Ask most people around the world what image Canada evokes in their minds and three of this country's greatest natural beauties are sure to be among the choices: the bold vistas of the Rocky Mountains, the scenic wilderness of the North, and the seemingly limitless abundance of fresh water.
In two sets of five stamps to be issued May 23, Canada Post celebrates the beauty of many of our country's most famous bodies of freshwater. Each stamp features a pair of spectacular Canadian freshwater sites. The set includes five US-rate (55¢) and five international-rate (95¢) stamps; both sets of five are in booklets of self-adhesive stamps. Two Official First Day Covers will also be available.
A valued resource
In addition to bordering on three oceans Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic and having the world's longest coastline, Canada contains more than 750,000 square kilometres of fresh water. To put it in different terms, our lakes and rivers cover more than seven percent of the country, represent 20 percent of the planet's freshwater supply, and nine percent of the total flow of all rivers.
Some water remains trapped in glaciers; some re-purifies itself in wetland areas. Fresh water also runs unseen beneath the ground, supplying wells and draining into surface waters at lower elevations.
The same water has been circulating through these freshwater ecosystems for millions of years, and humans are an intrinsic part of the cycle. Certainly the lifeblood of the planet, water was also central to the birth of this nation, shaping its history, economy and culture.
Even before Canada's European settlers crossed the ocean, native peoples from coast to coast relied on the country's abundant lakes and rivers to live, travel and communicate. And after the Europeans arrived, those same freshwater sources became highways for trade and exploration. Farms and towns grew up along their banks. Mills and other industries began to appear. Settlements grew and evolved over time into many of the nation's largest cities, relying on the waters to provide energy and highways for commerce.
Today, the value of these waterways is largely environmental and recreational. Each year, thousands of people from around the globe flock to Canada's inland and coastal waters to relax and enjoy the placid beauty of our lakes, the awe-inspiring fury of our waterfalls, and the mighty flow of our rivers.
While they may be out of sight, our fresh waters are never far from mind. Today, Canadians are taking measures to protect our fresh waters from degradation, and to make sure its quality endures for generations to come.
A Fluid Vision
Many of the images featured on these five international-rate and five US-rate stamps depict fresh waters whose beauty is evidence of the unrelenting power of nature's most basic forces. In fact, limiting the set to 10 stamps proved a difficult task, as Canada is blessed with countless spectacular fresh-water vistas.
The stamps in this freshwater set are all based on photographs taken by Mia and the late Klaus Matthes, who opened their Montreal studio in 1958 and built an international reputation through appearances at several notable exhibitions. The couple was awarded L'Ordre national du Québec in 1998.
Mia Matthes worked with Maximage Design's Clermont Malenfant to select the 20 photographs used in this set, and assisted in the development of the stamps' overall design.