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Study in Canada

Canada is well-known across the world as a developed prosper nation, with a sound social and economical stability and powerful democratic institutions. With a great extension, it is the second largest country in the world, has a relatively low population rate, and it is rich in natural resources.

Canada is a place of infinite promise. Canada has created harmony and cooperation among ethnic groups. Canada is one of the planet's most comfortable, and caring, societies. The United Nations Human Development Index cited the country as the most desirable place in the world to live. This year a World Bank study named Canada the globe's second wealthiest society after Australia. It is the world's second largest country by total area and its common border with the United States to the south and northwest is the world's longest.

This is true not only because Canada offers one of the highest life standards in the world, or because Canada is a synthesis of the best of Europe and the USA. The core reason is that it is one of the few nations in the world offering an independent immigrant program that is also the most generous among all similar programs.

In fact Canada, was founded and built by immigrants, and its present-day population is formed by a diversity of cultures and nationalities. According to the census in 2001 by Statistics Canada, results show that the country is making honour to its reputation as a place where diversity is welcome and not discriminated or blemished. Four million of people from visible minorities, people from almost all the countries on Earth, 13.4% of total population settled down in Canada between 1990 and 1999, compared with 1.1 million or 4.7% in 1981, as showed by statistics.

The census showed that 5.4 million people were reported as born abroad, which comprises 17.5% of the total Canadian population, the highest average from 1931. Only Australia holds a greater average of residents who were born abroad, a 22%. In 2000, 11% of USA residents were born in other countries.

Tolerance and social harmony are the bases of the Canadian society. The basic principle of the Canadian is the respect for others in all aspects. Every people have the freedom to keep and celebrate his/her own cultural and ethnic heritage, while assuming their role in the Canadian economy and integrating in a positive way with the system.

A federation comprising ten provinces and three territories, Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual and multicultural country, with both English and French as official languages both at the federal level and in the province of New Brunswick. It can be divided into five regional areas:

  • The East, also called the Atlantic region, includes the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
  • The Central region includes the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
  • The Prairies includes Manitoba, Saskatchewan and some parts of Alberta. 
  • The West includes most of Alberta and British Columbia.
  • The North is made up of the three territories—Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Each province and territory has its own capital city where the provincial or territorial government is located.

The provinces are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as health care, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. Using its spending powers, the federal government can initiate national policies in provincial areas, such as the Canada Health Act; the provinces can opt out of these, but rarely do so in practice. Equalization payments are made by the federal government to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces.

Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations, with a high per capita income, and is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G8. It is one of the world's top ten trading nations. Canada is a mixed market, ranking lower than the U.S. but higher than most western European nations on the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom. Since the early 1990s, the Canadian economy has been growing rapidly, with low unemployment and large government surpluses on the federal level. Today, Canada resembles the U.S. in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards.

As of February 2009, Canada's national unemployment rate was 7.77%. Provincial unemployment rates vary from a low of 3.6% in Alberta to a high of 14.6% in Newfoundland and Labrador**. According to the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world's largest companies in 2008, Canada had 69 companies in the list, ranking 5th next to France. As of 2008, Canada’s total government debt burden is the lowest in the G8.In the past century, the growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. As with other first world nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadian population.

Canada's 2006 census counted a total population of 31,612,897, an increase of 5.4% since 2001. Population growth is from immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth. About three-quarters of Canada's population live within 150 kilometers (90 mi) of the United States border. A similar proportion live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor (notably the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including Toronto and area, Montreal, and Ottawa), the BC Lower Mainland (consisting of the region surrounding Vancouver), and the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor in Alberta.

According to the 2006 census, there are 43 ethnic origins that at least 100,000 people in Canada claim in their background. The largest ethnic group is English (21%), followed by French (15.8%), Scottish (15.2%), Irish (13.9%), German (10.2%), Italian (5%), Chinese (4%), Ukrainian (3.6%), and First Nations (3.5%). Approximately one third of respondents identified their ethnicity as "Canadian.”Canada's aboriginal population is growing almost twice as fast as the Canadian average, and 3.8% of Canada's population claimed aboriginal identity in 2006. Also, 16.2% of the population belonged to non-aboriginal visible minorities. The largest visible minority groups in Canada are South Asian (4.1%), Chinese (4%) and Black (2.5%).

