Geography of Canada

Geography of Canada


Canadian vegetation zones


Canada occupies two-fifths of the North American

continent, stretches across five time zones, and is

divided into 10 provinces and three territories.

It was once inhabited only by native peoples

including the Inuit. The French were the first

Europeans to settle in Canada, but after years

of fighting the British gained control in 1763.

Gradually they took over the rest of the country, as pioneers and settlers movedwest and north. Today, Canada is animportant industrial nation and oneof the world’s richest countries.Most of its manufacturing isbased on the naturalresources ofwood, metals,and mineralfuels.


About one-third of Canada lies within the Arctic Circle and can remain frozenfor up to nine months of the year.

In these cold northern areas, known asthe tundra, any vegetation is limited to lichens, grasses, and small shrubs andtrees. Farther south, large areas of landare covered by dense coniferous forests known as taiga. Toward the border withthe US lie the mixed, temperate forestsand the grasslands of the prairies.


Ottawa, which is named after the native

people who used to live in the area, was

chosen as Canada’s capital city in 1857

by Queen Victoria of Britain. Today, the

city boasts many magnificent copper-

roofed government buildings, museums,

and art galleries, and a park-lined canal

that turns into the world’s longest skating

rink once the winter freeze sets in.


Until quite recently, most Canadians were

descendants of British or French settlers.

Most of the French, like those at the winter

carnival shown here, live in Québec province.

Germans and Italians are also large ethnic

groups but, recently, increased numbers

of people have come from eastern

Europe, South America, and Southeast

Asia. Native peoples make up less than

3 percent of the population.


Every year since 1923, thousands of

people have flocked to Calgary for

the famous Calgary Stampede.

People dress up cowboy style to

celebrate the old Wild West and

Alberta’s origins as a cattle trading

center. Attractions include a rodeo,

complete with bucking broncos.


Canada is such a large country, much of it

uninhabitable, that on average there are only

eight people living in each square mile (three

per square kilometer). Around three-quarters

of the population lives near the US border,

in towns and cities around the shores of the

Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence

River. The rest live in fishing villages along

the coasts or on farms and villages inland


Native peoples, including the Inuit, are

sometimes called Canada’s “First Nations”

because they lived in Canada long before

European settlers arrived and took over

their lands. Since 1970, the government has

tried to draw these peoples into Canadian

society, but many prefer their own culture

and traditions. Across Canada colorful ceremonies and festivals demonstrate their proud spirit. Recently, First Nations have begun to win battles for their rights to ancestral lands. In 1999, the Nunavut area 

in the Northwest Territories became a self-governing Inuit territory, the first  

part of Canada to be governed by native Canadians in modern history.  


In 1971, construction began on a vast

hydroelectric project to dam the

rivers that flow into James Bay and Hudson Bay, generating electricity for use in Canada and the US. 

However, the project threatened thousands of Cree Indians who livein this region. An agreement was 

reached in 1975 that led to the

finishing of the project, and special compensation for the Indians.  


The last spike of the transcontinental rail link of the Canadian

Pacific Railway was pounded in at Eagle Pass, British Columbia,

on November 7, 1885. It was the start of a new era for Canada,

opening up the west for trade and settlement, and finally

making the vast country seem like one nation. One of the

railroad’s most amazing engineering feats is a spiral tunnel-road

drilled into the Rocky Mountains. Curving steadily around, the

tunnel rises for more than 3,000 ft (914 m). In spite of quicker

alternatives, tourists often take the spectacular trip across

Canada by train. However, the railroad is mostly used for cargo.


Wheat and cattle farming

dominate Canada’s main

farming area, the

prairies. Elsewhere, a

wide variety of fruits and

vegetables are grown.

Apples, shown growing

here in British Columbia,

are the country’s most

important fruit crop.

Between lakes Ontario and

Erie lies the Niagara fruit belt.

The lakes protect this area

from the worst of Canada’s

weather, making it the ideal

place for growing tender

fruits such as pears, plums,

peaches, and cherries.


Winters are long and cold

throughout Canada but when

the first snow falls, snow

plows and salt trucks are out

making sure the roads are

safe. Next to some parking

places there are even electric

outlets where drivers can plug

in heaters to keep their car’s

engine warm. During winter

people can play hockey on

frozen lakes and ponds.

Skiing and snowboarding are

also popular winter sports.


Most of Canada’s wealth comes from its

abundance of natural resources, many of

them mineral. It is the world’s largest

producer of uranium, zinc, and nickel,

and also has reserves of aluminum,

gold, copper, and silver.

Underground work has begun

on what are thought to be some

of the world’s richest diamond

deposits in an area near Yellowknife

in the Northwest Territories.

The Inuit live

in such cold

conditions that

they depend

on warm

clothing for


Insulated boots

keep feet warm

in freezing

winter weather.



found within the eastern part of the country. The provinces

of Ontario and Québec that lie around the Great Lakes and

the St. Lawrence River form Canada’s wealthy industrial region

and contain most of the population. Canada’s capital, Ottawa,

and other major cities, including Toronto and Montréal, are

in this region. At the end of Lake Erie, on the border with the

United States, is Niagara Falls, one of the main tourist attractions

in the region. The Atlantic, or maritime, provinces along the

stormy east coast have few natural resources and are suffering

from a decline in the fishing industry, but enjoy a distinctive

culture, and a rugged coastline and landscape.


