Canada is virtually a permanent addition to the top of the rankings for the best place to live so its no surprise that it attracts a lot of Immigrants. We'll attempt to give as much information about one of the largest and most breathtaking countries on the planet as we can.
Canada is located in North America and stretches all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific, being made up of ten Provinces and three Territories. To the North is the Artic ocean; Davis Strait on the North East separates it from Greenland, to the East is the Atlantic Ocean; the South is bordered by the United States of America and the West by the Pacific Ocean and Alaska.
Canada is a country of outstanding natural beauty and has a wide variety of landscapes; the mountains, the prairies, lakes and rivers. With a total land mass of 9,984,670 sq km (3,855,103 sq mi), Canada is the second largest country in the world. There are more lakes and inland waters in Canada than any other country, in fact 7.6% or 755,180 sq km (291,577 sq mi) is made up of fresh water.
The monetary unit is the Canadian Dollar. It is made up of cents with 100 cents making 1 Canadian dollar. There are 1 cent coins usually called a penny, 5 cent coins usually called a nickel, 10 cent coins called a dime, 25 cent coins called a quarter, 1 dollar coins called a loonie and two dollar coins called a twoonie. The notes or bills are in 5 dollar, 10 dollar, 20 dollar, 50 dollar and 100 dollar denominations.
All motor vehicles are driven on the right hand side of the road and are left hand drive. Each Province or Territory is responsible for its own driving laws and regulations so each system is covered in great detail through each main Provincial page - including the Auto Insurance. With such extremes of weather, I'll recommend that you also read the section on winter driving. This along with all the detailed information on each of the Provinces can be found by following the links below:
Canada has a population of 30,007,094 (2001 Census), compared with 28,846,761 (1996 Census) which shows a 4% increase. Most of the population lives in the cities and most of these are located in the South of the country; about three quarters of the population live within about 300 kms of the U.S border. The most populated Provinces are Ontario and Quebec with Toronto being the most populated city. Due to the size of the country, the most convenient method of travel is by Air, even then, to travel across the country can take 5 hours! Westjet Airlines started flying internally to give competition to Air Canada as a low cost alternative and their fantastic success has led Air Canada to the brink of bankruptcy. Now offering flights both internally and around North America - click the banner to see what has made them one of the most successful airlines in North America.
There are two official languages - English and French - and Montreal in Quebec is the world's largest French-speaking city outside of France. All of the services offered by the Federal Government are in English and French. Almost every product you buy has English and French on the labels and most public services are available in both languages. Outside of Quebec the majority of people speak English; about 18 percent of Canadians are fluently bilingual.
The First Nations or Indian people were the original inhabitants of Canada and the name comes from their language and means "Village" or "Community". The Vikings, who arrived in the 11th century and didn't stay for long, were the first Europeans to land in Canada.
More Europeans arrived in the 16th century bringing with them manufactured goods which they traded for furs and native products - because of this they were made welcome by the indigenous people.
The two main groups of European settlers were the French, who came first, and then the English. Despite France losing its part of the territory to Britain in a war in 1760, many of the French speaking people stayed. In 1867, three colonies of Britain merged in an event called Confederation; this created a partially independent state of four Provinces. Six more Provinces and three Territories have since been added and in 1931 full independence was achieved. Canada still belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations.
Canada is a Democratic Federation and has both a Federal and Provincial Governments. The responsibilities and powers are divided between the Federal and Provincial Governments which make for a complex
Political System in Canada.
Public education is the responsibility of each Provincial Government (please refer to our Provincial pages for more information) and is paid for through taxes. Public education is free and all children are required by law to attend school from the age of 6 years until they are 15 or 16, the majority of students continue until they are 18 and graduate high school with a high school diploma.
Although not compulsory most children will start school with Kindergarten at the age of 5. This is usually 5 days of mornings or afternoons per week. At the age of 6 years they will attend elementary school (Grade 1 - Grade 6). Some Provinces have a middle or junior high school (Grade 7 - Grade 9) and then finally high school (Grade 10 - Grade 12).
The main languages of instruction are English and French.
There is also the option of private schools and home schooling available in some Provinces. When registering your child at the local school or school board you should take their previous school records, birth certificate, vaccination certificate and the permanent resident card.
Each of the links below will take you to the dedicated information page for that particular Province:
Canada has a public health care system; essential medical treatment is available to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Although the health care systems are run by the Provincial ministries of health, the Federal Government sets the standards for health care across the country.
There are three Provinces that charge healthcare premiums (BC, Alberta & Ontario). In the other Provinces and Territories healthcare is paid for through taxes. In some Provinces there is a three month waiting period before you qualify for healthcare, (refer to the Provincial pages for more information)so you should make sure that you have insurance to cover any medical expenses for this period.
Law and Order
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is the national police service, which serves and protects the public, enforcing the laws set out by the Canadian parliament. Although the force originates from a mounted police force that relied on horses to transport them across the vast expanses of Canada, they are now a modern police force. Ontario and Quebec choose to operate their own provincial police forces.
In addition to the RCMP there are local police forces. Most cities now operate their own Police Forces with the RCMP policing towns and rural area's.
One major piece of information that every newcomer to Canada should know is that the emergency services are contacted by dialling 911. The operators will ask for the service you require, your location and the nature of the incident. Many area's operate a joint Fire fighting/Ambulance service (commonly known as EMS - emergency medical service).