In 2006, 51.0% of Vancouver's population and 46.9% of Toronto's population were visible minorities. In March 2005, Statistics Canada projected that people of non-European origins will constitute a majority in both Toronto and Vancouver by 2012. According to Statistics Canada's forecasts, the number of visible minorities in Canada is expected to double by 2017. A survey released in 2007 reveals that virtually 1 in 5 Canadians (19.8%) is foreign born. Nearly 60% of new immigrants hail from Asia (including the Middle East).
 

Weather: Canada has four different well defined seasons. Temperatures and the weather in every season can vary a little from a region to another, given the large extension of the country.  These are the most important aspects of each season: 

Spring: Spring is a cool season and at times very rainy in Canada. Temperatures usually range between 5 and 15 °C, being the highest during the day, and the lowest at night. Daylight varies between 12 and 14 hours per day. The daily average temperature is 12 °C in March, April and half May.

Summer: Summer begins officially on June 21.  The hottest period is in July and August when temperatures reach up to 30 °C or more, in a few days.  Normally, summer is always hot enough in Canada.  In general temperatures between 20 and 30 °C are expected.  Daylight in summer is between 14 and 16 hours a day. In June and July, daylight begins approximately at 5am and the sun sets 9.00 p.m. 

Autumn: Autumn, also called fall, starts on September 21st and ends in December. It starts getting cooler and the green summer vegetation turns to shocking colors when leaves start losing their power until they wither and fall. It is sometimes quite rainy and snow starts falling on regular bases in some areas in November. Average temperatures range from 10 to 12 grades C in the Southern area of the Country.

Winter: It goes from the previous week to Christmas to March 20th. Landscapes get full of snow and temperatures may stay below 0C in vast areas of the country. Sometimes it reaches minus 28 grades C, day and night. Take into account that the Northern you live or the higher the mountainous area is, the colder it will get. Towards the Atlantic shore, in British Columbia, temperatures reach below 0 C. Day light hours are fewer and some weeks in December the sun rises around 8 AM and goes down before 5 PM.

Transportation:
Canada is a developed country whose economy includes the extraction and export of raw materials from its large area. Because of this, it has a transportation system which includes more than 1,400,000 kilometers (870,000 mi) of roads, 10 major international airports, 300 smaller airports, 72,093 km (44,797 mi) of functioning railway track, and more than 300 commercial ports and harbours that provide access to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans as well as the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. In 2005, the transportation sector made up 4.2% of Canada's GDP compared to 3.7% for Canada's mining and oil and gas extraction industries.

Transport Canada oversees and regulates most aspects of transportation within Canadian jurisdiction. Transport Canada is under the direction of the federal government's Minister of Transport. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is responsible for maintaining transportation safety in Canada by investigating accidents and making safety recommendations.

Education:
Education in Canada is provided, funded and overseen by federal, provincial, and local governments. Education is within provincial jurisdiction and the curriculum is overseen by the province. Education in Canada is generally divided into Elementary (Primary School, Public School), followed by Secondary (High School) and Post Secondary (University, College). Within the provinces under the ministry of education, there are district school boards administering the educational programs. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18. In some provinces early leaving exemptions can be granted under certain circumstances at 14. Canada generally has 190 school days in the year, officially starting from September (after Labour Day) to the end of June (usually the last Friday of the month, except in some cases in Quebec when it is just before June 24 - the provincial holiday). Canada offers free elementary and secondary education in addition to subsidized post-secondary and university education for all of its immigrants.

Kindergarden – Pre-School:
This is the first stage in the educational system and its aim is to acquaint the students with his partners and teachers in a school stimulant ambience. It serves to prepare children to begin successfully their elementary education. It is not compulsory and it is available for every child in the province. Students attend pre-school in one of the following ways:

• Part Time, for children four year old.
• Full Time, for children five years old.

Elementary School:
Every child of 6 or those who turn 6 before October 1st must be enrolled on elementary school. It is not a requisite to have attended pre-school. Elementary education in Canada goes from grade 1 to grade 8. Classes begin in the first week of September and finish in the last week of June. IN general terms, schools request that parents take part in the education and the school life of their children.

