Anybody who wants to experience true Canadian culture cannot avoid the heritage of the country’s original inhabitants. Although Canada was strongly influenced by western settlers during its later years, the First Nations dominated its original culture. They were the country’s indigenous peoples and their history goes back at least 12,000 years. If the Métis and Inuit peoples are included, the country refers to them as its First Peoples. About 700,000 of them now live in Canada scattered over various regions and most of them belong to one of 617 different tribes. The First Peoples’ culture is strongly influenced by their original habitats, their climate and their ecology. By implication, Canada’s culture differs from one place to the next. Many different languages emerged, for example, but are now threatened by extinction. Even the most prominent language, Cree, is only spoken by an estimated 100,000 people now. Some First Peoples have therefore set themselves the goal of preserving and teaching it – for example, at the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan, which was built in 2003 and offers an indigenous language course.
English and French are now the two official languages in Canada. This is because of the countless European immigrants who made their way to the northern part of North America during the last millennium. The first Europeans were Vikings, who briefly settled at L’Anse aux Meadows on the island of Newfoundland in about 1000. The British and French arrived after them and established the first permanent European settlements. The region around Québec belonged to the French, for example; the British, on the other hand, set up the thirteen colonies to the south along the North American East Coast from the lower course of the Saint Lawrence River as far as the Florida peninsula. The struggle for the territories repeatedly led to armed conflicts – and ultimately to the Declaration of Independence by the United States in 1776. The invasion attempts by the United States as part of the British-American war in 1812 – 1815 failed and the Treaty of Ghent re-established the pre-war boundaries.
By fighting alongside each other, the parts of the population, who originally came from Britain and France, developed a Canadian national identity together. The Constitution Act of 1867 officially marked the start of the Canadian Confederation: the original provinces of Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were later joined by other territories such as the Yukon and provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan as a result of ongoing settlement activities in the west of the country. As a result, a new Canadian identity developed in the course of time and it culminated in the introduction of the flag with the maple leaf in 1965, the country’s two national languages in 1969 and finally the full sovereignty of Canada as a result of the Canada Act in 1982.
The development of the cities is strongly entrenched in Canada’s changeable history. The country’s three largest cities have developed in the more densely populated areas, and they reflect the diverse cultural influences and combine them with current modern life: Vancouver on the Pacific coast, Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River and Toronto on Lake Ontario.
The metropolitan region of Vancouver is the third largest in Canada with 2.74 million inhabitants. Vancouver, in the west of the country, wasn’t founded until 1886, but is now one of the five most popular cities in the world for people to live in, and this is largely due to the excellent balance between its rural and urban landscape. Despite what is normally very mild weather, tourists should be prepared for rain, which is practically part of the city’s lifestyle.
With immigrants accounting for more than 40 per cent of the population, Vancouver also has a special multicultural charm of its own. The local Chinatown, for example, is the largest in Canada, the second largest in the whole of North America and a real attraction that should not be missed. Asian cuisine is also particularly strong in Vancouver. For example, the well-known California rolls do not actually come from California, but from Vancouver. Sushi lovers will find the restaurant established by the inventor of California rolls, Hidekazu Tojo, in the city centre of Vancouver. The Marine Building is another attraction in the downtown area. It was built in 1930 and was the city’s largest building for nine years. Although it lost this claim to renown relatively quickly, it is still one of the most popular structures in Vancouver and is well-known around the world. Stanley Park provides a strong contrast to the many skyscrapers in the city centre. Canada’s largest urban park (measuring 405 hectares) is larger than Central Park in New York and many view it as Canada’s equivalent.
Tourists should not miss making an excursion to one of the picturesque beaches in the evening. Sunset Beach is particularly worth mentioning – and its name betrays its charm in advance. The beach is primarily known for its beautiful sunsets among the residents of Vancouver. The ‘Celebration of Light’ fireworks festival also takes place every July and the various beaches are the ideal place to experience it. The impressive fireworks competition is one of Vancouver’s best-known festivals. You can combine a visit to Sunset Beach or Stanley Park with a brief excursion to the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, which is located at the eastern end of the beach.
However, even if they do not visit the aquarium, tourists still have the opportunity to admire Canada’s marine life during a whale-watching tour. Wild orcas or dolphins often do their rounds near the southern coast of Vancouver Island. It is easy to reach the island by ferry, but it has more to offer than just a day’s excursion, as it is almost 500 kilometres long. Tourists who are interested in the First Nations find particular satisfaction here. Guided tours explain the indigenous culture for visitors, particularly near the coast. However, there are also exhibitions and restaurants reflecting the local tribes all over Vancouver Island.
