Paste it in the head!


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Turns out Canada is not the U.S.' Red-headed Stepchild

Before I moved to Toronto, the things I knew about Canada could maybe fit on the head of a pin (a very small pin):

a) The prime minister was Paul Martin (how tightly my brain held onto this information can be illustrated by the fact that I first typed "John Martin," then stared at the name for a good minute, wondering why it didn't sound quite right)

b) Canada is very cold

c) Canadians say "eh" (true) and "hoose" (not true)

I wouldn't say that I know a whole lot more now. Canadian history wasn't exactly the primary focus of the American educational system and I'm not enough of a history buff to wade through wars and political manuevers on my own. However, armchair travelling is one of my favorite activities, and I particularly enjoy social histories, mainly because they don't require me to remember lots of facts.

I picked up Will Ferguson's Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, a collection of essays exploring Canada's past and present, moving from the west coast to the east coast. Ferguson is one of those writers who, presumably, has little patience for timelines and dates and can empathize with the reader whose ability to retain information about both is weak (me). He's Bill Bryson-esque (another of my favorites), though maybe a bit rougher around the edges.

Ferguson captures a Canada I would venture to guess that even most Canadians aren't familiar with. These are the smaller stories, set not in Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal, but in Victoria and Dresden and Fort Vermilion. Ferguson's account of seeing polar bears in their natural habitat, dancing under a sky pulsing with the surreal colors of the aurora borealis, is unforgettable. It's not all bears and fur traders, though; it's also Canada's role in the Underground Railroad, and the more interesting (and poignant) ironies of the Quebec separatist movement.

I'm not finished with the book yet, but I can already say that my list of Things I Know About Canada is a bit longer:

a) The prime minister was Paul Martin and is now Stephen Harper

b) Canada is very cold

c) Canadians say "eh" but not "hoose"

d) Canada had something to do with the Underground Railroad

e) There are ironies--interesting and poignant--surrounding the Quebec separatist movement


  • Quebec is the only walled city in North America.

    Over 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border.

    Underage college students in Buffalo drive to Canada to get drunk since their drinking age is 18.

    By Blogger McGeekan, at 1:19 PM  

  • perhaps one day...

    By Anonymous Eddie, at 3:43 PM  

  • Well, I am Canadian, but I can fit all I know about Canadian history into this message.
    1) While you guys were having a tantrum and throwing tea in the harbour we just waited patiently until Britain GAVE us our country. And we burned down the Whitehouse.
    2) A whole lot of fucking fur trading happened.
    3)Louis Riel and the Metis had an unsuccessful resistance movement before he was hung for treason.
    4)WWI Canadian soldier realized that ammonia would counteract the poison gas first being used by the Germans, so they peed on their shirts, held them over their faces and survived.
    5) The Halifax explosion. Read about it on Wikipedia.
    6) There is something important about the Avro Arrow, but I didn't remember what

    There you go. That's it.

    By Blogger heather., at 9:05 PM  

  • Eddie. Hilarious. Absolutely fucking hilarious. And yes, we can only dream, can't we?

    By Blogger Tasha, at 9:47 PM  


    By Blogger McGeekan, at 10:47 AM  

  • i didn't even know about the halifax explosion - thanks Heather.

    By Blogger akd, at 1:04 PM  

  • I know i bunch of explorers tried to find a nothern crossing and the disapeared!
    I know Canada can be very cold but it can also be quite hot... when I was in Calgary they were bitching about it being in the high 20's... whatever that means (20's is F*ing cold but silly metric system)
    Canadians can find a reason to sponsor anything (this might just be Calgary) but dude a Chuck Wagon Race where there are wagons sponsored by Super 8, West Jet, and Haliburton (that one won it's heat by the way)!

    By Blogger Aundra, at 7:49 PM  

  • i'm pretty sure americans sponsor lots of crap too. and btw, temperature is measured in CELSIUS not METRIC. and i haven't figured it out yet either. i totally have the winter conversions down but when someone says it's 35 degrees out and to me it FEELS like 95, i just smile and nod. i'm sick of looking like an idiot!

    By Blogger Tasha, at 11:11 AM  

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