High School:
After the 8 elementary forms, the student will go on his education in high school. Its aim is to prepare the student for the post-secondary education or for a future job.

The student is free to choose some areas of interest. Students also have the alternative of taking one of the different programs that will allow him /her to acquire some knowledge in a specific craft, called vocational training.

Courses have three levels of difficulty:

• Basic, focused basically towards employment.
• General, preparing the student for COLLEGE or for employment.
• Advanced, which prepares the student for university education or any special college.

College:
The general program of high school or secondary education allows the student to attend college courses of studies, the first step of higher education. Colleges, both public and private, offer students the following alternatives:

• Two-year pre-university studies as a preparation for a university education.
• Three-year Technical Studies that allow them to get a certificate as Technicians or Technologists

Universities:
The requirements to start university education change in accordance with the program or career chosen and the educational institution. To enter to a professional program generally it is needed to have the most advanced level and high academic performance. The university courses are organized in several levels. The first professional level is named Undergraduate study, and they grant the professional grades of Bachelor's degree. (The bachelor degree is the equivalent to a university grade in many countries, such as the ones to be a Lawyer, Doctor in Medicine or Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical, Civil Engineer, etc, with regular duration of 10 semesters of full time studies.

The second university level of education is achieved by getting a Master Degree and the third level, by getting a PhD. degree

Healthcare:
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. The government assures the quality of care through federal standards. The government does not participate in day-to-day care or collect any information on an individual's health which remains confidential to the patient and the doctor.

Canada's regionally based Medicare systems are cost effective partly because of their administrative simplicity. For instance there is no need for client based billing and recompense systems. Private insurance is only a minimal part of the overall health care system and thus competitive practices such as advertising and other forms of self promotion, lobbying activities are kept to a minimum thus maximizing the percentage of revenues going directly towards patient care.

A health card, also called a Care Card, is issued by the local 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 and infertility problems. Depending on the province, dental and vision care may not be covered but are often insured by employers through private companies. 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, as long as premiums are up to date, and there are no lifetime limits or exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Pharmaceutical drugs may be paid out of pocket or through private insurance, depending on the person's preference. Some individuals have prescription drug coverage through Veteran's Affairs Canada, the Canadian Forces, or the RCMP. Drug prices are negotiated with suppliers by the federal government to control costs.

General practitioners (GPs) 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. Early detection not only extends life expectancy and quality of life, but cuts down overall costs. Those suspected of abusing the system by over-frequent or frivolous use can be tracked by the doctor through the ID on their health insurance card and may have to wait longer than those with more urgent needs.

Canada has one of the world's healthiest populations. This is a direct result of its universal and comprehensive health care system. There are more than 55,000 licensed physicians in Canada. That's one for every 520 of Canada's men, women and children. Each year, the government spends $52 billion on health care, about $1800 per year for each of Canadian. Visiting the doctor in Canada is free, and no Canadian is forced to pay for hospital bills.

The average Canadian lives 79.96 years, only nine months behind the highest in the world. That's more than one year longer than the average Briton, two years longer than the average American, and seven years longer than the average Chinese. Canadian citizens also enjoy a thick blanket of social services.

Housing:
Bachelor o studio apartment: Small apartments, good for just a person. They usually offer a big area where you can find a kitchen and a bedroom area. The bathroom is usually in a different room.

Apartment: The apartments found in residential buildings usually have 2 or 3 rooms and also have a separate kitchen, a living room, and a dining room. They may also have a bathroom or a bathroom and a toilet. They are usually rented with a refrigerator and electric heater, all inclusive. Usually it has a balcony.

Condominium: They are private apartments in residential buildings. Inhabitants are usually the owners and every one pays for their utilities. Condos share some public areas, so owners pay for a monthly maintenance fee.

Room for Rent: They are rooms in a house, apartment or condo. In general terms, tenants share the use of the toilet and the kitchen.

Townhouse: Usually small houses on a row of identical ones situated side by side and sharing common walls. There are private and for-rent townhouses.

Duplex: Houses having fully separate apartments or units. They can be private or for rent.

