So many postings are US-centric I thought it would be good to post something that gives another view to the accomplishments of another country. This post presents a list of a whole slew of great things that Canada has contributed to the world. By many standards, Canada is a relatively young country yet has managed to give us all some wonderful gems during her 142 year history, ranging from arts and culture to science and astronomy. While it is difficult to narrow down all that Canada has brought forth and shared, here are some of the more visible and globally impacting of the many. * The Beaver is noble*
10. Food: Back Bacon and Poutine
Every country has its defining food, ranging from Cordon Bleu gourmet haute cuisine to down home country comfort. The Canadian entries are the latter. Back Bacon is a lean boneless cut of centre pork loin rolled in corn meal, made so that the bacon has all the flavour with none of the fat. This specialty was made famous by the Bob and Doug Mackenzie comedy team in the 1980s through their movies, which popularized the stereotype of Canadians and things from Canada. And to salute the French Canadian contingent, Poutine is a specialty from Quebec (La Belle Province!) that has recently made the big time through inclusion on Burger King menus. The dish began as fries with gravy and cheese curd, yet has evolved to include upscale versions such as three-peppercorn sauce, foie gras, caviar and truffle. What began as a true blue collar snack has moved up the gourmet ladder and even has a full page in Wikipedia. Bon Appetit.
9. Drink: Ice Wine and Canadian beer
Labatt and Molson are well known international brands of beer, whose growth has in recent years been spurred in large part by the globalization of the industry. The brands have been bought and added to the stable of products of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors International but remain distinctly Canadian and bring the fame of Canadian beer to the world. In addition, while Canada is known the world over for its unique brews, Canada has also developed a reputation for one of the leading world producers of ice wine. Ice wine was originally made during the time of the Roman Empire, when it was discovered that frozen grapes (harvested after the first frost of the season) could yield a unique and sweet, tasty type of wine. This practice was abandoned in favor of using traditional dried grapes, and while there are 6 documented vintages of ice wine from Germany in the 19th century, it was not until mid 1980′s that the technique was reintroduced in the Niagara wine-making region of Ontario, Canada. The international breakthrough of Canadian ice wine came in 1991, when Inniskillin’s 1989 Vidal ice wine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo. The Canadian trend towards increased cultivation of Vitis vinifera (European) grape varieties in the 1990s expanded the palette of varieties available to be bitten by frost. By the early 2000s, Canada was established as the largest producer of ice wine in the world.
8. Sport: Hockey and Lacrosse
Lacrosse, the official national sport of Canada, is popular in North America and has smaller leagues in selected countries outside of the continent (UK and Australia mainly). However, it is hockey that Canada has given the world and has since become one of the most popular and competitive of all international sports. From oral histories, there is evidence of a tradition of an ancient hockey-like game played among the Mi’kmaq First Nation in Eastern Canada, who played a ball game called tooadijik. This combined with sports brought to Canada from early Irish and Scottish immigrants, who adapted their traditional sports to conditions of playing on ice. The game as we know it today was first formalized – codified as it were, to provide the reverence that Canadians feel toward the sport! – in the mid 19th century. The first recorded hockey games were played by soldiers stationed in Kingston and Halifax during the mid-1850s. In the 1870s, the first known set of ice hockey rules were drawn up by students at Montreal’s McGill University, when it was established the number of players per side to 9 and replaced the ball with a wood puck. On March 3, 1875 the first organized indoor game was played at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink between two sides of nine-player teams and for the first time featured the use of a puck, thus making Montreal the true centre of the hockey universe. This may make the Montreal Canadians the Gods of Hockey – any comments from Leafs fans??
7. Technology: CanadArm, Java, Electric Cooker, Electric Wheelchair, Alkaline Batteries
The Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), better known as the CanadArm is a robotic arm used for the deployment/retrieval of space hardware from the payload bay of the NASA space station. The first Canadian Space Arm was delivered to NASA in 1981 after 6-years and $100 million dollars of research and development. The unit was so successful in its initial testing and deployment that NASA order four more and the Canadian Space Agency became a major player on the international scene, developing a reputation for Canada as a significant contributor to technology on both international and extraterrestrial fronts. Following the Canadian built space arm, the Canadian engineering giant MDA (MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd) went on to build Radarsat-2, the world’s most advanced civilian satellite system, airborne biological threat detectors, autonomous underground mining vehicles and meteorological instruments for Mars exploration projects. And let’s not forget a few others of note, such as James Gosling, who invented Java (not the drink, the computer language); Thomas Ahearn, who invented the electric range; George Klein, inventor and developer of the electric wheelchair; Lewis Urry, inventor of the alkaline battery, and a host of other technology innovators too numerous to mention.
