Saturday, August 23, 2008

All about Canada!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but …

There is a general consensus among Canadians that Americans don’t know much about their northern neighbour. (In case you’re not sure which country is to the north of the USA, it’s Canada).

For this reason, I have compiled a quick list of some basic (and even somewhat interesting) facts about Canada. Since I’m Canadian myself, I figure it is my national duty.

In 1535, two Indian youths told Jacques Cartier about the route to “Kanata”, which was the Huron-Iroquois word for settlement. The first official use of the word “Canada” was in 1791 when Canada was divided into Lower Canada, mostly English and Upper Canada, mostly French. Some people think that Canada should still be divided in this way.

In 1867, Queen Victoria gave her royal approval to unite the colonies of Canada, forming the Dominion of Canada with four provinces; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. This process, called Confederation, came into effect on July 1st and this date is officially celebrated as Canada Day. It’s not an independence day because we actually liked the queen or maybe we just didn’t want to fight her.

Canada now has ten provinces and three territories. British Columbia (cap: Victoria), Alberta (cap: Edmonton), Saskatchewan (cap: Regina), Manitoba (cap: Winnipeg), Ontario (cap: Toronto), Quebec (cap: Quebec City), New Brunswick (cap: Fredricton), Nova Scotia (cap: Halifax), Prince Edward Island (cap: Charlottetown), Newfoundland/Labrador (cap: St. John’s), Northwest Territories (cap: Yellowknife), Yukon Territory (cap: Whitehorse) and Nunavaut (which was formed in 1999; cap: Iqaluit). The capital of Canada is Ottawa, located in Ontario.

Stephen Harper was appointed as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada on Feb 6, 2006. Notice we like the British term “Prime Minister” rather than the more rebellious term “President”. He is a member of the conservative party. We also have the liberal party and a couple of others which everyone secretly laughs at.

A Prime Minister does not have a fixed term of office. Once appointed or sworn in, he or she retains the office until he or she resigns, is dismissed or goes tits up. This is how Pierre Elliot Trudeau was able to be Prime Minister for 15 years. To some people (including my parents), this was more than a lifetime.

William Lyon Mackenzie King was our Prime Minister for over 21 years. He was a little eccentric and sought personal reassurance from the spirit world rather than seeking political advice. He was apparently in touch with a couple of dead things; Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Wilfred Laurier (another Prime Minister), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his mother and several of his Irish Terrier dogs, all named Pat.

Basketball was invented by a Canadian. James Naismith was born in Almonte, Ontario although he did come up with the game while he was a YMCA instructor in Massachusetts.

Canada has the longest coastline in the world with 243,000 kilometers of shore. Since we have the metric system, that equates to a lot of miles.

Canada is the largest producer of ice wine, a sweet dessert wine with high acidity. To form this wine, the grapes are frozen while still on the vine. This was probably a mistake at first but rather than throw the grapes away, someone made the wine anyway and liked it. The ice wine industry is centered in British Columbia’s Okanagan valley and Ontario’s Niagara peninsula.

There are some 2 million lakes in Canada, covering about 7.6% of the landmass. This provides us with a whole lotta cottage country.

We like to spell certain words like the British, but we are open to using the American versions. Theatre can be theater. Colour may be color. Anaesthesia can be written as anesthesia. Using the British versions makes us feel slightly superior.

Canadians do say, “eh”. To use it in a sentence, you could say, “Take off, eh” in hopes that the person you’re saying it to will leave your presence. It can also be used to request an answer such as in “It’s a good day, eh?” to which you could reply “yeah” or even “yeah, eh” but at that point, no reply is probably needed.

A hoser is a jerk or loser, and quite possibly someone who also drinks beer, wears a flannel shirt and watches curling or hockey.

I don’t know any Canadians who pronounce the word “about” like “aboot” but maybe I’m just in denial.

It’s considered bad form for an American to ask a Canadian if they know another Canadian who lives in an entirely different city or even a different province. Surprising as it may seem, not all Canadians know each other.
We don't all live in igloos, although it gets damn cold here.

There are many Canadians who have jumped the border, including myself. Some of the more notable entertainers include Jim Carey, James Cameron, John Candy, Pamela Anderson, Kim Cattrall, Leslie Nielsen, Ryan Gosling, and Mike Myers. The Canadian government has officially apologized for Tom Green, Eugene Levy, and Avril Lavigne. Occasionally we are embarrassed about Keanu Reeves and Celine Dion.

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