Contact Us

  Rambler's Top100

Education and Culture

The educational system in Canada is derived from the British and American traditions and the French tradition, the latter particularly in the province of Qubec. English or French is the language of instruction, and some schools provide instruction in both official languages. Each of the ten provinces has responsibility for establishing and maintaining its own school system. In Qubec, the French-Canadian tradition is followed by the Roman Catholic schools. The province also maintains Protestant schools, however, which are widely attended. Although Canada does not have a central ministry of education, the federal government provides schools for children of Native Americans on reserves, inmates of federal penitentiaries, and the children of military personnel.


The earliest Canadian schools, which were conducted by French Catholic religious orders, date from the early 17th century. Higher education was inaugurated in 1635 with the founding of the Collge des Jsuites in the city of Qubec. It was not until the transfer of Canada from French to British jurisdiction in 1763 that an educational system began to emerge that encompassed church, governmental, and private secular schools. The early 19th century saw the establishment of the large universities, beginning with McGill University in 1821 and followed by the University of Toronto in 1827 and the University of Ottawa in 1848. Since World War II ended in 1945, a notable expansion in higher education has occurred. Many new institutions have been founded, and the older universities have increased in size, scope, and influence. The federal and provincial governments fund the university system in Canada, and students pay only a small portion of the cost. Universities are still the predominant institutions offering higher education, but the number of nonuniversity postsecondary institutions, particularly community colleges, has increased sharply in recent decades.

Elementary and Secondary Schools

Education is generally compulsory for children from ages 6 or 7 to ages 15 or 16, depending on the province in which they live, and it is free until the completion of secondary school studies. In the early 1990s Canada had more than 16,000 elementary and secondary schools, with a total enrollment of nearly 5.3 million students.

Specialized Schools

In the early 1990s Canada maintained 19 specialized schools for the blind and the deaf. These institutions together enrolled about 2400 pupils, who were instructed by some 575 teachers. Canada had several schools for mentally handicapped children.

Nursing education, formerly concentrated at special schools attached to hospitals, has been transferred to community colleges, which numbered 203 in the early 1990s. Similarly, teacher training has been shifted from specialized institutions to colleges and universities.


In the early 1990s Canada had 69 degree-granting universities and colleges, which together enrolled some 572,900 full-time students. Among the country's larger universities are the following: the University of Alberta (1906) and the University of Calgary (1945), in Alberta; the University of British Columbia (1908) and Simon Fraser University (1963), in British Columbia; the University of Manitoba (1877); the University of Moncton (1864) and the University of New Brunswick (1785), in New Brunswick; Memorial University of Newfoundland (1925); Acadia University (1838) and Dalhousie University (1818), in Nova Scotia; Carleton University (1942), McMaster University (1887), the University of Ottawa (1848), the University of Toronto (1827), the University of Waterloo (1957), and York University (1959), in Ontario; the University of Prince Edward Island (1969); Concordia University (1974), Laval University (1852), McGill University (1821), the University of Montral (1878), and the University of Qubec (1968), in the city of Qubec; and the University of Saskatchewan (1907).

Cultural Life and Institutions

The federal government especially encourages the arts through the Canada Council, established in 1957, which awards fellowships and grants. It favors decentralizing policies that bring cultural resources within reach of the most isolated communities. Since 1972 it has supported a multicultural policy to reflect the varied influences that make up the mosaic of Canadian life, including the culture of aboriginal peoples.

Museums and Libraries

Of Canada's more than 2100 museums, archives, and historic sites, the most important are in the National Capital Region. These include, in Hull, Qubec, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which celebrates Canada's multicultural heritage; and, in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Nature (formerly the National Museum of Natural Sciences), the National Museum of Science and Technology, and the National Gallery of Canada. The latter exhibits European art, a growing collection of Asian art, and a large body of work by Canadians. The National Museum Policy (1972) has encouraged and supported the growth of regional museums.

The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has collections of art, life and earth sciences, and Canadiana. Among more specialized museums are Upper Canada Village, a restoration of 18th- and 19th-century buildings in Morrisburg, Ontario; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Museum, in Regina, Saskatchewan; and the Royal British Columbia Museum, in Victoria, which contains important displays of Native American artifacts.

The National Library of Canada, in Ottawa, issues the national bibliography and maintains union catalogs of the collections of more than 300 other libraries. Its holdings, including a comprehensive collection of Canadian newspapers, exceed 14.5 million items. The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, also in Ottawa, is the center for the dissemination of scientific and technical data. Provinces and cities have their own libraries. Particularly outstanding university libraries are those of McGill, Toronto, British Columbia, and Montral.

Theater and Music

The performing arts in Canada are supported by government and private grants. The National Arts Centre, in Ottawa, opened in 1969, has a resident symphony orchestra and theater companies in French and English. Visiting opera and dance companies perform there, and in summer its terraces along the Rideau Canal are the scene of band concerts and arts and crafts fairs.

A number of major theater, opera, dance, and musical groups are found in the large cities; these groups also tour the provinces and travel abroad. The chief theatrical centers are the cities of Qubec, Montral, and Toronto. The theaters of these cities make an effort to present new Canadian plays as well as imports and classics. Opera companies include the Canadian Opera, in Toronto; two companies in Montreal; and six in the westin Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon. Among the principal dance companies are the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (Montral). The Toronto Dance Theatre presents modern dance. The prominent orchestras include the Montral Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, and the Vancouver Symphony.

Canadians and visitors also enjoy summer festivals, such as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario; the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario; and Cultures Canada, a series of multicultural events in Ottawa. Local traditions are preserved in the Highland Games on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia; the Sherbrooke Festival de Cantons (Qubec), celebrating French-Canadian culture and cuisine; and the Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, Manitoba. Discovery Day in Dawson, Yukon Territory, marks the 1896 discovery of gold. A large variety of smaller festivals are held throughout the country.