Culture of Canada

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Perhaps the most prominent symbol of Canada, the Maple leaf has been a de facto symbol since the 1700s. Maple leaf - panoramio - Mario Hains.jpg
Perhaps the most prominent symbol of Canada, the Maple leaf has been a de facto symbol since the 1700s.

The culture of Canada embodies the artistic, culinary, literary, humour, musical, political and social elements that are representative of Canadians. Throughout Canada's history, its culture has been influenced by European culture and traditions, mostly by the British and French, and by its own indigenous cultures. [1] Over time, elements of the cultures of Canada's immigrant populations have become incorporated to form a Canadian cultural mosaic. [1] [2] Certain segments of Canada's population have, to varying extents, also been influenced by American culture due to shared language (in English-speaking Canada), significant media penetration and geographic proximity. [3] [4]


Canada is often characterized as being "very progressive, diverse, and multicultural". [5] Canada's federal government has often been described as the instigator of multicultural ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration. [6] Canada's culture draws from its broad range of constituent nationalities, and policies that promote a just society are constitutionally protected. [7] Canadian Government policies—such as publicly funded health care; higher and more progressive taxation; outlawing capital punishment; strong efforts to eliminate poverty; an emphasis on cultural diversity; strict gun control; the legalization of same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia and cannabis — are social indicators of the country's political and cultural values. [8] [9] [10] Canadians identify with the country's institutions of health care, military peacekeeping, the national park system and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . [11] [12]

The Canadian government has influenced culture with programs, laws and institutions. It has created crown corporations to promote Canadian culture through media, such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and promotes many events which it considers to promote Canadian traditions. It has also tried to protect Canadian culture by setting legal minimums on Canadian content in many media using bodies like the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). [13]

Cultural components



Fur traders at work as depicted in 1777 by Claude J. Sauthier Fur traders in canada 1777.jpg
Fur traders at work as depicted in 1777 by Claude J. Sauthier

For thousands of years, Canada has been inhabited by indigenous peoples from a variety of different cultures and of several major linguistic groupings. [14] Although not without conflict and bloodshed, early European interactions with First Nations and Inuit populations in what is now Canada were arguably peaceful. [15] First Nations and Métis peoples played a critical part in the development of European colonies in Canada, particularly for their role in assisting European coureur des bois and voyageurs in the exploration of the continent during the North American fur trade. [16] Combined with late economic development in many regions, this comparably nonbelligerent early history allowed indigenous Canadians to have a lasting influence on the national culture (see: The Canadian Crown and Aboriginal peoples). [17] Over the course of three centuries, countless North American Indigenous words, inventions, concepts, and games have become an everyday part of Canadian language and use. [18] Many places in Canada, both natural features and human habitations, use indigenous names. The name "Canada" itself derives from the St. Lawrence Huron-Iroquoian word "Kanata" meaning "village" or "settlement". [19] The name of Canada's capital city Ottawa comes from the Algonquin language term "adawe" meaning "to trade". [19]

A Canadian war bond poster that depicts an industrious beaver, a national symbol of Canada Keep All Canadians Busy - Victory bonds poster.jpg
A Canadian war bond poster that depicts an industrious beaver, a national symbol of Canada

In the 17th-century, French colonials settled New France in Acadia, in the present-day Maritimes, and in Canada , along the Saint Lawrence River in present-day Quebec and Ontario. [20] These regions were under French control from 1534 to 1763. However, the British conquered Acadia in 1710 and conquered Canada in 1760. The British were able to deport most of the Acadians, but they were unable to deport the Canadiens of Canada because they severely outnumbered the British forces. The British therefore had to make deals with Canadiens and hope they would one day become assimilated. [21] The American Revolution, from 1775 to 1783, provoked the migration of 40,000 to 50,000 United Empire Loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies to the newly conquered British lands, which brought American influences to Canada for the first time. [21] Following the War of 1812, many Scottish and English people settled in Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Many Irish people fleeing the Great Famine also arrived between 1845 and 1852. [21]

The Canadian Forces and overall civilian participation in the First World War and Second World War helped to foster Canadian nationalism; [22] however, in 1917 and 1944, conscription crises highlighted the considerable rift along ethnic lines between Anglophones and Francophones. [23] As a result of the First and Second World Wars, the Government of Canada became more assertive and less deferential to British authority. [24] Canada, until the 1940s, was often described as "binational", with the 2 components being the cultural, linguistic and political identities of English Canadians and of French Canadians. [25]

Legislative restrictions on immigration (such as the Continuous journey regulation and Chinese Immigration Act ) that had favoured British, American and other European immigrants (such as Dutch, German, Italian, Polish, Swedish and Ukrainian) were amended during the 1960s, [26] [27] resulting in an influx of people of many different ethnicities. [28] By the end of the 20th century, immigrants were increasingly Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Filipino, Lebanese, Pakistani and Haitian. [29] By the 21st century Canada had thirty four ethnic groups with at least one hundred thousand members each, of which eleven have over 1,000,000 people and numerous others are represented in smaller numbers. [30] As of 2006, 16.2% of the population self-identify as a visible minority. [30]

"Ye Gude Olde Days" from Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game, 1899 Good old days of ice hockey.png
"Ye Gude Olde Days" from Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game , 1899

Themes and symbols of pioneers, trappers, and traders played an important part in the early development of Canadian culture. [31] Modern Canadian culture as it is understood today can be traced to its time period of westward expansion and nation building. [32] Contributing factors include Canada's unique geography, climate, and cultural makeup. Being a cold country with long winter nights for most of the year, certain unique leisure activities developed in Canada during this period including ice hockey and embracement of the summer indigenous game of lacrosse. [33] [34] [35]

