Why does Canada celebrate July 1st as our annual day of national pride, instead of July 4th? This goes back to the formation of our country on July 1st, 1867 when the British North American Act under Prime Minister John A. MacDonald made the federation of four provinces “the Dominion of Canada”. The year after, the Governor-General declared that July 1st would become our national holiday to be celebrated every year.
Canada comes from the Algonquin First Nations word “Kanata” which means “village”. Although we began as a nation founded on British and French citizens, along with the First Nations indigenous peoples who were here before us, we’re now proudly multi-cultural. Here are some general facts about Canada you may not already know:
- We’re the second largest country in the world, next to Russia. Canada covers 3.85 million square miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and north to the Arctic Ocean.
- We have a Canadian Forces Base at Alert, which is the true (and official) North Pole.
- The border between Canada and the United States is the world’s longest border, covering 5525 miles. It is also the world’s longest un-militarized border.
- We have 10 Provinces and 3 Territories (those are in the North). I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg is the exact geographical centre of North America, so halfway between the south of Mexico and the Arctic. The province of Manitoba is 250,900 square miles, so we’re just a tad smaller than Texas. We have 110,000 lakes just in Manitoba alone.
- We have four seasons here in Canada–we don’t live in frozen, snow-covered isolation all year round. We enjoy the spring, summer, and fall along with the rest of the world!
- We have a “Prime Minister” not a President. Canada is a Parliamentary Democracy, which means we have two “Houses” of lawmaking authority: the House of Commons in which elected representatives from “ridings” across the country pass law, and the Senate, which is an unelected body of people appointed by various Prime Ministers over the years.
- Our political parties are: the Conservatives (similar to US Republicans), the Liberals (similar to US Democrats) and The New Democrat Party or NDP for short. This party is also further to the political left than the Liberals.
- We are an officially bilingual country: we speak English and French, although the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick are where you’ll hear the most French spoken. There has been a resurgence of interest among First Nations peoples in bringing back their own languages and so some school districts are teaching Inuktitut, Cree, and Mi’maq languages.
- Auyuittuq National Park, on Baffin Island in northern Canada, is an untamed wilderness. Its Inuit name means “the land that never melts”. Auyittuq is home to Mount Asgard, the cliff that James Bond leaps from at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me. But more importantly, it’s also home to Mount Thor, the world’s tallest cliff.
- We don’t have “free” healthcare. We pay for our healthcare through our federal and provincial taxes. But any level of medical service is “free” at the time you need it. Brain surgery? Free. Cancer treatment? Free. Stitches on that skinned knee? Free. We pay for insurance coverage for dental and eye care and pay out of pocket for things like chiropractors, massage therapists, PT, OT or naturopaths.
Canadian Holidays and Traditions:
- We celebrate Thanksgiving on the second weekend in October. The first recorded Thanksgiving was in October 1578 when English explorer Martin Frobisher landed in what is now Newfoundland province. In 1879, Parliament declared November 6th our Thanksgiving Day. Parliament changed the date in 1957 because after the two World Wars, Thanksgiving was falling in the same week as our Remembrance Day on November 11th. So, they changed it to the second Monday in October to separate the two events.
- We call November 11th “Remembrance Day” because the ceasefire for the First World War was signed at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. This is a huge tradition in Canada and we mark it as a holiday across the country with military parades and a military service at what we call “Cenotaphs” to remember our fallen war dead.
Specific Canadian Foods:
- Our best known is “Poutine”: French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. This delicacy has roots in Quebec and is a French invention. We enjoy it across Canada. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
- “Beaver Tails”: broad, flat, sweet dough deep-fried and smothered in icing sugar, syrup, or fruit toppings and eaten off a cardboard plate. Primarily eaten at Winter Festivals or Summer Fairs.
Some of our Similarities and Differences:
- Our history of “How the West was Won” differs from yours. We sent the Northwest Mounted Police out west to deal with pioneer safety and settlements. This was the precursor to our current Federal police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). We didn’t use our army, and we’ve never had Sheriffs or Marshalls because law enforcement was done broadly by the NWMP. However, because of that, we have no well-known folk heroes like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, or Wyatt Earp either.
- You have the FBI, the Secret Service, and Homeland Security–we have the RCMP which deals with all those same duties. The RCMP is also the provincial police force everywhere except in Ontario and Quebec, which have their own.
- You have the CIA–we have the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) which answers only to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
- You have SEALS, Army Rangers, Delta Force–we have “Joint Task Force 2” or JTF2 which is our integrated Special Operations forces that combine the Air Force, Navy, and Army. It is illegal to report on their whereabouts.
- You have the NSA–we have the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) which is our “super-secret” security agency.
All of this goes along with our Canadian reputation for being quiet, unobtrusive, and apologizing a lot. Our society isn’t “showy”. We’re proud of our country’s history even though we’ve made mistakes along the way, notably with our First Nations peoples. I hope you’ve learned something new about Canada. And if you’d like to read a story about Canada’s arctic tundra, you can find it in my book NORTHERN DECEPTION, out now with Anaiah Press.
After a savage attack in university, Kira Summers fled to the safety of northern Canada and her work as a polar bear scientist. But when her whistleblower brother dies in a mysterious car crash, she must return home to bury him and pack his belongings. Unaware she’s carrying explosive evidence someone’s willing to kill for, she has no choice but to rely on the one person she never thought she’d see again.
Lukas Tanner, a widowed single father of a special needs toddler, moved to Churchill five years ago. As the proud owner of Guiding Star Enterprises, a wilderness tour company, he and his daughter lead a simple life. But when Kira comes crashing back into his world, he realizes God has other plans. Now, Lukas and Kira must confront a merciless killer as their past and present collide in a deadly race—a race they must win if they have any hope of a future together.
BOOK LINK: Amazon