I am Canadian


Canada's Coat of Arms
Canada’s coat of arms … slightly less familiar than the Canadian flag. Our motto: a mari usque ad mare (“from sea to sea”).

Yes, it is hard to believe, but I am Canadian—and proud of it (most of the time). Canada is not without it’s faults (what country isn’t?), but overall, it’s a great country with an interesting history. Not everyone—Canadians and foreigners alike—is aware of this history. So here’s some things you need to know about Canada.

Canada is the second largest country by land mass but thirty-sixth largest by population, with only about 32 million people. To put that in perspective, the United Kingdom has a population of about 61 million people, with a land area of about 245,000 km². Labrador, the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, is larger than the UK—its land area is 269,000 km²—but it only has 28,000 people in it. That’s how big Canada is.

And yes, it is colour and centre. Thanks for playing.

A Brief Political History of Canada

Once the continents arranged themselves into their present positions, Canada was a pretty boring place until about 20,000 years ago, when the first human occupants arrived. Fast forward several thousand years, when European explorers are charting this marvellous “New World” that they “ discovered” while looking for an alternate route to China. Both Britain and France set up colonies in Canada to protect their interests (namely, the fur trade).

Canada received its independence on July 1, 1867 by forming a Confederation of the colonies of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Unlike the United States, we did not have a war for independence. Instead, Britain saw numerous advantages to uniting its North American colonies and granting them independent government. That is, they wanted to cut us loose.

Queen Elizabeth II of Canada
Many people don’t realize that Elizabeth II’s role as Queen of Canada is a distinct position from that of Queen of the United Kingdom or any other Commonwealth country. Public domain image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Until 1982, however, Canada was still beholden to Britain. The act granting our independence, the British North America Act, was an act passed by the British Parliament. Ergo, only the British Parliament could modify Canada’s constitution. Why did it take so long? This was actually a much more controversial issue than today’s democratic, freedom-loving individual would think. Many Canadians, particularly in the decades following Confederation, did not want to severe more ties with Britain. Even after everyone decided that patriating the constitution was a good idea, we bickered a fair bit about exactly how to do that.

Now Canada is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada. The Statue of Westminster sets out the rules for succession for all Commonwealth countries. Our current political leader is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Since its inception, Canada has had great impact on world events. We may not be a superpower, but we participated in most of the wars of the twentieth century (often at the behest of Britain). We held our own in both World Wars. Our troops were instrumental at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Second Battle of Ypres, and the Second Battle of Passchendale.

Canadian Currency

A hand holding Canadian loonies, quarters, and a toonie
Photo used under a CC-BY-NC license.

Yes, the rumours are true. Canada does have rather colourful money. Our dollar coin is called the loonie, since the reverse has a loon on it. However, this was not the first design for the loonie. Originally the coin was to feature a voyageur theme, but the Mint decided to use a different design after the courier service lost the master dies in transit! I love the loonie; having a dollar coin is much more convenient than bills. Yes, they are clunky, but they are also more durable, and shiny. Besides—how do you flip a bill?

In addition to the loonie, we have the quarter, a 25-cent coin; the dime, a 10-cent coin; the nickel, a 5-cent coin; and the penny, a 1-cent coin. We have a 50-cent coin, but it is so rare in circulation that many people, including myself, have never seen one. Our bills come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. We used to have a $2 and a $1000 bill; however, the former was retired in favour of the toonie, a $2 coin, and the latter was retired due to lack of use. The current series of bills has a portrait of a former prime minister (or in the case of the $20 bill, the Queen) on one side and a Canadian scene on the other, with an excerpt from a literary work.

In Which I Profess my Undying Love for Milk Bags

Milk bag and a milk pitcher
Photo used under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

I love milk bags so much that they deserve their own section on this page. Milk bags? you say. What the frell are milk bags?. Simply put, in some (not all) areas of Canada, you can purchase milk in 1-litre recyclable plastic bags. You put the bag in a pitcher and then cut off the corner so you can pour the milk. These bags usually come in threes in a larger plastic bag.

Unlike jugs of milk, milk bags use less plastic, which means they are cheaper and less wasteful. I also find the milk tastier, since the bags are sealed until you open them, and we drink the milk fast enough that it doesn’t go bad in the fridge.

Part of the reason I love milk bags so much is the fact that they are uncommon. While not strictly limited to Canada, they certainly aren’t as prevalent as jugs or cartons of milk. I love talking to my American friends and mentioning milk bags only to see their puzzled reactions. Plus, it’s milk in a bag! That fact alone is just … awesome.