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Canadian Flag
We love Canada Why do we love Canada?
Together with Aase and Viggo - my parents-in-law - Birgit and I have visited Canada for the first time. The reason for our visit was, that our son Claus had settled in Vancouver a year ago. During his 3-years stay in Saudi Arabia he met - and fell in love with - Janet, who worked as a nurse in Rhyadh. They decided to move to Canada, where Claus is working with Meta-Soft, and Janet is studying at University of British Columbia (UBC). After having met Janet last summer we also fell in love with her. And now we have come to Canada to meet with them, get acquainted with Janets family, and to see for ourselves, if Canada really is as great, as anybody says. I also planned to meet with my cousin Enis, who emigrated from Denmark to Canada in 1956 together with her family.

Our conception of Canada before coming here was appreciating its vastness, recognising its flag and knowing a few well-known physical features. Like the majority of travelers we were attracted by the opportunity to explore Canada's wild areas and natural wonders. Of course there is a lot more to Canada than maple trees, Rocky Mountains and wide open spaces. Yes, Canada has a common culture, that identifies her from the rest of the world. Canadians are known in Europe for being kind and polite. A Canadian distinguishes herself from other English speaking persons bye ending every sentence with an 'eh'. Practical, eh?

And we were not disapponted. Vancouver is maybe the most wonderful city in the world. Her position close to the Pacific and the coast mountains is second to none. We did not see many of the problems, we have met in Paris, Rome, Prag, Miami etc. No wonder that UN has rated Vancouver among all major cities in the world the place with best quality of life. We visited the national parks Jasper, Banff (remember the 2 f's, Pete?) and Yoho. The sceneries were breathtaking. The wild life is so strange to us from Europe - anyway for us Danes, coming from a country, where the highest mountain is 500 feet. We call it the "sky mountain".

But what we loved most, were the people. Not alone Janet's family, who were just as kind and loving as she. Not alone my cousin Enis and her husband Jim. Not alone Georgia and Hugh, our landlady and her husband. But every person we met, were so polite, kind, helpful, and interested. We will not claim, that the Canadians are the most kind people in the world. After all we have only travelled in 25-30 countries (mostly Europe). But nowhere have we felt more comfortable than here. Viggo - my father-in-law - after a few days told us, that he would have no problems with settling in Canada. And this statement comes from a man turning 80 this year. Funny enough we were often asked, if we were German. And then I had to explain, that Denmark lies close to Germany, and that German in fact is a minor Danish dialect. I don't know if they bought that?

Søren at the computer

If you don't take an interest in Canada's history og geography - or maybe you already know it all, like you, Jim - come this way and we shall be happy to show you, what we experienced during our 12 days stay in your great country.

What is Canada like?
Canadian map

Canada is the world's largest country, after the collapse of the Russian Federation. Situated north of the USA, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it extends some 7700 km east to west and 4600 km north to south. Aase and Viggo told, that a friend of theirs some years ago had assisted his uncle in moving his home and his belongings from Ottawa to Vancouver (a good idea, eh?). This had taken more than a week!

Nearly 90% of Canadians live along the 6379 km southern border with the USA. Canada has 10 provinces and 2 territories, each with its own capital city: Alberta; British Columbia (Victoria); Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown); Manitoba (Winnipeg); New Brunswick (Fredericton); Nova Scotia (Halifax); Ontario (Toronto); Quebec (Quebec City); Saskatchewan (Regina); Newfoundland (St. John's); Northwest Territories (Yellowknife) and Yukon Territory (Whitehorse). Though much of the land is lake and river-filled forest, there are mountains, plains and even a small desert. The Great Plains, or prairies, cover Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta. These former grasslands are now responsible for Canada's abundant wheat crop.

Canada will have a new Northern territory in 1999, when the present Northwest Territories will be divided in two. The eastern part of the existing Northwest Territories will be known as Nunavut. In the Inuit language Nunavut means "Our Land." The creation of this new territory is the result of an agreement made between the Inuit and the Canadian Government regarding land settlement and Aboriginal rights. Nunavut will encompass almost one quarter of Canada's land mass.

Diversity is the keynote of Canada's geography, which includes fertile plains for agriculture, vast mountain ranges, lakes and rivers. Wilderness forests give way to arctic tundra in the Far North. There are of course many climatic variations in this huge country, ranging from the permanently frozen icecaps in the north to the wonderful vegetation of British Columbia's west coast.

Canada has set aside more than 100 national parks and historic sites in honour of the people, places and events that have marked the country's history. 37 national parks are spread throughout the country. Banff (don't forget the 2 "f"-s, Pete!), located on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains. Canada is a rich country. The principal natural resources are natural gas, oil, gold, coal, copper, iron ore, nickel, potash, uranium and zinc, along with wood and water. Canada has an incredible mix of native flora and fauna. It comprises eight vegetation zones, most of which are dominated by forest. Some of the common tree species include Douglas fir, western red cedar, white pine and the sugar maple, one of Canada's best-known symbols - the maple's leaf appears on the country's flag since 1965. The animals include the grizzly, black, brown and polar bears, beaver, buffalo, wolf, coyote, lynx, cougar, deer, elk, and moose. There are also 500 species of birds, such as the Canadian goose.

