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At approximately 10 million square kilometres, Canada is the second largest country in the world. It spans five and a half time zones and is bordered by three oceans. Canada's width from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean is more than 7,700 kilometres and would take two weeks to drive across. Canada can be divided into six main geographical regions: The Atlantic Provinces, The Canadian Shield, The Great Lakes-St Lawrence Lowlands, The Interior Plains, The Cordillera and The Great White North. Much of Canada's land has never been permanently settled and remains only partly inhabited with an average of only three people for every square kilometre. It is estimated that there is more than 14.5 hectares of forest for every person in Canada.


Canada has four distinct seasons and the climate varies considerably from region to region. The warmest areas are on the US border, where summers are longer and winters are shorter. July and August are the warmest months across the whole country, with temperatures reaching from mid to high 20C. There tends to be more summer rain on the west and east coasts and of course the far north has extremely long daylight hours. Canadian winters are long and cold with more than two thirds of the country having an average temperature of –18C in January. Major cities are not quite so cold but temperatures are generally below freezing. Snowfall is frequent and is especially heavy in the central regions. 


Average Max Temperature °C Jan July SnowFall (cms)
Vancouver, BC 5.7 21.7 54.9
Calgary, AB -3.6 23.2 135.4
Toronto,QN -1.3 26.5 135
Montreal,QC -5.8 26.2 214.2
Halifax, NS -1.5 23.4 261.4
Yellowknife,NT -23.9 20.8 143.9
Regina, SK -11 26.3 107.4
Winnipeg, MB -13.2 26.1 114.8
Frederkton, NB -4 25.6 294.5
St Johns, NF -1.4 20.2 322.1
Whitehouse, YT -14.4 20.3 145.2
Source: Statistics Canada

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Population and Settlement

Canada's population is approximately 35.3 million (January 2014). An uneven population distribution places 79% of Canadians in urban areas. Economic and climatic pressures also mean that over 80% of the population is within 250 km of the US border and 90% of Canadians live on 12% of the country's land. The indigenous Canadians (Inuit, North American Indian and Metis) make up only 3.7% of the population. In recent years there has been a substantial change in the countries from which immigrants have come. An increasing proportion is from non-European countries, with those from Asia accounting for the largest share of recent arrivals. Immigrants, representing about 17.5% of the population, are not evenly dispersed with most living in just four provinces - Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta.


Region Estimated Resident Population
Ontario 13 million
Quebec 7.8 million
British Columbia 4.4 million
Alberta 3.6 million
Manitoba 1.3 million
Saskatchewan 1.1 million
Nova Scotia 950,000
New Brunswick 750,000
Newfoundland and Labrador 510,000
Prince Edward Island 140,000
Northwest Territories 45,000
Yukon 32,000
Nunavut 35,000
Canada 33.6 million
Source: Statistics Canada –July 2009(estimates)


English and French are the official languages of Canada. However, 58% of Canadians consider English their first language and it is the principal language in most provinces and territories with the exception in the province of Quebec, where French is predominantly used.

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Christianity is the faith most widely professed, with Roman Catholic and Protestant the most common denominations.

Political System

In 1867 the provinces now known as Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined together in Confederation to create the new country of Canada. Further provinces joined later, and Canada as we know it has only existed since 1949, when Newfoundland voted to join. The federal system of government means that powers and responsibilities are divided between the federal government and the 10 Canadian provincial governments. Canada also has territorial jurisdictions in the far north of the country. The provinces are largely self-governing and are presided over by premiers elected within each province.

