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Culture, Society and Religion

Canada - Culture, Society and Religion


As with the US, Canada has a variety of cultures. The history of both cultures has been one of immigration over a few centuries and as a result there are communities of varying cultures and religions. The country has no official religion although the vast majority of residents follow a Christian-based religion. Immigration from the Middle East, parts of Asia and African countries means that there are communities of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. The Canadian government is committed to encouraging religious tolerance.

There have been Muslim communities in the country for a long time and the first mosque was constructed before the Second World War. Sikh communities date back even further but large numbers arrived during the 1960s when there was a relaxation of the immigration laws. Immigration since then has seen large numbers of people of all races arrive in the country.

When the 2001 census was carried out in Canada almost 16% of those who completed the forms professed to having no religion at all, while almost 72% listed a Christian religion. There are differences in area too, with 35% of people in British Colombia listing no religion. In 2001 Muslims accounted for 2% of the population while 10 years earlier they had accounted for less than 1%. The number of people practising Judaism in 2001 rose slightly although as a percentage dropped a little to 1.1%. There were similar numbers of people practising Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

Canada is also known to be a very tolerant country. Those who are openly racist, sexist or homophobic will find that their views are not welcome. It will be quickly noted if you have these views and many Canadians will simply avoid you. It is also frowned upon to refer to Canada as a poor relation or simply an extension of the US as Canadians are very proud of their status as an independent nation. While the influence of the US will not be denied, it is not acceptable to suggest that they are the only influence or that Canadians do not have their own individual tastes.

The Canadians are a very welcoming nation of people and are very community-orientated. This is a strong part of the culture in the country and helps to maintain the good quality of life that they enjoy. There are regional variations in how the people are with others too. If you are in one of the provinces along the Atlantic such as Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia then you will find that the people can be a little reserved with others, particularly newcomers at first, while in Ontario where there is much more industry and commercial activity they can be seen as being very business-like. In western parts of the country the people are very relaxed and friendly and in Quebec the people have a strong sense of regional identity and independence that must be respected by those who move to the area.

As a bilingual nation Canada has managed to retain much of its British and French heritage but is now very close to the culture of the US in the way the people live, eat and work. Canada uses American spellings of words and takes the American option where they use a different word than is used in British English. However, there are some British pronunciations of words used rather than American.

When it comes to the arts, Canada has produced a number of prestigious prize-winning authors such as Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel and artists such as Ken Lum, Rodney Graham and Jeff Wall have an excellent reputation among their peers. Theatre arts are also very important with playwrights such as Stephen Massicotte and Jason Sherman regularly having their work staged throughout North America and several ballet companies in operation across the country. Canada has produced a number of well known names in the film world such as Matthew Perry, Michael J Fox, Jim Carrey and Steve Martin and there are a number of musicians that are enjoying international acclaim. Quebec has become known for circus arts and is the home of the world famous Cirque du Soleil, a circus that has no animals. They perform elaborate shows all over the world.


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