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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Canada

July 1, 2009

Today is Canada Day, my country’s 142nd birthday. This may make it sound like Canada is fairly young by global countryish standards — there are teapots in England older than Canada — but it’s really just the anniversary of my country’s declaration of itself as a dominion, no longer a colony. So it’s a celebration of political self-awareness, rather than that of a culture that has developed over hundreds of years (for the latecoming Europeans and others) and thousands of years (for those who were already here.)

Here are 10 things about Canada you foreigners need to know:

  1. Canada was first settled by Asians who crossed what may have been a land bridge in the Bering Sea, travelling down through what is now Alaska over thousands of years to become the aboriginal people of North and South America. The land bridge was later dismantled and sold by Stalin to Germany, which melted it down and made Volkswagen Beetles out of it.
  2. Later, Vikings came. They chose Canada because they had previously tried to settle Greenland, only to discover that it’s the only place on the planet that makes northern Canada look like a good place to live.
  3. After that it was the French and the English, mostly, who came for fur and fish and slowly realized “Hey, we don’t have to live all crammed together anymore! We can move here and have our own mosquito ranches!” They fought over Canada for a few hundred years before a decisive battle at the Plains of Abraham (September 1759) in Quebec, which saw British General Wolfe defeat French General Montcalm and claim Canada for England. We continue to celebrate General Wolfe Day, which involves sharing a traditional dish of meat and two veg while drinking warm ale and watching Mr. Bean.
  4. Canada comes from the word “Kanata,” which means “Silicon Valley.” Before we were Canada, we were British North America. We then became Upper Canada and Lower Canada. This was due to Canada’s unique geography; we are the only country in the world to have a second storey.
  5. The Americans tried to take over during the Revolutionary War, marching on Canadian cities. That didn’t work out very well. They tried it again in the War of 1812, which saw trained American soldiers repelled by farmers with pitchforks. When the farmers got tired, some babies came out and threw rocks, and the Americans ran home crying. Canadians remain the only people to bring America to its knees on its home soil, but that’s more about Celine Dion in Vegas than the War of 1812.
  6. The 19th century saw a major expansion west as Canada grew. A whole lot of people headed to the prairies to seek their fortunes, only to discover it’s damned hard to make things work on the prairies. There aren’t many trees, so they had to burn buffalo poo for warmth. They built their houses out of mud, but things started to go wrong when they hit water and tried to built mud boats powered by poo-burning engines. You can still see memorial monuments to poo in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
  7. Another big Canadian development was the invention of the concept of standard time, by Sir Sanford Fleming, in 1879. Before he thought it up, everyone just set their watches whichever way they wanted. Fleming got a really loud bullhorn, climbed the CN Tower in Toronto and told the world “3 … 2 … 1 … MARK! Okay, folks, it’s noon.” Everyone listened except Newfoundland; they’re half an hour off because they missed the announcement. Hockey was on.
  8. The First World War saw Canada fighting as part of the British forces. This was the first time the rest of the world got a look at Canadian heroism. It would see it again during the Second World War. Nobody fought like the Canadians. Meanwhile, paper shortages meant we couldn’t get American comic books, so Canadians invented their own: Johnny Canuck, Nitro and the Polka Dot Pirate.
  9. After the Second World War, a Canadian invented parking meters. You’re welcome for that. Other innovations to come out of Canada include the zipper, basketball, chocolate bars, hockey, the light bulb (look that up, you’ll see I’m right), Superman and Trivial Pursuit. Also, tons of other great stuff.
  10. We don’t have a president. We have a queen, and it’s the same queen England has, but she doesn’t come by often. And we have a prime minister. You may have heard of him: Sir Michael Myers.

For more on Canada, read this guide to our political system. It’s kind of stupid.

Also, one last thing: Canada is huge. Canada is so gigantic, we could put Europe in our back pocket. Check this out:

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5 comments

  1. Canada, you say? Never heard of it.


  2. Kennedy, I want to thank you for posting that video. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in quite a while. Merci beaucoup, mon ami.


  3. Pas de probleme, Kumar, mais tout les Canadiens parle pas le francais, or something. Mon francais es piss-poor.

    That second video is by The Arrogant Worms, Mandi’s favourite all-time musical act, as you may know from listening to Nerd Hurdles. She grooves on the Worms.


  4. In regards to your fierce fighting farmers, see: “Militia Myth”…


  5. Well, a band has the seal of approval of Mandi AND Kennedy? This I have to seek out.



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