Montreal, which is mainly French speaking, is situated about 4,500 kilometres east of Vancouver. As part of the Province of Québec, the city is located on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River and is the country’s second-largest city with approx. 4.36 million inhabitants.
Montreal primarily stands out because of its architecture, which is revealed in the form of a wide variety of churches, museums and monuments. One of the most significant buildings is the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal in the old city (Vieux-Montréal). This Neo-Gothic masterpiece was built in 1829 and is often the first destination for tourists who are interested in culture and architecture. Another remarkable church, Saint Joseph’s Oratory, is the highest point in the city and is close to the mountain that gives Montreal its name, Mount Royal. Saint Joseph‘s Oratory not only has idyllic gardens, but also one of the ten best organs in the world.
Anybody who likes gardens should also take a look at the numerous other parks in the city – particularly the Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the most comprehensive botanical gardens anywhere in the world. In addition to its considerable size – it measures more than 748,000 square metres – there are more than 22,000 different types of plants there for people to admire.
Visitors can enjoy impressions of Canada’s indigenous culture in summer. The First Peoples Festival has been held in Montreal at the beginning of August for more than 30 years and indigenous artists from all over the country perform there. Each of the festivals has a particular motto, such as ‘Nomade Land’ (2020) or ‘Joy taken from the night’ *(2021).
There are two very different destinations for those interested in shopping tours. The old city of Montreal not only has inviting boutiques, shops and restaurants, but also the traditional architecture of the city. The alternative is called ‘Ville Intérieure’. But what is so special about this modern shopping area? It is situated completely underground. It is 32 kilometres long and has a surface area of 12 square kilometres, making it the largest underground city in the world and it enables people to enjoy a pleasant shopping experience, even in winter.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada, is located on the banks of Lake Ontario and the latter gives the province its name too. The more than 6.5 million inhabitants also combine many different cultures here. Some examples of this are Little Italy, Little India, Chinatown and Greektown. The multicultural scene is particularly noticeable in these districts. However, Toronto is also home to Canada’s own culture: the University of Toronto has a permanent exhibition on the subject of the First Nations and it deals with the original inhabitants of Canada. Those who would like to discover even more about this can visit one of the reserves in the surrounding area. The Six Nations Reserve near Toronto is highly recommended, for example. It is one of the largest First Nations reserves in Canada and is very open to receiving visitors.
The Distillery District also exudes local flair – it is a small national historical village near the banks of Lake Ontario. Those who are interested can be inspired by the Victorian, industrial architecture as they enjoy one of the many different types of beer from the regional breweries. Those who prefer to go shopping or visit the inner city of Toronto will find what they need at the Yonge-Dundas crossing at the heart of the downtown area. Just like Montreal, Toronto also has an underground shopping area with many stores and it extends throughout almost the entire city centre.
It is not far to the CN Tower from Dundas Square either. The television tower soars above the city and those who are fearless can either enjoy the view through the glass floor at a height of 342 metres or a special observation deck at 447 metres. Those who are not satisfied by these thrills can take part in an edge walk, where you make your way freehand along the edge of the main viewing deck. A visit to Ripley’s Aquarium further to the south-east, the most comprehensive indoor aquarium in Canada, provides some relaxation after this adventure. More than twenty thousand animals are located in 17 different habitats, ranging from sea turtles to tropical fish. The Royal Ontario Museum provides less nature, but more natural history as well as art and culture from all over the world. Canada’s largest museum presents exhibits with more than six million items on display. While the museum covers many different areas, it is particularly valued for its exhibitions on the indigenous peoples of North America.
Canada’s economic strength is based on its direct access to the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This means that the country has many opportunities for foreign trade. The sheer variety of export and import opportunities predestines Canada to be a key location for the freight and logistics sector. The most important export goods are mineral fuels, including oil, vehicles, machines, precious stones and metals. The product categories registering the fastest growth include exports of gold, metals and pharmaceuticals. Significant imported goods include vehicles, machines (including computers), electrical devices, mineral fuels (including oil), plastics and pharmaceuticals. The international logistics specialist, Rhenus, also has business activities in Canada. Rhenus is available for its customers locally and provides tailor-made solutions along the complete supply chain in the areas of warehousing and transport operations.
Please log in to like and comment on this article.
Not signed up yet? Sign in