Canadian Culture Essay

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Canada is located in the northern portion of the continent of North America, extending, in general, from the 49th parallel northward to the islands of the Arctic Ocean. Its eastern and western boundaries are the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively. Its land area totals 3,851,809 square miles (9,976,185 square kilometers). The easternmost portion of the country is a riverine and maritime environment, consisting of the provinces of Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. The central portion of the country, in its southern areas, is primarily boreal forest (the provinces of Ontario and Quebec).

This forest region extends across the entire country from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains through to the Atlantic coast, and is dominated by coniferous trees. These variations have had important social and cultural effects. The largest segment of the population resides in the central Carolinian region, which has the richest and most varied agricultural land and, because the Great Lakes waterway system dominates the central portion of the country, is also where most of the major manufacturing is located.

The savanna or prairie region is more sparsely populated, with several large urban centers in a network across the region, which is dominated by grain farming, cattle and other livestock production, and more recently, oil and natural gas extraction. The two coastal regions, which have some agricultural production, are best characterized by the dominance of port cities through which import and export goods move. In the northern section of the center of the country, also sparsely populated, resource extraction of minerals and lumber, has predominated.

The effect of this concentration of the population, employment, and productive power in the central region of the country has been the concentration of political power in this region, as well as the development over time of intense regional rivalries and disparities in quality of life. Equally important, as employment in the center came to dominate gross national production, immigration has tended to flow into the center. This has created a diverse cultural mix in the central region of the country, while the prairie and the eastern maritime region have stabilized ethnically and culturally.

The consequence of these diverse geographies has been the development of a rhetoric of regional cultures: Prairie, Maritime, Central, and because of its special isolation, West Coast. A final differentiation is between urban and rural. Local cultural identity is often marked by expressions of contrasting values in which rural residents characterize themselves as harder working, more honest, and more deeply committed to community cooperation, in contrast to urban dwellers [pic] Canada who are characterized by rural residents as greedy, dishonest, arrogant, and self-interested.

Urban dwellers express their own identities as more modern and forward looking, more sophisticated, and more liberal in their overall social values, and perceive rural residents as conservative, overdependent on outmoded traditions, unsophisticated, and simple minded. This distinction is most explicit in Quebec, but also plays a key role in political, social, and cultural contentions in Ontario. Demography . The official population at the last census calculation, in 1996, was 29,672,000, an increase over the previous census in 1991 of about 6 percent in five years.

The previous five-year increase was almost 7 percent. There has been a slowing population increase in Canada over the last several decades, fueled in part by a decline in the crude birthrate. This slowing of growth has been offset somewhat by an increase in immigration over the last two decades of the twentieth century, coupled with a slowing of emigration. Statistics Canada, the government Census management organization, is projecting a population increase of as much as 8 percent between 2001 and 2005, mostly through increased immigration.

Language Canada is bilingual, with English and French as the official languages. English takes precedence in statutory proceedings outside of Quebec, with English versions of all statutes serving as the final arbiter in disputes over interpretation. As of 1996, the proportion of Canadians reporting English as their mother tongue was just under 60 percent while those reporting French as their mother tongue was slightly less than 24 percent.

The percentage of native English speakers had risen over the previous decade, while that of French speakers had declined. At the same time, about 17 percent of all Canadians could speak both official languages, though this is a regionalized phenomenon. In those provinces with the largest number of native French speakers (Quebec and New Brunswick), 38 percent and 33 percent respectively were bilingual, numbers that had been increasing steadily over the previous twenty years.

In contrast, Ontario, which accounts for more than 30 percent of the total population of Canada, had an English-French bilingualism rate of about 12 percent. This is in part a result of the immigration patterns over time, which sees the majority of all immigrants gravitating to Ontario, and in part because all official and commercial services in Ontario are conducted in English, even though French is available by law, if not by practice. English-French bilingualism is less important in the everyday lives of those living outside of Quebec and New Brunswick.

First Nations language groups make up a significant, if small, portion of the nonofficial bilingual speakers in Canada, a fact with political and cultural importance as First Nations groups assert greater and more compelling claims on political and cultural sovereignty. The three largest First Nations languages in 1996 were Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibway, though incomplete census data on First Nations peoples continues to plague assessments of the extent and importance of these mother tongues. Immigration and cultures Changing immigration patterns following World War II affected linguistic affiliation.

In the period, from 1961 to 1970, for example, only 54 percent of immigrants had a nonofficial language as mother tongue, with more than two-thirds of this group born in Europe. Almost a quarter of them reported Italian, German, or Greek as mother tongue. In contrast, 80 percent of the 1,039,000 immigrants who came to Canada between 1991 and 1996 reported a nonofficial language as mother tongue, with over half from Asia and the Middle East. Chinese was the mother tongue of just under 25 percent, while Arabic, Punjabi, Tagalog, Tamil, and Persian together accounted for about 20 percent.

