Tag Archives: USA

The Most Commonly Spoken Languages in Canada, Besides English and French

A couple of years ago, I came across an map that I found fascinating. It showed the most commonly spoken languages in the US (after English and Spanish). Some were fairly intuitive (French in Louisiana, Arabic in Michigan, etc.), but some forced me to think about the history (recent and past!) of a given state. For instance, I wouldn’t have guessed Chinese as the most commonly spoken language after English and Spanish in New York! I probably would have guessed Italian or Polish in thinking about the early immigrants to Ellis Island.

After seeing that post, it made me wonder what the most commonly spoken languages in Canada were (after English and French, of course). Sadly, my Google Fu kept turning up ‘snake eyes.’ It wasn’t until early last year that I saw tweet from Conrad Hackett, a demographer with the Pew Research Center, that linked to the very map I was looking for the year before. However, this map is even better, because it’s interactive!

The US map I linked to above shows the most commonly spoken language (after English/Spanish) by state. The map for Canada allows you to zoom in and look at specific areas within Canada. For instance, instead of grouping all of Ontario into one bucket, you can see some differences, depending upon which part of Ontario you’re viewing. For instance, in the Census Division (er, Census Division in Canada is kind of like “County” in the US) or York and Toronto, the most commonly spoken language after English/French is Chinese. However, in Peel, it’s Punjabi. Having lived in all three of those areas, those would have been my guesses.

However, I’ve also lived in Victoria and I’m not sure what I would have guessed. The answer is Chinese and I suppose that’s somewhat intuitive given that many immigrants from China choose BC (Vancouver or Victoria) as their place to call home). Similarly, right now, I live in Ottawa and I wouldn’t have guessed Chinese, nor would I have guessed Arabic for Gatineau (which is part of the National Capital Region).

One thing that should be immediately striking about the map is how much “Aboriginal” there is. It appears to be the account for the most land size. It’s probably not fair to group all the Aboriginal languages into one, so here’s a note on the methodology from the creators of the map:

We thought about this a lot when creating the map, and the primary reason is that there are simply not enough colours in the visual spectrum to use a distinct colour (and texture) for each language so that the map is actually visually pleasing and comprehensible. The editorial decision was made to combine the Aboriginal languages into a single colour (while retaining the distinctions and language-specific details when hovering). Why do we think this was a good decision? Almost all of the feedback we’ve received has been “Wow, I’m so happy there’s so much purple, it’s so great how much of Canada is dominated by indigenous languages!”. The purple wave is so striking, so visually stunning, and it clearly communicates the strength of the Aboriginal population across much of Canada — this effect would have been lost if we had selected different colours, and it would look just like everyone else. So we believe we struck a good balance.

One other part of the country that stands out is the Northwest Territories (near the top of the map). You probably could have given me a dozen guesses and I wouldn’t have said “Arabic” as the most commonly spoken language after English/French.


“What’s Your Background:” Cultural Differences Between Canada and the US

Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, it was fairly common to meet people of different ethnicities and cultures. As a kid, when you’re first meeting someone — at least when I was growing up — one of the first questions (after learning someone’s name) was probably some iteration of: “What’s Your Background?”

Until I moved to mid-Michigan for university after high school, I didn’t realize that asking this question may have been a norm where I grew up and not anywhere else. I still remember when I first asked someone about their “background” when I arrived at university. They looked at me funny and so then I rattled off some possible answers, Irish, Italian, English, etc. The response I received was a stern: “I’m American.” I responded by saying I assumed that, but that I was also curious to know about their cultural heritage. The person reaffirmed that they were American.

And thus was the eye-opening experience for me — ingrained in a Canadian’s identity is that they aren’t necessarily from Canada or that they didn’t necessarily start in Canada. Canadians know that there was something before Canada.

At this point, I should clarify that it’s really not fair to make sweeping generalizations about all Americans or all Canadians. It’s probably not even fair to make generalizations about Americans from mid-Michigan or Canadians from the Greater Toronto Area. While I might hypothesize that something along the lines of what I just said in the above paragraph, my point in sharing this today is to highlight to you that there may be some “blind spots” that you’re unaware of, if you remain nestled in your own culture.

