Held every July, the Calgary Stampede pays homage to Calgary’s “Cowtown” nickname. One of the world’s largest rodeos, it features agricultural competitions, chuck wagon racing, and a variety of stage shows. The event is Canada’s highest grossing festival, attracting over one million visitors each year.
Snow, hockey, and polite people who say aboot instead of about.
That’s Canada in a nutshell, according to popular culture. But this easily stereotyped country is in fact rich with a diversity and complexity often lost beyond its borders.
One in five Canadians is an immigrant, the highest ratio among G8 countries. It boasts two national languages and dozens of unofficial tongues. These languages are heard in aboriginal pockets of the northern territories and in the nooks and crannies of Toronto, where a resident is as likely to be foreign born as to be born in Canada.
There are nearly four million square miles (about 10 million square kilometers) of Canada to explore, from the temperate rain forest of British Columbia to southern Ontario's “golden horseshoe”—one of the most densely populated regions in North America.
July 1 is Canada Day, when the country celebrates its national independence. This year, it’s the 149th anniversary. If there is a common identity a century and a half into Canada’s nationhood, it may be one born of a quiet patriotism, of self-deprecating humor, of a mosaic of cultures. Maybe it’s also an identity of not being. As the revered Canadian historian Pierre Berton once wrote, "We know who we are not, even if we aren't quite sure who we are. We are not American."
Here, in celebration of Canada Day, is a collection of photos from lesser known pockets of the nation, highlighting Canada in all its diversity, disparity, tension, and exuberance.
Natasha Daly is a Toronto native, now based in Washington, DC. She works at National Geographic. Follow her on Twitter.