By the 19th century, Canadians came to believe themselves possessed of a unique "northern character," due to the long, harsh winters that only those of hardy body and mind could survive. [36] This hardiness was claimed as a Canadian trait, and sports that reflected this, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, were asserted as characteristically Canadian. [37] During this period, the churches tried to influence leisure activities by preaching against drinking, and scheduling annual revivals and weekly club activities. [38] In a society in which most middle-class families now owned a harmonium or piano, and standard education included at least the rudiments of music, the result was often an original song. [39] Such stirrings frequently occurred in response to noteworthy events, and few local or national excitements were allowed to pass without some musical comment. [40] [41]

By the 1930s, radio played a major role in uniting Canadians behind their local or regional teams. Rural areas were especially influenced by sports coverage and the propagation of national myths. [42] Outside the sports and music arena, Canadians expressed a national character of being hard working, peaceful, orderly and polite. [43]

Political culture

Historical cultural legislation

Monument to Multiculturalism, by Francesco Pirelli in Toronto Statue outside Union Station.jpg
Monument to Multiculturalism, by Francesco Pirelli in Toronto

French Canada's early development was relatively cohesive during the 17th and 18th centuries, and this was preserved by the Quebec Act of 1774, which allowed Roman Catholics to hold offices and practice their faith. [44] In 1867, the Constitution Act was thought to meet the growing calls for Canadian autonomy while avoiding the overly strong decentralization that contributed to the Civil War in the United States. [45] The compromises reached during this time between the English- and French-speaking Fathers of Confederation set Canada on a path to bilingualism which in turn contributed to an acceptance of diversity. [46] The English and French languages have had limited constitutional protection since 1867 and full official status since 1969. [47] Section 133 of the Constitution Act of 1867 (BNA Act) guarantees that both languages may be used in the Parliament of Canada. [47] Canada adopted its first Official Languages Act in 1969, giving English and French equal status in the government of Canada. [48] Doing so makes them "official" languages, having preferred status in law over all other languages used in Canada. [48]

Prior to the advent of the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960 and its successor the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the laws of Canada did not provide much in the way of civil rights and this issue was typically of limited concern to the courts. [49] Canada since the 1960s has placed emphasis on equality and inclusiveness for all people. [50] Multiculturalism in Canada was adopted as the official policy of the Canadian government and is enshrined in Section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [51] [52] In 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Egan v. Canada that sexual orientation should be "read in" to Section Fifteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a part of the Constitution of Canada guaranteeing equal rights to all Canadians. [53] Following a series of decisions by provincial courts and the Supreme Court of Canada, on July 20, 2005, the Civil Marriage Act (Bill C-38) received Royal Assent, legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. [54] Furthermore, sexual orientation was included as a protected status in the human-rights laws of the federal government and of all provinces and territories. [55]

Contemporary politics

The Centre Block of the Canadian parliament buildings on Parliament Hill Parliament-Ottawa.jpg
The Centre Block of the Canadian parliament buildings on Parliament Hill

Canadian governments at the federal level have a tradition of liberalism, [56] and govern with a moderate, centrist political ideology. [57] [58] Canada's egalitarian approach to governance emphasizing social justice and multiculturalism, is based on selective immigration, social integration, and suppression of far-right politics that has wide public and political support. [59] [60] Peace, order, and good government are constitutional goals of the Canadian government. [61]

Canada has a multi-party system in which many of its legislative customs derive from the unwritten conventions of and precedents set by the Westminster parliament of the United Kingdom. The country has been dominated by two parties, [62] the centre-left Liberal Party of Canada and the centre-right Conservative Party of Canada. [63] The historically predominant Liberals position themselves at the centre of the political scale, [64] with the Conservatives sitting on the right and the New Democratic Party occupying the left. [62] Smaller parties like the Quebec nationalist Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada have also been able to exert their influence over the political process by representation at the federal level.

Nationalism and protectionism

Quebec's National Holiday (French: La Fete nationale du Quebec
) is celebrated annually on June 24, St. John the Baptist Day St-Jean!042.jpg
Quebec's National Holiday (French: La Fête nationale du Québec) is celebrated annually on June 24, St. John the Baptist Day

In general, Canadian nationalists are concerned about the protection of Canadian sovereignty and loyalty to the Canadian State, placing them in the civic nationalist category. It has likewise often been suggested that anti-Americanism plays a prominent role in Canadian nationalist ideologies. [65] A unified, bi-cultural, tolerant and sovereign Canada remains an ideological inspiration to many Canadian nationalists. [66] Alternatively Quebecois nationalism and support for maintaining French Canadian culture many of whom were supporters of the Quebec sovereignty movement during the late-20th century. [67]

Cultural protectionism in Canada has, since the mid-20th century, taken the form of conscious, interventionist attempts on the part of various Canadian governments to promote Canadian cultural production. [68] Sharing a large border, a common language (for the majority), and being exposed to massive diffusions of American media makes it difficult for Canada to preserve its own culture versus being assimilated to American culture. While Canada tries to maintain its cultural differences, it also must balance this with responsibility in trade arrangements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). [69]


Canadian values are the perceived commonly shared ethical and human values of Canadians. The major political parties have claimed explicitly that they uphold Canadian values, but use generalities to specify them. Historian Ian MacKay argues that, thanks to the long-term political impact of "Rebels, Reds, and Radicals", and allied leftist political elements, "egalitarianism, social equality, and peace... are now often simply referred 'Canadian values.'" [70] Canada ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, education, and gender equality. [71]

