Canada has not been in complete favor with Americans recently
due to various current events, such as the Northern neighbor’s
decision not to participate in the Iraqi War and more
recently its controversial plans to ease up on marijuana
laws. But this hasn’t affected U.S. families who
have relatives residing in Canada. For them, visits across
the border are frequent—and welcome.
There are U.S./Canada border stations set up from coast
to coast. Crossing them requires some identification
but it’s usually a quick process for citizens
of either country. Crossings are generally a short distance
over a bridge or, as in the Detroit-Windsor passage,
Anyone who’s traveled there knows that life in
Canada is very similar to life in the U.S.. They find
familiar store names, the same style of dress, the same
holiday weekends, and the same lifestyles in many cases.
So why is it that Americans seem to know so little
about their neighbors to the North?
There are a number of reasons. Canada, despite being
the second-largest country in the world in land area
(Russia is the only one bigger), has only 30 million
people compared with over 200 million in the U.S.. California
has a bigger population than Canada. Canada is also
much younger, having become a country only 136 years
ago in 1867 (though, much like the U.S., it celebrates
its independence in early July; Canada Day is July 1).
The above information and a lot more can be found out
by exploring Web sites. Start by checking out http://www.canada.worldweb.com,
where you’ll find articles, information, a photo
gallery, Web cams, and an interactive map.
Another good place to begin a discovery tour is at
the Government of Canada’s Web site at http://canada.gc.ca,
where you’ll find links to a wealth of information
about Canada. What you’ll notice first is that
you have to choose the language you want to view the
site in. Since Canada is officially bilingual, you’ll
find that the French language is quite prevalent, especially
within the government, where the law requires that both
languages be used. You’ll notice food products
contain both languages as well.
Besides wondering if everyone in Canada speaks French
(French is the mother tongue of only 25 percent of the
Canadian population), what else do Americans want to
know about Canada? The images most connected to Canada
(in Americans’ minds) are snow ... beavers ...
the maple leaf ... Molson ... and Mounties.
Those things are definitely part of the culture of
Canadians. But there’s more, much more. Visit
the Culture Canada Web site at http://culturecanada.gc.ca.
Delve into various areas of history, beginning many
centuries ago when the country was populated with native
peoples. You’ll be able to follow the history
through the British colonization and eventually its
formation as a country, when the United Empire Loyalists
formed English Canada.
Whether you’re looking for information on society,
government, land, or economy, or information on such
topics as veterans, Canada’s space program, or
health, you’ll find it at this site.
You might prefer to check out information that’s
not posted by the government. There’s a vast array
of sites you’ll find of interest. You can actually
tour Canada from your computer at http://www.tourcanada.com/tours.htm.
The site takes you along some of the more famous sites
in the country. Start off at #1 to get some facts about
Canada and its provinces (the equivalent of states),
then check out each spot along the map for some sightseeing,
where you’ll gain even more knowledge about the
country and some of its highlights.
There’s also a Canadiana resource page at http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/Unofficial/Canadiana
that’s got a wealth of information. You’ve
probably already seen some of this information, but
look for some of the unique things, such as the lyrics
to “In Flanders Fields,” which is a famous
war poem written by Canadian John McCrea. Sports, music,
and educational highlights are also offered through
As you surf, you’ll likely notice that words
like “neighbour” are spelled with a “u”
in them. That’s because Canada has traditionally
used the British spelling. Canadians have done that
since 1890, when John A. Macdonald (the first Prime
Minister) ruled in “favour” of the “u”
so that the same system would be used throughout all
of the British Empire. You’ll also find that there
are many words that are exclusively Canadian. Canadians
turn on the tap and not the faucet. They also use the
metric system, so you’ll find highway signs in
kilometers, not miles, and milk in liters, not gallons.
Of course, you won’t find as many discrepancies
in things like newspapers, which follow a style guide.
American television is also prevalent in Canadian homes.
Canada did, however, pass a law requiring Canadian stations
to provide a certain percentage of Canadian content.
Though Canada is not as advanced in television and
movies, more and more Canadian productions are becoming
available. Remember the popularity of Due South on American
stations a few years back? The show, about a Canadian
Mountie in Chicago, was the first Canadian-made series
to earn a prime-time slot on a major U.S. network. It
explored some of the stereotypes that exist between
Canada and the United States. You can view the official
Due South Web site at http://www.duesouth.com
or go to one of the many other sites dedicated to the
show at http://home.hiwaay.net/~warydbom/duesouth.htm.
Mountie is actually a slang term for Royal Canadian
Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP is unique in that it
is a national, federal, provincial, and municipal policing
body providing policing services to all provinces except
Ontario and Quebec. Sir John A. MacDonald formed the
RCMP in Canada’s early days to maintain order
in what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan. Learn more
by checking out the RCMP home page at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/index_e.htm.
Genealogists may be familiar with http://www.cyndislist.com/gencan.htm,
a Web site that offers a vast amount of information
about Canadian genealogy information. Though not a Canadian
site, its categorized and cross-referenced index to
genealogical resources on the Internet is one of the
best resources for Canadian genealogy found online.
Still looking for those things that make Canada Canadian?
Like Tim Horton’s coffee, Molson Canadian beer,
and Canadian back bacon? What about the beaver and the
maple leaf? Odds are, you’ll find some of this
information on the more than 300 pages at Canada Info
Don’t miss the link on Canadian-isms to find out
some of the lingo that’s special to Canadians.
Still haven’t seen enough? There’s a wealth
of information at Oh Canada at http://www.ualberta.ca/~bleeck/canada,
which says it is attempting to define what it is to
be Canadian through looking at the multicultural fabric,
history, symbols, and values of the country.
Getting back to understanding how Canada deals with
political and world issues (such as Prime Minister Chretien’s
stand on the war in Iraq), you’ll find information
Take the time to explore these Canadian sites, and
next time there’s a question about Canada on one
of those television game shows, you’ll be one
American who knows the answers.