The form of government in Canada is a constitutional monarchy. A parliamentary system with the official head of state being Queen Elizabeth II, whose representative within Canada is the Governor General. The Canadian Parliament consists of the House of Commons and the Senate and the Parliament buildings are located in Ottawa. The House of Commons, made up of 308 members, is the national legislature elected by Canadian citizens. Members of parliament are usually associated with a political party, although some members do sit independently. The Senate is the Upper House of Parliament, with Senators appointed by the Governor General upon recommendation by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons and selects Ministers to form the Cabinet, who in effect run the country and initiate legislation. Federal elections occur every five years. All Canadians aged 18 and over may vote. For further information please visit www.canada.gc.ca

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Law and Justice

Canada's Constitution Act (1982) forms the basis of the country's legal system, by listing the jurisdictions over which federal and provincial governments have exclusive lawmaking authority. The Criminal Law is a federal body of law that prohibits certain kinds of conduct and actions that are considered to be an offence against society as a whole. The Civil Law governs conflict between the individual and other private parties such as contract disputes, property, wills, certain areas of family law and civil rights. In most of Canada, civil law is based on common law, which originated in England. This law is based on tradition: a legally binding judicial decision which sets a precedent which is then followed in similar cases in future. Quebec, however, is governed by le droit civil which has its roots in France and involves consultation of a written code first and then considers precedents set by earlier decisions.


Canada has one of the largest and fastest growing free-market economies in the industrialised world. Over and above the effects of the 2008-09 global recession, Canada's GDP grew more in line with that of the USA, narrowing the historic gap with its more industrialised neighbour". Service industries now employ three out of four Canadians and generate two thirds of the GDP. More and more, Canadians work in offices, stores or warehouses rather than farms, mines, mills or factories. Canada's economic well-being is tied to many factors: the wealth of natural resources; the strength of its manufacturing and construction industries; the health of the financial & service sectors; the ability to span distances using communications and transportation technologies; dynamic trade relationships with other nations; and the ability to compete in a global marketplace. Advances in technology, the increased globalisation of markets and the emergence of liberal trading regimes are fundamentally changing the way Canada conducts business. Long removed from an economy based almost exclusively on natural resources, Canada is rapidly moving toward a knowledge-based economy built on innovation and technology. Canada actively participates in international trading and through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Canada is a vital part of the huge integrated North American market of almost 400 million consumers. As such the United States is Canada's largest trading partner, accounting for more than 80% of exports. Canada also enjoys trading relationships with many other countries, due to strong historical ties with Europe and access to Asian economies. For more information please visit www.canadianeconomy.gc.ca

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To support a generous health and social security service, Canadians have to pay high income taxes. Income tax includes Federal and Provincial taxes, of which a certain percentage is first paid to the Federal government and then a percentage of that to the Provincial government. Canada has a graded system of income tax, with four levels of Federal tax (based on annually changing income levels). Provincial taxes vary greatly between the provinces, for example, Alberta has a flat 10% provincial tax on income, whereas British Columbia has five levels of provincial income tax. The average home owning Canadian family can pay up to 44% of its annual income in taxes. These include a variety of taxes such as income tax, sales tax, property tax, automobile, social security, and medical taxes. Local taxes include property taxes based on the value of your property and are used to fund public schools, the local police and other services. The Excise Tax Act (the ETA) imposes the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) on most goods and services consumed in Canada, at the rate of 5%, and in the participating provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland & Labrador, at the rate of 13%. For more information please visit www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca

Social Security

Canada has a comprehensive social security network for families, the elderly, aboriginal peoples and virtually anyone in Canada who may need it. Social security is provided through both federal and provincial programs. Many young families are entitled to Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) - a tax-free monthly payment to eligible families (to assist with the cost of raising children under 18). The Old Age Security program is one of the cornerstones of Canada's retirement income system and provides a modest pension for people at age 65 if they have lived in Canada for at least 10 years. Though Canada has a generous social security system, it comes at high cost to employees. Unemployment insurance and pension plan contributions are deducted from an employee's pay cheque. For more information visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca

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Health Care

Canada's health system is the responsibility of the provincial governments but the federal government also contributes funds. The health system is funded through taxes and residents don't have to "pay" directly for most health care services. Access to healthcare is guaranteed to all, however, most provinces will not cover newly landed migrants for the first three months, during which time private insurance should be taken. In most provinces, the health system does not cover the cost of prescription drugs, dental care, ambulance services and prescription eyeglasses. To access the benefits of the health system, you need to apply for your Health Insurance Card as soon as you are eligible. Each member of a family needs his or her own card. For more information visit www.hc-sc.gc.ca


Canada has excellent and fully funded public and independent schools and a network of acclaimed private schools. Education is a provincial responsibility, which means there are significant differences between the education systems of the different provinces. However, standards across the country are uniformly high. French speakers have the right to be educated in French anywhere in Canada, but in Quebec all children must attend French school. Education is a priority and Canada spends more per capita on its education system than any other country in the G8.

