Regions and Cities for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2014

Canada is the second largest country in the world, spanning a total of six different time zones. Physically, Canada is dominated by the Canadian Shield, a huge rocky plateau that covers most of the east of the country. Elsewhere, the south central area contains most of the fertile plains, to the west of which are the Rocky Mountains. The north is overwhelmingly dominated by wilderness, containing vast tracts of forest and tundra, with permafrost in the far north. As more than half of the country being nearly empty, Canada’s population is distributed very unevenly. Over 85% of the population can be found in a belt within 200 miles of the US border.

Politically, Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories. These can be grouped into six regions, as follows:




(per km2)





British Columbia




















The Territories are made up of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This area is known for its mountains, glaciers and tundra and hundreds of lakes. Most of the land is only marginally suitable for human habitation; consequently this is one of the least densely populated areas on earth. Many of the people who live here are aboriginals, especially in recently formed Nunavut, which is now partly governed by the local Inuit.

Canada contains enormous amounts of forest, and timber production is one of the country’s most important industries, especially in British Columbia. This province is also notable for having the highest number of aboriginal peoples. The largest city, Vancouver, has Canada’s largest port and is also known for its timber and mineral processing and film industries.

The Prairie Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are most famous for their countless acres of cereal crop fields. Alberta also produces oil, and the increasing development of this most important commodity has made Alberta the fastest-growing province in Canada.

Ontario is the most populous Canadian province by some distance. Ottawa, on the west side of the Ontario-Quebec border, is the capital of Canada. At the time a small town, it was chosen by Queen Victoria as a compromise between the English- and French-speaking areas of the country. Consequently, both French and English are spoken in the city. Ottawa is booming economically and has recently become Canada’s fourth most populous city.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada. It is the financial, business and media capital of the country and is also culturally important; it has the third highest number of theatres in the world. Toronto is well-known as one of the world’s most multicultural cities, and is also the third most important city for IT companies in North America.

Like most of eastern Canada, Quebec was once part of New France. However, Quebec has retained a great deal of its French culture and character and is quite distinct from the rest of the country. Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city, is one of the most important cultural centres in North America, known for its art galleries, museums and festivals. It is also a major financial centre, an inland port and has a significant film industry. The provincial capital, Quebec City, is known for its rich architecture, particularly the imposing Château Frontenac. Much of north of Quebec is sparsely populated.

The four Atlantic Provinces are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. These provinces contain some of the oldest European-settled areas of the country. The most important industry in this area was formerly fishing, especially off the coast of Newfoundland. However, fish stocks have been greatly depleted, and fishing is now carefully managed. Shipping remains an important industry, and tourism is increasing.

New Brunswick borders on Quebec and the population is about a third francophone. English and French are joint official languages in this province. As this suggests, Canada is not simply divided into Quebec and the other English-speaking areas. There are over 1 million French speakers living outside Quebec.




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