A 2013 Statistics Canada survey found that an "overwhelming majority" of Canadians shared the values of human rights (with 92% of respondents agreeing that they are a shared Canadian value), respect for the law (92%) and gender equality (91%). [72] Universal access to publicly funded health services "is often considered by Canadians as a fundamental value that ensures national health care insurance for everyone wherever they live in the country." [73]

A copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Canadiancharterofrightsandfreedoms.jpg
A copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was intended to be a source for Canadian values and national unity. [74] The 15th Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau wrote in his Memoirs that:

Canada itself could now be defined as a "society where all people are equal and where they share some fundamental values based upon freedom", and that all Canadians could identify with the values of liberty and equality. [75]

Numerous scholars, beginning in the 1940s with American sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset; have tried to identify, measure and compare them with other countries, especially the United States. [76] [77] However, there are critics who say that such a task is practically impossible. [78]

Denis Stairs a professor of political Science at Dalhousie University; links the concept of Canadian values with nationalism. [Canadians typically]...believe, in particular, that they subscribe to a distinctive set of values - Canadian values - and that those values are special in the sense of being unusually virtuous. [79]


The maple leaf is the symbol most associated with Canadian identity. Stenciled identity.jpg
The maple leaf is the symbol most associated with Canadian identity.

Canada's large geographic size, the presence of a significant number of indigenous peoples, the conquest of one European linguistic population by another and relatively open immigration policy have led to an extremely diverse society. As a result, the issue of Canadian identity remains under scrutiny. [80]

Canada has constitutional protection for policies that promote multiculturalism rather than cultural assimilation or a single national myth. [81] In Quebec, cultural identity is strong, and many commentators speak of a French Canadian culture as distinguished from English Canadian culture. [82] However, as a whole, Canada is in theory, a cultural mosaic—a collection of several regional, and ethnic subcultures. [83] [84]

As Professor Alan Cairns noted about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms , "the initial federal government premise was on developing a pan-Canadian identity"'. [85] Pierre Trudeau himself later wrote in his Memoirs (1993) that "Canada itself" could now be defined as a "society where all people are equal and where they share some fundamental values based upon freedom", and that all Canadians could identify with the values of liberty and equality. [86]

Political philosopher Charles Blattberg suggests that Canada is a "multinational country"; as all Canadians are members of Canada as a civic or political community, a community of citizens, and this is a community that contains many other kinds within it. These include not only communities of ethnic, regional, religious, and civic (the provincial and municipal governments) sorts, but also national communities, which often include or overlap with many of the other kinds. [87]

Journalist and author Richard Gwyn has suggested that "tolerance" has replaced "loyalty" as the touchstone of Canadian identity. [88] Journalist and professor Andrew Cohen wrote in 2007:

The Canadian Identity, as it has come to be known, is as elusive as the Sasquatch and Ogopogo. It has animated—and frustrated—generations of statesmen, historians, writers, artists, philosophers, and the National Film Board ... Canada resists easy definition. [89]

Canada's 15th prime minister Pierre Trudeau in regards to uniformity stated:

Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada. We should not even be able to agree upon the kind of Canadian to choose as a model, let alone persuade most people to emulate it. There are few policies potentially more disastrous for Canada than to tell all Canadians that they must be alike. There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an "all-Canadian" boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. [90]

The question of Canadian identity was traditionally dominated by three fundamental themes: first, the often conflicted relations between English Canadians and French Canadians stemming from the French Canadian imperative for cultural and linguistic survival; secondly, the generally close ties between English Canadians and the British Empire, resulting in a gradual political process towards complete independence from the imperial power; and finally, the close proximity of English-speaking Canadians to the United States. [91] Much of the debate over contemporary Canadian identity is argued in political terms, and defines Canada as a country defined by its government policies, which are thought to reflect deeper cultural values. [92]

In 2013, more than 90% of Canadians believed that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the national flag were the top symbols of Canadian identity. Next highest were the national anthem, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and hockey. [93]

Inter-provincial interactions

Demonstrators in Calgary, Alberta protesting the coalition of opposition parties attempting to take control of Parliament during the 2008 Canadian parliamentary dispute. Calgary political protest 1.JPG
Demonstrators in Calgary, Alberta protesting the coalition of opposition parties attempting to take control of Parliament during the 2008 Canadian parliamentary dispute.

Western alienation is the notion that the western provinces have historically been alienated, and in extreme cases excluded, from mainstream Canadian political affairs in favour of Eastern Canada or more specifically the central provinces. [94] Western alienation claims that these latter two are politically represented, and economically favoured, more significantly than the former, which has given rise to the sentiment of alienation among many western Canadians. [95] Likewise; the Quebec sovereignty movement that lead to the Québécois nation and the province of Quebec being recognized as a "distinct society" within Canada, highlights the sharp divisions between the Anglo and Francophone population. [96]

Though more than half of Canadians live in just two provinces (Ontario and Quebec), each province is largely self-contained due to provincial economic self-sufficiency. Only 15 percent of Canadians live in a different province from where they were born, and only 10 percent go to another province for university. Canada has always been like this, and stands in sharp contrast to the United States' internal mobility which is much higher. For example 30 percent live in a different state from where they were born, and 30 percent go away for university. Scott Gilmore in Maclean's argues that "Canada is a nation of strangers", in the sense that for most individuals, the rest of Canada outside their province is little-known. Another factor is the cost of internal travel. Intra-Canadian airfares are high—it is cheaper and more common to visit the United States than to visit another province. Gilmore argues that the mutual isolation makes it difficult to muster national responses to major national issues. [97]


