Whadd’ya At?: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, there is a different culture than the rest of the country. It’s born of British and South East Irish settlers with a dash of Scottish, and because of that – and the fact that Newfoundland is an island – the ‘Newfie’ accent is quite noticeable!

Not only is it noticeable, it can be hard to understand by people not from ‘The Rock’!  I visited Newfoundland once, and have made friends with Newfies over the years and it is a wonderful province plus they are wonderful people!  But we can’t understand them!

Check out this example and see if you can figure out what they’re saying:

Remember the movie ‘Snatch’ and Brad Pitt’s Caravan character?  The Newfie accent is not like Pitt’s.  But I bet many might mistake the two!

So, “Whaddyat” is a Newfoundland greeting.  It means “What are you doing right now!”

And the answer to “Whaddyat”, is always “Dis is it”.  Meaning “This is what I’m doing.”(referring to whatever you’re doing)

It’s only one of many Newfie slang terms, but a great one.  So great that it’s been made into a song!

We never say “hello” or “how’s it going?”, “good day” or any of that
We just look at them and nod our heads and wink say ‘Whadd’ya At?’

Ukrainian: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Did you know that the largest population of Ukrainians in the world outside of Ukraine and Russia is in Canada?

Although it is suspected Ukrainians came to Canada prior to 1891, but the best documented movement of Ukrainians into Canada happened then as Canada was advertised as a great place to settle for those wanting to escape famine and strife from the Austo-Hungarian and Russian rules.   It’s believed approximately 170,000 Ukrainians came to Canada between 1891 and 1914. Canada was also advertised as a great place to settle and farm by Canada’s Minister of the Interior – hoping for expanded agriculture in the prairies.  This is likely why the largest Ukrainian communities are in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Now, even though Ukrainian immigrants were needed for Canadian agriculture growth, during the First World War, the War Measures Act allowed the government to intern any person who originated from any ‘enemy state’ (sound familiar?).  As a result, about 5,000 Ukrainians were interned in various work camps across Canada.  Some weren’t released until almost 2 years after the war ended. In 2008, the Government of Canada established a $10 million fund called the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund (CFWWIRF) aimed at providing monies to commemorate those who had their liberties taken from them during the war. Some of the projects have included documentaries, monuments and interpretive centres.

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Commemorative plaque and statue at the location of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, Banff National Park. Source: Wikipedia

Another large wave of immigration happened after the First World War when the Canadian government again opened immigration to former citizens of the Austrian Empire.  This saw another 70,000 Ukrainians come to Canada.

Ukrainian Canadians have a very unique culture, distinct from their European heritage and are very proud to protect that culture. The Ukrainian language is still taught in prairie schools, and Ukrainian dance is practiced regularly in these communities. Which I find funny because my Ukrainian husband refuses to dance.  Anywhere! 😉

Tuque: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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A knitted hat with a small or no brim.  Only in Canada.

It comes from the Middle Breton word toque, spoken by the immigrants who founded New France (now known as Québec).  When I write it, I spell it as toque.

I don’t even think about it when I say it.  If I’m referring to a knit hat (winter hat) I call it a ‘toque’.


My American friends call it a ‘beanie’. Calling it a toque also helps me meet random Canadians around the world.

Me in Telluride: “I wish I had worn my toque today”

Random stranger in Telluride: “Excuse me, but are you Canadian?”

Me: “Yes I am, how did you guess?”  (LOL)

So without further ado,  here are some of my favourite toques!!

Stompin’ Tom: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Stompin’ Tom Connors (1936-2013) was a Canadian folk-singer well known for music solely focused on Canadian culture, Canadian lore and Canadian history.  He was a talented musician and we are lesser without him.  Instead of writing a whole bunch about Stompin’ Tom, I’m just going to share some of his best songs.

Enjoy!

Bud the Spud – based on Prince Edward Island’s fame: “the spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig. They’re from Prince Edward Island!”

The Good Old Hockey Game – Canada’s most famous hockey song! “Someone roars! Bobby scores! At the good old hockey game!”

Sudbury Saturday Night – “Well the girls are out to bingo and the boys are gettin stinko We think no more of INCO on a Sudbury Saturday Night” (INCO was a Canadian mining company and the world’s largest producer of nickel – most mined in the Sudbury region)

Canada Day up Canada Way – “O Canada, standing tall together! We raise our hands and hail our flag, the Maple Leaf forever!”

Robertson Screws: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Did you know that Canada has a screw that’s mostly unique to our country?  It’s called the Robertson screw] or “square-head” screw.

First manufactured in Milton, Ontario (where my aunt and uncle lived when I was a child) in 1908 and patented in 1909, the fastener remains named after its inventor, P.L. Robertson.

Robertson screws look like this:

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And they look like that because Mr. Robertson cut his hand using a spring-loaded screwdriver and decided to design a safer screw.

Of course, there’s also a screwdriver.

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You can find Robertson screws and screwdrivers in the United States, but sparingly.  Apparently Mr. Robertson did try to pitch his great new invention to a company in Buffalo, NY, but gave up after they couldn’t come to an agreement.  His screws were then used in the manufacturing of Canadian Ford cars and the savings incurred were noticed by Ford Motor Company in Detroit.  However, Henry Ford wanted ownership on decisions about how the screws were used and Mr. Robertson didn’t want to let that power go.  So – today, Robertson screws and screwdrivers are mostly a Canadian ‘thing’.

 

Quinte: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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There were some good Canadian Q words/things.  Quebec and Queen came to mind.  Then someone suggested Quinte and I had to write about it.

 

Do you have that place that you always remember as a place that represents youth and adulthood at the same time?  The Bay of Quinte Region is that place for me.

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Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, The Bay of Quinte was about 45 minutes away from our hometown.  The bay itself is a zig-zaggy bay and the region hosts great Walleye fishing, wineries, golfing and sand beaches.  In Canada, having sand beaches nearby is something not to be taken advantage of.  Basically it was our version of living by the sea!  So where would we go on weekends, or on Fridays during the last couple of weeks of high-school (Shhhhh)?  Specifically – Picton Beach! And the best way to go was along the lake, taking the ferry over.  What an experience!

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Picton Beach is actually Sandbanks Provincial Park, but we call it Picton Beach.  The park hosts the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation – 10,000 years in the making – created when the massive Lake Iroquois receded, at the end of the last ice age leaving the puddle called Lake Ontario. The sand from the larger lake blew up, creating the dunes that rise almost 200 feet from the lake and stretch for 12 kilometres!

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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 😉

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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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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