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.