Basic Facts About Canada

Canada |ˈka-nə-də|
the second-largest country in the world, covering the entire northern half of North America with the exception of Alaska... official languages, English and French; capital, Ottawa.
— DERIVATIVES Canadian (noun & adjective)

Oxford Dictionary of English

Geographic Statistics

Population:  36,443,632 (official estimate as of October 1, 2016)
Total land area: 9,984,670 square kilometers
Coastline: 202,080 kilometers
Capital city: Ottawa
Geographical coordinates: 60° 00 N, 95° 00 W
Bordering nations: United States of America (southern land border plus northwestern land border with Alaska for a total land border length of 8,893 kilometers), Greenland/Denmark (sea border, via Arctic Ocean), St. Pierre and Miquelon/France (sea border, via Atlantic Ocean)
Largest city: Toronto


The name Canada is said to be derived from the Huron-Iroquois word Kanata, meaning village or settlement. According to traditional lore, the name grew in popularity with Europeans during the early early colonial period due to a misunderstanding by French explorer Jacques Cartier (1491–1557), who believed it to be the traditional aboriginal name of the lands he had discovered.

From 1867 to the early 1950s, Canada was often known as the Dominion of Canada, in acknowledgement of its status as a self-governing colony under the British Monarchy, which the British called “dominions.” As Canada became more and more independent of British rule the dominion title became increasingly unpopular, and was slowly phased out of official use in the decades following World War II (1939-1945).


The Government of Canada uses very specific branding on all their official signs and logos. The official logo of Canada, known as the Canada Wordmark, is the word “Canada” with a small Canadian flag over the “a” (seen above). Any text on official Canadian signage is written in the Helvetica font. The shade of red in the flag, which the government calls FIP Red, is always Pantone 032, or hex colour code #ff0000. Full details can be found in the Government’s Federal Identity Program technical specifications.

Name Codes

Names of places in Canada have abbreviations, or codes, that have been standardized under both Canadian law, and the regulations of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), under ISO 3166 (Parts 1, 2, and 3). These are used in both foreign and domestic contexts, including mail, maps, and government documents.

Canada’s standard two-letter code is CA, and the standard three-letter code is CAN. The country’s numeric code is 124. All of Canada’s provinces have two-letter codes as well (see sidebar).

Time and Dates


Canadian clocks use the “12-hour” model (1:00 am to 12 noon, followed by 1:00 pm to 12 midnight) rather than 24-hour time.

Canada spans six time zones, Pacific (PT), Mountain (MT), Central (CT), Eastern (ET), Atlantic (AT) and Newfoundland (NT). Right now, the time in Canada’s major cities is:

(The unusual Newfoundland time zone adds a mere 30 minutes to Atlantic/Halifax time.)

Every Canadian province and territory except Saskatchewan also practises Daylight Savings. On the second Sunday in March, all Canadian clocks are set ahead one hour (“spring forward”), while on the first Sunday in November they are set back an hour (“fall back”). During that November to March period, Canada is said to be on Standard Time (also known as “Winter Time”); from March to November it’s on Daylight Time (“Summer Time”).

The official time of Canada, according to the federal government, is set by the atomic clocks of the National Research Council. It is recorded in 24-hour Eastern Time. The government maintains a phone number which endlessly recites the official time: 1-613-745-1576.

The Canadian Calendar

Canadians are taught that the week begins on Sunday, and will usually record dates in the MM/DD/YY format, for example, 7/12/10 for July 12, 2010.

Though Canadians celebrate the beginning of a new calendar year on January 1, Canada’s so-called fiscal year, or the calendar year used for business and accounting purposes, lasts from April 1 to March 31. Canadians file their taxes in accordance with the fiscal calendar, with tax filing deadline in most circumstances being April 30.

Measurements in Canada

Officially, Canada uses the metric system, but in practice, the system is only half-obeyed. When the government began passing policies to “metricate” the country in the late-1970s, the decision was fairly controversial and many Canadians resisted the change, which has ensured the survival of the old imperial system in many day-to-day realms of Canadian life.

All of Canada’s street signs and maps are marked in kilometers, but Canadians still commonly measure small lengths and weights in pounds and feet. Grocery stores still openly sell bulk foods by the pound, fabric is sold in yards, real estate agents measure homes in square feet, and it would be very rare to meet a Canadian who did not think of his own height and weight in imperial units. Most weather forecasts and thermometers still note temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Canadian clothing, including shoes, is sold in U.S. sizes, which are also based on the imperial system.

Communications in Canada

Nearly 100 per cent of Canadians own telephones. Canadian phone numbers are 10 digits long, with the first three numbers being the area code, for example: (604) 555-1234. Most of the larger provinces will have several different area codes for their various regions. Canada’s international country code is 1, the same as the United States’.

The vast majority of Canadians are Internet users, and it’s been reported that Canadians spend more time online than any other country on Earth. The Canadian URL suffix is .ca, and is widely used by both government and private websites. Control of the .ca suffix is managed by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) who have a policy of only granting use of the suffix to organizations with ties to Canada.

Most of Canada’s mail is delivered by a government-owned corporation known as Canada Post, but private couriers also exist. Every Canadian residence or business has a six-character postal code (or zip code) that alternates between letters and numbers, for example: V3J 2L1. There is a flat rate for sending letters within Canada, but rates for shipping packages within the country can vary depending on weight.

To the extent anyone still does, Canadians watch region 1 DVDs, just like in the United States.

Broadcasting and Shortwave Radio

Canada is part of the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) terrestrial broadcasting region 2, which consists of all of North America, South America, the Caribbean, and the Argentine, British, and Chilean claims in Antartica. Canada spans multiple geographic ITU zones, with the most heavily-inhabited parts of Canada falling under zone 6 (west), zone 7 (central), or zone 8 (east). The Atlantic provinces are in zone 9, while northern parts of the provinces are in zones 2, 3, 4, with a small part of the country’s extreme northern arctic being part of Zone 75.

Canada’s radio spectrum is generally allocated in similar fashion to most other industrialized countries. Allocation of specific radio frequencies is set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

For 67 years, the Government of Canada used to maintain a shortwave news and information radio station known as Radio Canada International (RCI), but it was officially shut down on October 31, 2012, reflecting the dwindling influence of shortwave radio in the internet age. Today, a modified version of RCI exists as a multilingual online radio station, run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). It provides news and analysis on Canadian and global affairs in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic.

The Government of Canada continues to maintain an Ottawa-based shortwave radio station known by the call letters CHU. It does nothing except endlessly broadcast the official Canadian time. It can be picked up on three HF spectrum frequencies: 3.330 kHz, 7.850 kHz, and 14.670 kHz.

Emergency Broadcasts in Canada

The Pelmorex corporation runs a cross-Canada public service known as the National Alert Aggregation & Dissemination System, or NAAD. When some law enforcement agency or government department — either at the federal, provincial, or municipal level — believes there is a massive emergency in their area, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, they can use NAAD to blast out a warning through any media outlet that has opted to be part of the system. This presently includes most Canadian TV and radio stations, as well as many websites and apps run by Canadian news outlets.

In addition to warnings about natural disasters or terrorism, NAAD also broadcasts AMBER Alerts in cases “when a child has been abducted and it is believed that his/her life is in grave danger.” Canadians can also opt-in to a free AMBER Alert texting service, care of a program known as Wireless AMBER Alert.