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, of Canada’s total population of more than 35 million, a fifth are immigrants. In fact, based on the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), Canada is home to people from over 200 ethnic origins. Around 4.3 per cent of the total Canadian population reported an Aboriginal identity and 19.1 per cent belong to a visible minority. The largest groups among these visible minorities are South Asians, Chinese and Africans, followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese. (Learn more about Canada’s multiculturalism here).
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 Indian 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
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 watch a rendition of the anthem with lyrics 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.