Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bonne Fête du Canada!

So here I am in Brooklyn on Canada Day. In a show of national pride (and solidarity with my fellow ex-pats), I am sharing just a few tidbits about my fair and native land.
  • Population: 34 million. A nation that has always promoted immigration, Canada's population includes persons from more than 200 countries of origin. For the past 25 years, Canada has taken in more immigrants than either America or Australia.
  • Land Mass: 10 million square kilometres (4 million square miles)- the second largest on earth after Russia. This area is divided into 10 provinces and three territories:
  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Nunavut Territory
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon Territory
  • Capital: Ottawa, located in the province of Ontario.
  • Motto: A mare usque ad mare, which is based on Perek Ayin Beit (72) in Tehillim.
  • Symbol: The Beaver. Early Canadian commerce was reliant on the fur trade, with the beaver pelt as the trade's primary commodity.
  • Emblem: Maple Leaf. Maple products have remained staple exports throughout the country's history.
  • Colours: Red and White. As a colony of both France and England, Canada adopted the national colours of those countries.
  • Flag: The red maple leaf on a white background flanked by two red bars is recognizable internationally. Americans might be interested to note that there is no pledging allegiance to the flag in Canada, although no individual is prohibited from doing so if they wish.
  • Languages: English and French dialects. The accents for both are distinct, and the vocabulary includes many Canadianisms, E.g. chesterfield, tuque, depanneur. Many Canadians are trilingual, speaking the language of their family's country of origin in addition to English and French.
  • Sports: Lacrosse and Hockey. Hockey was officially legislated as the national winter sport in the 1990s; Lacrosse remains the national summer sport.
  • Anthem: O Canada. As befitting a bilingual country, the anthem can be sung in English or French. The standard practice in some provinces is to sing half of the anthem in French, half in English. You will note that Canada, unlike America, has no qualms about mentioning country and G-d in the same breath:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

  • Constitution: Peace, Order, and Good Government. Canada's constitution consists of several documents, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One important distinction between the Canadian and American constitutions is that the American constitution focusses on the rights and freedoms of individuals, whereas the Canadian constitution stresses the need to balance the rights and freedoms accorded the individual with the needs of the community at large. In other words, the greater social good is always the focal point, versus the wants and needs of individual citizens.
  • Political System: Parliamentary. The parliament consists of the Monarch, the Senate, and the House of Commons. Queen Elizabeth II currently acts as the monarch, and is represented at the federal level by the Governor General and and at the provincial level by each province's Lieutenant General.
Finally, why is today called Canada Day? On July 1, 1867, the Province of Canada was divided into two provinces, Quebec and Ontario, and joined together into a federation with the colonies (British) of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The day was referred to as Dominion Day until 1982, when Canada was granted its own constitution, thereby removing the British Parliament's ability to legislate for Canada. As mentioned above, the Queen still retains legal power in Canada, and acts as its figurehead.

Vive le Canada!

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