From Smarties to basketball to beavers…Eh?

From Smarties to basketball, Canada’s rich history overlaps generations, yet despite this, many stereotypes are formulated about our country. Plant writer Alexandra Giubelli uncovers the truth behind them.

I’m not a lumberjack, or a fur trader,
And I don’t live in an igloo,
Or eat blubber or own a dogsled.

I have a Prime Minister, not a President,
I speak English and French, not American,
And I pronounce it about not a-boot.

This rant, coming from a Molson Canadian commercial in 2000, featured an average Canadian man named “Joe” who was giving a speech about what it is to be Canadian and the different stereotypes Americans have about Canada.

Stereotypes aside for a moment, for a couple of years now, there’s been a general feeling of embarrassment and indifference with regards to Canada. Too easily forgotten, too easily confused for Americans. It’s just a huge land of ice after all, eh?

“When I lived in Brazil, we used to call Canada the shadow because we thought it was only the shadow of the United States. We didn’t know a lot about the country, we thought it was snowing and cold 10 months a year,” Patricia Granato, a third semester Cin/Vid/Com student and Canadian citizen since March 2007, said.

Throughout the years, many stereotypes have been formed about Canadian society. Canada has often been forgotten in the history books, and few people remember the many accomplishments that Canadians have achieved. We don’t ride polar bears to school, we don’t live in igloos and, for God’s sake I don’t, and don’t know anyone who owns a beaver as a domestic animal. On this Remembrance Day, my intention is to show that Canada is a great nation and deserves more than what has been written and said about it.

Many remember the invasion of Normandy, where several hundred thousand soldiers from different countries were killed. For those of you who don’t know, the invasion was the largest and most ambitious operation in history made by the allies in World War II on the Normandy beaches in France on June 6, 1944.

The soldiers came from Canada, England, France and the United States, and attacked the five different beaches (Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword) overnight by air first to prepare the arrival of the troops on “D-Day.” However, on August 19, 1942, the Canadians troops were on a mission in the largest raid of this type in Dieppe. More than 2,000 soldiers died out of the 4,963 that embarked for that mission. Also, when Canada helped the invasion, the troops went further into enemy’s territory than any of the other allies. Many forgot about that, because they thought they were British troops when they were in fact Canadians.

Different stereotypes float around Canadians, from their way of living to their way of speaking. The most common ones are of course that in Canada, it snows non stop, we finish all our sentences with “eh,” we ride polar bears (I’m still wondering how people can truly believes this),  we say “a-boot” instead of “about,”  we live in igloos and we say “zed” instead of “zee.”

I don’t know where other people get their information from, because in Canada it doesn’t snow all the time. We usually get snow in November and it ends by March (hopefully). We don’t use “eh” all the time. I have to admit that I use it sometimes, but we don’t end ALL of our sentences with it and we certainly don’t say it with a stupid accent like people do to imitate us. “A-boot,” the famous Canadian national word, is one I seriously have never heard anyone say.

I know on the East coast they use it, but the rest of Canada pronounces “about” like any other. The igloo myth, the other principal stereotype surrounding Canadians, I swear on my mother’s life, that I’ve never seen a real igloo in my life. We, the majority of Canadians who live in big cities, in houses or appartments, don’t use them. They only ones are the Inuit way, way up North, and even today most of them live in houses. The letter “Z,” well to everyone’s surprise, is in fact pronounced “zed.” In England, India, New Zealand, Australia and the majority of the countries that speak English, “zed” is the way to read the letter. Still Americans decided to pronounce it zee. Fine. But don’t come laughing at our way of saying it.

The less common stereotypes that I’ve found were that every Canadian loves hockey. Okay…This one is true. I know some people who don’t love hockey, but let’s admit that the vast majority of Canada, particulary in Montreal, are devoted hockey fans. About the idea that we are all lumberjacks, I’ll admit that I do love wearing a black and red plaid shirt, but does that make me a lumberjack? No. I don’t even know a lumberjack, I buy wood for my fire place, I don’t go into the forest and start chopping trees.

Tim Horton’s is God, and we pay a visit to him every morning. I do agree with that one. Everyone needs a coffee in the morning to start the day properly. I’ve also read that we put maple syrup on everything. On pancakes and waffles (and bacon), it’s a must, but I’ve never witnessed anyone eating maple syrup with everything like the people believe. We produce maple syrup, it’s normal if we eat some.