In fact, you may not even have to leave the country to notice your “blind spots.” Simply by taking up a new activity or popping into a different community, you may find that the way you think about something is vastly different from the way someone else thinks about that same thing. You may also find that your group’s “norms” are borderline blasphemous to another group (sidenote: while asking about someone’s background as a kid was normal, I learned that continuing to do this after moving to mid-Michigan was seen as ‘rude.’)

Canada Needs to Diversify its Export Strategy

During my last semester as an MBA student, I decided to take a class in International Relations theory. It was certainly a challenging class, especially considering I’d never had a course in political science. There was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but I learn very quickly, so I was able to stay right on track with the material. The last paper I wrote for that course had to do with Canada and NAFTA. I don’t think it’s a good idea to share the whole paper (22+ pages), but I thought I’d include pieces of the conclusion. Any hyperlinks below were added via WordPress’s “recommended links” and weren’t part of the original conclusion. Enjoy!


At the outset, this paper attempted to shed some light on Canada’s relationship to NAFTA. After the literature review and subsequent analysis, there certainly seems to evidence that Canada made the choice that benefitted the country the most [economically] when it signed onto NAFTA. As the [academic] literature has shown, there will continue to be calls for the three North American countries to further integrate. This certainly may help all of the countries of NAFTA, but it is hard to say that with Mexico still far behind the US and Canada, economically. In time, one would expect that Mexico could become a global economic force, but for now, there is still much work to be done. As it stands now, Canada’s main purpose for being part of NAFTA seems to be because the US is involved. As a result, one would expect that Canada would continue to be part of NAFTA and continue to strengthen its relationship with the US. If NAFTA were just an agreement between Mexico and Canada, there probably would not be a NAFTA.

After analyzing the data, one of the most important takeaways is that Canada needs to continue to diversify its exports strategy. The vast majority of Canadian exports are to the US. In the beginning, this was probably out of convenience. The US market is much larger than Canada’s and it is right there. However, as events like the global financial crisis foreshadow the possibility of similar and bigger events, it is important for countries like Canada to ensure that they are not too invested in the success of one nation. If for instance something were to happen to the US such that it pulls them [the US] down into a recession like Japan saw in the 1990s, Canada would undoubtedly be affected. Although, some may argue that if this were to happen, the whole world would probably be pulled into a recession. However, as Canada demonstrated by its resilience during the financial crisis, it is possible to mitigate the effects of a catastrophic event. This is exactly why Canada needs to continue to seek out free trade agreements with other countries. The more free trade agreements that Canada can enter into, the more insulated it will be against a possible economic collapse in the US.

Imagine If the USA Went to War… and No One Cared

While the title is a bit provocative, it’s not completely unsubstantiated. Right now in the United States, some veterans have waited over 600 days to hear back about their benefits… SIX HUNDRED DAYS! That’s almost two years. I shudder when people make the improper analogy between governments and businesses, but can you imagine what would happen if a business waiting 2 years to tell its employees about their benefits claims? These soldiers aren’t even the ones that are coming home right now. Logic would tell you that the veterans that are coming home today wouldn’t have to wait as long as those that have come before them… wrong. The wait time is getting longer.

I was born and raised in Canada, so my cultural perspective on joining the military and going to war is a bit different from someone who was born and raised in the United States. Nonetheless, I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the subject and the American culture’s beliefs about war and soldiers permeate… everything. The “Support our Troops” campaign was long-adopted in the USA before it was in Canada. Not to mention the way that war is glorified in TV, movies, and video games.

Given all of this, I can’t understand how a country like the United States would not properly care for their veterans returning home. It’s unfathomable. People give of their time (and become soldiers) only to return from war zones with injuries — both physical and mental. Isn’t it the obligation of the country to then properly care for those people? Shouldn’t people be chomping at the bit to help these people. These people who risked their lives for — presumably — the country’s freedoms (or to help another country assert its freedoms). Note: I realize that the last couple of sentences may spark conversation about foreign policy and the US as interventionists overseas, so I wanted to acknowledge it in this side note and redirect to the main point of taking proper care of veterans.