Children under 5 can attend licensed (private) day-cares or nursery schools to learn basic social and reading skills. All children begin grade 1 at an elementary or primary school at about 6 years of age. The school year normally runs from September to June but in some instances, January intake dates are possible. From grades 8 or 9, up to grades 11, 12 or 13 (depending on the province), students attend secondary or high school. Secondary schools can be either academic (preparing students for university) or vocational (those not opting for post secondary education). Private schools must meet provincial guidelines, though they receive little provincial funding and fees are usually high. From secondary school, students may attend university, college or C?gep studies (In Quebec). C?gep is a French acronym for College of General and Vocational Education, and is two years of general or three years of technical education between high school and university. Fees for tertiary studies differ depending on the province, institution and program of study but most courses are partly subsidised through taxes. For more information visit www.cmec.ca

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Canadians drive on the right. The road system is very extensive and well maintained, which is just as well because of the snowy and icy conditions in winter. Foreign driving licences are valid for 30 days to six months, depending on the province. Before this time all drivers must go to their local Driver Examination Centre for a vision, written and road test. For more information visit www.tc.gc.ca 

Transport, Communication and Media

A widely dispersed population across an enormous country means Canadians have to rely on transport to get anywhere. The bus network is the most extensive public transport system available. Air travel within the country links most of the large towns and centres with smaller regional airlines covering small specialised areas and remote regions. International air services operate out of Vancouver in the West or Montreal, Toronto and Halifax in the East. Ferries provide services for the many lakes, islands and offshore provinces which are so much a part of Canada. The Canadian postal system is not particularly efficient and next-day delivery is not uncommon, even in the same region. Canada has two national newspapers, The National Post and The Globe and Mail. Most large cities offer two or more daily papers. Canadians have access to a wide range of television channels as part of their basic cable arrangement, and there are over 900 radio stations.

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Canada uses the AC 110 volts 60 cycle electrical system. For further details, visit www.electricity.ca


Single detached homes are the most common building type, accounting for over half of all Canadian houses. Predominantly wooden, these large homes generally include three or four bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, separate toilets, bathrooms and living room. In larger urban areas apartments or multiple-unit dwellings are more popular. When you are budgeting for your housing costs, you may have to allow as much as 35 to 50 per cent of your income. This should include the costs for such things as heating, utilities and laundry. Two-thirds of Canada's housing is owner occupied. Mortgage down payments range from 10% through to 25% depending on whether you opt for a government insurance policy that protects the lender. Rental properties are available either furnished or unfurnished but the latter will still include a refrigerator and stove. Some cities and provinces control how much landlords can charge for rent, thereby protecting the tenant. Rental conditions are heavily regulated and tend to favour the tenant. Leases are of no strict length of time and conditions are agreed upon between the landlord and tenant. Federal government policy allows for all Canadians to have assistance in finding affordable housing, specifically providing for loans at lower interest rates for low to mid income families or the elderly. For more information visit www.crea.ca 

For information on current property prices in Canada, please visit www.remax.ca and www.caldwellbanker.ca  

Importing Motor Vehicles

The total cost of importing a car to Canada, including compliance (ensuring the vehicle meets Canadian standards) and re-registration is so high that unless your vehicle is very special it is seldom worthwhile. No import duty will be levied on a car, motorcycle or boat brought in as part of your one-time settler's effects. For more information visit www.tc.gc.ca

Importing Cats and Dogs

Dogs and cats will be allowed in to Canada upon proof of rabies vaccination. To bring birds or other animals in it is necessary to obtain a certificate of good health. For more information visit www.inspection.gc.ca

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