“The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Canada is my great grandparents, and how much they loved the country. They moved here from Switzerland during the great depression and for them Canada was a new start,” Creative Writing teacher Andrew Katz said.

The stereotypes of Canada have made the country an easily forgettable country which doesn’t stand out and is almost always confused with America. Or, a British colony. I swear, I heard it myself when I was in London. We are the peaceful country. A helping country when needed, for example in Haiti.

But I think in all my life I’ve never seen so much patriotism as when the Winter Games were held in Vancouver. Everyone came together to cheer our athletes and the joy when both women and men won the gold in Ice Hockey was a precious moment of a strong patriotic wave. People from everywhere across the country were waving the red and white flag, wearing the Canadian jersey, and for once they could leave their differences aside and be united for that event.

“What’s happened, for me, is all of these things together have caused a different kind of patriotism to break out here, and it’s beautiful to look at, and that as a whole for me is the prize,” said Vancouver Organizing Committee CEO, John Furlong. “There has been a euphoria here, and a change. Something has happened, and it’s not just in Vancouver, it’s all over the country,” he said.

We should be proud of Canada, for the reason stated above, but also as I’ve discovered the many Canadian inventions that are now essential today.

In sports, Basketball was invented by the Canadians 100 years ago as James Naismith hung a fruit basket to the wall of the local school gymnasium where he was teaching. Of course Hockey is Canadian, as the first game was played in 1875 in Montreal with rules created by JGA Creighton. Baseball was also first played in Canada in Beachville. Not so much the American sport now, eh? And the first football game was played at McGill University. Canadians also invented the goalie mask in hockey, lacrosse and roller-skates.

Regarding food and drinks, Canadians invented butter substitute, Red Rose tea, Smarties, Ginger Ale and the Bloody ceasar. So next time you order one, think Canada.

In the fun department, Canadians invented many board games, such as Trivial Pursuit who was invented by Scott Abbott and Chris Haney in 1979 in Montreal as the two men met for a game of scrabble, but discovering that pieces were missing decided to create a game of their own. Also, Yachtzee, Pictionary, puzzle 3D and the tabletop hockey game were made in Canada.

In the media, Canadians invented the AM radio, the IMAX system, made by Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, and William C. Shaw was first shown at the Expo67 in Montreal. The telephone created by Alexander Graham Bell who moved from Scotland to Canada, the walkie-talkie, cable TV and the first ever commercial to be made in motion picture.

Canadians made many other interesting things, for example: Thomas Ahearn invented the Electric cooking range. Also, Canadians created air-conditioned vehicles, the paint roller, the washing machine, the zipper, Frederick Banting invented Insulin, and others invented the ear piercer. Superman was created by Canadian artist Joe Shuster, and the wonderbra, a type of push-up brassiere, was created in 1961 by Louise Poirier.

James K. Ganong invented the Chocolate bar, as Henry Woodward invented the light bulb, before selling the idea to Thomas Edison.

McIntosh apples are Canadian, as are the Blackberry cell phones, the pacemaker and Velcro.

“The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Canada is my great grandparents, and how much they loved the country. They moved here from Switzerland during the great depression and for them Canada was a new start,” Creative Writing teacher Andrew Katz said. “It wasn’t easy, but they were really proud of their adopted country. Canada is a place where you can be who you want to be, and I’m inspired by how much they loved it.”

“I love Canada because it’s a free country. I have the freedom of speech, I can go to whatever school I want, I can wear what I want and have the freedom of any religion. There’s so many cultures around us colliding and I love it,” Third semester Literature student Lyanna Labelle-Rocha said.

Raise the Maple Leaf high, and stop being shy. Being Canadian is not an insult or a disgrace and we should be proud of our country for what it has accomplished.

Yeah I know that you wanna be Canadian please,
We invented the zipper, we got expertise,
We made insulin to combat disease,
Yeah I know that you wanna be Canadian please.

( “Canadian please” by: Julia Bentley and Andrew Gunadie)

The Red and White flag
keep it high keep it visual
people say Canada and get stereotypical
think we finish every sentence with buddy or bye
and if it ain’t that it’s either dude, eh or guy.

(“Oh Canada” by: Classified)


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