6. Film/TV: Lorne Green, William Shatner, James Cameron, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Mike Meyers, Paul Shaffer, Cirque de Soleil…
Known for more than Pam Anderson’s twins on Baywatch, Canada has brought acting, directing,, writing and production talent to both big and small screens around the world. It’s hard to contain the list of Canadians who have changed the landscape of television and movies as we know it, from Captain Kirk to the Terminator (James Cameron), to Ace Ventura’s rank humour (Jim Carrey), to beer-loving Homer Simpson, Canadian talent has been at the helm. Better known members of the Canadian Club include half of the Blues Brothers (Dan Ackroyd), funny men John Candy and Martin Short, hot and talented Neve Campbell, time traveling Michalel J Fox, Academy award winner Chief Dan George, Bonanza patriarch Lorne Green and SNL creator Lorne Michaels. There are just far too many to possible mention with anything more than passing note, which does a disservice to all, given the depth of talent and influence that each has had. The extent of Canada’s influence on Hollywood is so well known, that in fact there was a satirical documentary produced by US network giant HBO entitled The Canadian Conspiracy, which suggested that the Canadian government was trying to take over the US through its actors and other entertainment personalities that became so influential in the entertainment world. And who knows, maybe one day….hehe (Dr. Evil is, after all, Canadian)…
5. Music: Emma Albani, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Diana Krall, Shania Twain, Guess Who, Paul Anka, Celine Dion, Leonard Cohen…
From the early 20th century famed soprano Emma Albani to the jazz piano of Oscar Peterson top the early sounds of rock with Paul Anka through to the modern virtuosity of artists such as Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young, the list of musical talent that has started in Canada is tremendous. The little (population-wise) country north of the 49th parallel has had quite an influence on music. In 1870, Canadian born and trained Emma Albani made her debut in Italy playing Amina in a production of the Bellini opera La Sonnambula. The performance moved her to notoriety on the stage of European opera and marked the first instance of a Canadian singer achieving international fame. Of course, Canada was only 13 years old at the time – not bad for a teenager! Since then global success has been achieved by composers, such as David Foster, Hollywood music magnate; Shania Twain, who totally sexed up and changed the face of country music; Paul Anka – he was one of the original 50s crooners, a legacy to modern rock; Leonard Cohen who brought intelligence and poetry to a style that only he can pull off; Gordon Lightfoot, the quintessential storyteller, called by Johnny Cash one of the best; April Wine who cranked out a seemingly endless list of chart-topping hits in the 80s; . One of the best known Sons of Canada, Neil Young introduced the world to several genres of music, with country rock through his first band Buffalo Springfield, then the power of one man with one guitar and a depthless soul, then on to his brand of hard rock in what has been called the first appearance of grunge. Canadians? Still relevant in the MTV world: Nickleback, Avril Lavigne, Nelly Furtado to name a few. Oh yeah – we rock.
4. Art: Robert Bateman, Alex Colville, Emily Carr, Group of Seven, Frank Gehry, Homer Groening
The landscape and natural beauty of Canada has long inspired visual artists, and helped to propel widely acclaimed artists into international attention. Perhaps beginning in the early 20th century with Emily Carr and the Group of Seven (Tom Thomson, J. E. H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, A.J. Casson, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston, Franklin Carmichael; later joined by A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris), the traditional representation of nature and photo-realist elements of pictures of nature were transformed by the Group in central-eastern Canada, while Carr’s work on the west coast romanticized the native culture and introduced a new aspect of visually presenting this work to Europeans and North Americans alike. Frank Gehry is one of the most celebrated architects of modern age, with buildings such as Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spanish Basque Country; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; Experience Music Project in Seattle; Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; Dancing House in Prague, Czech Republic and the MARTa Museum in Herford, Germany. To lighten the mood a bit from serious visual and architectural contributions D’oh! Homer Groening, father of Matt Groening and namesake of our favorite Homer – Simpson, was born in Canada and inspired many zany references and episodes of the Simpsons.
