O Canada: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Our national anthem!!!!  Of course!!

‘O Canada’ came about in 1880 as a song for Saint-Jean-Baptiste day celebrations.  In French!!!  The English version wasn’t created until 1906.  I honestly thought the English version came first!  I’m learning stuff about my own country doing this challenge! We have sung ‘O Canada’ as our national anthem since 1939 but not officially until 1980 by an Act of Parliament and Royal Assent.

Today we sing it almost always as a combination of French and English.  Here are the lyrics:

O Canada! Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Of course though, the lyrics aren’t always so clear.  Most of my American colleagues only know the first two words and tune of the anthem, and also take it upon themselves to sing said two words to Canadians whenever they see us Canadians.  So now, I continue the song for them!  They sing “O Canada….”  and I sing back “something, something, something!”

Because I love creativity, here’s the song as sung in English by four…. of the same guy.  It slightly creeps me out that he’s looking and smiling at himself while he sings, but it’s a great rendition!

While the U.S. has specific rules regarding the playing and singing of their national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner‘, there are no specific rules regarding how the ‘O Canada’ should be performed. Unofficial etiquette is to start or end any ceremonies with the song, men remove their hats and military members come to attention and salute the flag.

Both countries are obviously extremely proud of their national anthems.  And we know how important they are to each other.  In November 2014, the microphone cut out during the singing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during a Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Nashville Predators hockey game, prompting the entire crowd to complete the song, Canadians and Americans alike. Not long after, to repay the favour, Nashville Predators fans sang the Canadian National anthem at a home game in the U.S.A.!

 

Nickel: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Canada is famous for a number of “World’s Largest” attractions. They can be found everywhere from coast to coast, and some are rather impressive!  In Colborne, Ontario, there is a Big Apple you can see from the highway; Vegreville, Alberta hosts the second largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter Egg) in the world; the winner of the Guinness Book of World Records for largest hockey stick is in Duncan, British Columbia; and the world’s largest fiddle at the Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia. These are only a few of these gigantic monuments in Canada!

I don’t know why we like to build big stuff. I suspect it has to do with the fact that there are is a lot of rural space between large Canadian cities and most have been built along major roadways (mostly The TransCanada Highway) as ways to bring tourist dollars into these small towns.

Heck, even the capital has an enormous spider. But in this case, I believe it’s “art”.

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When I was younger I went to Sudbury and got to visit the Big Nickel. The main attraction is a 30 foot-tall replica of a Canadian five cent coin.

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There was also a nickel mine tour, which we got to experience by travelling underground in a cage elevator and learn about mining. We could even send a postcard to ourselves from inside the mine.

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So, all this time (almost 30 years) I thought I visited a real nickel mine.  Imagine my disappointment when I read about the Big Nickel today for this blog post! Apparently, the Big Nickel was conceived by a fireman named Ted Szilva in 1963, who proposed a giant nickel, a mine and a mining centre to commemorate Canada’s Centennial in response to a public contest.

His idea was shot down, but Szilva decided he was going to do it anyway.  He bought land, fought city councillors, sold mail-order coins, and persisted with his dream.  Finally, the Big Nickel was unveiled in July of 1964, followed by the model mine in 1965.  The mine saw 100,000 visitors a year, and combined a roadside attraction with an educational experience.  I was twelve when I visited the mine, and the experience is one of those that I still remember.

Maple: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is an easy one.  Because everyone thinks Canada just consists of a country full of maple trees and we douse everything in maple syrup! Vermont wanted it, but we branded ourselves first! (Take that Vermont).

My American colleagues always ask for two things whenever I travel back to Canada.

These:                                                        And these:

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The Americans call the cookies “Canadian Crack”. They absolutely love them.  The thing I find so funny about the hard maple candies is that it’s not something we buy or eat in Canada.  You can pretty much only find them in souvenir shops and in airports. Because of that, they’re DRASTICALLY overpriced.

But… it’s true, we do love our maple syrup.  Maple syrup is not just for pancakes.  It is a healthier alternative for sweeteners as well. I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, so I’ll let you google and make your own determination. There are some conflicting points out there regarding replacing other sweeteners with maple syrup, especially for diabetics. The consensus seems to be that if you are a generally healthy person, maple syrup can be a better (and tastier)choice.

So. I’d like to share a little story about the Sugar Bush.  Every eastern Canadian kid went to the Sugar Bush for a school field trip when they were growing up. This is where we learned where maple syrup comes from, and then, of course, we get to roll the syrup on a stick in the snow. And eat it.

