Hello from the other side, good readers, and welcome to today’s subject on Stuff. Here my main ringing objective is to kick you some knowledge about some country in the world, which in each post will differ, and to get you to appreciate a bit more of our lonely planet. Our subject today will be Canada, O Canada … then followed by “How lovely are your branches” which sounds like a silly attempt at replacing a powerful national lyric with a Christmas carol. Although, there is a big red maple leaf on the Canuck flag, and I’m not talking about hockey (note: Kanuck was an American term used initially in the 1800s to refer to Canadian people, then later on the “k” was dropped for a “c” and now the professional team spells it just as I did, Canuck, and the rest is history).
For this post, I will do a Part One and Two because of the length in which all the information will be expressed. At the bottom, I will put a link to the second Part, in addition to right here.
If you happen to be from North Dakota, Minnesota, or maybe upstate New Hampshire you might know a thing or two about the real Canada, off of these pages (screens), and depending on how you pronounce you’re double “oo’s” you’re practically Canadian, to begin with. I understand there may be some readers from the north side (whoop!) of the border that could eventually read this humble statement of mine some time down the line, so here’s to getting it all right!
Hills have eyes, hills have eyes … The Weeknd voice …
First off, you don’t have to be from Canada to know that it’s gigantic (you just have to look at a map, really), but specifying along that list of “gigantic” countries it makes the lineup as second biggest in total just after the heavyweight giant, Russia. It also has the longest coastlines of any country in the world, over 152 thousand miles to give you an idea, though, sadly, the bulk of those are not very beach-goer friendly. Still the coastlines should count for something, maybe half a point, at least.
Considering its massive size, Canada’s border with the USA is the longest land border of any two single countries in the world. Meaning: There are lots of places to sneak in, America! There’s hope, you’ll just have to learn the rest of the anthem, first — Trystn — , but it’s been a while since I’ve heard anyone talk about fleeing up north, anyway. Another insanely interesting geography fact (sigh, I know) is that Canada is home to the highest proportion worldwide of freshwater, meaning that most of the world’s drinkable water is sitting or flowing around up there, including the largest freshwater lakes that it shares with the Midwestern United States; Lake Superior and Lake Michigan/Huron, which further specifying depends on how you want to define the word lake.
Some of the world’s biggest islands are also part of the nation, as well as one that’s home to the northernmost human settlement in the world, just close enough to hear elves singing the new iPhone commercial theme in their workshop*.
Canada is one of the few North American countries that is officially bilingual, comparing to the US that doesn’t federally have even one official language, and beyond the linguistics is one of the more ethnically and culturally diverse countries around, though especially in the big cities. A prime example is in Toronto where about half of the population represent some minority (non-European origin) group, and where over two hundred languages can be listened to, reflecting on Canada’s history as a hub for immigration and refugee asylum. The CN Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere, this side of the Prime Meridian, and if you’ve seen a photo of Toronto you know exactly which tower I’m talking about.
Many of us have heard mention of Toronto before, possibly from the occasional TO shout out from Drake, or Montreal (the French part of Canada, add on Quebec if you’re savvy) or Vancouver (from Winter Olympics, the BC), but humble old Ottawa happens to be the capital city.
It’s thought that the country got its name from a St. Lawrence Iroquoian (Native American) word for “settlement” which the Quebec-area natives used to give a French explorer called Jacques some directions to the town he was searching for, and as we see the name has stuck.
Contrary to what Columbus Day says, Canada — and not The Bahamas or Plymouth Rock, for that matter — was the place of the first known contact of Europeans to the New World, a.k.a. the Americas. This went down specifically in Newfoundland — now the name makes more sense, doesn’t it? — where Norse settlers by way of Iceland sailed over to create a short-lived settlement. Short-lived because Inuit nations don’t play around. Regardless of this, the Vikings continued to make voyages to North America in order to exploit the natural resources.
Despite being able to keep the Norsemen at bay, in later years Italian, Basque (we’ll get to that, for now, I’ll explain with Spanish), and Portuguese sailors used Canada’s eastern seaboard for fishing and whaling voyages, which lead other Europeans to see potential in inhabiting and exploring the land, and so started sending expeditions to colonize it and its peoples.
Indigenous nations and tribes had occupied the area for more than 12 thousand years before even the Vikings, having skied and bobsledded* over from Asia to populate the land, and at the time of European settlement might have held a population of between 500 thousand and 2 million inhabitants. England initially established its first North American colony on Newfoundland before anything was going on in the original Thirteen British Colonies, which later sparked off from those primordial Canadian flames; meanwhile, French Canada was being set up in Quebec.
Not always the most amicable pair, there was a series of conflicts called the Beaver Wars (watch out for those beaver wars!) fought over control for the North American Fur Trade. Some civil warring did get fought between British, French, and indigenous groups, including our very own American Civil War, although it’s important to remember that today’s borders weren’t always drawn out (technically they’re still not, have you tried getting to Michigan from Ontario?) and also that many of their fights were posted up for European or American interests at the time.