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A Newcomer's Guide to Canadian Culture

With such an immense geographical scale and often widely dispersed population, it is hardly surprising that Canada should have a culture of such variety that it is not easy to categorise. Like its southern neighbour, its population derives from a rich mixture of indigenous peoples, (themselves split between many localised groups), as well as settlers from a host of different countries, races and religions. 

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, we offer the following observations and examples of modern Canadian culture, which we hope will help you in your own discovery of this amazing country.

Ice Hockey

This is a hugely popular feature of Canadian culture and possibly the one that unites Canadians more than any others. Hockey is to Canadians, what rugby is to New Zealanders. They play it as youngsters in the streets and they pack the stadiums to bursting point to roar on their favourite team.

  Original Canadians

There are over 600 ethnic groups or tribes known as the "First Nations", who along with the Inuit (of the icy north) and the Metis (of indigenous-French hereditary) comprise the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The attitude of immigrant Canadians to these peoples has varied through time, just as the cultures of these peoples themselves have evolved. During recent decades, laws have been passed bringing the indigenous peoples more into mainstream Canadian society, however there is still much work to be done to address such issues as their relative poverty, poor education and their outstanding claims for land or financial redress. An example of Canada's pride in its indigenous culture is shown by the emblem for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, part of which is an Inuit rock sculpture.

Not American

Canadians are very proud of the things that distinguish them from Americans, partly because they are frequently mistaken by foreigners for Americans. This can take trivial forms, as when Canadians pour scorn on the more extreme and trashy elements of American films or TV, but it can have its more serious side, when Canadians take a stand on a moral issue such as protection of the environment or peace-keeping, rather than invasion, in war-torn countries.


Mosaic Culture

Because of its largely immigrant base, many Canadians feel that their country is not characterised by one generalised culture, but by a mosaic of different ones. There is the Quebecois culture with its strong European atmosphere, which often appears the most lively, or vocal, of Canada's cultures. There are strong Asian influences now in the cultures of main cities like Vancouver and Toronto, reflected in the changing trends in cuisine and fashion. Well recognised too is the Newfoundland or "Newfie" culture of the far east of the country, which stresses the rugged, traditional nature of the people of that region. There is the "prairie culture" of the central part of Canada, also with its own distinct outlook tempered by its prevailing geographical conditions. Perhaps more than anything, it is testament to "Canadian Culture", that Canadians appear so welcoming and accepting to all these diverse and varied cultural influences. A fine example of this is the Cultural Profile Project – a guide for Canadians to the background of new settlers from over 100 countries. (see www.cp-pc.ca)



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