When people think about North America, they often think of the United States of America.
When people think about vacationing in North America, they often think of Florida, Jamaica, Cuba or Mexico. Often times, Canada is forgotten, both by tourists and the international community. Which to me is very odd.
Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world, covering almost 10 million square kilometers. It is larger than Europe, if you don't count Russia. Although it's large in size, the population is actually very low. 41 United Kingdoms can fit in Canada, but Canada only has half the population of the United Kingdom. With 33 million Canadians, each person can have about 1/3 of a squared kilometer all to themselves.
Canada is a young country, not even 150 years old, with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador only joining in 1949. Although a young country, it has a incredibly long history that has impacted the world in many ways. One way in particular is even believed to have been mentioned in the first book in the Bible, Genesis.
The belief is that around 8,000 years ago, when the world was moving out of it's last Ice Age, there was a great ice dam blocking Hudson's Bay in northern Canada. This dam caused much of Canada to become a massive clean water lake. This can still be seen in the marine life fossils found in Saskatchewan's soil, a province that doesn't touch any oceans. Once this dam broke, over 160,000 cubic kilometers of water, more water than all the lakes in the world combined, gushed into the Arctic Ocean and directly into the Gulf Stream. Heading towards Europe, this water is responsible for separating the United Kingdom from mainland Europe, and some believe is responsible for wide spread flooding in the Mediterranean, possibly including that of the Great Flood in Genesis.
By this time, the Aboriginal peoples had long migrated across the Bering land bridge from Asia to North America, and as the flooding occurred, they were effectively sealed off from the rest of the world. Living by themselves for over 20,000 years, these people migrated South and East, covering North and South America from edge to edge. For 20,000 years these people were unknown to Europe, up until just over one thousand years ago.
The first Europeans to set foot on North American soil were not Spanish or British settlers, but a Norse explorer from Iceland named Lief Erikson. Erikson was a Christian who was attempting to spread Christianity into Greenland. He was blown off course, the story goes, and landed somewhere in Nova Scotia. He claimed this land "Vinland", but after violent conflicts with the Aboriginals in the area, his ship disembarked back to Europe, never to return.
500 years later, on his way to the Far East, Christopher Columbus bumped into the Bahamas. Within decades, more and more European settlers came to North America to call it home. The French and British were the main countries to colonize Canada and their heritage remains here still. Other cultures attempted to plant roots in Canada, such as the Acadians (they went on to become the "Cajuns" in Louisiana) but failed.
Wars in North America, as well as in Europe, shaped the culture of Canada, with the British and French fighting for land and power. Russia was involved too, and for a short time owned what is now known as Alaska. In time, the newly founded United States of America also attempted to invade Canada and take it as her own. The Canadians and British worked together to repel the American forced and invaded their country, setting the White House on fire. Since then, the USA and Canadians have become friends.
Immigration has also been the backbone of Canadian history. Almost every culture in the world has had roots in Canada, one way or another. From the Europeans to the Chinese, from the Africans and to the Middle East, Canada has offered safety to all.
One example comes from the Underground Railroad in the United States. The railway brought an influx of African Americans into Canada, which at that time was a prominently Caucasian country. Although not always welcome in this country, these slaves were treated as free men, although not always treated fairly or without prejudice. With them they brought their culture, their religion and their beliefs, which in blossomed and grew in Eastern Canada.
In 1867 Canada officially became a country, although much smaller than what it is today. A railroad was proposed to be built across the country to unify Canada with the settlement on the West coast. Because there were very few people in the West, Chinese immigrants were brought over to build the railroad, with promises of earning enough money to bring their families with them. These Chinese workers were treated horribly and some say there are two dead Chinese workers for every mile of the railway. Once the railway was completed, the new Canadian government put a head-tax on all the Chinese people, demanding they pay to stay in Canada. Three times the government increased this tax, until it was $500 as recent as 1903. By this time, the Chinese were forced underground and worked and lived in tunnels. These tunnels have now become a tourist attraction in some cities, such as in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Other groups such as the Russian Doukhobors, the Ukrainians, the Japanese, the Jews, the American "Draft Dodgers", and the Cubans have also came to Canada over the years. Some unwanted groups have came as well, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the famous gangster Al Capone. Some even said Albert Einstein came up to Canada to find recluse from his study to play hockey.
Although our country is incredibly large, and holds different values and cultures from around the world, it is believed Canada really defined itself on the world stage during World War I when it recaptured Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge was a French ridge under German control that the British, French and Americans were unable to take. People who witnessed the battle say that was the day the nation of Canada was born. It is one of our finest moments in history. In honor of the sacrifice the soldiers gave, a monument has been built on the ridge, and is known as one of the most beautiful monuments in the world.
Canada has seen many accomplishments through its history, from building the CanadArm, to the AM Radio, as well as inventing basketball, the telephone, pacemakers and insulin. Canada has also known for its internal struggles, mostly with its Aboriginal and Metis population. One most recent struggle was the Oka Crisis in Quebec over the Quebec government building a golf course on Aboriginal land. Other crisis have included the Red River Rebellion and the North West Rebellion, in which the Aboriginals fought to defend their land from the encroaching Europeans.
Another group that has had continuous struggle in Canada has been its French population, specifically Quebec. In 1995, things had gotten so bad that Quebec threatened to separate from Canada and held a referendum. It was defeated in a 51-49% majority, and the province has moved towards accepting its English counterparts, however there is still plenty of distaste on both sides of the border.
Canada is no stranger to terrorism either. The shootings on Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014 only add to the long list of terrorism in our country, from violent separatists group like the FLQ, to the Squamish Five, the Sons of Freedom (they're well known for parading nude), the Toronto Five and more. Attacks against other groups in Canada are also common, such as the bazooka attack in Ottawa on the Cuban embassy and the bombing of the Air India Flight 182 in 1985.
Being a country as large as Europe, public opinions often differ from one coast to another. The West believes the East are ignorant and selfish, while the East believes the West are inbred and uneducated. The South believes the North are barbaric and primitive and the North believes the South are greedy and uncaring. However, across the board Canadians all love their country. They love the land, the nature, the culture and their freedom. Living in Canada can sometimes be difficult with intense heat in the summer and frigid cold in the winter, with flood waters in the spring and a frost that comes too early for farming in the fall. Catastrophic storms are all too common, with part of Canada being in the famous "Tornado Alley" which covers the United States. The weather is known to paralyze cities, from Vancouver all the way to Halifax, may it be because of strong winds, ice and snow, rain or a mix of them all.
Being a young country, Canada is full of history, some dark and some inspiring. It is a modest country, never gloating of its fame or its fortune. It's a country of hardworking, polite men and women who strive not to offend cultures, but to embrace them. It's a country built on dreams, determination, snow and maple syrup. It will poke fun of itself, mock its heritage, and stand up for its freedoms. Although only sharing a border with one other country, it is known around the world for its people, its beliefs and its kindness.
Although I missed the 50th anniversary of our flag, I am still a proud Canadian and I am glad I live in such a beautiful country.
And, just to clarify, we don't always say "eh", eh.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.
About a year and a half ago I visited Kyiv, Ukraine. As I walked down the millennium old streets and gawked at the towering cathedrals, I saw the beginnings of a new country, one that was slowly rebuilding from a much darker time. The process of what I was seeing had a name. It was called decommunization.
Decommunization includes renaming architecture, changing laws and protocols, and even tearing down monuments. People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, for example, which symbolised the friendship between the Communist East and the Capitalist West, was torn down. Some statues, like war memorials, are exempt, but there is still talk of making modifications to them. Anywhere you go throughout the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle are being removed – not from history, but from modern society.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!