North America

About Canada

Photo credit: Paul Jerry

Did you know this about Canada?

The name, “Canada” comes from the Huron-Iroquois word, “kanata” which means “village.” In 1535, when two Indian youths told explorer Jacques Cartier how to get to “kanata,” he thought they were referring to the entire place, and called the country “Canada.”

Here are some other interesting facts about the vast expanse called Canada and its people.

The Culture and Daily Life in Canada

Although Canadians are considered some of the most mild-mannered, polite and unobtrusive people in the world, they are also some of the most progressive thinkers. As in other British colonies, slavery was abolished in Canada in 1834. This attitude of equality among peoples and tolerance of others’ differences continues today.

In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt a multiculturalism policy, and it passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988.

Did you know that women in Canada were given the vote two years before women in the US (in 1918)?

Famous Canadians

Considering the relatively small population (one tenth of the U.S.), Canadians have achieved fame in a number of fields.

These are some Canadians you may recognize:

The field of comedy is one area in which Canadians truly shine. In fact, the first international festival of humour, the Just for Laughs Festival, originated in Montreal, Quebec. Some of the names you would instantly recognize include Jim Carrey, Martin Short, John Candy, Michael J. Fox, Howie Mandel, Leslie Nielsen, Matthew Perry, Andrea Martin, Rich Little, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers and Rick Moranis were born and raised in Canada.

Canadian-born actors who’ve made it big include Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr, Lorne Green, Jason Priestly, Keanu Reeves, William Shatner, James Doohan (Scotty on Star Trek), Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, Alan Thick and Pamela Anderson.

Accomplishments in the field of music are also impressive. Celine Dion, whose hit “The Heart Will Go On” has become inextricably linked with the film Titanic (directed by another Canadian, James Cameron) is known around the globe. Similarly, the biggest debut release of any pop artist ever, Jagged Little Pill, showcases the talent of Ottawa native Alanis Morissette. And the queen of country, Shania Twain, hails from Ontario.

Other musical names to note include Paul Anka, country singer k.d. Lang, Grammy-winner Sarah McLachlan, composer Glenn Gould, rockers Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams, Corey Hart and jazz legend Oscar Peterson.

The world of literature has also benefited from Canadians such as Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Robertson Davies, and Alice Munro.

And did you know that technically, Santa Claus is Canadian? The North Pole lies within Canada’s boundaries!

Canada’s Worldly Contributions

Canadians also have a place in history as contributors to Western culture and advancement around the globe.

Some famous contributions you’d never guess originated in Canada:

  • Basketball was invented by Canadian James A. Naismith
  • Canadian J. Armand Bombardier invented the first snowmobile
  • Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call, and then the first long distance call in Canada (Although some folks will dispute this)
  • The Nobel-prize winning discovery of insulin to save the lives of diabetics was made by two Canadians, Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best
  • The original character of Superman in comic books was drawn by Canadian Joe Shuster.

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