Canadian humour is an integral part of the Canadian Identity. There are several traditions in Canadian humour in both English and French. [98] [99] While these traditions are distinct and at times very different, there are common themes that relate to Canadians' shared history and geopolitical situation in the Western Hemisphere and the world. Various trends can be noted in Canadian comedy. One trend is the portrayal of a "typical" Canadian family in an ongoing radio or television series. [100] Other trends include outright absurdity, [101] and political and cultural satire. [102] Irony, parody, satire, and self-deprecation are arguably the primary characteristics of Canadian humour. [103] [104] [105]

Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, Quebec at the Saint-Denis Theatre. Festival Juste pour rire de Montreal, Quebec.jpg
Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, Québec at the Saint-Denis Theatre.

The beginnings of Canadian national radio comedy date to the late 1930s with the debut of The Happy Gang , a long-running weekly variety show that was regularly sprinkled with corny jokes in between tunes. [106] Canadian television comedy begins with Wayne and Shuster, a sketch comedy duo who performed as a comedy team during the Second World War, and moved their act to radio in 1946 before moving on to television. [107] Second City Television , otherwise known as SCTV , Royal Canadian Air Farce , This Hour Has 22 Minutes , The Kids in the Hall , Trailer Park Boys , Corner gas and more recently Schitt's Creek are regarded as television shows which were very influential on the development of Canadian humour. [108] Canadian comedians have had great success in the film industry and are amongst the most recognized in the world. [108]

Humber College in Toronto and the École nationale de l'humour in Montreal offer post-secondary programmes in comedy writing and performance. [109] Montreal is also home to the bilingual (English and French) Just for Laughs festival and to the Just for Laughs Museum, a bilingual, international museum of comedy. [110] Canada has a national television channel, The Comedy Network, devoted to comedy. Many Canadian cities feature comedy clubs and showcases, most notable, The Second City branch in Toronto (originally housed at The Old Fire Hall) and the Yuk Yuk's national chain. [111] The Canadian Comedy Awards were founded in 1999 by the Canadian Comedy Foundation for Excellence, a not-for-profit organization. [112]


One of the national symbols of Canada, the beaver is depicted on the Canadian five-cent piece and was on the first Canadian postage stamp, c. 1859. Stamp Canada 1859 5c.jpg
One of the national symbols of Canada, the beaver is depicted on the Canadian five-cent piece and was on the first Canadian postage stamp, c. 1859.

Predominant symbols of Canada include the maple leaf, beaver, and the Canadian horse. [113] [114] [115] Many official symbols of the country such as the Flag of Canada have been changed or modified over the past few decades to Canadianize them and de-emphasise or remove references to the United Kingdom. [116] Other prominent symbols include the sports of hockey and lacrosse, the Canada Goose, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Rockies, [117] and more recently the totem pole and Inuksuk; [118] material items such as Canadian beer, maple syrup, tuques, canoes, nanaimo bars, butter tarts and the Quebec dish of poutine have also been defined as uniquely Canadian. [118] [119] Symbols of the Canadian monarchy continue to be featured in, for example, the Arms of Canada, the armed forces, and the prefix Her Majesty's Canadian Ship. The designation Royal remains for institutions as varied as the Royal Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. [120] [121]


Visual arts

Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine, Winter 1916-17. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa The Jack Pine, by Tom Thomson.jpg
Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine , Winter 1916–17. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Indigenous artists were producing art in the territory that is now called Canada for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European settler colonists and the eventual establishment of Canada as a nation state. [122] Like the peoples that produced them, indigenous art traditions spanned territories that extended across the current national boundaries between Canada and the United States. [123] The majority of indigenous artworks preserved in museum collections date from the period after European contact and show evidence of the creative adoption and adaptation of European trade goods such as metal and glass beads. [124] Canadian sculpture has been enriched by the walrus ivory, muskox horn and caribou antler and soapstone carvings by the Inuit artists. [125] These carvings show objects and activities from the daily life, myths and legends of the Inuit. [126] Inuit art since the 1950s has been the traditional gift given to foreign dignitaries by the Canadian government. [127]

The works of most early Canadian painters followed European trends. [128] During the mid-19th century, Cornelius Krieghoff, a Dutch-born artist in Quebec, painted scenes of the life of the habitants (French-Canadian farmers). At about the same time, the Canadian artist Paul Kane painted pictures of indigenous life in western Canada. A group of landscape painters called the Group of Seven developed the first distinctly Canadian style of painting, inspired by the works of the legendary landscape painter Tom Thomson. [129] All these artists painted large, brilliantly coloured scenes of the Canadian wilderness.

Since the 1930s, Canadian painters have developed a wide range of highly individual styles. Emily Carr became famous for her paintings of totem poles in British Columbia. [130] Other noted painters have included the landscape artist David Milne, the painters Jean-Paul Riopelle, Harold Town and Charles Carson and multi-media artist Michael Snow. The abstract art group Painters Eleven, particularly the artists William Ronald and Jack Bush, also had an important impact on modern art in Canada. [131] Government support has played a vital role in their development enabling visual exposure through publications and periodicals featuring Canadian art, as has the establishment of numerous art schools and colleges across the country. [132]


Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist. Atwood123.jpg
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist.

