On this Canada Day, I thought I’d share some interesting and perhaps little known facts about our humble and polite little country. For instance, while the Dominion of Canada was formed in 1867, we didn’t receive our full independence from the Parliament of the United Kingdom until the Canada Act 1982.
Getting used to Canadian slang can be jarring for outsiders, so I’ll try to keep my Canuckisms to a minimum. Sorry about that, eh!
1. The Current Flag Was Only Adopted in 1965
The Canadian flag as we know it consists of three columns. You’ve got red columns on the outside and a white column in the middle with a stylized red maple leaf. But it wasn’t always this way. The current flag was only adopted 51 years ago. The much more British-looking Canadian Red Ensign was used on an unofficial basis prior to that.
2. Canada Has More Lakes than All Other Countries Combined
In addition to large bodies like Hudson Bay (the body of water, not the department store) and Baffin Bay, there’s also Lake Winnipeg, Great Bear Lake, and Lake Athabasca, among some three million other lakes. All said, Canada accounts for more than 60 percent of the world’s natural lakes.
3. Winnie the Pooh Is Canadian
Sort of. The actual real life bear on which the “hunny” loving Pooh is based was a Canadian black bear. The story goes that an orphaned cub was found by a trapper, sold to Lieutenant Harry Colebourn for $20 (who named the bear “Winnie” after his hometown of Winnipeg), and subsequently donated to the London Zoo.
Christopher Robin Milne, son of author A.A. Milne, became enamored with Winnie and changed the name of his teddy bear from “Edward Bear” to Winnie the Pooh. The “Pooh” part came from his pet swan. The rest of the Hundred Acre Wood residents, like Piglet and Eeyore, were based on Christopher’s other toys.
4. Canada’s Most Common Surname Is Chinese
People who self-identify as “white” still make up a little over three-quarters of the total population. Despite this, the most common surname in Canada is Li (and that doesn’t include variants like “Lee”), beating out the other top five surnames Smith, Lam, Martin and Brown.
To be fair, “Li” isn’t strictly a Chinese surname and this ranking is based on listings in the white pages. Here in Vancouver, we’ve witnessed significant shifts within the Chinese Canadian community too. Another fun fact? About 20% of Canadians were born outside of Canada, the highest of any G8 country. We are a land of immigrants.
5. The NWT Has Polar Bear-Shaped License Plates
Who wants a boring old rectangle on the back of their car? The license plates issued in the Northwest Territories are shaped like a polar bear. This only makes sense, seeing how Canada is home to about 60% of the world’s polar bears. These not-exactly-novelty plates can even be found for sale on eBay. Nunavut also had polar bear-shaped plates from the territory’s creation in 1999 until it was replaced by a regular rectangle in 2012.
Do you have a favorite little known factoid about Canada? Let’s hear it!