Canada History, Language and Culture
History of Canada
The Indigenous peoples were the original inhabitants of Canada and are formed of three categories: Inuit, First Nations and Métis. The Indigenous population eventually began to decline as a consequence of Europe's colonisation. A large portion of people died of European diseases they lacked immunity to such as influenza and measles.
The first Europeans believed to reach Newfoundland were descendants of Norse seafarers who had settled in Iceland and Greenland during the ninth and 10th centuries; the second wave of European arrivals, led by the Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto (better known as John Cabot), were seeking a passage to Asia, in 1497. Over the next 100 years, attracted by rich fishing grounds, English and French commercial interests flocked to Newfoundland.
During the 17th century, the French accelerated trading with the New France Company. The creation of England's Hudson's Bay Company initiated a long period of rivalry, culminating in the Anglo-French Seven Years' War of the late 1750s to early 1760s; this ended with the surrender of the French-Canadian capital, Quebec, to the English forces. The Treaty of Paris, in 1763, gave all French territories in northeast America to the British.
Within two decades, however, the English had been ousted from their American colonies following defeat in the American War of Independence. Eastern Canada was then settled by loyalists from the USA holding allegiance to the defeated British Crown. In 1791, Canada was divided between regions occupied by the English-speaking and the longer-established French-speaking community, but the arrangement did not work and was replaced by a unified system.
In the mid-19th century, Canada was granted the status of a Dominion by the British Empire, with an autonomous government but with the British monarch as head of state. From 1968 to 1984, politics were dominated by the charismatic figure of Pierre Trudeau. Brian Mulroney was elected in 1984, and the Quebec issue (referring to the Quebec sovereignty movement) came to the fore once more. A 1995 referendum in Quebec resulted in an extremely narrow vote in favour of remaining inside Canada, although in 2006 the Canadian parliament agreed the Quebecois should 'form a nation within a united Canada'.
In 2015, Justin Pierre James Trudeau followed in the footsteps of his father and was named 23rd prime minister of Canada. As leader of the Liberal Party, Trudeau Jr. built a cabinet from an equal number of men and women, starting a trend towards a new liberal form of politics. Virtually every Trudeau initiative, from tax policy to legalising marijuana, has been at odds with the previous Conservative administration.
2017 marked the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation and the country celebrated this sesquicentennial with a series of special events over the course of the year.
Religion in Canada
Around 67% of the population belong to the Christian faith; most are Roman Catholic, followed by the United Church of Canada and Anglican denominations. There are numerous other active denominations and religions including Island, Hinduism and Sikhism.
Social Conventions in Canada
Handshaking predominates as the normal mode of greeting. Close friends often exchange kisses on the cheeks, particularly in French-speaking areas. Codes of practice for visiting homes are the same as in other Western countries: flowers, chocolates or a bottle of wine are common gifts for hosts, and dress is generally informal and practical according to climate. It is common for black tie and other required dress to be indicated on invitations. Exclusive clubs and restaurants often require more formal dress. Smoking has been banned in indoor public areas in all provinces except Alberta.
Language in Canada
Canada is officially bilingual (English and French). The use of the two languages reflects the country's mixed colonial history - Canada has been under both British and French rule. However, while the federal government must operate in both languages as much as is practical, use of each language outside government varies widely across the country.
In almost all of the province of Quebec, as well as parts of New Brunswick, French is the dominant language; in most of the rest of the country, English dominates. Montréal, Ottawa and Moncton have large concentrations of fluently bilingual people. Immigration has also changed the language picture considerably; while not official languages, Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic and other languages are often heard on the streets of Canada's largest cities.