Canada's population
Canada's population is approx. 35 million. The majority of Canadians, 77 percent, live in cities and towns. In fact 31 percent of the population live in the three largest cities: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. English is the mother tongue of 16.1 million Canadians, and French, the language of 6.5 million. These are Canada's two official languages. However, many Canadians have a mother tongue other than English or French, including Italian, Chinese, German, Portuguese, Polish, Ukrainian, Dutch, Greek or other languages - not to mention Danish.

The Aboriginal cultures are the true cultures of Canada, since all other Canadians were originally immigrants. They began moving to Canada in the 17th century, bringing with them their manner of dress, food preferences and customs. Canada opened its doors to immigration from all over the world in the early 20th century. Aboriginals are thought to have arrived from Asia 10 000 to 30 000 years ago by way of a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska. Some of them settled in Canada, while others chose to continue to the south. When the European explorers arrived, Canada was populated by a diverse range of Aboriginal peoples who, depending on the environment, lived nomadic or settled lifestyles, were hunters, fishermen or farmers.

First contact between the native peoples and Europeans probably occurred about 1000 years ago when Norwegian vikings settled for a brief time on the island of Newfoundland. But it would take another 600 years, before European exploration began in earnest - and a long betime earlier than Janet's grandparents come over from Norway to seek their fortune.

First Colonial Outposts
Seeking a new route to the rich markets of the Orient, French and English explorers exploited the waters of North America. They constructed a number of posts -- the French mostly along the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River; the English around Hudson Bay and along the Atlantic coast. Although explorers such as Cabot, Cartier and Champlain never found a route to China and India, they found something just as valuable :rich fishing grounds and populations of beaver, fox and bear, all of which were valued for their furs.

Permanent French and English settlement began in the early 1600s and increased throughout the century. With settlement came economic activity, but the colonies of New France and New England remained economically dependent on the fur trade and politically and militarily dependent on their mother countries.

Inevitably, North America became the focal point for rivalry between England and France. After the fall of Quebec City in 1759, the Treaty of Paris assigned all French territory east of the Mississippi to Britain.

Under British rule, the French-speaking inhabitants of Canada had a single aim: to retain their traditions, language and culture. Britain passed the Quebec Act (1774), which granted official recognition to French civil laws and guaranteed religious and linguistic freedoms.

A large number of English-speaking colonists (Loyalists), who wished to remain faithful to the British Empire, sought refuge in Canada, after the United States of America won its independence in 1776. The increase in population led to the creation in 1791 of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec). Both were granted their own representative governing institutions. Rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada in 1837 and 1838 prompted the British to join the two colonies, forming the united Province of Canada. In 1848 the joint colony was granted responsible government except in matters of foreign affairs. Canada gained further autonomy, but remained part of the British Empire.

A Country is Born
Britain's North American colonies - Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland - grew and prospered independently. But with the emergence of a more powerful United States after the American Civil War, some politicians felt, that a union of the British colonies was the only way to prevent eventual annexation. In 1867 Canada East, Canada West, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined together as the Dominion of Canada.

British Columbia, already a Crown colony since 1858, decided to join the Dominion in 1871 on the promise of a rail link with the rest of the country. In 1898, the northern territory of Yukon was officially established to ensure Canadian jurisdiction over that area, during the Klondike gold rush. In 1905, two new provinces were carved from Rupert's Land: Alberta and Saskatchewan; the residual land became the Northwest Territories. Newfoundland preferred to remain a British colony until 1949, when it became Canada's 10th province.

After World War I Canada grew slowly in stature and prosperity, becoming a voluntary member of the Commonwealth in 1931. With the onset of World War II, Canada once again fought alongside Britain against Germany, though this time it also entered into defence agreements with the USA, declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The creation of new provinces resulted in an increase of immigration to Canada, particularly to the west. Immigration peaked in 1913 with 400 000 coming to Canada. There are not many families in Norway, Sweden or Denmark, who do not have a family member, who emigrated to the new world. A brother to my mother-in-law emigrated to Alberta in 1917. My cousine Enis and her sister Kirsten emigrated to Canada in 1957 together with their parents. And in 1997 our son, Claus has been able to seek his fortune in this great and hospitable country.

Canada's substantial role in the First World War won it representation distinct from Britain in the League of Nations (the predecessor to United Nations) after the war. Its independent voice became more and more pronounced, and in 1931 Canada's constitutional autonomy from Britain was confirmed.

Since World War II, Canada's economy has continued to expand. This growth, combined with government social programs such as family allowances, old-age security, universal medicare and unemployment insurance has given Canadians a high standard of living and desirable quality of life. I know, that right now there is a recession - and it annoys any Canadian, that the US dollar is in a better state than the Canadian, but I think and hope, that the situation will soon turn.