Canadians take advantage of long winters by

playing hockey on frozen lakes and ponds, as

well as community ice rinks. Hockey is the

world’s fastest team game, with the puck

moving at speeds of up to 118 miles (190 km)

per hour. It can get rough, and the action

stops frequently, when players are sent to

sit out penalties in the “sin bin.”

TORONTOOn the north shore of Lake Ontario Lies Toronto, Canada’s leading industrial city, financial capital, and fastest growing urban area. The city has a reputation for being safe, with the lowest crime rate of any major city in North America. It also boasts the SkyDome, the first stadium with a retractable roof, and the Canadian National (CN) Tower, the world’s 
second tallest free-standing structure.
Canada’s leading industrial region, known as the  Golden Horseshoe, curves around the western end of  Lake Ontario, from the car-industry center of Oshawa, through Toronto and Hamilton and on to Niagara. 
Its location makes it easy to move products by water, by railroad, and by road via a major highway called the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW). Plentiful job  opportunities attract people here and they earn 
some of the highest incomes in Canada. 
In 1608, Frenchman Samuel de Champlain 
set up a fur trading post on the St. Lawrence 
River at a place the native peoples called 
Kébec. By 1763, the French settlements 
had been taken over by the British. Under 
British control, the province grew into a 
major commercial center. Today, over 80 
percent of Canadians whose native language is  French live in the province of Québec. Although Laws guarantee the right of French Canadians to their own language, laws, and culture, some Québécois want to separate from the rest of Canada.  ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY Completed in 1959, the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Seaway system made it possible for ships to travel 2,342 miles (3,769 km) from the industrial center of North America to the Atlantic Ocean. Ships carrying cargoes of grain, lumber, iron ore, and coal descend 600 ft (183 m)  from Lake Ontario to sea level through a system of locks. Tolls are charged for ships that use the system. The Seaway  is closed due to ice for four months during the winter. 


Along the coast of New Brunswick the land is

marshy and ideal for growing cranberries. The

plants are grown in bogs and the ripe berries

are collected by hand or by special machines

that scoop the fruit from the water. Berries are

ready to pick in September or October.

Cranberrries are

used to make juice,

sauces, and syrups.


Canada produces

75 percent of the world’s

maple syrup. Each March the sap of

the sugar maple tree is collected and

boiled down into syrup. The maple

leaf is the national symbol of Canada.


Acid rain is a problem in eastern Canada because many of the water and soil systems in this region are not alkaline and so cannot neutralize acid naturally. 

Acid rain has affected freshwater supplies and killed fish, and has damaged soil, crops, buildings, and the famous sugar maple trees. Although some sources of acid rain originate in Canada, many of the problems come from factories in the United States, where chemical Fumes are carried north by the wind.


A WEALTH OF NATURAL RESOURCES first attracted European settlers

to the wilds of western Canada. Fur trappers, gold prospectors, and

loggers all hoped to make their fortune from the land. Today, natural

resources are still the basis of the economy. The fertile soils of the

prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan make up

four-fifths of Canada’s farmland. Fishing is a major industry along

the Pacific coast, where the main catch is salmon, most of which

is canned for export. By contrast, the remote Yukon, Northwest,

and Nunavut territories have important reserves of gold, zinc, and

lead. These territories are also the only part of Canada where the

native peoples form the

majority of the



Moist winds from the Pacific

Ocean deposit rain on the western

slopes of the Rocky Mountains,

making conditions ideal for trees

to grow to enormous sizes. Canada

is the world’s largest exporter of

forest products, and the province of

British Columbia produces almost half

of Canada’s lumber. Some logs are still

floated to the sawmills, but today logs are

often transported by road or helicopter. Most of

the lumber is softwood, used for building materials

as well as for chopsticks for Japan.


Situated between the mountains and the sea,

Vancouver is an attractive city and an industrial

center, as well as a busy port. Its ice-free harbor

provides Canada with year-round access for

trade with Asian countries across the Pacific

Ocean. Many Chinese families settled here

rather than staying in Hong Kong when it

reverted to China in 1997.


Once grain and beef processing centers for

the prairies, Edmonton and Calgary grew rich

during the 1970s from the coal, oil, and gas

found in the prairies and nearby Rocky

Mountains. Now Edmonton boasts a gigantic

shopping mall with a hockey rink, a swimming

pool, a rollercoaster, and a hotel where

people can stay during a shopping trip.


Large parts of the extreme north of Canada are

home to more animals than people. Although

part of the area is forested most of it is icy

wilderness known as tundra. Animals that live

here are adapted to the very cold conditions, and

waterproof fur helps them to survive the snow and

ice. Caribou, or reindeer, live on the tundra but

migrate to the forests farther south in winter to

escape the cold. Grizzly bears are found in the

Rocky Mountains and can be dangerous.

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