Last night, Rachel Maddow had on the CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of AmericaPaul Rieckhoff. He’s been on the program before, but last night seemed like a special interview. I’d urge you to watch it (couldn’t embed it on WordPress, so here’s the link: Veterans appeal to Obama to step in on VA backlog) and then do something about it! Tweet about it, email your member of Congress, email your Senator, call ’em, tell your friends, tell your family, shout it from the rooftops!

Is There No Easier Way To Choose a President?

I think this cartoon — while meant to be funny — also has a good point. The USA just went through one of the longest and most expensive campaigns — isn’t there an easier way to do this?

I understand that some folks think that there might not be and I really don’t have a definitive answer to the question. I would look to some of the European countries like France where the campaign/election takes a fraction of the time as it does in the US. Or, there are the US’s neighbors to the North — Canada. An election is called and 6 weeks later, there is voting! I realize that the US has quite a larger population than Canada, but I wonder how much more productive the policymakers of the US would be if campaigning/elections were only 6 weeks long.

Think about all the time that lawmakers spend at fundraisers or campaigning. Just about all of that time could then be reallocated to creating public policy! One would think that things might move along quicker, but who knows, maybe they wouldn’t.

If you have an idea for how you think elections should run in the US, I’d love to hear. Let me/us know in the comments! On the face of it, there certainly seems to be a need to reduce the time it takes to choose a President in the US. If we start counting the time all the way back to the primaries, it takes over a year to pick a President in the US. That certainly seems like a long time, especially given that some of these same people are also tasked with running the country.

Advancing America’s Public Transportation System: High-Speed Rail in the USA

When it was first announced that the US was going to work on , I was very excited! Growing up in the , I am very familiar with the value of public transportation. I often rode a bus to and from school. As I matured and wanted to explore downtown with my friends, we’d ride the to get there from the suburban area we lived. Beyond that, when I needed to make trips between Detroit and Toronto, I would ride the between Toronto and Windsor instead of taking the 45 minute flight. Public transportation is a great way, in my opinion, to feel better about reducing one’s .

Don’t get me wrong, I love flying just as much as the next person and I’d much prefer it for travel to/from Europe to/from North America — who’d want to take a passenger ferry across the Atlantic given how much longer it would be? When I look at what the current high-speed rail map in the US looks like and then I look at the current high-speed rail map of Europe… it’s flabbergasting!   I’ve hyperlinked the two maps to bigger versions of themselves, so you can really get an idea for how much more advanced Europe is than the US when it comes to their rail system. It’s almost a little embarrassing just how much farther ahead Europe is in this regard.

Some people try to argue that Europe is much smaller, so a rail system makes more sense there. Well, as we can see from the image to the right (), Europe is not actually that much smaller than the USA. In fact, they’re pretty comparable in size. One of the reasons that Europe can sometimes be perceived as smaller than the USA is a function of . Regardless, from my perspective, there really aren’t any good reasons as to why the US hasn’t adopted a high-speed rail system. Even adds his two cents to the debate. In all my time watching Bill Nye as a kid (and in the classroom), I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak so blatantly negative about anything! He must really feel passionate about this particular circumstance.

Not everything surrounding the high-speed rail system in the US has to be about negativity. In taking a closer look at what the network of rail systems will look like when the projected plan is completed (in 2030), is kind of exciting. Passengers will be able to go from Vancouver, BC, to Miami, FL — all by high-speed rail! They could go from San Diego, CA, to Montreal, QC, again — all by high-speed rail! For me, someone who cherishes the value of public transportation, this is really exciting.

As the plans and the work for this public transportation system continue, I wonder what Europe (and Asia) will come up with next in the way of public transportation. Many areas on these continents already have high-speed rail systems, so, it is logical to think that they will be busy thinking up the next great transportation revolution. Regardless, I’m very excited to see the progress being made in the world with regard to public transportation.