In 1971, the three largest nonofficial mother tongue groups were German, Italian, and Ukrainian, reflecting patterns of non-English and non-French immigration that have remained relatively constant through most of the twentieth century. In the period ending in 1996, this had changed, with the rank order shifting to Chinese, Italian, and German. This is reflected in regional concentrations, with Italians concentrated heavily in Ontario, Germans in both Ontario and the Prairie regions, and Chinese and other Asians most heavily represented in southern Ontario and in British Columbia.

A gradual decline in out-migration from Europe, coupled with political changes in China and throughout Asia, leading to increased out-migration from these areas, is changing the ethnic and linguistic makeup of Canada. It should be stressed, however, that these changes are concentrated in two or three key urban centers, while linguistic affiliation elsewhere in the country remains stable. This is likely to change in the early twenty-first century as an aging cohort of European immigrants declines and out-migration from Europe continues to decrease.

These shifts will come to have increasingly important cultural effects as immigrants from Asia and, most recently, from certain areas throughout the continent of Africa, come to influence the political and social life of the core urban centers in which they settle. Symbolism. This is an area of considerable dispute in Canada, in large part because of the countrys longstanding history of biculturalism (English and French) and perhaps most importantly because of its proximity to the United States, whose symbolic and rhetorical influence is both unavoidable and openly resisted.

Ethnic and cultural diversity in Canada, in which different cultural groups were expected to maintain their distinctiveness rather than subsume it to some larger national culture, which is the historical effect of the English-French biculturalism built into the Canadian confederation, means that national symbols in Canada tend to be either somewhat superficial or regionalized. There are, however, certain symbols that are deployed at both official and unofficial events and functions which are generally shared across the entire country, and can be seen as general cultural symbols, even if their uses may not always be serious.

The core values that inform these symbols are cooperation, industriousness, and patience”that is, a kind of national politeness. The Canadian symbolic order is dominated by a concern for order and stability, which marks Canadian identity as something communal rather than individualistic. Canada throughout its history might best be described as a nation of nations. Two European colonial powers dominate the history of Canada and its emergence as a nation: France and Great Britain. In time Britain emerged as the dominant political and cultural force in

Canada, but that emergence exemplifies the sense of compromise and cooperation on which Canadian social identity is founded. While Britain, and later English Canada, came to be and remain the most powerful part of the Canadian cultural landscape, this dominance and power exists in a system of joint cultural identity, with French Canada, in Quebec and in other parts of eastern Canada, remaining a singular and distinctive cultural entity in its own right. This complex antagonism, which has been a thread throughout Canadas emergence as a nation, has also led to a particular kind of nation.

Most important, the development of the Canadian nation, however uneven the power of the English and the French, has been characterized by discussion, planning, and compromise. The gradual opening of all of Canada to European control, and its coming together in 1867 as a national entity, was not the result of war or revolution but instead, of negotiation and reconciliation. It was an orderly transition managed almost like a business venture, through which Canada obtained a degree of sovereignty and Great Britain continued to hold Canadas allegiance as a member of the British Empire.

When, in the early 1980s Canada would take the final step towards political independence by adopting its own constitution, it would do so through negotiation as well, and again, the antagonism between English and French Canada, which resulted in the Government of Quebec refusing to sign the constitutional enabling agreement would provide both the drama of the moment, and its fundamental character, one of compromise and collaboration.

Leading up to and following the emergence of Canada as an independent political state in 1867, English Canada and English identity dominated the political and cultural landscape. The remaining French presence, in Quebec and throughout the eastern part of the country, while a strong cultural entity in itself, exercised only limited influence and effect at the national level. English symbols, the English language, and the values of loyalty to the English crown prevailed throughout the nation as the core underpinnings of national identity.

The dominance of English Canada in terms of national identity, especially in a federal system in which binationalism and biculturalism were enshrined in the founding legislation of the country, exercised a powerful effect on ethnic relations, but that effect was not ethnic homogenization. Instead, the dominance of English Canada served as a major locus of ongoing tension between the two national identities of Canada, a tension which, in he period from the 1960s onward, has come to be expressed in growing French-Canadian nationalism and so far unsuccessful attempts on the part of French Canada to secede from the Canadian confederation. This tension”which is built into the principles of the confederation itself, which recognizes the duality of Canadian national identity” while regularly threatening the unity of the federation, has also had a mollifying effect on ethnic divisions more generally. The main exception to this has been the relationship between the dominant French-English state and aboriginal peoples.

Colonial relations with indigenous ethnic groups worldwide have often been marked by violent conquest. While violence did play a role in these relationships in Canada, more often than not aboriginal peoples simply had their ethnic and cultural identities erased. The use of forced schooling, including the removal of children from their families, for example, sought to annul aboriginal cultural identities Food in Daily Life . The agricultural and ethnic richness of Canada has led to two distinctive characteristics of everyday food consumption. The first is its scale.

