Country Information


Canada’s history is long, rich and varied. The first European settlers arrived around the year 1000. The infamous Leif Erickson landed on the shores of Vinland and tried to settle the area, but was forced to leave. Much later, during the age of exploration to the New World and the race for a quicker route to the East, many European explorers reached Canadian shores.

John Cabot is credited with being the first European to land on mainland North America, John Cartier discovered the St. Lawrence River and Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec. The initial goal of a faster route to Eastern riches was abandoned once they discovered the value of the fur trade. The North American beaver provided a luxurious pelt perfect for the beaver hats and coats that become the fashion rage in Europe. Trappers, adventurers and enterprising merchants capitalized on this almost overnight. In fact, the beaver population, once over 60 million, was trapped to almost extinction.

Lands were claimed for both England and for France at this time, which led to much conflict. Some areas changed hands several times and others were fought over fiercely with the assistance of natives. In fact, as recently as 1995, the province of Quebec debated secession. Canada is officially a bi-lingual country.

Canada was granted its independence from Great Britain in 1867 and formed its own government with a parliament and a prime minister. Initially, they had 4 provinces and, over the next several years, added 3 more as well as 2 territories. They remain part of the Commonwealth and maintain the British monarch as their head of state.

Canadian soldiers fought and died bravely in both WWI and WWII. Today, the country is known as a neutral country and has been called the “Switzerland of North America”.

Unique Characteristics

Unlike the United States and their “melting pot” philosophy, Canada likes to use the term “mosaic” to describe the wide variety of people and cultures represented in their country.

With over 3.8 million square miles, Canada is second only to Russia in size and its 5,525 mile shared border with the United States is the longest in the world.It’s interesting to note that all the room is shared by very few people. In fact, the math works out to just 9 people per square mile, with much higher concentrations in the bigger metropolitan areas.

Canada is home to the largest population of moose in the world. This shy member of the deer family can stand up to seven feet tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 1,400 pounds.

Canada is officially a bi-lingual country, claiming both English and French as the official languages.

Fun Facts

  • Although “O Canada” was first performed in 1880, it wasn’t officially adopted as the national anthem of Canada until 1980.
  • Oddly, Canada’s official sport is lacrosse, not ice hockey. Hockey is more of a national obsession.
  • Canada is big. How big? The city of St. John’s in the province of Newfoundland is actually closer to London, on the other side of the Atlantic, than it is to Vancouver, British Coumbia.
  • Canada became a country in 1867, but did not get its own flag until 1965, almost 100 years later.
  • If you are not a fan of snakes, stay away from the Narcisse Snake Dens in Manitoba. They have the largest concentration of garter snakes in the world.
  • Even though Canada is one of the more sparsely populated countries in the world, Canadians eat more macaroni and cheese than any other country.

Top Destinations

  1. Bay of Fundy – This curious spot between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is home to the highest tides in the world. Roughly 100 million tons of seawater fill the area at high tide, only to leave again 6 hours later, at low tide.
  2. Niagara Falls– This massive group of three waterfalls is located between the United States and Ontario, Canada. This natural wonder has captivated visitors for hundreds of years.
  3. Vancouver – Labeled one of the best cities in the world to live, this bustling city on the coast of British Columbia lets you enjoy city life and mild temperatures and, a short two hours later, be skiing down the slopes of the mountains in nearby Whistler.
  4. The Canadian Rockies – The majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains is a century old draw for tourists from around the world.
  5. Green Gables – From the classic, children’s book “Anne of Green Gables”, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is a popular spot for fans.
  6. Northern Lights – The Aurora Borealis, the infamous light show put on by Mother Nature, can be viewed throughout northern Canada, becoming more intense the further north you travel.
  7. Pier 21 – The Canadian Museum of Immigration’s Pier 21 in Nova Scotia is the Ellis Island of Canada. Between 1928 and 1971, over one million new Canadians entered through this National Historic Site.

How to Get Cash

If you need extra cash, there are a number of ways to get cash in Canada. Be advised that many smaller stores and businesses are leery of counterfeit bills and often refuse larger denominations, like $50 and $100 bills. In fact, most Canadians carry very little cash and rely on debit and credit cards for most purchases.

  • ATM: Located across Canada, ATM machines are generally accessible for cash withdrawals via debit and credit cards using the Plus and Cirrus networks. Scotia Bank, as a member of Global ATM Alliance, waives fees for other members of the Alliance.
  • Hotel: Many of the larger hotel chains can exchange funds at the front desk, however, the rates can vary and may not be favorable.
  • Banks: Exchanging traveler’s checks and U.S. dollars is a fairly simple process, but other foreign currency is not generally accepted.
  • Kiosks: The airports do have kiosks for a quick, yet costly, exchange.

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