Happy Canada Day! This was going to be the year I got to New Brunswick, but it hasn't happened yet. Road trip, anyone? We'll need to take your car.
In honor of the day, five interesting things I did not know or remember about Canada until I looked them up.
1. The aboriginal population of Canada was as high as half a million when John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) first explored the eastern coastline in 1497. Between 1500 and 1867, that number dropped to no more than 125,000, mainly due to exposure to diseases the native population had no immunity to: smallpox, measles, influenza, tuberculosis. (Just to keep things fair, as many as a third of European immigrants to Canada before the 1890s also died of infectious diseases.) Today, Canada recognizes more than 600 First Nations governments or bands, with enrolled membership of close to 1.2 million.
2. The name "Canada" comes from a misunderstanding. Jacques Cartier, landing near present-day Quebec City in 1535, asked the local inhabitants for directions. They pointed toward the nearest settlement, Stadacona, telling him it was a village, or kanata in Iroquoian. Cartier thought they were telling him the name of the place, so referred to not only the village but the whole region as "Canada."
3. Canada had the world's second-wealthiest economy at the end of the Second World War. It now ranks 10th, according to the latest lists from the IMF and the CIA.
4. As of the last census, Nova Scotia is Canada's oldest province, with a median age of 41.8. The territory of Nunavut is youngest, with a median age of only 23.1. Of course, at last count, only 29,474 people lived in Nunavut (a geographic region the size of Western Europe), so every new baby has a big impact.
5. While Canada is officially bilingual, the percentage of the population that uses French as its primary language (i.e., at work and at home) is only about 22%.