3. Humanity: Norman Bethune, Stephen Lewis, Steve Fonyo, Rick Hanson, Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope
Stephen Lewis, a special envoy and global social conscience for the fight against AIDS in Africa, has a special place in the modern efforts of humanitarianism, while Norman Bethune lent his support as a doctor to the Chinese population that was being ravaged by the Communist armies of Mao Tse Tung. These leaders illustrate the selfless contribution that marks Canada’s role as global citizen in its humanitarian efforts. Steve Fonyo helped Terry cross the finish line, and Rick Hanson caught the world’s attention in his chair. It is however with a special place in the heart of all Canadians that Terry Fox stands out as the country’s greatest humanitarian, through his struggle, his bravery and his memory. The Marathon of Hope that was started to raise funds for cancer research continues to this day with millions of participants in countries on all continents around the globe.
2. Military: Troops: Gas Mask, World War I , WW II, UN Peacekeeping, Intrepid, GC45 Howitzer
Canadians are peace loving people and think of Canada as a peaceful nation without a significant military culture. While this is true, let it not be said that the country sits on the sidelines, for we are not mere observers. Canadian troops are heralded through the histories of the First and Second World wars for their bravery and the depth of their engagement in battle. During the Second World War Canada built over 300 airfields and 65 training schools in less than one year, and provided the instructors and ground crews to keep thousands of planes in the air. As a result, the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), which began the war with 5 squadrons of outdated planes and about 3,000 men, was by 1945 the third largest of the Allied air forces,with over 133,000 men. In addition, 60 percent of RAF bomber command was made up of Canadians. In 1939, the population of Canada was about 12 million people. If you divide that in half, it gives about 6 million males. Subtract those who were too young or too old to serve, and you have about 3 million males of military service age. By the end of the second world war, Canada had 1.1 million men in uniform – one out of every three adult males. Canada sent troops and sailors and airmen to Britain during WWII. It produced ships and guns and tanks and planes and in the process created an industrial economy that had not existed before the war. William Stevenson, the man known as Intrepid, headquartered at the nowe famous (then of course highly secret) Camp X, was the made who cracked the code. Camp X in Ontario, Canada offered the allied forces intelligence training, information gathering and general spy training that proved invaluable to the war effort.
1. Science: Standard Time Zones, Insulin, Stem Cell, Quirks and Quarks, Healthcare (Universal Medical Coverage)
GW Bush – stay away from our stems cells! In the early 1960s Canadian researchers Ernest McCulloch and James Till at the University of Toronto performed experiments that involved injecting bone marrow cells into irradiated mice. They observed that small raised lumps grew on the spleens of the mice, in proportion to the number of bone marrow cells injected. They dubbed the lumps ‘spleen colonies’, and speculated that each lump arose from a single marrow cell: perhaps a stem cell. This discovery was confirmed and the term stem cell was first published in 1963. Dr. Fred Banting achieved similar medical accolades for his discovery of insulin in 1920, and received a lifetime annuity from the Canadian government to fund his research. We all wind our watches and tell the time around the world due to a Canadian, Sir Sanford Fleming, who invented the concept and implementation of Standard Time Zones. After missing a train in 1876 in Ireland because its printed schedule listed p.m. instead of a.m., he proposed a single 24-hour clock for the entire world, located at the centre of the Earth and not linked to any surface meridian. At a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute on February 8, 1879 he linked it to the anti-meridian of Greenwich (now 0°). He suggested that standard time zones could be used locally, but they were subordinate to his single world time. He continued to promote his system at major international conferences, including the International Meridian Conference of 1884. That conference accepted a different version of Universal Time, but refused to accept his zones, stating that they were a local issue outside its purview. Nevertheless, by 1929 all of the major countries of the world had accepted time zones. In the late 1890s, geologist Joseph Tyrell, after digging around in Drumheller, Alberta, discovered the first and most extensive cache of dinosaur bones, while more recently, Canadian scientist Richard Taylor discovered the minute quark, which earned him a Nobel prize in Physics. And perhaps one of the best known – and simultaneously best loved and most controversial – contributions of Canada is its model of universal health care, founded by Tommy Douglas. There is no such thing as a Canadian going bankrupt because of illness, or having to sacrifice financial stability to pay their doctor’s bills, which is one of the things that countries around the world look to as an example of how to take care of their own citizens, a contribution indeed to be being proud of. *****
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