Did you know that Canada is the second largest country in the world? The only country larger is Russia (unless you’re looking at an American map – sometimes they try to make their country look bigger than Canada!)! The population of Canada is 33 million. That’s a small population for such a large country. Most people – 90% of Canadians – live within 200 km of the American border. Large parts of the country, especially in the north, are uninhabited. The southernmost point in Canada is just south of the northern Californian border! It’s called Point Pelee and it juts out into Lake Erie (one of the five Great Lakes that separate Ontario from the U.S.).
Our national anthem is O Canada!
People think Canada is cold all year round. It is cold – in the winter. In the summer it actually gets quite warm! We can go from 30 degrees Celsius in the summer to -30 degrees Celsius in the winter. We get all four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. Unfortunately, winter is the longest season – it begins in later November or early December and continues until March, sometimes even April!
The symbol on our flag is the maple leaf (the leaf of the maple tree). The maple leaf has been a symbol of Canada ever since the first Europeans settled here. The maple tree grows all over Canada, and Native Americans learned how to harvest the sap every spring and showed the European settlers how to do it. Have you ever tried maple syrup (the sap from the maple tree)? It is so delicious! I love maple syrup on pancakes, Tim Horton’s maple donuts, and especially maple sugar candies!
Native Americans are the people who lived here before the Europeans arrived. They are native or indigenous to the Americas. Sometimes they are called Indians, Aboriginals, or First Nations people. Most indigenous people in Canada prefer to be called First Nations. They are different from the Inuit (Eskimos) who live in the northern part of the country.
Canadian towns and cities are often named after British places or people (Richmond, Victoria, Newmarket, Stratford, Churchill), European cities (London, Waterloo, Paris – yes, there is a Paris, Canada!) or are Native American words (Petawawa, Kapuskasing, Toronto, Ottawa). We also have some very unique place names: Moose Jaw, Yellowknife, Snowball, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Whitehorse, to name a few! There used to be a city called Berlin, but its name was changed to Kitchener after the First World War.
Most people think Toronto is the capital city of Canada, but the capital is actually Ottawa! It is named after the Odawa people who were Algonquian Indians and lived in the area. It is said to mean ‘traders.’
Canada is also a native word – it was the Huron-Iroquois (a native tribe) word for village or settlement. This was the subject of a “Heritage Moments” commercial that was on TV a few years ago. It shows the French explorer Jacques Cartier meeting the natives in 1534:
We have two national sports – lacrosse and hockey! Lacrosse was once a popular sport played by Native Americans (though it had a deeply spiritual significance). However, hockey is by far the most popular sport in the country. Since1859, lacrosse had been our official national sport – but the government changed that in 1994, declaring hockey as our national winter sport and lacrosse our national summer sport!
There are 10 provinces (like a state) and 3 territories. Provinces each have their own independent governments; the territories used to be administered directly by the Canadian government, but they are now becoming much more independent. The 3 territories – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut – are in the northern part of the country. They cover 40% of the entire country, but have only 3% of the total population of Canada.
The easternmost provinces – New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island) – are called The Maritimes. The provinces in the middle and in the west – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta – are called The Prairies.
We don’t really have any national cuisine – we’ll eat anything! Canadians love food from around the world – Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian – and we love to drink beer! If you come to Canada you must try: Tim Horton’s coffee, a beaver tail (no, not an actual beaver tail; it’s a dessert!) and poutine (a concoction that originated in Quebec and consists of french fries, gravy and cheese curds!).
There is truly no other country like Canada in the world!