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Canada: British Columbia

Overview

Located in North America, Canada is comprised of ten provinces and three territories. It is the world's second largest country in geographic size, yet its population is over 32,805,000 - slightly less than that of California. In terms of its natural resources, Canada is the world's second richest country on a per-capita basis, behind Australia.

Most of the population lives in the southern part of the country, and over 75 percent live in metropolitan areas. Among the largest cities are: Toronto, Ontario; Montréal, Québec; Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa, Ontario; Hull, Québec; and Edmonton, Alberta.

Canada's indigenous population is referred to as the Indians or First Nations. In fact, Canada is an Iroquis word for "community." French and English are the country's official languages, reflecting the Canada's early colonial history. Since the second half of the 18th century when the British ousted France from Canada, the country's main political and ethnic ties have been with the United Kingdom. Increased immigration from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries boosted Canada's ethnic diversity, and since the 1970s, most immigrants have come from Asia.

Canada gained full independence in 1931, although it still is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Canada's official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, although its citizens directly elect legislatures at the federal, provincial and territorial levels.

Manufacturing and resource-related industries are the foundation of Canada's economy. Transportation equipment is the leading manufacturing industry. However, most Canadians work in service occupations.

British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada. The province is culturally diverse and geographically distinct. The majority of British Columbia's population is of British origin, however the Aboriginal peoples have been making a comeback since their population decline when the Europeans began immigrating, and there are over 100,000 British Columbians descended from Chinese railroad workers.

The first Europeans landed in British Columbia in 1774. The Spanish claimed the west coast from Mexico to Vancouver Island, while the Russians had an overlapping claim from Alaska to San Francisco. In contrast, the English and French fought over most of the rest of Canada. In 1843 the first permanent colony was established by the British.

The terrain varies greatly from the islands and flatlands near the Pacific Ocean, to the mountainous topography further to the east and south. Because of this varied landscape, the weather is also quite diverse. The coastal region receives abundant precipitation while some areas have hot summers followed by very cold winters. The indigenous people of British Columbia are also very diverse because of the diverse climate and landscape. The cultures vary greatly from the mountains to the coast.

British Columbia is still attracting immigrants from around the world. Approximately 40,000 people settle in British Columbia each year, primarily in Vancouver and Victoria. The stable economy relies mostly on tourism and forestry. The political climate is also very stable, making immigration very appealing.

Education

Canada's educational system, along with the language of instruction - English or French - varies according to each province. There is no centralized education ministry. Instead, provincial governments administer education, although church-run schools exist throughout the provinces.

Today the education system of British Columbia is very similar to that of the United States. Most students complete 12 years of primary and secondary education, followed by university study, usually lasting four years.


THE CONTRIBUTORS
robert-watkins53FB0EC00E8D
Robert Watkins

Special Assistant to the Director, University of Texas at Austin

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