When looking at bank account options in Canada I can see that many still offer free personal cheques. To me this is something out of the movies, since I've never written a cheque as a (young) European. Are cheques still widely used in Canada or should I decline them when opening an account?
Yes, cheques are still very much in use in Canada. It's the cheapest way to send money because Interac transfer fees are CAD 1.50 last time I used it. My cheques are free. Landlords like to get paid using cheques. My insurance sent me a cheque to balance an overcharge, Michelin sent me a cheque to give me a "mail in rebate" and so forth. I also hadn't seen a cheque in over 20 years before I moved to Canada. I just wanted to give people my account number to send me the money. Instead account numbers are somewhat handled as a secret. Nowadays - when I have so transfer money - I write a cheque if I can hand it to the receiver in person and send Interac via email if the person is remote.
You can pay your bills directly from your account though. For this the receiver has to be set up at your bank. Eg. to pay my credit card I had to set up a bill to pay CIBC. That obviously doesn't work for just anybody.