Canadians are big eaters, with meat portions in particular dominating the Canadian meal. There are generally three regular meals in a given day. Breakfast, often large and important in rural areas, but less so in urban areas, is most often not eaten in a group. Lunch, at midday, is most often a snack in urban areas, but remains a substantial meal in rural centers. Dinner, the final formal meal of the day, is also the meal most likely to be eaten by a residential group as a whole, and it is the largest and the most socially important meal of the day.

It is the meal most often used as a social event or to which invitations to nonfamily members are extended, in contrast with lunch which is often, for adults, shared with coworkers. Meat plays a key role in all three of the formal meals, but with increasing importance at breakfast and dinner. Dinner should have some special, and most often, large, meat portion as its key component. Each of these three meals can be, and often are, very substantial. There are general rules concerning appropriate foods for each meal, rules that can be quite complex.

For example, pork can figure in each meal, but only particular kinds of pork would be considered appropriate. Pork at breakfast may appear as bacon, or sausage, in small portions. Both of these products are made with the least valuable portion of the pig. At lunch, pork may appear in a sandwich in the form of processed meats, also made from the least valuable portion of the pig. For dinner, pork appears in large and more highly valued forms, such as roasts or hams, which require often elaborate preparation and which are presented to diners in a way that highlights their value and size.

The other main feature of Canadian food is diversity. The complex ethnic landscape of Canada and the tendency of ethnic groups to retain a dual cultural orientation have meant that Canadian cuisine is quite diverse in its content, with many ethnic dishes seen as somehow quintessentially Canadian as well. Whether pizza or chow mein, cabbage rolls or plum pudding, Canadian cuisine is best characterized as eclectic rather than consistent in content. There are a small number of food items that are considered distinctively Canadian, such as maple syrup, but overall the Canadian diet is drawn from a panoply of ethnic sources.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Ceremonial food does not generally differ greatly in content from everyday foods. What distinguishes food in ceremonial settings, such as state dinners, is not the type of food but the amount of food served and the complexity of its presentation and consumption. Ceremonial dinners are often made up of a long list of dishes served in a rigid sequence, eaten with utensils specified for each portion, and presented in often elaborate arrangement either generally, on the table as a whole, or in the particular portions placed on each diners plate.

The same general consideration applies to meals for more private special occasions, such as those marking important religious holidays such as Christmas. The number of discrete dishes is usually quite large, the preparation of each is often specialized and involved, and portions consumed are more often than not greater than what one would consume under other circumstances. These more private special occasion meals often involve entire extended families sharing in both preparing and eating the meal. There is another special meal worth mentioning, the potluck. Potluck is derived from the word potlatch, a special occasion of many West Coast First Nations peoples. The potluck involves each guest preparing and bringing a dish to the event, to be shared by all the diners. The key component of this particular kind of meal is food sharing among friends as opposed to food making for family. In general, potluck meals are meals shared by friends or coworkers. They express the symbolic importance of the meal as a part of the moral geography of social relations among nonkin, but distinguish this meal as an act of food sharing rather than an act of food preparation.

That is, the potluck meal expresses a sense of community and kindness, while the family meal expresses a sense of service, duty, and family solidarity. Basic Economy. Canada is a resource rich, but land and people poor, country. While physically vast, there are geographic limitations on where people can live such that most of the population is located around the Great Lakes, and in the Saint Lawrence River Valley. This has meant, however, that the natural resources throughout the country can be exploited more fully.

Key to Canadas basic economy is its role as a resource base, not only for its own manufacturing, but for export as well. Minerals and ore, forestry products, and in particular in the twentieth century, oil and gas, have been the foundation of the Canadian economy since European conquest of the area. Farming is also key to the Canadian economy, although most of Canadas agricultural production The single largest area of economic growth in Canada since the 1970s has been in the service sector, the part of the economy which provides services rather than goods for sale. r Trade. Canada exports around the world, but its most important export and import trading partner is the United States. The manufacturing and export of large equipment, and in particular farm equipment, is the second largest component of Canadian manufacturing and trade. At the same time, Canada remains a major resource exporter. In particular, Canada exports raw materials such as petro-chemicals and oil, minerals and ores, and forestry products. Division of Labor.

Labor in Canada is unevenly divided between skilled professional, skilled manufacturing, and general unskilled such as service workers. With increased manufacturing efficiency, the skilled manufacturing labor force has declined in size, though not in economic impact, while the general unskilled labor force has increased; at the same time skilled professionals”whether doctors, computer programmers, and other new economy professionals”has also increased. Access to different jobs is determined in part by education and training and in part by social networks.

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