Canadian literature is often divided into French- and English-language literatures, which are rooted in the literary traditions of France and Britain, respectively. [133] Canada's early literature, whether written in English or French, often reflects the Canadian perspective on nature, frontier life, and Canada's position in the world, for example the poetry of Bliss Carman or the memoirs of Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill. These themes, and Canada's literary history, inform the writing of successive generations of Canadian authors, from Leonard Cohen to Margaret Atwood.

By the mid-20th century, Canadian writers were exploring national themes for Canadian readers. Authors were trying to find a distinctly Canadian voice, rather than merely emulating British or American writers. Canadian identity is closely tied to its literature. The question of national identity recurs as a theme in much of Canada's literature, from Hugh MacLennan's Two Solitudes (1945) to Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief (1999). Canadian literature is often categorized by region or province; by the socio-cultural origins of the author (for example, Acadians, indigenous peoples, LGBT, and Irish Canadians); and by literary period, such as "Canadian postmoderns" or "Canadian Poets Between the Wars".

Canadian authors have accumulated numerous international awards. [134] In 1992, Michael Ondaatje became the first Canadian to win the Booker Prize for The English Patient . [135] Margaret Atwood won the Booker in 2000 for The Blind Assassin [136] and Yann Martel won it in 2002 for the Life of Pi . [137] Carol Shields's The Stone Diaries won the Governor General's Awards in Canada in 1993, the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award. [138] In 2013, Alice Munro was the first Canadian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as "master of the modern short story". [139] Munro is also a recipient of the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, and three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction. [140]


Canada has had a thriving stage theatre scene since the late 1800s. [141] Theatre festivals draw many tourists in the summer months, especially the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, and the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The Famous People Players are only one of many touring companies that have also developed an international reputation. [142] Canada also hosts one of the largest fringe festivals, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. [143]

A 1904 postcard showing the Grand Opera House and Majestic Theatre, Adelaide Street, in the current Toronto Theatre District. Grand Opera House and Majestic Theatre, Adelaide Street, Toronto, Canada.JPG
A 1904 postcard showing the Grand Opera House and Majestic Theatre, Adelaide Street, in the current Toronto Theatre District.

Canada's largest cities host a variety of modern and historical venues. The Toronto Theatre District is Canada's largest, as well as being the third largest English-speaking theatre district in the world. [144] In addition to original Canadian works, shows from the West End and Broadway frequently tour in Toronto. Toronto's Theatre District includes the venerable Roy Thomson Hall; the Princess of Wales Theatre; the Tim Sims Playhouse; The Second City; the Canon Theatre; the Panasonic Theatre; the Royal Alexandra Theatre; historic Massey Hall; and the city's new opera house, the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. [145] Toronto's Theatre District also includes the Theatre Museum Canada.

Montreal's theatre district ("Quartier des Spectacles") is the scene of performances that are mainly French-language, although the city also boasts a lively anglophone theatre scene, such as the Centaur Theatre. [146] Large French theatres in the city include Théâtre Saint-Denis and Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. [147]

Vancouver is host to, among others, the Vancouver Fringe Festival, the Arts Club Theatre Company, Carousel Theatre, Bard on the Beach, Theatre Under the Stars and Studio 58. [148]

Calgary is home to Theatre Calgary, a mainstream regional theatre; Alberta Theatre Projects, a major centre for new play development in Canada; the Calgary Animated Objects Society; and One Yellow Rabbit, a touring company. [149]

There are three major theatre venues in Ottawa; the Ottawa Little Theatre, originally called the Ottawa Drama League at its inception in 1913, is the longest-running community theatre company in Ottawa. [150] Since 1969, Ottawa has been the home of the National Arts Centre, a major performing-arts venue that houses four stages and is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Opera Lyra Ottawa. [151] Established in 1975, the Great Canadian Theatre Company specializes in the production of Canadian plays at a local level. [152]


CBC's English-language master control point, the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, in Toronto CBC Centre.JPG
CBC's English-language master control point, the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, in Toronto

Canadian television, especially supported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, [153] is the home of a variety of locally produced shows. French-language television, like French Canadian film, is buffered from excessive American influence by the fact of language, and likewise supports a host of home-grown productions. [154] The success of French-language domestic television in Canada often exceeds that of its English-language counterpart. In recent years nationalism has been used to prompt products on television. The I Am Canadian campaign by Molson beer, most notably the commercial featuring Joe Canadian, infused domestically brewed beer and nationalism. [155] [156]

Canada's television industry is in full expansion as a site for Hollywood productions. [157] Since the 1980s, Canada, and Vancouver in particular, has become known as Hollywood North. [158] The American TV series Queer as Folk was filmed in Toronto. Canadian producers have been very successful in the field of science fiction since the mid-1990s, with such shows as The X-Files , Stargate SG-1 , Highlander: The Series , the new Battlestar Galactica, My Babysitter's A Vampire , Smallville , and The Outer Limits all filmed in Vancouver. [159]

The CRTC's Canadian content regulations dictate that a certain percentage of a domestic broadcaster's transmission time must include content that is produced by Canadians, or covers Canadian subjects. [160] These regulations also apply to US cable television channels such as MTV and the Discovery Channel, which have local versions of their channels available on Canadian cable networks. Similarly, BBC Canada, while showing primarily BBC shows from the United Kingdom, also carries Canadian output.


