Canada is a democratic country that is technically under the rule of
Queen Elizabeth II of England. It is governed under the federal
parliamentary system, with the centre of government in Ottawa and 10
provincial governments. Canada also has 3 northern territories in its
control. The three branches of government are federal,
provincial/territorial, and municipal. The federal government is
responsible for defence, citizenship, and foreign policy. The
provincial and territorial governments are responsible for education,
healthcare, and highways. The municipal government is responsible for
policing, re cycling, and snow removal among other things.

Canadian culture has always been influenced by the constant influx
of immigrants throughout its history and their, mostly, European ways
(especially the British and French). The Canadian federal government
has formed organisations to ensure the strength of Canadian culture.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) and National Film Board of
Canada advertise Canada’s traditions to then be translated through
media. Legal minimums are also in place for how much “Canadian” content
should be used in a media programme. It is only natural then, as a
settler country, Canada has been shaped by the foreigners who have come
to call it home.

Multiculturalism, bilingualism, and aboriginal influences are all
abound in Canada. It is evident that a strong French-Canadian identity
exists throughout the country. But, there are Celtic influences that
survive in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The cultural diversity of
Canada has allowed for an overall environment of equality. With a
strong acceptance of the LGBT community, in 2005, Canada become the 4th
country world-wide to legalize same-sex marriage.

Lifestyle and Leisure

Canadians love the great outdoors and in the summer, many will go
hiking, kayaking, cycling along the vast landscapes. Each province has
its own “wilderness walks” and the Trans Canada Trail (the longest
recreational trail in the world) will take you from Newfoundland to
Nunavut. Toronto holds the Caribana, a festival while in July Calgary
has the Stampede where you can find rodeos, cowboys, chuck wagon races
and the like. Don’t forget Vancouver’s fireworks spectacular, Symphony
of Fire, four nights of sparks set to music.

In the winter, skating, ice hockey, cross-country skiing,
snowboarding, skiing, and curling are all regular activities. Every
winter, Quebec hosts its Winter Carnival with a number of celebrations.
Canadian towns and cities are also well organised to handle the
ever-dropping temperatures by ensuring that there is plenty for
citizens to do indoors to protect themselves from the elements.

Laws and Customs

Canadians readily welcome foreigners, as they have become accustomed
to their never-ending arrival throughout history. But, foreigners are
expected to learn forms of respect that Canadians express.
Multicultural traditions are accepted and Canadians are invited to take
part. When meeting, Canadians greet each other with a handshake. In
more informal settings between family or friends, Canadians hug and
kiss one another. Invitations are a must when visiting someone. There
is no “dropping by.” And if invited to a party, it is important gesture
to bring a gift like a bottle of wine or dessert. It is also polite to
remove your shoes upon entering a home. In general, Canadians are
accepting of a wide variety of social behaviour and tend to be very
friendly in a social atmosphere.

Drug acceptance is Canada is widely discussed and debated,
especially in the Canadian Senate and House of Commons. In 2003, Canada
became the first country to sell medical marijuana to certified users.
Though marijuana is technically still illegal in Canada, the use of
marijuana is allowed for medicinal purposes. Canada spends
approximately 70 per cent of its counter-narcotics budget on
prevention, as opposed to punishment (unlike the policies of the United
States). Recently, Canada has been making strides for reduced
punishment with low-level marijuana possession.

The government continually considers decriminalization of marijuana,
as studies conducted have shown the effects of alcohol are more
harmful. The Canadian government also feels “sting” operations violate
the rights of Canadian citizens and does not believe in their use to
prevent the abuse of drugs throughout the country. Instead, Canada is a
society that is more concerned with public health than punishment.