Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canadian Society and Culture

Canadian Society and Culture
Canadians are overall a polite people, and slightly more reserved than their southern neighbors. The values of the country are largely respect, peace, and good government.

Cultural Diversity: Multiculturalism

Canada is culturally diverse. In other words, Canada is populated by people who have come from every part of the world. This goes back to the 1890s when it began inviting people from all over the world to settle in the country to help it develop and grow. The heritage of Canada was French and English; however, significant immigration from Asia and Europe's non-French and English countries has broadened Canada's cultural richness.

The western frontier was "opened" in 1885 when the Canadian transcontinental railroad completed its peaceful construction process. The railroad offered cheap land so immigrants moved in communities establishing towns with citizens from the same European country. These settlements, along with the Inuit communities, give Canada cultural diversity across its nation. Canadian immigration policy was historically open, welcoming and egalitarian in its philosophy. This has also manifest into the psyche of the nation where people are encouraged to retain their cultural identities, traditions, languages and customs.

This cultural diversity is considered a national asset, and the Constitution Act prohibits discrimination against individual citizens on the basis of race, color, religion, or sex.
Through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the government encourages Canadians to take pride in their language, religion and heritage and to keep their customs and traditions, as long as they don’t break Canadian laws.

Language in Canada: Bilingualism

A multitude of languages are spoken in Canada. According to the 2006 census, English and French are the preferred language ("home language", or language spoken most often in the home) of 67.1% and 21.5% of the population, respectively. English and French are recognized by the Constitution of Canada as "official languages," which means that all laws of the federal government are enacted in both English and French and that federal government services are required to be available in both languages.

Under the Official Languages Act, Canada is an officially bilingual country. This means that Canadians have the right to get federal government services in English or French, no matter what part of Canada they are living in.

New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual. New Brunswick residents receive services in both official languages from all of their provincial government departments and agencies.
In Quebec, French is the official language and in most cases, provincial and municipal services are provided in French.

In the other provinces and territories, English is the official language, and the availability of provincial services in both official languages varies.

At the municipal level, the availability of services in both official languages varies greatly.

Although the predominant language in Canada is English, there are at least three varieties of French that are recognized: Quebecois in Quebec, Franco-Manitoban throughout Manitoba and particularly in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg, and Acadian. The Italian language is a strong third due to a great influx of Italian immigrants following W.W.II.

The five most widely-spoken non-official languages are Chinese (the home language of 2.6% of Canadians), Punjabi (0.8%), Spanish (0.7%), Italian (0.6%), and Arabic (0.5%).


Canadians are generally a tolerant, polite, and extremely community-oriented people. Although they are individualistic in terms of their basic cultural traits, they nevertheless place a great deal of emphasis on the individual's responsibility to the community. This is seen as giving balance and a good quality of life.


Most Canadians have a strong allegiance to their province or region, sometimes more so than to the country. There are some broad differences between regions, which can generally be summed up as follows:

Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland): The people are somewhat reserved and provincial, to the point that they are seen as old-fashioned.

Ontario: This is the business hub and the people tend to be business-like and conservative.

Western Canada (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan): The people are open, friendly and relaxed.

British Colombia: The people are less conventional. This province is often viewed as the Canada of the future.

Quebec: The French region has a distinct cultural identity. The people are extremely independent. Quebec, because it is a French province, has a very different value system from the rest of Canada, with its predominately English influence.

North: The people have a strong pioneer spirit.
Canadian Communication Styles

It is difficult to specify any national trait in terms of communication in Canada due to its regionalism and cultural diversity. However, there are some basic communication styles that are fairly standard across the country. For example, businesspeople are generally polite, easy-going, and somewhat informal.

In general, communication is “moderately indirect” perhaps reflecting an amalgamation of both North American and British tendencies. Although most Canadians can disagree openly when necessary, they prefer to do so with tact and diplomacy. Their communication style is essentially pragmatic and relies on common sense. If you come from a culture where communication is very direct, you may wish to soften your demeanor and tone so as not to appear threatening.

Communication styles vary most between Anglophone and Francophone parts of the country. Francophones are generally more indirect than Anglophones, although less so than the French. They also tend to be more exuberant than Anglophones. Anglophones do not generally interrupt someone who is speaking. They consider it rude not to let a person complete their thought before entering the discussion. Francophones are more likely to interrupt another speaker.

Canadians communicate more by the spoken word rather than non-verbal expressions. Non-verbal expressions are only really used to add emphasis to a message or are part of an individual’s personal communication style.

Canadians like their space and prefer to be at an arm’s length when speaking to someone.
Canadians are reticent to discuss their personal lives with business associates. They expect people to speak in a straightforward manner and to be able to back up their claims with examples. They do not make exaggerated claims and are suspicious of something that sounds too good to be true.


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