The sap is tapped out of the maple tree usually from about March to April and then boiled down and evaporated in a Sugar Shack, creating syrup! Here’s a little video explaining the process 😉

Loonie: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Are Canadians crazy?  Or “loonie”? Why would they call a piece of currency, the “Loonie”?  or the “toonie” for that matter?

Well let’s start this one by reminding you  about the common loon, which is very common in Canada. Loons are freshwater aquatic birds (also called ‘Divers’ in Europe – probably because they dive for their food) and are very distinct with their black and white patterns. The common loon is the official bird of the Canadian province of Ontario. Their call is unmistakable.

So, since the loon is so common in Canada, it’s not surprising that Canadians would decorate their money with one! Back in 1987, we decided to do away with the one-dollar bill and replace it with a gold-coloured coin. The dollar disappeared from circulation two years after the coin was introduced.

So, aside from the obvious (a coin with a loon on it), how did the Canadian one-dollar coin become known as the “loonie”? The Royal Canadian Mint says that the coin was “instantly dubbed the ‘loonie’ after the solitary coin that graces the coin’s reverse side”, but does anyone know who gets credited for first calling it the loonie?

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I looked into this. But had some difficulty finding a firm answer.  At the beginning, it was called “Mulroney’s loonie” after the serving Prime Minister at the time, or the “Mul-loonie”.  I couldn’t find anything directing me to the exact source of the name, however whoever it was came up with an idea that spread like wildfire, without the help of social media!

But!  The Canadian one-dollar coin almost never became the ‘loonie’!  Originally, the coin was to have the same design as a previous 1956 dollar coin – two voyageurs in a canoe. The master dies for this coin were lost in transit on their way from Ottawa to Winnipeg in 1986 (what’s interesting is that the Royal Canadian Mint sent the dies via letter-carrier instead of an armoured service in order to save about $44 on the shipment!). Fearing counterfeiting, the Canadian Government quickly authorized a new design, the loon by Robert-Ralph Carmichael.

To this day, the original dies have never been located.

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Jasper: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Out of all the places in Canada, you would think that Jasper, Alberta would be a rather random place for me to highlight – but not after I show it to you!  When people think of the Canadian Rockies, they often think of British Columbia.  But how many people consider the eastern slope of the range? Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Jasper are all stunning Canadian destinations in the Alberta rockies!

Jasper can refer to Jasper National Park or the Town of Jasper. People often say “Jasper” when they’re referring to that whole area in the Athabasca River Valley. The Town of Jasper was originally an outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company (hey! My “H” #AtoZ!) and then was formally established as a town as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway developed their lines through the region.

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Jasper was also used as an internment camp for six months in 1916, holding Ukranian men (and some women and children) under the terms of the Canadian War Measures act while Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. This internment across Canada of about 4,000 people left a scar on the Canadian Ukrainian community – which I’ll likely talk more about when I talk about Ukrainian culture in Canada on the #AtoZ “U” day.

Today, Jasper is a Canadian mountain town known for its recreational tourism.  People come from all over the world to visit Jasper National Park and to experience the nature and wildlife in the region.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Canada.

Enjoy some of my photos from my time in Jasper!

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IMAX: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is a fun one because I didn’t know IMAX was invented in Canada! I learned something new!  IMAX (Image MAXimum) came to be as filmmakers searched for ways to make the visual experience even better for movie-goers.

During Expo ’67 in Montreal, some movies were tested in a multi-camera/projector configuration, but it didn’t quite work the way they had hoped. As a result, four men who worked on the Expo project collaborated to form a company called Multi-Screen Corporation, and three years later, debuted the first ever IMAX film called Tiger Child at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.

The first IMAX theatre was built at Ontario Place in Toronto, called Cinesphere.  I remember the dome when I was a child and used to go to Ontario Place, but I can’t remember if I ever watched a movie there. It was probably too expensive!

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Today, there are 1,061 IMAX theatres around the world that show specialty films.  You can also watch IMAX 3D films in many regular theatres. It’s no longer just a theatre. It is digital video at its finest. It’s advanced film development.  It’s specialty cameras that give the viewer the most outstanding point of view. The Soarin’ ride at Disney’s Epcot integrates IMAX technology with a ride.  I went back twice to experience that one!

