This year marks Canada’s 150th year of Confederation and we’re celebrating it all year long, not just on July 1st. I’m delighted to be here in Seekerville to share a quick Writers Guide to “what’s what” and “who’s who” in Canada. And, I’ll be here all day to answer any questions you may have about Canada that you’ve always wanted to know. So, let’s get to it!
- 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 our two countries is the world’s longest border, covering 5525 miles.
- 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.
- Don’t believe Wikipedia! 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 Prime Minister doesn’t live in the Parliament buildings, in the way your President lives in the White House. The Prime Minister has his personal official residence at 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario.
- Our Provinces are led by “Premiers” which is the French word for “first” – so the Premier is the “First Minister” of the Province. We don’t have Governors.
- Our political parties are: the Conservatives (similar to your Republicans), the Liberals (similar to your Democrats) and The New Democrat Party or NDP for short. This party is also further to the political left than the Liberals.
- The Prime Minister is our Head of Government, whereas our Head of State is our Governor-General who represents the Queen. He/she (we’ve had several female Governor-Generals) performs State functions on her behalf.
- While Canada is part of the Commonwealth – or sixteen independent and sovereign countries that call Queen Elizabeth our Constitutional Monarch – she is purely symbolic and has no executive power over Canada or other member countries. So, why do we have her as our Head of State? The short answer: Canada decided back in 1867 when we became a “Dominion” under the British Empire we would reflect the British model of parliament, and the monarchy is part of it.
- How do Canadians feel about the Royal Family and the Queen? I couldn’t find any specific statistics but overall, judging by the huge crowds that surround any Royal visit to Canada, we love them.
- 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. This means you should be able to receive any government services in the language you prefer.
- 22.1 million people call themselves Christians, or two-thirds of our population. 1 million people identify as Muslims, or about 3.2% of our population.
- 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.
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 service at what we call “Cenotaphs” to remember our fallen war dead.
- Winter carnivals and festivals are all celebrated across the country in February. We have snow sculpture competitions, snowshoeing, skating, cross-country skiing, sled dog races, food, dancing, and rides and Ferris wheels. Here in Winnipeg, our “Festival du Voyageur” celebrates the French explorers and fur traders who opened up northern Manitoba in the 1700’s, their culture, and history.
- We love “Folk Festivals” and have them across the country in the summer time. In Winnipeg, our “Folklorama” is the world’s largest and longest-running multicultural festival and takes place every August. You can find forty countries represented in Pavilions around the city, sharing their food, dancing, and music.
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. Eaten at Winter Festivals.
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.
Canadian Authors & Writing Organizations:
- For our interests, our most famous Canadian is Janette Oke, who just celebrated her birthday on February 18th. She is considered the pioneer of inspirational fiction, and the “Prairie romance”. She was born on the Prairies to a farm family and later married a boy she met at Bible College.
- Some other famous Canadians authors are Margaret Atwood (The Handmaids Tale), Yann Martel (Life of Pi), L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables), Emma Donoghue (The Room), Robert Munsch (just about every popular children’s book), and Malcolm Gladwell (The Outlier).
- ACFW has a Chapter called Beyond the Borders which includes Canada and any country outside the US. The current President is from New Zealand.
- RWA is represented by the Toronto Romance Writers, Greater Vancouver Chapter, the Calgary Chapter, the Ottawa Chapter, and the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.
What About Our Canadian Accent?
- The correct way to use the expression “Eh” is as the up-tick at the end of a question, e.g. “That was a fantastic hockey game, eh?” Saying “Wow, that was a great game, eh? Did you see him score, eh?” and repeating it at the end of every sentence is the *wrong* way to use it.
- No, we don’t say “a-boot” for “about”…the only place you *might* hear that would be Cape Breton off the coast of Nova Scotia in the Maritimes, because both the Cape and Nova Scotia were settled by the Scottish. The rest of Canada pronounces it “a-b-out” with an emphasis on the syllable of “out”.
So, what other questions do you have about Canada? Has anyone in Seekerville been to Canada? Where did you visit and what were your thoughts?
I’ve brought Beaver Tails swimming in maple syrup and whipped cream, so dig in and ask me anything!
In honor of Laurie's visit today, we're giving away a Seeker ebook of choice. Simply comment to be entered. Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition.
Laurie Wood is a military wife and the mother of two special needs adults. Her family has lived all across Canada. She writes inspirational romantic suspense and historicals, and placed Second in the TARA for 2016. She enjoys spinning, knitting, and walking her dogs when not chained to her laptop working on her latest WIP. Connect with Laurie on Facebook and Twitter.