An American's Guide to Canada: True Facts

The Government of Canada maintains quite a comprehensive site describing Canada's history, government, economy, geography, national symbols, and lots more. The fact sheets are very informative.

Looking for maps? Try the National Atlas of Canada.

Statistics

Statistics Canada is the best place to find out statistical information about Canada and Canadians. StatsCan is far more comprehensive an organization than the US Census Bureau. Some key differences between Canada and the States:
  • Canada has a lower infant mortality rate and a longer life expectancy.
  • Almost ten times as many people live in the States.
    Population of Canada, 1998:  30 675 398
    Population of the US, 1998: 270 311 756
  • Canada has 9,976,100 square kilometers; the United States has 9,372,600.
  • Canada spends more of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education and less on health care than the United States.
For more of this kind of information, poke around the StatsCan site and the US Census site. The CIA's World Factbook is also a good place to look.

A bit about government and politics

What Americans expect because they're Americans: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

What Canadians expect because they're Canadians: peace, order, and good government

  • The capital of Canada is Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is Canada's Head of State and the Queen of Canada. Her representative in Canada is the Governor General, currently Adrienne Clarkson.
  • Canada has a Parliament, not a Congress.
  • Parliament is divided into two chambers, the Senate and the House of Commons. Everyone in the Senate is appointed. Everyone in the House of Commons is elected.
  • The head of the majority party in Commons is the nation's prime minister and the Head of Government (currently Paul Martin, of the Liberal party). The deputy prime minister is Anne McLellan.
  • Instead of government bureaus, Canada has ministries.
  • There are several major political parties, the biggest of which are as follows: More about these and other parties, national, regional, and provincial, is available on the Canadian Political Parties/Partis politiques canadiens Web site.
That's the very basics. You can find out more at the "Government at a Glance" section of the Canadian government's Web site.

Random facts

  • Canada has more donut shops per capita than the United States does.
  • Canada's national animal is the beaver.
  • Canada's two official sports are lacrosse and hockey.
  • Canada's national colors are red and white.
  • Canadians consume more Kraft Dinner (aka Kraft Macaroni & Cheese) per capita than any other nationality on Earth.

Provinces and territories

Canada's land is divided into ten provinces and three territories, in five regions:
Atlantic Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Maritimes
Central Canada
Québec
Ontario
The prairies
Manitoba
Saskatchewan
The eastern part of Alberta
Western Canada
Western Alberta
British Columbia
The north
Yukon
Nunavut
Northwest Territories
These regions aren't official, by the way. They're provided just as a helpful frame of reference.

The links above are to pages that are akin to Coles Notes -- they're not comprehensive, but they provide a bit of information about each province or territory, along with pointers to where you can find more information.

Many of Canada's cities and provinces have nicknames:

Toronto
T.O., The Big Smoke, Hogtown, Muddy York
Vancouver (sometimes all of B.C.)
Lotusland, Hongcouver (referring to the large number of immigrants from Hong Kong)
Calgary
Cowtown
Edmonton
Deadmonton, Edmonchuk (referring to the large number of Ukranian families there)
Hamilton
Steeltown
Ottawa
Bytown (after Colonel By)
Sault Ste. Marie
The Soo
Winnipeg
The Peg, Winnepago, Winterpeg
Newfoundland
The Rock
St. Catharines
St. Kits
For pictures of notable things in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC, see the pictures page.

--Emily Way (emily_@_americansguide.ca)
Last updated September 12, 2005.

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