A number of Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood significantly contributed to the creation of the motion picture industry in the early days of the 20th century. [161] Over the years, many Canadians have made enormous contributions to the American entertainment industry, although they are frequently not recognized as Canadians. [162]

Standard Theatre, 482 Queen Street West, Toronto, 1906 Stanford Theatre at 482 Queen Street.jpg
Standard Theatre, 482 Queen Street West, Toronto, 1906

Canada has developed a vigorous film industry that has produced a variety of well-known films and actors. [163] In fact, this eclipsing may sometimes be creditable for the bizarre and innovative directions of some works, [163] such as auteurs Atom Egoyan ( The Sweet Hereafter , 1997) and David Cronenberg ( The Fly , Naked Lunch , A History of Violence ) and the avant-garde work of Michael Snow and Jack Chambers. Also, the distinct French-Canadian society permits the work of directors such as Denys Arcand and Denis Villeneuve, while First Nations cinema includes the likes of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner . At the 76th Academy Awards, Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions became Canada's first film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. [164]

The National Film Board of Canada is a public agency that produces and distributes films and other audiovisual works which reflect Canada to Canadians and the rest of the world'. [165] Canada has produced many popular documentaries such as The Corporation , Nanook of the North , Final Offer , and Canada: A People's History . The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is considered by many to be one of the most prevalent film festivals for Western cinema. It is the première film festival in North America from which the Oscars race begins. [166]


Ottawa Jazz Festival inside Rideau Centre, 2008 Ojazzfest.JPG
Ottawa Jazz Festival inside Rideau Centre, 2008

The music of Canada has reflected the multi-cultural influences that have shaped the country. Indigenous, the French, and the British have all made historical contributions to the musical heritage of Canada. The country has produced its own composers, musicians and ensembles since the mid-1600s. [167] [168] From the 17th century onward, Canada has developed a music infrastructure that includes church halls; chamber halls; conservatories; academies; performing arts centres; record companys; radio stations, and television music-video channels. [169] [170] The music has subsequently been heavily influenced by American culture because of its proximity and migration between the two countries. [171] [172] [173] Canadian rock has had a considerable impact on the development of modern popular music and the development of the most popular subgenres. [174]

Patriotic music in Canada dates back over 200 years as a distinct category from British patriotism, preceding the first legal steps to independence by over 50 years. The earliest known song, "The Bold Canadian", was written in 1812. [175] The national anthem of Canada, "O Canada" adopted in 1980, [176] was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. [177] Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem composed by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The text was originally only in French, before English lyrics were written in 1906. [178]

Music broadcasting in the country is regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents Canada's music industry awards, the Juno Awards, which were first awarded in a ceremony during the summer of 1970. [179]


Aboriginal Peoples Television Network headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba APTN building on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba.JPG
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Canada has a well-developed media sector, but its cultural output—particularly in English films, television shows, and magazines—is often overshadowed by imports from the United States. [180] Television, magazines, and newspapers are primarily for-profit corporations based on advertising, subscription, and other sales-related revenues. Nevertheless, both the television broadcasting and publications sectors require a number of government interventions to remain profitable, ranging from regulation that bars foreign companies in the broadcasting industry to tax laws that limit foreign competition in magazine advertising. [181]

The promotion of multicultural media in Canada began in the late 1980s as the multicultural policy was legislated in 1988. [182] In the Multiculturalism Act , the federal government proclaimed the recognition of the diversity of Canadian culture. [182] Thus, multicultural media became an integral part of Canadian media overall. Upon numerous government reports showing lack of minority representation or minority misrepresentation, the Canadian government stressed separate provision be made to allow minorities and ethnicities of Canada to have their own voice in the media. [183]


Sports in Canada consists of a variety of games. Although there are many contests that Canadians value, the most common are ice hockey, box lacrosse, Canadian football, basketball, soccer, curling, baseball and ringette. All but curling and soccer are considered domestic sports as they were either invented by Canadians or trace their roots to Canada. [184]

Ice hockey being played at McGill University, in Montreal, 1884. Ice hockey McGill University 1884.jpg
Ice hockey being played at McGill University, in Montreal, 1884.

Ice hockey, referred to as simply "hockey", is Canada's most prevalent winter sport, its most popular spectator sport, and its most successful sport in international competition. It is Canada's official national winter sport. [185] Lacrosse, a sport with indigenous origins, is Canada's oldest and official summer sport. [185] Canadian football is Canada's second most popular spectator sport, [186] and the Canadian Football League's annual championship, the Grey Cup, is the country's largest annual sports event. [187]

While other sports have a larger spectator base, association football, known in Canada as soccer in both English and French, has the most registered players of any team sport in Canada, and is the most played sport with all demographics, including ethnic origin, ages and genders. [188] Professional teams exist in many cities in Canada – with a trio of teams in North America's top pro league, Major League Soccer  – and international soccer competitions such as the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro and the UEFA Champions League attract some of the biggest audiences in Canada. [189] Other popular team sports include curling, street hockey, cricket, rugby league, rugby union, softball and Ultimate frisbee. Popular individual sports include auto racing, boxing, karate, kickboxing, hunting, sport shooting, fishing, cycling, golf, hiking, horse racing, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, triathlon, disc golf, water sports, and several forms of wrestling.