Check out this video showing the different IMAX 3D Cameras which are used for capturing various types of video for IMAX films! Which are some of your favourite IMAX movies?

 

Hudson & Hudson’s Bay: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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I was going to choose “hockey” today – but that’s just so obvious, not to mention Canada’s official sport is actually Lacrosse!! So after some deliberation, I decided it would be Hudson Bay, a large body of saltwater in the north and also an overpriced Canadian department store!

Did you know that Hudson Bay is the second largest bay in the world?  Despite being more than 1.2 million square kilometres, it is actually rather shallow, with an average depth of about 330 feet.

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Hudson Bay was discovered by explorers in the early 1600’s and named after Sir Henry Hudson who, with his ship Discovery, mapped much of the eastern coast of the bay before running into some trouble. The ship was stuck in ice for most of the winter, but the crew managed to survive until spring. At that point, Sir Hudson wanted to continue exploring, but the crew would have none of it, calling a mutiny and leaving Hudson and a few others to fend for themselves on a dory while they returned to England.

Later, other explorers in the area began trading with locals for pelt and building a British monopoly on the fur trade in the area and creating The Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in England and eventually evolved into a Canadian department store that still exists today and is recognizable by its traditional green, red, yellow and blue stripes that appear on blankets, clothing and other items that they sell.

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Source: The Hudson’s Bay Company

If you grew up in Canada, you grew up with an HBC Point Blanket in your house.  Guaranteed. And today, they run a ridiculous $300-500 a piece!

The Hudson’s Bay Company has been a proud Canadian company and seems to attempt to hang on to our roots as much as possible, being the official outfitter for the Canadian Olympic Team for nine Olympic games and contracted to continue through to 2020.

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Source: The Hudson’s Bay Company

Although the Hudson’s Bay Company now has American ownership – which happens a lot to Canadian companies to keep them afloat (ahem, Tim Hortons), it remains an iconic symbol of Canada and our roots in the north through trade. In Canada, we refer to the store as just “The Bay”, but everyone knows what it is and how long it’s been around.

Governor General: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

GWelcome back!  Yesterday we learned about the Canadian flag, and well, despite Canadians wanting a flag with its own identity, we haven’t yet let go of the Monarchy.

The Commonwealth

Canada is a member of the Commonwealth of Great Britain. This means that even though we have become independent, we wished to retain our British roots.  India was the first country to become part of the Commonwealth, followed by 52 other countries.

Because of this, the Queen of England is also the Queen of Canada.  And the Queen of Australia, and the Queen of New Zealand, and twelve other Commonwealth countries.

So how can one Queen (or King) perform royal duties for multiple countries?  Well, first of all, in the case of many Commonwealth countries such as Canada, our own parliament makes all the decisions and the Queen allows us to do so.  She plays more of a ceremonial role. That said, sometimes, if Canadian parliament cannot agree on something of significance to the nation, they can ask the Queen to intervene.

The Governor General of Canada

And sometimes the Queen can’t be in four places as once.  So these ceremonial and constitutional duties are fulfilled by the Governor General of Canada.

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The Flag of the Governor General of Canada Source: http://www.gg.ca

He (or she) is the representative of the Queen. He attends events on her behalf.  He reads the Speech from the Throne to Canadians. He brings forward issues to the Queen if we want her input. He is recommended by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Queen, and traditionally, the Governor General alternates between a French-speaking Canadian and an English-speaking Canadian.

The Governor General also acts as a symbol of stable government.  On behalf of the Queen he is granted executive, legislative and judicial power in Canada (when required). He summons parliament and can also dissolve or prorogue parliament. He also serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. He acts as Head of State on behalf of the Queen. If you’re American, you might notice this is a bit different from having the elected leader of the country as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston

Our current Governor General is His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.  He has led a fascinating life: lawyer, professor, University president, accomplished author (25 books!), among other many impressive feats as a citizen’s citizen. Last year, the Governor General granted the Prime Minister’s request to stay on for an additional two years over the five year term – extending his tenure until 2017.

Flag: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

Let’s talk Fabout the Canadian Flag, eh? What a unique design – and it’s perfectly symmetrical – looks the same no matter which way it’s flying!

I’d like to think it’s widely recognized around the world.  So much, in fact that people from (ahem) other countries sew Canadian Flags to their backpacks so people think they’re Canadian!

So can anyone guess how long Canada has had the flag you see today?

