Ontario, Canada – March 2000
How much do Americans know about Canada? Almost nothing.
Case in point, a Canadian comedy show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, featured an interview with American Presidential candidate George W. Bush. The interviewer told Bush that Canada’s Prime Minister, Jean Poutine, supported his candidacy. George DubYa commented that he was grateful to receive Prime Minister Poutine’s endorsement.
Granted, this is the man that David Letterman described as “making Dan Quayle look like Winston Churchill”.
Just to clarify for George DubYa:
Canada’s national dish
Canada’s national leader
Poutine is made from french fries and Chrétien is French-Canadian. Poutine is a tasty dish; Helene Chrétien thinks hubby Jean is a tasty dish too. Poutine is made with cheese curds and gravy; Chrétien receives political gravy.
To help George DubYa avoid further confusion:
|Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister||Putain, French for hooker.|
Once, I went into a restaurant in Quebec for poutine but mispronounced it as putain. I was a little puzzled when the cashier told me to go down the street into the alley and then laughed hysterically. I would hate for this to happen to George DubYa, as the resulting scandal could ruin his meteoric political career.
In honour of George DubYa, I will dispel some Great Canadian myths.
The first ones come from Tourism Toronto, which recently released some of their more interesting inquiries:
Actual Tourism Toronto Questions
"Where’s the CNN tower?"
Atlanta, Georgia. The Canadian National Tower (aka CN Tower) is in downtown Toronto and it’s hard to miss since it’s the world tallest building!
“I want to go moose hunting in Toronto. How much is the licence?”
Toronto is an urban centre with over three million people, skyscrapers and highways. Finding that moose can be quite a challenge. Licenses are $200. Make your cheque payable to me, Glen Farrelly. For an extra $500, I can show you the best place to find moose in the city.
“When do you celebrate Christmas in Canada?”
August 7th, like everyone else around the world.
“Are there grizzly bears in downtown Toronto?”
The only bears I’ve seen in Toronto were hairy men marching naked down Yonge Street on Pride Day in June.
“I would like to see Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto,” one caller told a tourism counsellor. “How many days will you be here?” the counsellor asked. “Just one.”
Through the modern miracle of flight, you could cover the thousands of kilometres between the three cities in one day. You’d even have thirty minutes in each city to enjoy the lovely sites around each airport.
Myths I Have Encountered
"You speak English really well. You don’t even have an accent."
This poor ignoramus seemed to believe that all Canadians are French. For the record, Canada is a bilingual country – though Ontario is predominantly English. My French speaking consists of 6 years in school learning how to say "Je m’appelle Glen. Ou est la toilette?"
Upon hearing that Canadians have state sponsored medical insurance, an American declared “You must be Communists up in Canada”!
While it is true that Canada could once have been described as a “social democracy”, we are becoming increasingly corporate capitalists, much like our neighbours to the south. However, we do still have to line up like commies at government run stores to buy our beer and liquor.
Many Americans believe that Canada is perpetually frozen, they tend to ask:
"Do you live in an igloo?"
"Do you take a snowmobile to work?"
"How do you stand the snow all year round?"
It is this kind of thinking that has supposedly prompted Americans to cross the border in July or August wearing winter coats and asking where they can get some good skiing. While it is true that parts of Canada are in the Arctic, portions of Ontario are further south than northern California, and Toronto is roughly the same latitude as Boston. We “enjoy” summer temperatures that can match Florida. Even in the Arctic it doesn’t snow all year round.
Then there’s the ever popular,
"You’re from Toronto, Canada. I have a cousin Betty who lives in Vancouver, do you know her?"
Why yes, I think I dated her back in high school. Everyone knows Betty!!!
"You’re Canadian. You must play hockey."
Granted, it is our national pastime. But not every Canadian was born with skates attached to his or her feet (and wouldn’t that hurt if we were!).
The final one is widely circulated, though I truly hope no one is stupid enough to have ever asked,
"Do they turn Niagara Falls off at night?"
An American’s Guide to Canada – Canada explained to Americans by an American.
And for a shameless PLUG:
ChillyBeach is made by the company I work for. However, it the funniest online animated series. It is a satire of stereotypical Canadian life, complete with snow, hockey, beer and donuts. Seriously, it’s the coolest…
At 1,068sq. km, Ontario is Canada’s second largest province. Our northern tip is parallel to Sweden, while our southern tip is parallel to California.
Ontario is 1,600 km east to west, half the span of the United States. So needless to say, seeing all of the province can take a lifetime.
Northern Ontario comprises most of the province and is, for the most part, wilderness. In summer, this means some of the best camping in the world. In winter, I wouldn’t even think of going there.
Southern Ontario is where most people live. It’s the industrial and financial heartland of the province (and Canada). Much of the cultural attractions are in this area.
Toronto, the provincial capital, is North America’s fourth largest city. With over 100 different ethnic groups, it is considered the world’s most multicultural city.
Ottawa is the national capital and as such is the centre of Canada’s political and cultural scene.
Here’s a sample of some of the festivals occurring soon:
Great Canadian Ice Fishing Challenge – If you don’t mind freezing your keester off staring at a hole in the ice, you could possibly win $250,000 in ice fishing prizes! (March 11)
Sportsmen’s Show – Canada’s largest and oldest sportsman’s show. My Dad used to drag me to this as a kid, but it’s actually a lot of fun. The trained hunting dog shows and fly fishing demonstrations were always my favourite! (March 10-19)
Figure Skating Carnival – sort of a local version of IceCapades (March 25)
Fiddle & Step – now that this folk tradition is "trendy", people can come out of the closet stepdancing and fiddling proudly. Presented in conjunction with Belmore’s Maple Syrup Festival (April 2-6)
Maple Magic – Traditional sugaring-off festival with wagon rides, and yummy pancakes. At the Bradley Museum, an 1830’s farmhouse. (March 11-19)
Maple Sugar Festival – Help them this year make it into Guinness as the world’s largest maple sugar festival. Last year’s 8,679 registered people was not enough to make it. (April 1st)
With spring thaw, so too comes the season of maple syrup festivals, aka sugaring-off parties. There are well over 50 in Ontario in March and early April. So rather than list them all, it is fair to say that wherever you are in Ontario this time of year there is a maple syrup festival nearby!
Ontarians obsess over the weather. Come share our obsession and find out the climate of places like Wawa and Moosonee.
Special thanks to my wife, Jenn, for helping me out with this article in specific and life in general. We got married in October, find out the detales at my wedsite.
Check out my past articles for some further tips, such as dining, attractions, and continuing festivals.