Canada is a country, consisting of ten provinces and three territories, in the northern part of the continent of North America. It extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles) in total, making it the world's second-largest country by total area and thefourth-largest country by land area. Canada's common border with the United States forms the world's longest land border.
Land and climate
Canada is the second largest country on earth and has three ocean borders:
- the Pacific Ocean in the west;
- the Atlantic Ocean in the east; and
- the Arctic Ocean to the north.
Canada also borders the United States in the south and in the northwest.
Canada has many different types of landscape. There are areas with high mountains, different types of forests, prairie grasslands and arctic tundra where the ground is permanently frozen. Canada is also home to many rivers and lakes.
In Canada, there are four different seasons: spring, summer, autumn (fall) and winter.
Summer lasts from around June to September and the weather varies from warm to hot, with daytime temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius or Centigrade (68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. In southern Ontario and Quebec, it can often be very humid.
Fall and spring are transition seasons, which mean the weather starts getting colder or warmer, and there is a lot of rain.
Winter is very cold in most places with temperatures often below zero degrees Celsius. Snow covers the ground from around December to March or April. In southwest British Columbia (around Victoria and Vancouver), rain is more common in winter than snow.
Depending on where you are immigrating from, you may be quite surprised by the cold and snow during your first Canadian winter. Be sure to buy a winter coat, boots, gloves and a hat to keep you warm. With the right clothing, you will be prepared to enjoy the unique beauty of a Canadian winter.
Cities, provinces and regions
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and is located on the Ottawa River between Ontario and Quebec.
Canada has 10 provinces and three territories, each with its own capital city. These provinces and territories are grouped into five regions:
- Atlantic Provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
- Central Canada: Quebec and Ontario
- Prairie Provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
- West Coast: British Columbia
- North: Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory
Most people live in southern Ontario and Quebec, southwest British Columbia and Alberta. Much of the north has a very low population because of the cold climate.
Healthcare in Canada
Health care in Canada is delivered through a publicly funded health care system, which is mostly free at the point of use and has most services provided by private entities. It is guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act of 1984. The government assures the quality of care through federal standards. The government does not participate in day-to-day care or collect any information about an individual's health, which remains confidential between a person and his or her physician. Canada's provincially based Medicare systems are cost-effective partly because of their administrative simplicity. In each province, each doctor handles the insurance claim against the provincial insurer. There is no need for the person who accesses health care to be involved in billing and reclaim. Private health expenditure accounts for 30% of health care financing. The Canada Health Act does not cover prescription drugs, home care or long-term care, prescription glasses or dental care, which means most Canadians pay out-of-pocket for these services or rely on private insurance. Provinces provide partial coverage for some of these items for vulnerable populations (children, those living in poverty and seniors). Limited coverage is provided for mental health care.
Competitive practices such as advertising are kept to a minimum, thus maximizing the percentage of revenues that go directly towards care. In general, costs are paid through funding from income taxes. In British Columbia, taxation-based funding is supplemented by a fixed monthly premium which is waived or reduced for those on low incomes. There are no deductibles on basic health care and co-pays are extremely low or non-existent (supplemental insurance such as Fair Pharmacare may have deductibles, depending on income). In general, user fees are not permitted by the Canada Health Act, though some physicans get around this by charging annual fees for services which include non-essential health options, or items which are not covered by the public plan, such as doctors notes, prescription refills over the phone.
A health card is issued by the Provincial Ministry of Health to each individual who enrolls for the program and everyone receives the same level of care. There is no need for a variety of plans because virtually all essential basic care is covered, including maternity. Infertility costs are not covered fully in any province other than Quebec, though they are now partially covered in some other provinces. In some provinces, private supplemental plans are available for those who desire private rooms if they are hospitalized. Cosmetic surgery and some forms of elective surgery are not considered essential care and are generally not covered. These can be paid out-of-pocket or through private insurers. Health coverage is not affected by loss or change of jobs, health care cannot be denied due to unpaid premiums (in BC), and there are no lifetime limits or exclusions for pre-existing conditions. The Canada Health Act deems that essential physician and hospital care be covered by the publicly funded system, but each province has some license to determine what is considered essential, and where, how and who should provide the services. The result is that there is a wide variance in what is covered across the country by the public health system, particularly in more controversial areas, such as midwifery or autism treatments.
Canada is the only country with a universal healthcare system that does not include coverage of prescription medication. Pharmaceutical medications are covered by public funds in some provinces for the elderly or indigent, or through employment-based private insurance or paid for out-of-pocket. Most drug prices are negotiated with suppliers by each provincial government to control costs but more recently, the Council of the Federation announced an initiative for select provinces to work together to create a larger buying block for more leverage to control costs. More than 60 percent of prescription medications are paid for privately in Canada. Family physicians (often known as general practitioners or GPs in Canada) are chosen by individuals. If a patient wishes to see a specialist or is counseled to see a specialist, a referral can be made by a GP. Preventive care and early detection are considered important and yearly checkups are encouraged.
2012 saw a record year for number of doctors with 75,142. The gross average salary was $328,000. Out of the gross amount, doctors pay for taxes, rent, staff salaries and equipment. Recent reports indicate that Canada may be heading toward an excess of doctors, though communities in rural, remote and northern regions, and some specialities, may still experience a shortage.