The 50-star version of the Star Spangled Banner is 56 years old. The Maple Leaf we use today was adopted 51 years ago.  Before that, well, let’s just say that Canadians aren’t always as agreeable as some might think.

Before 1965, our flag looked like this:

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It was called the Canadian Red Ensign, and it paid homage to our British roots in the top left corner (where we came from) and the Canadian Coat of Arms in the centre-right (who we became).

Many Canadians wanted a flag that depicted our own identity as a free country, away from our colonial roots, but many others wanted an original flag that still contained the Union Jack. And over the years, Canadians debated what that depiction might look like.  In 1964, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson presented the plan to change the flag and Canadians argued for over six months on what the final product would look like, causing much tension and conflict within parliament during the process. In fact, according to reports, it got downright nasty between people at Parliament Hill for a while.

To see some of the proposed flags and the controversy, check out this video:


Eventually, today’s design of the Maple Leaf was approved. It contained red and white (already the official colours of Canada, by King’s decree), and a centred maple leaf (a symbol used to represent Canada since the 1700’s). Finally, in 1964, the Canadian government voted to adopt the Maple Leaf as the new national flag.

Ta da! (in case you didn’t know what it looked like):

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So I’ll conclude with some interesting national flag facts:

  • The majority of flag suggestions depicted a maple leaf, followed by a union jack, and followed by a beaver.  We could have had a rodent on our flag!
  • February 15th is “National Flag Day” in Canada, the day of the official inauguration ceremony in 1965.
  • People might still see the original Red Ensign around Canada – mostly at Veterans organizations and legions.  Most of the people who rejected the Maple Leaf were veterans, who had fought for Canada under a much different flag.
  • There is no official law saying how you should treat or fly the Canadian Flag, but the Department of Canadian Heritage have published some rules and guidelines that people should follow.
  • The Canadian flag is twice as long as it is wide.
  • It is not illegal to burn the Canadian Flag as it would violate citizens’ freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, it is suggested that the dignified way to destroy a worn or tattered flag is to burn it privately.

Canadians are very proud of their flag. They will wave it at the top of mountains. wear it on their shirts, or wrap a Canadian Flag towel around them on the ski hills (no names)! If you see someone with a Canadian Flag, say “Hello Canada!”  Apparently, the world thinks we’re pretty friendly people (for the most part)!

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Eh?: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Today’s #AtoZChallenge was a no-brainer, although I had to be told by a friend that it was the perfect Canadian “E” word. Many of Canadians don’t think that we say the word “Eh?” enough for the [mostly] American stereotype to be true.  That is, until your co-workers point it out every time you do.

In fact, “Eh?” is such a Canadian stereotype that it has it’s own Wikipedia page!  In essence, “Eh?” is a tag used at the end of a sentence to indicate a subliminal request for an answer, comprehension or agreement.

“The weather is crazy here in Colorado, eh?”

You could replace “Eh?” with “Right?”  or “Isn’t it?”, but “Eh?” just comes out so naturally.  So naturally, in fact, that your American colleagues make it a past time to make fun of you whenever you say it.  Because “Eh?” is so much weirder than “Ya’ll”.

Now that I think of it, I wonder if Bob and Doug McKenzie might be partially to blame for our excessive use of “Eh?” and for the rampant stereotyping of Canadians:

One of my American friends recently decided to tell me a hi-larious joke about how Canada got its name. The settler decided to put all the letters in a hat and pull them out one by one to spell the name of this new plentiful land across the Atlantic.  They pulled them out read them to the settler writing the name down: “C, eh? N, eh? D, eh?” Sounds legit although I didn’t learn that in school (something about an anglicized version of “kanata”, an Iroquois word meaning “village” or “land” – but who knows…).

It’s easy to see how accent tags can spread and become so popular. The more people use them, the more others subconsciously start to use them as well.  I’ve experienced this first hand here in Colorado. Since I’ve moved here, I’ve noticed that if you say “Sorry” to someone (another Canadian stereotype!) the response isn’t “That’s okay” or “No problem”; it’s “You’re fine”. It was the weirdest response, but now after 3 years in Colorado, I actually find myself saying it to others as well!  I don’t even think about it and I can’t control it!

So, sure, “Eh?” is a Canadianism. We can’t deny it although we try to, but apparently the term is slowly being replaced by urban youth with other tags, such as “Right?” or “You know?”

I guess as an older generation Canadian (can’t believe I’m saying that), “Eh?” will stay in my vocabulary for a while…