As a country with a generally cool climate, Canada has enjoyed greater success at the Winter Olympics than at the Summer Olympics, although significant regional variations in climate allow for a wide variety of both team and individual sports. Great achievements in Canadian sports are recognized by Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, [190] while the Lou Marsh Trophy is awarded annually to Canada's top athlete by a panel of journalists. [191] There are numerous other Sports Halls of Fame in Canada. [190]


A small sampling of Canadian foods. Clockwise from top left: Montreal-style smoked meat, maple syrup, poutine, Nanaimo bar, butter tart, peameal bacon CanadianCuisineSubset.png
A small sampling of Canadian foods. Clockwise from top left: Montreal-style smoked meat, maple syrup, poutine, Nanaimo bar, butter tart, peameal bacon

Canadian cuisine varies widely depending on the region. The former Canadian prime minister Joe Clark has been paraphrased to have noted: "Canada has a cuisine of cuisines. Not a stew pot, but a smorgasbord." [192] There are considerable overlaps between Canadian food and the rest of the cuisine in North America, many unique dishes (or versions of certain dishes) are found and available only in the country. Common contenders for the Canadian national food include the Quebec-made poutine [193] [194] [195] and butter tarts. [196] [197] Other popular Canadian made foods include indigenous fried bread bannock, French tourtière, Kraft Dinner, ketchup chips, date squares, nanaimo bars, back bacon, the caesar cocktail and many many more. [198] The Canadian province of Quebec is the birthplace and world's largest producer of maple syrup, [199] The Montreal-style bagel and Montreal-style smoked meat are both food items originally developed by Jewish communities living in Quebec [200]

The three earliest cuisines of Canada have First Nations, English, and French roots. The indigenous population of Canada often have their own traditional cuisine. The cuisines of English Canada are closely related to British and American cuisine. Finally, the traditional cuisines of French Canada have evolved from 16th-century French cuisine because of the tough conditions of colonial life and the winter provisions of Coureur des bois. [201] With subsequent waves of immigration in the 18th and 19th century from Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe, and then from Asia, Africa and Caribbean, the regional cuisines were subsequently affected. [201]

Public opinion data on culture

A 2022 web survey by the Association for Canadian Studies found that an absolute majority of respondents in all provinces except Alberta disagreed with the statement that "there is only one Canadian culture". Most respondents didn't choose what music to listen to based on whether or not the artist was Canadian. While half of Quebeckers and more than one third of respondents in the rest of Canadian agreed that "I worry about preserving my culture" at the same time 60% of respondents agreed that "If a Canadian artist is good enough, they will become discovered without the need for specific Canadian content rules". Forty-six percent of respondents had no favourite Canadian musical artist. Rock, pop, and country music were the most popular genres of music, with above twenty percent fan bases in all age categories, but with hip-hop also appealing to more than twenty percent in the youngest cohort (18-35 years old). Film genre preferences were largely as the same across age categories, with comedies and action films the most popular, except that only one percent of older people (>55 years old) were fans of animated movies compared to eleven percent in young adults, while older adults showed a strong preference for dramas compared to younger people. Three out of four respondents could not name a single Canadian visual artist, living or dead. [202]

Outside views

In a 2002 interview with the Globe and Mail, Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, described Canada as "the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe", [203] citing it as "a model for the world". [204] A 2007 poll ranked Canada as the country with the most positive influence in the world. 28,000 people in 27 countries were asked to rate 12 countries as either having a positive or negative worldwide influence. Canada's overall influence rating topped the list with 54 per cent of respondents rating it mostly positive and only 14 per cent mostly negative. [205] A global opinion poll for the BBC saw Canada ranked the second most positively viewed nation in the world (behind Germany) in 2013 and 2014. [206] [207]

The United States is home to a number of perceptions about Canadian culture, due to the countries' partially shared heritage and the relatively large number of cultural features common to both the US and Canada. [208] For example, the average Canadian may be perceived as more reserved than his or her American counterpart. [209] Canada and the United States are often inevitably compared as sibling countries, and the perceptions that arise from this oft-held contrast have gone to shape the advertised worldwide identities of both nations: the United States is seen as the rebellious child of the British Crown, forged in the fires of violent revolution; Canada is the calmer offspring of the United Kingdom, known for a more relaxed national demeanour. [210] [211]

See also

Maple Leaf (from roundel).svg  Canadaportal

Canada location map 2 - lite.svg
Culture by province

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multiculturalism</span> Existence of multiple cultural traditions within a single country

The term multiculturalism has a range of meanings within the contexts of sociology, political philosophy, and colloquial use. In sociology and in everyday usage, it is a synonym for "ethnic pluralism", with the two terms often used interchangeably, and for cultural pluralism in which various ethnic groups collaborate and enter into a dialogue with one another without having to sacrifice their particular identities. It can describe a mixed ethnic community area where multiple cultural traditions exist or a single country within which they do. Groups associated with an indigenous, aboriginal or autochthonous ethnic group and settler-descended ethnic groups are often the focus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Canada</span> Occurrences and people in Canada throughout history

The history of Canada covers the period from the arrival of the Paleo-Indians to North America thousands of years ago to the present day. Prior to European colonization, the lands encompassing present-day Canada were inhabited for millennia by Indigenous peoples, with distinct trade networks, spiritual beliefs, and styles of social organization. Some of these older civilizations had long faded by the time of the first European arrivals and have been discovered through archeological investigations.

The political culture of Canada is in some ways part of a greater North American and European political culture, which emphasizes constitutional law, freedom of religion, personal liberty, and regional autonomy; these ideas stem in various degrees from the British common law and French civil law traditions, North American aboriginal government, and English civic traditions, among others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Taylor (philosopher)</span> Canadian philosopher (born 1931)

Charles Margrave Taylor is a Canadian philosopher from Montreal, Quebec, and professor emeritus at McGill University best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy, and intellectual history. His work has earned him the Kyoto Prize, the Templeton Prize, the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy, and the John W. Kluge Prize.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quebec nationalism</span> North American political ideology

Quebec nationalism or Québécois nationalism is a feeling and a political doctrine that prioritizes cultural belonging to, the defence of the interests of, and the recognition of the political legitimacy of the Québécois nation. It has been a movement and a central issue in Quebec politics since the beginning of the 19th century. Québécois nationalism has seen several political, ideological and partisan variations and incarnations over the years.

