Canada is an immense country. It is very diverse in its people, its landscape, its climate, and its way of life. However, Canadians do share the same important values. These values guide and influence much of our everyday life. These are values of pride, a belief in equality and diversity and respect for all individuals in society. Women, men, children and seniors are all equally respected in Canada. Canadians may be different from each other but it is these shared values that make Canada a friendly, caring, peace loving and secure society in which to live.
For nine consecutive years (1994-2002), a United Nations survey found Canada to be among the top three places in the world to live. Conducted every year, the survey evaluates quality of life in 174 countries, using over 200 performance indicators. Canada earned particularly high marks for its access to education, high life expectancy (due to universal health care system); and low crime and violence rates. Canada continues to remain in the top five on the list. In addition, Canada’s largest cities — Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal — have been recognized as world-class cities in which to live and work, for their cleanliness and safety and for their cultural activities and attractive lifestyles.
In the 1996 census, about 19% of the population reported “Canadian” as their single ethnic origin, with 17% reporting British Isles-only ancestry and 9% French-only ancestry. About 10% reported a combination of British Isles, French, or Canadian origin, with another 16% reporting an ancestry of British Isles, French or Canadian in combination with some other origin. Some 28% reported origins other than the British Isles, French or Canadian.
In 1996, about 3% of Canadians belonged to one or more of the three Aboriginal groups recognized by the Constitution Act, 1982: North American Indian, Métis, or Inuit. Of this percentage, about 69% are North American Indian, 26% Métis, and 5% Inuit.
By 2017, 23% of Canada’s population will consist of visible minorities. China and India are Canada’s two largest sources of immigrants, but others include Korea, the Middle East and Western Asia. The country’s official policy of multiculturalism allows people to celebrate their ethnic heritage as well as promotes racial and social harmony. The effect has created a diversity of cultures, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, where the most of the minorities live.
According to a recent census, more than four-fifths of Canadians are Christian, with Catholics accounting for about 45% of the population and Protestants about 35%. Other religions include Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Some 12.5%, more than any single denomination except Roman Catholic, have no religious affiliation at all.
Canadians are proud of their multicultural heritage. In Canada, many different cultural and ethnic groups live and work together in harmony and tolerance. Canada’s diversity is encouraged by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. These laws say that all Canadians are free to promote and share our multicultural heritage.
Another major component of Canada’s multicultural heritage is the existence of aboriginal people in Canada. Aboriginal people lived in Canada thousands of years before the first immigrants arrived. Aboriginal people of Canada enjoy certain additional rights to protect their cultures and languages and to become self-governing.
St. Catharine’s has an annual Folk Arts Festival in May of each year that features a parade and open houses sponsored by locals from countries around the world. These open houses feature music, dancing, artifacts, and food from the countries represented. It’s a great way to learn about the many cultures represented in St. Catharine’s!
Canada has two official languages: English, the mother tongue of about 59% of Canadians; and French, the first language of 23% of the population. A full 18% have either more than one mother tongue or a mother tongue other than English or French, such as Chinese, Italian, German, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Arabic, Dutch, Tagalog, Greek, Vietnamese, Cree, Inuktitut, or other languages.
The Official Languages Act makes French and English the official languages of Canada and provides for special measures aimed at enhancing the vitality and supporting the development of English and French linguistic minority communities. Canada’s federal institutions reflect the equality of its two official languages by offering bilingual services.