Canada is a very multicultural society, and the vast majority of Canadians are open minded and accepting. Thus, it is very unlikely to meet ridicule in major urban centres on the basis of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, as most Canadians from major urban centres have encountered every type of person imaginable.
Hate speech - communication that may incite violence toward an identifiable group - is illegal in Canada and can lead to prosecution, jail time and deportation.
You are unlikely to face health problems here that you wouldn't face in any other western industrialized country despite claims of long waiting lists and inferior care, which often varies by hospital and is usually exaggerated. Furthermore, the health care system is one of the best on the planet, and is very effective and widely accessible. In the past two summers, Canadians in some provinces Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have faced a few cases of West Nile virus, an occasionally fatal infection transmitted by mosquitoes. Also several diseases like whooping cough are common in rural and inner city Canada. Visitors should note that, while Canada has universal health care for residents, health care is not free for visitors, therefore it is important to make sure you are covered by your insurance while traveling in Canada. It should also be noted that, while large hospitals in major cities can be very good, hospitals in mid-sized cities without a large medical school tend to be chronically underfunded and understaffed; hospitals in working class neighbourhoods of large cities tend to suffer from the same problems.
Be aware that most Canadian provinces have banned all indoor smoking in public places and near entrances. Some bans include areas such as bus shelters and outdoor patios. See Smoking.
English and French are the only two official languages in Canada. All communications and services provided from the federal government are available in both languages. Most Canadians are functionally monolingual, although some parts of the country have both English and French speakers. Over a quarter of Canadians are bilingual or multilingual. Many people in Montreal and Quebec City are at least conversationally bilingual.
English is the dominant language in all regions except QuÃ©bec, where French is dominant and actively promoted as the main language. However, there are numerous francophone communities scattered around the country, such as:
the national capital region around Ottawa,
some parts of eastern and northern Ontario,
the city of Winnipeg and areas to the south,
the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood in Edmonton,and several surrounding communities,
many parts of the Acadian region of Atlantic Canada, scattered across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the French Shores of Newfoundland).
Likewise, there are anglophone communities in QuÃ©bec, such as some of the western suburbs of Montreal.
Canadian English uses a mixture of British and American spellings, and many British terms not usually understood and employed in the United States are widely used in Canada. Certain words also follow British instead of American pronunciations, but the accents of Anglo-Canadians and Midwestern Americans are nonetheless still quite similar.
Atlantic Canada is reported to have the greatest variety of regional accents in English-speaking North America, largely as a result of the isolated nature of the fishing communities along the Atlantic coastline prior to the advent of modern telecommunications and transportation. A visitor to the Atlantic provinces may have some difficulty understanding strong local accents rich in maritime slang and idiom, particularly in rural areas. From Ontario westward, the accent of English Canadians is more or less the same from one region to another and is akin to that spoken by those in northern US border states.
English-speaking Canadians are generally not required to take French after their first year of high school, and thus many citizens outside of QuÃ©bec do not speak or use French unless they are closely related to someone who does, or have chosen to continue French studies out of personal or professional interest. Education in many other languages is available, such as Spanish, German, Japanese, etc. However, these are rarely taken. Most immigrants learn English or French in addition to speaking their native tongue with family and friends.
In QuÃ©bec, one can usually get by with English in the major tourist destinations, but some knowledge of French is useful for reading road signs as well as travels off the beaten path, and almost essential in many rural areas. It may also be useful to know at least a few basic French phrases in the larger cities, where some attempt by travellers to communicate in French is often appreciated. The French spoken in QuÃ©bec and the Acadian regions Southern Gaspe and Northern New Brunswick differs in accent and vocabulary from European French. Some Franco-Europeans have difficulty understanding Canadian French. Nevertheless, all Canadians are taught standard French in school, so unless you apporach someone really old, most French-speaking Canadians will be able to converse in standard French if needed.
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are home to large Chinese migrant populations, and Cantonese is commonly spoken in the Chinatowns in these cities.
There are also dozens of aboriginal languages spoken by many Canadians of aboriginal descent. Almost all first nations inhabitants that speak their native communities tongue are still bi-lingual in either English or French depending on what province you are in. In Nunavut more than half the population speaks Inuktitut, the traditional language of the Inuit.
Two sign languages are predominant in Canada. American Sign Language, or ASL, is used in Anglophone Canada; QuÃ©bec Sign Language, or LSQ, is used in Francophone Canada. While the two are distinct languages, they share a degree of mutual intelligibility. Both are part of the French Sign Language family, and LSQ is believed to be a mix of French Sign Language and ASL.
