Canadian Society

Geography

Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories. Our national capital is located in Ottawa, Ontario. 

Languages

English and French are Canada’s two official languages. All federal government departments and offices can serve you in either language. English is widely spoken throughout the country, while French is spoken mostly in Quebec and New Brunswick. In larger cities, you may hear Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, Arabic, and many other languages. This is a reflection of the cultural diversity in Canada.

As Waterloo is an English-speaking institution, you're required to communicate and submit all coursework in English. Waterloo offers various courses and classes that can help you improve your English language skills. Renison University College’s English Language Institute has a number of English language programs available. If you need assistance with your English writing or communications skills, visit the Writing and Communication Centre. Writing instructors offer individual appointments, workshops and events for all graduate and undergraduate students.

Social Norms

While not all Canadians will fit into this description, we are known for:

  • Being polite and reserved.
  • Being on time - If possible, arrive early for your appointments and notify the office in advance if you'll be late. Being on time is important and lateness for meetings or appointments is not acceptable.
  • Waiting patiently - Canadians form lines behind one another and wait for service, rather than rushing in front of others.
  • Respecting multiculturalism - Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Here you'll see people of all different ethnicities, cultures, religions and countries of origin. Many Ontarians are multi-generational immigrants who may have retained their cultural identity or language.

Statutory holidays in Ontario

In Ontario, we celebrate several Canada-wide and province-specific holidays during the year. On national (statutory) holidays, universities, government departments and most businesses are closed. The transit system may operate on a limited schedule and, if open, a grocery store may be open for a short period of time.

New Year's Day

Date: January 1

Significance: National holiday celebrating the first day of the new year.

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed.


Family Day

Date: Third Monday of February

Significance: A provincial holiday originally created to give people time to spend with their families. 

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed.


Good Friday

Date: Friday before Easter

Significance: Good Friday is a provincial holiday. According to Christianity, it is a celebration of the death of Jesus Christ, but this holiday is widely celebrated by non-religious people as well.

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed. Some people go to church on this day. Many people have their own unique traditions that they follow each year.


Easter

Date: Easter Sunday can fall in March or April

Significance: Easter is a national holiday. According to Christianity, it is a celebration of the rising of Jesus Christ, but this holiday is widely celebrated by non-religious people as well.

What you can expect: Some businesses are closed. Some Christians go to church on this day. Many people have their own unique traditions that they follow each year.


Victoria Day

Date: Monday before May 25

Significance: A provincial holiday celebrating the birth of Queen Victoria of England (1819-1901).

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed.


Canada Day

Date: July 1

Significance: A national holiday celebrating the birth of Canada.

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed. Many people watch or light fireworks in the evening to celebrate. Major celebrations take place in cities and towns across the country. 


Civic Holiday

Date: First Monday of August

Significance: A provincial holiday commonly referred to as the August long weekend. 

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed. It is probably the busiest day on highways as many people go camping and visit cottages or the beach.


Labour Day

Date: First Monday of September

Significance: A national holiday celebrating workers in Canada and around the world.

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed. Many people mark the unofficial end of summer with a barbeque.


Thanksgiving Day

Date: Second Monday of October

Significance: A provincial holiday. The original idea is to give thanks for the past harvest season but for many Canadians the tradition has changed over time and the focus is now to get together with family and friends. 

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed. Many Canadians spend this day with their families and friends.


Christmas Day

Date: December 25

Significance: Christmas is a national holiday. According to Christianity, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but this holiday is widely celebrated by non-religious people as well.

What you can expect: The University and most businesses are closed. In the weeks before Christmas, many businesses put up decorations in their windows and play Christmas carols. Shopping malls become much busier leading up to the holiday as people select gifts for their loved ones. Many people have their own unique traditions that they follow each year.


Boxing Day

Date: December 26

Significance: A provincial holiday and the first day of boxing week sales (electronics, clothes and other items are sold at a discounted price).

What you can expect: The University and most offices are closed. However, the malls and stores will be open and very busy.