Basement – Apartments:
Most houses in Canada are built on concrete and iron walls. These walls are strong and can resist the weight of the building. Since those walls are located on the exterior side of the building and cover the whole house, the inner space is used in various ways: to place the heating, air conditioning and machine systems, or a laundry, etc. Canadian families use the remaining place for comfortable cozy entertainment rooms, to rest or as storage rooms, as well as for offices or private studios. It is also very common that owners adapt them for rent, with all the necessary services and an independent door, separated from the rest of the house.

Renting an apartment basement can be suitable as a temporary solution for a family on their arrival to Canada. The rent of these apartments is usually lower than the one of those located in housing buildings. Moreover, it is easy to find families that, apart from renting the apartment, are willing to help and advice their new neighbours, who have just arrived in Canada.

Basement apartments are cool in the hot summer and warm in the extremely cold Canadian Winter. The main drawback of this type of housing is the lack of a view to exterior areas out of the windows, as due to the location of the apartment, windows only allow a little light to enter. This is a particularly negative aspect, especially when there are children, since they may have an atmosphere of confinement and darkness.

To sum up, if you decide to rent a basement apartment as your first housing solution in Canada, it may be a good alternative for several reasons. But if you have children or teenagers, you should take this alternative just as a temporary solution.

Renting an Apartment or a House:
Since finding a suitable housing at a reasonable price is your first concern, your alternative may be renting an apartment with furniture, paid weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. Living for a short while in this sort of apartments will allow for seeking a better one in the medium or long term (usually for 12 months) where you will start your new life with your own furniture and everyday elements, without the stress of not having a place to stay. In this case avoid renting in some places where, because of their low rent, may not be advisable because their location or your future neighbours. Remember that you pay for is what you get.

Your first housing should be, if possible, centrally located and with enough means of transportation to allow for trips in the city.

Finding the right apartment - which is, obviously, cheaper than renting a house - can be a bit difficult, and it takes time and patience. Most probably, the first housing may not suit all the needs, but bare in mind that it will be just for a while. That situation is just normal in the process of settlement in Ontario.

The following are the most common ways of seeking for-rent housing:  

  • Ask in apartment buildings having the “For Rent” or “Vacancy”. Go to the overseer bureau, who is the one in charge of giving information in those places.
  •  In free rent magazines you will find in different public areas and in many supermarket boards.
  • In the section of classified ads in newspapers, where you will find a good variety of apartments in different city areas
  • Asking for help in organisations which offer help to newcomers

Remember it is always advisable to phone in advance, and make an appointment with the person in charge of renting. Besides, asking for the total cost, and the additional fees for tenants, such as parking, cable TV, etc. Most apartments in Canada include electric heating and refrigerator, and the cost of water and electricity is usually included in the monthly rent, although you should make sure in every case.

Also remember that it is advisable to take into account the monthly rent and other family expenditure. You will also have to pay other services such as telephone, Internet, cable TV, apart from public transportation, etc.

Finally, keep in mind that in Canada, a rental agreement is a legal contract to which those who sign must abide to. You cannot do away with it, and just leave overnight.

Money:
 Canada has an extensive history with regards to its currency. Beginning in the early 16th Century, items such as wampum and furs were actually considered currency. With the colonization of France and England, various coins were introduced in the 18th and 19th Century. In the 20th Century, it has issued many commemorative coins into circulation, temporarily replacing current coinage designs.

The Canadian dollar (CAD) is the currency of Canada. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents. As of 2007, the Canadian dollar was the 7th most traded currency in the world.

Human Rights:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of Canada’s Constitution and protects you from the moment you arrive in Canada. It sets out the values that Canadians live by and describes the kinds of personal human rights and freedoms we can expect in this country. Some of those rights and freedoms include:

  • The right to life, liberty and personal security
  • Freedom of conscience and religion
  • Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media
  • Freedom to hold peaceful meetings
  • Freedom to join groups
  • Protection from unreasonable search or seizure and unjustified detainment and imprisonment
  • The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • The right to retain and instruct counsel (a lawyer) without delay
  • The right to a fair trial, through due process of law
  • The right to equal protection and benefit under the law, without discrimination

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