Geography of Canada
Canadian vegetation zones
THE SECOND LARGEST COUNTRY in the world,
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.
THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE
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.
PEOPLE OF CANADA
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.
WHERE PEOPLE LIVE
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
THE FIRST CANADIANS
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.
CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY
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.
COPING WITH THE COLD
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
keep feet warm
SOME OF THE RICHEST AND POOREST areas of Canada are
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.
used to make juice,
sauces, and syrups.
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.
COAL, OIL, AND GAS WEALTH
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.
LIVING IN THE WILD
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.