Happy Canada Day from Down Under!

It was on this day, July 1st, 1867 that my home country and nation, was officially recognized as being competent and feisty enough to deserve country status apart from the British Dominion. Sure, we’re still part of the Commonwealth (the Queen of England is still our Head of State which means she gets to be on the backs of all of our coins and most of our paper money) but since then we’ve governed ourselves. And since 1980 we’ve had our own Constitution, which basically means that the people we elect are even more fully responsible for the nation and its people.

For those who haven’t been there, Canada is a type of melting pot of cultures and people. Most of us can trace our lineage to another country within the last generation or two. One of the biggest challenges we face, much like the United States and Australia, is reconciling our imperial past with immigration and modern indigenous claims on land. Suffice it to say, Canada is a country of imperialist, immigrant and indigenous folks all vying for the life of good health and prosperity.

For a country and nation of only 33 million people we sure occupy a large part of North America. Shockingly enough, Canada consists of more than just Toronto and Vancouver! You wouldn’t know it by looking at most world maps but, surprise of all surprises, people do live between, up and down and around those metropolises! Yes, most of our population hugs the border with the United States, but it’s not because we’re clinging to them for warmth and comfort (though, some are :). Nay nay, my friends, it just so happens that that border (the longest border between two nations in the world) is where the warmer weather is.

And with that I thought I’d point our a few notable achievements of Canada and Canadians (which by the way, is by no means comprehensive nor do I intend it to be, so save your hate mail):

IMAX? Y’know that huge screen that many movies are being made on these days? Yeap, that was a Canadian invention. Film never looked the same again once IMAX invented the 75mm frame. Whales, space, and Batman never looked the same again!

Music. Several famous music acts hail from Canada. In no particular order: Paul Anka, Neil Young (who began his career in Winnipeg), Rush (love em or hate em, they’re bloody good at what they do), The Guess Who (another Winnipeg band), you might know the song “American Woman” played by Lenny Kravitz, well, Guess Who made that? ;P Next, it was Bachman Turner Overdrive (featuring Randy Bachman from the Guess Who), Steppenwolf (famous for that “Born to be Wild” song that no one actually knows the words to, except the chorus), indie rock hottie Avril Lavigne (who is married to the current world-renowned Canadian rock star, Chad Kruger, of Nickleback fame). Then there’s Bryan Adams who’s bullet-holed heart put him on the international map. Modern day crooner Michael Buble is from Canada, so is Diana Krall, another jazz great. Celine Dion hails from Charlemagne, Quebec while Shania Twain conquered the country charts with her hit “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”. Finally, love em or hate em, Justin Bieber, current pop phenom, is also from Canada. Thanks to YouTube, he was discovered. And those are just some of the famous bands to come out of Canada. Many of the major cities, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver host vibrant local music scenes.

It pays to give special mention of Rick Mercer, a Canadian comedian who ventured south to talk to our southern neighbours about their knowledge of Canada. For those of you who’ve often wondered about the difference between Canada and the USA, the program Mr. Mercer put on gives a glimpse of how we differ as people. I won’t spoil the surprise but if you look up “Talking to Americans” and maybe you’ll dispel some of your own misconceptions about Canada.

Basketball. So the NBA made it look glamourous to shoot hoops, but this game was invented by a Canadian named James Naismith who needed a game to entertain his classes INDOORS during the long, cold winters. Bball it was and the US’mericans soon picked it up. Unfortunately, bball isn’t held in the same regard in Canada as it is in the US. There are only two NBA teams in Toronto and Vancouver. Oh, wait, nope, it’s only Toronto now. So it goes.

Hockey. It’s no secret that one of the greatest modern sports on earth is hockey, known more specifically as “ice hockey” in other parts of the world not inundated by snow eight months of the year. Though not as widely popular as soccer (/football), hockey is one of those sports that just about every Canadian child grows up learning to play. Or at least they learn how to skate. Further, should our Olympic team fail to win the gold medal, our education system is reformed. Okay, I’m kidding about the last point, but it comes close anyway. Some famous names you may be aware of include Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, among many others.

Canada also boasts the development of the Canadarm, the robotic arm used on the International Space Station to move stuff from point A to point B (and back again?). We don’t go it alone, however, as we often team up with other space agencies around the world to further our knowledge of science and technology both here on our little blue dot of a home and in the vastness of space.

Let’s not forget our contribution in the discovery of insulin. That was an important one. Thank you Sir Frederick Banting.

And because of the vast expanse of territory that the nation covers, Canada is home to a LOT of natural resources, such as potash, uranium, oil and natural gas, gold, diamonds (yup, up there in the frigidly cold north lies caves and caves of diamonds). As a result, Canada remains a great alternative market in which to invest without many of the risks present in other developed economies.

We were also one of the first signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, that noble effort to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere and which we recently pulled out of because we didn’t meet our targets. Yup, we’ve made mistakes, too.

Finally, a story that no one believes when I tell it to them while travelling is that Winnie the Pooh is actually named after my hometown of Winnipeg (which, itself, means “muddy waters”). The story goes that a soldier picked up a Canadian bear cub, named it after his regiment’s city, and then donated it to the London Zoo (why he decided to adopt a bear cub is beyond me). It was there, at the London Zoo that lil’ ol’ Christopher Robin Milne was so enthralled by the creature that his father, Mr. A. A. Milne, wrote some stories about the bear cub and his human friend which subsequently got picked up by Disney and made into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.

I could go on but I think I’ll stop there. I’m proud to be a Canadian citizen and I’ve been known to travel with a Canadian flag just for good measure. If you ever get the chance I encourage you to travel and explore the great and vast country that is my birthplace. HAPPY CANADA DAY!

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