See also: French phrasebook
Of course, there is always the postal system. While its delivery times can be hit or miss as quick as the next day in the same city to two weeks across country, Canada Post's domestic rates and service are more expensive 61 Canadian cents for domestic letter than its American counterpart's. International parcel postal services can be costly. Sending a parcel from Canada to the United States is generally more expensive than sending the same parcel to Canada from the United States, although, strangely enough, sending a parcel within Canada will often be more expensive than sending the same one to the United States. Ordering items online is generally prohibitively expensive for this very reason; a handful of hardcover books, for instance, may cost hundreds of dollars to ship. Postal offices are usually marked by the red and white Canada Post markings. Some drug stores, such as the Shopper's Drug Mart chain, Jean Coutu, Uniprix, etc., feature smaller outlets with full service. Such outlets are often open later and on weekends, as opposed to the the standard M-F 9AM-5PM hours of the post offices.
gay and lesbian travelers
Canada is very open to all forms of LGBT travelers, indeed Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all famed for their LGBT communities. Even smaller cities are very open and liberal, although not to the same extent. Outside these Metropolitan areas, open displays of affection shouldn't generally present a problem despite a more conservative outlook. However certain rural areas may be more problematic; as always use your discretion. Human Rights Codes protect against discrimination in all areas; including accommodation, access to health care and employment - should you encounter any negative responses, especially violent or threatening episodes immediately phone the police and they will be glad to help you. Same-sex marriage is legal.
The international country code for Canada is 1. Area codes and local phone numbers are basically the same as used in the United States. Three-digit area code, seven-digit local phone number. Some cities only require a seven-digit local phone number to place a call, but all major centres except Winnipeg and Halifax require the three-digit area code.
As emphasized in many places Canada is a multicultural country - as such the paramount point of respect to embrace this attitude as much as possible. Outward displays of racism, sexism, or homophobia will be met with extreme hostility. Even slight preferences may be noticed and noted.
Of equal importance is to avoid assuming positions or cultures based on identifiable signs. For example the Chinese girl you might meet may not speak a word of Chinese and may never have been anywhere near China. This point is especially true for individuals from areas with ethnic strife - don't assume that anyone you meet is either personally connected to or shares the viewpoints of their ethnic-origin Nation.
Beyond that be aware of the complicated Canadian-American relationship. Canadians can wax and wane about the U.S. for hours but rarely invite opinions, or comparisons to the U.S. Mentions of "The 51st State" and "America's Hat" will be considered grave insults, as well as any derision of Canada's status as a distinct nation. Equal to that is references to British or In Quebec French relationships as those are either in decline or rife with potential faux pas.
Be aware of politics—there is a large degree of regionalism in Canada, and the learning curve is steep when you attempt to explore these differences. In particular, Quebec's somewhat strained relationship with the rest of Canada—the result of a still-active secession movement—may be a sensitive topic.
When entering a private home in Canada it is expected that you take off your shoes.
snatching of luggage
If you are unfortunate enough to get your purse or wallet snatched, the local police will do whatever they can to help. Often, important identification is retrieved after thefts of this sort. Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are sometimes targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, so try to avoid leaving any possessions in open view. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Try to remember your license plate number and check that your plates are still in place before you go somewhere as some thieves will steal plates to avoid getting pulled over. Auto theft in Montreal, including theft of motor homes and recreational vehicles, may occur in patrolled and overtly secure parking lots and decks. Bike theft can be a common nuisance in metropolitan areas.
Compared to the United States, medical care in Canada is available at about 30 to 60 percent savings, according to the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper. (http://www.winnipegfreepr...) Medical tourism firms help visitors to obtain medical care such as cosmetic surgery and joint replacement in major cities including Vancouver and Montreal. After their treatments, patients can enjoy a vacation and relax in a cabin in the Canadian Rockies, explore colourful Montreal, or other activities.
illicit drug use
Marijuana use is illegal in Canada with exception to medical marijuana. Under the present Conservative government the tide is turning back toward stricter penalties for drug offenses.
Because of its popularity, easy availability and allowances for "medical purposes", many visitors believe that its use is legal, however being found in possession of marijuana or other controlled substances can result in deportation.
Driving while impaired by drugs including marijuana and even legal "drowsy" drugs is a criminal code offense and is treated in the same way as driving under the influence of alcohol, with severe penalties. Do not attempt to drive while high; visitors can expect to be deported after serving jail time or paying very large fines.