Interculturalism is a political movement that supports cross-cultural dialogue and challenging self-segregation tendencies within cultures. Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of multiple cultures existing in a society and instead promotes dialogue and interaction between cultures. Interculturalism is often used to describe the set of relations between indigenous and western ideals, grounded in values of mutual respect.

Cultural conservatism is described as the protection of the cultural heritage of a nation state, or of a culture not defined by state boundaries. It is usually associated with criticism of multiculturalism, and opposition to immigration. Cultural conservatism is sometimes concerned with the preservation of a language, such as French in Quebec, and other times with the preservation of an ethnic group's culture such as Native Americans.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canadian nationalism</span>

Canadian nationalism seeks to promote the unity, independence, and well-being of Canada and the Canadian people. Canadian nationalism has been a significant political force since the 19th century and has typically manifested itself as seeking to advance Canada's independence from influence of the United Kingdom and the United States. Since the 1960s, most proponents of Canadian nationalism have advocated a civic nationalism due to Canada's cultural diversity that specifically has sought to equalize citizenship, especially for Québécois and French-speaking Canadians, who historically faced cultural and economic discrimination and assimilationist pressure from English Canadian-dominated governments. Canadian nationalism became an important issue during the 1988 Canadian general election that focused on the then-proposed Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement, with Canadian nationalists opposing the agreement – saying that the agreement would lead to inevitable complete assimilation and domination of Canada by the United States. During the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty that sought to determine whether Quebec would become a sovereign state or whether it would remain in Canada, Canadian nationalists and federalists supported the "no" side while Quebec nationalists largely supported the "yes" side, resulting in a razor-thin majority in favour of the "no" side that supported Quebec remaining in Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Métis</span> Mixed Indigenous ethnic group of Canada and the US

The Métis are Indigenous peoples whose historical homelands includes Canada's three Prairie Provinces, as well as parts of British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Northwest Ontario and the Northern United States. They have a shared history and culture, deriving from specific mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, which became distinct through ethnogenesis by the mid-18th century, during the early years of the North American fur trade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cultural mosaic</span> Co-existence of ethnic groups, languages and cultures

"Cultural mosaic" is the mix of ethnic groups, languages, and cultures that coexist within society. The idea of a cultural mosaic is intended to suggest a form of multiculturalism, different from other systems such as the melting pot, which is often used to describe nations like the United States' assimilation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canada</span> Country in North America

Canada is a country in North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, making it the world's second-largest country by total area with the world's longest coastline. Its southern and western border with the United States is the world's longest binational land border. Canada's capital is Ottawa and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canadian identity</span>

Canadian identity refers to the unique culture, characteristics and condition of being Canadian, as well as the many symbols and expressions that set Canada and Canadians apart from other peoples and cultures of the world. Primary influences on the Canadian identity trace back to the arrival, beginning in the early seventeenth century, of French settlers in Acadia and the St. Lawrence River Valley, and of English, Scottish and Irish settlers in Newfoundland and the Maritimes, the British conquest of New France in 1759, the migration of United Empire Loyalists to Upper Canada and New Brunswick, and the ensuing dominance of French and British culture in the gradual development of both an imperial and national identity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Serbian Canadians</span>

The community of Serbian Canadians includes Canadian citizens of Serb ethnicity, or people born in Serbia who permanently reside in Canada. Serbs have migrated to Canada in various waves during the 20th century. Today there are five or more generations of Serbs in the country. The 2016 census recorded 96,530 people in Canada declaring themselves as "Serbian". Serbian Canadians generally belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church and follow the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canadians</span> Citizens and nationals of Canada

Canadians are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Canadian.

Criticism of multiculturalism questions the ideal of the maintenance of distinct ethnic cultures within a country. Multiculturalism is a particular subject of debate in certain European nations that are associated with the idea of a nation state. Critics of multiculturalism may argue against cultural integration of different ethnic and cultural groups to the existing laws and values of the country. Alternatively critics may argue for assimilation of different ethnic and cultural groups to a single national identity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multiculturalism in Canada</span> Canadian social situation

Multiculturalism in Canada was officially adopted by the government during the 1970s and 1980s. The Canadian federal government has been described as the instigator of multiculturalism as an ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration. The 1960s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is often referred to as the origin of modern political awareness of multiculturalism, resulting in Canada being one of the most multicultural nations in the world. The official state policy of multiculturalism is often cited as one of Canada's significant accomplishments, and a key distinguishing element of Canadian identity and Canadian values.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Polyethnicity</span> Presence of multiple ethnicities in a society or an identification with multiple ethnicities

Polyethnicity, also known as pluri-ethnicity or multi-ethnicity, refers to specific cultural phenomena that are characterized by social proximity and mutual interaction of people from different ethnic backgrounds, within a country or other specific geographic region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bibliography of Canada</span>

This is a bibliography of works on Canada. For an annotated bibliography and evaluation of major books, see also Canada: A Reader's Guide, by J.André Senécal, online.

Quebecers or Quebeckers are people associated with Quebec. The term is most often used in reference to descendants of the French settlers in Quebec but it can also be used to describe people of any ethnicity who live in the province.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canadian values</span> Commonly shared ethical and human values of Canadians

Canadian values are the commonly shared ethical and human values of Canadians. The major political parties generally claim explicitly that they uphold these values, but there are no consensus among them about what they are and follow a value pluralism approach.


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Further reading