and the world’s 11th largest, is in Manitoba.

3. Multicultural population

Canada is the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism, embracing diversity and pluralism. Today, according to the Parliament of Canada’s Canadian Multiculturalism report, Canada is home to people from over 250 ethnic origins. Around 6.2 per cent of the total Canadian population reported an Aboriginal identity and 22.3 per cent belong to a visible minority (2016 Census). The largest groups among these visible minorities come from Asia (including the Middle East), Africa and Europe. The largest individual source of immigrants is the Philippines, followed by India and China. (Learn more about Canada’s multiculturalism from this link.).

4. Democracy/Monarchy

Canada is a Parliamentary Democracy headed by a Prime Minister. However, it is also a constitutional monarchy with executive authority vested in the Queen. This means that the Queen is the head of state, while the Prime Minister is the head of government. A parliamentary democracy has three parts: the Sovereign (Queen), the Senate, and the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the government has three levels: federal, provincial and municipal. The federal government is based in Ottawa and is headed by the Prime Minister. Provincial and territorial governments are headed by premiers, while municipal governments are led by mayors.

5. Canada means village

The country’s name is derived from “Kanata”, a Huron-Iroquois word meaning village or settlement. Two Indigenous youths used this word to describe the settlement of Stadacona (now Quebec City) to European explorer Jacques Cartier. Cartier then used “Canada” to describe a bigger area beyond Stadacona. This soon spread throughout the entire region, surpassing its former name, New France.

6. The maple leaf and other symbols

Did you know that it took 40 years for the Canadian parliament to finally decide on a Canadian flag? The red and white flag with the prominent maple leaf was officially launched on February 15, 1965 (making Feb. 15 National Flag of Canada Day) after much debate and rigorous study (Read 5 amazing facts about the creation of the National Flag of Canada to know the full story). But have you ever wondered why the maple leaf is so identified with Canada? Well, for years even prior to the coming of European settlers, aboriginal peoples have been using maple sap as a food staple. Throughout history, the leaf has found its way into Canadian coins, emblems and coats of arms. The maple tree is also very important to Canadians and is the official arboreal emblem. Incidentally, Canada continues to produce three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup output.

Meanwhile, the beaver as a national emblem dates back to the 1700s, when the lucrative trade of beaver pelts (for fur hats) put Canada on the map. The Hudson’s Bay Company honoured the animal by putting it in its coat of arms. Another Canadian symbol is the Maple Leaf Tartan designed by David Weiser which became an official symbol in 2011.

7. Canada Day

Canada Day commemorates the signing of the British North America Act (today known as the Constitution Act, 1867) which created Canada. The statutory holiday is celebrated every July 1st, and was, for a time, called Dominion Day. It marks the anniversary of the Confederation of three British colonies into four provinces: The United Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. To see how Canada Day is celebrated in various parts of the country, go to its official site.

8. “O Canada”

Canada’s national anthem, “O Canada” was composed by Calixa Lavallee, a well-known composer, with the lyrics written by Sir Adolphe Basile-Routhier. Several versions have been made of the anthem, but the version used today was written by Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer from Montreal. You can hear the anthem below (Youtube video by Canada Immigrant):

9. National dish: Poutine

Canada’s national dish originated from Quebec in the 1950s. Made up of a tasty mix of french fries, cheese curds and gravy, Poutine has been claimed by numerous people, but its inventor has never been confirmed. Anyway, canucks (a nickname for Canadians) have eaten the wonderful dish in more ways than one. Care for the traditional poutine? Or perhaps poutine with an international twist? How about going gourmet with foie gras poutine?

10. Inventions galore

What does basketball, the pacemaker, IMAX, and the Blackberry have in common? Yes, they were all invented by Canadians. Basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian PE instructor in Massachusetts who wanted to create a game that can be played indoors during winter. Meanwhile, the first pacemaker was invented by electrical engineer John Hopps, and the IMAX (for Image Maximum) was created by Toronto-based Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr and William Shaw. Lastly, the Blackberry cellphone is a product of Research in Motion (RIM), in Waterloo, Ontario. Want to know more Canadian inventions? Here are 19 things you might not know were invented in Canada.

11. National pastime

Hockey is the national winter sport of Canada while lacrosse is the national summer sport. To give you an indication of how Canadians love hockey, the Canada-US Men’s Gold Hockey Game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was the most watched television broadcast ever in Canadian history according to NHL.com. Meanwhile, the women’s hockey team has also been dominating the Olympics, winning gold medals, the most recent of which was at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.

Sources: Government of Canada site, canadafacts.org., Environment Canada, aboutnews,Canadian Heritage (at the Government of Canada site), montrealpoutine, Historica Canada, National Research Council of Canada, IMAX.com, and brighthub.com.

Back to top

Quiz

11 Basic facts about Canada

Back to top

We'd love to hear from you!

Please login to tell us what you think.

Related Learning Activities

Voting in Municipal Elections in Manitoba

Winnipeg City Hall, Manitoba Canada

Voting in any election may seem a little confusing at times. Municipal elections are no exception. Attend this workshop to… Read more »

Voting in Provincial Elections in Manitoba

Golden Boy on top of Manitoba Legislature

Voting in Federal Elections in Canada

red maple leaf with white check mark in the middle

Voting in Canada. Does the thought of this seem overwhelming or complicated? Join this workshop to learn how uncomplicated it… Read more »

Rights and responsibilities of Canadian residents and citizens

Image of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Attend this workshop to learn everything you need to know as a resident or citizen of Canada!

Back to top

CC BY-NC-SAText of this page is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, unless otherwise marked. Please attribute to English Online Inc. and link back to this page where possible. For images and videos, check the source for licensing information.