Be advised that unlike many other countries, Khat is illegal in Canada, and will get you arrested and deported if you try to pack it in your luggage and get caught by customs.
Needless to say, under no circumstances should you attempt to bring any amount of anything that even resembles a controlled substance into the United States from Canada. This includes marijuana. Penalties in the U.S. for drug smuggling are much more severe than in Canada, with prison sentences being 20 years to life for trafficking.
Canada is very prone to winter storms including ice storms and blizzards. In Eastern Canada, they are the most likely, but the occasional small one will pop up west of Northwest Ontario usually there it is wind-whipped snow that is the main hazard. Reduce speed, be conscious of other drivers, and pay attention. It's best to carry an emergency kit, in case you have no choice but to spend the night stuck in snow on the highway yes, this does happen occasionally, especially in more isolated areas. If you are unfamiliar with winter driving and choose to visit Canada during the winter months, consider using another mode of transportation to travel within the country. Make note that while the vast majority of winter weather occurs, naturally, during the winter months, some parts of Canada such as the prairie provinces and north and mountain regions may experience severe, if brief, winter-like conditions at any time during the year.
If you are touring on foot, it is best to bundle up as much as possible in layers with heavy socks, thermal underwear and gloves; winter storms can bring with them extreme winds alongside frigid temperatures and frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes.
Canadians take drunk driving very seriously, and it is a social taboo in most circles to drink and drive. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is also punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada and can involve jail time, particularly for repeat offenses. If you "blow over" the legal limit of blood alcohol content BAC on a roadside Breathalyzer machine test, you will be arrested and spend at least a few hours in jail. Being convicted for driving under the influence DUI will almost certainly mean the end of your trip to Canada, a criminal record and you being barred from re-entering Canada for at least 5 years. 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood 0.08% is the legal limit for a criminal conviction. Many jurisdictions call for fines, license suspension and vehicle impoundment at 40mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood 0.04%, or if the officer reasonably believes you are too intoxicated to drive. Note this difference; while having a BAC of 0.03% when tested at a police checkpoint 'Checkstop' or 'ride-stop', which is designed to catch drunk drivers will not result in arrest, having the same BAC after being pulled over for driving erratically, or after getting involved in an accident may result in being charged with DUI.
Those crossing the land border into Canada from the USA while driving under the influence will get arrested by the Border Services Officers.
Refusing a Breathalyzer test is also a Criminal Code offense, and will result in the same penalties as had you blown over. If a police officer demands that you supply a breath sample, your best option is to take your chances with the machine.
Canada has quite high standards for restaurant and grocer cleanliness and such if there is a problem with the food you have bought then talk with the manager to report it. You will usually be compensated for the meal, and many managers appreciate patrons who are willing to come forth as opposed to staying silent about it as long as you aren't rude. Getting sick from contaminated food is unlikely.
firearms and weapons
Unlike the U.S., Canada's had no constitutional rights relating to gun ownership. Possession, purchase, and use of any firearms requires proper licenses for the weapons and the user, and is subject to federal laws. Firearms are classed mainly based on barrel length as non-restricted subject to the least amount of training and licensing, restricted more licensing and training required and prohibited not legally available. Most rifles and shotguns are non-restricted, as they are used extensively for hunting, on farms, or for protection in remote areas. Handguns or pistols are restricted weapons, but may be obtained and used legally with the proper licenses. Generally the only people who carry handguns are Federal, Provincial, and Municipal Police, Border Services Officers, Wildlife Officers in most provinces, Sheriff's Officers in some provinces, private security guards who transport money and people who work in remote "wilderness" areas who are properly licensed. It is possible to import non-prohibited firearms such as most types of rifle and shotgun for sporting purposes like target shooting and hunting, and non-prohibited handguns for target shooting may also be imported with the correct paperwork. Prohibited firearms will be seized at customs and destroyed. Travellers should check with the Canada Firearms Centre (http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca...) and the Canada Border Services Agency (http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.c...) before importing firearms of any type before arrival.
Be aware that it is unusual for civilians to be seen openly carrying weapons in urban areas. While not illegal, openly carrying a weapon will likely be treated as suspicious by the police and civilians.
Switch blades, butterfly knives, spring loaded blades and any other knife that opens automatically are classified as Prohibited and are illegal in Canada. As are Nunchucks, Tasers and other electric stun guns, most devices concealing knives, such as belt buckle knives and knife combs, and articles of clothing or jewelry designed to be used as weapons. Mace and pepper spray is also illegal unless sold specifically for use against animals.