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Canada; What, When & Why?

In case you didn’t know, yesterday was Canada Day and I’ve been juggling with ideas of what to write for my country’s national holiday. Keeping in mind that I haven’t been everywhere (we are the second biggest country in the world after all), I didn’t feel like I could truly capture the best of what Canada has to offer in terms of sights, activities or culture. I trust that there are several outlets available out there for anyone looking for things to do in Ontario or the best restaurants in Alberta so I’m going a different route. I want to put the focus on the country itself and maybe catch some interest not by listing a top 10 activities or the best national parks but by shedding light on what makes each and every one of the 13 provinces and territories unique and different but also pivotal in the shape that Canada has today.

Nunavut

The youngest territory and 13th division of the country, Nunavut officially became recognized as a territory just 12 years ago. April 1st 1999 is when it took the Northwest Territories spot as the northernmost territory in Canada. Not surprisingly, it’s also the home of the northernmost permanently inhabitable locale in the world; Alert.

Being a rather remote area, it has one of the lowest density of population in the world and yet, if it was a country, Nunavut would be the 15th biggest country in the world; edging out every single European country besides Russia.

Northwest Territories

Quite surprisingly, mainly due to its geographical location, the Northwest Territories are home of the 13th longest river in the world. The Mackenzie river runs through the territory on a length of roughly 4200 kilometres (just over 2600 miles)

It is also home of the only unshared UNESCO site of the three Canadian territories; Nahanni National Park Reserve.

Yukon

Yukon is home of the highest mountain in Canada; Mount Logan, which is also the second highest peak in North America.

For some reason, while Yukon has its own international airport in Yellowknife, it only offers direct flights to 3 other Canadian cities (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton) one in Alaska (Fairbanks) and to Frankfurt, Germany.

British Columbia

After Vancouver’s winning bid for host of the 2010 winter Olympics, British Columbia became the third province in Canada to host the Olympics. It is also the only place in Canada to have “coffee shops” similar to the ones in Amsterdam. The major difference is that they are not allowed to sell the product; they simply offer a place to use it.

Alberta

With 5 sites out of 14, Alberta is the province with the most UNESCO sites in Canada. It is also the 5th biggest energy producer in the world and Edmonton, the province’s capital, is where the world’s biggest shopping mall is located; the West Edmonton Mall.

Saskatchewan

Regina, the province’s capital, is where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recruits train as it is the only training academy licensed to offer training to the RCMP.

All of the province’s boundaries are man-made; setting it apart from the rest of provinces and territories. To be exact, the province is wedged between Alberta and Manitoba, right under the Northwest Territories and above the states of Montana and North Dakota.

Manitoba

The town of Elie, Manitoba, was hit by a F5 tornado in June 2007, the first category 5 tornado to ever touch ground in Canada.

Winnipeg, the province’s capital, inspired the naming of Winnie the Pooh, where it was originally purchased. Not only that but Winnipeg is also the Slurpee capital of the world even though the temperatures are below freezing point for about half of the year.

Ontario

Ottawa is where, during World War II, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born. As her family fled the Netherlands because of the war, the hospital ward her mother was in was momentarily declared extraterritorial, making it possible for the princess to only have Dutch citizenship.

Quebec

Although English is commonly used in several areas of the province, French is the province’s official language. This makes Quebec the only province to have French as its official language.

Throughout history, Quebec has attempted to become an independent state on two separate occasions; in 1980 and then again in 1995. Both referendums ended with a majority of Quebecers choosing to remain a part of Canada instead of seceding.

New Brunswick

While French communities exist in other provinces and several areas of Quebec use English on a daily basis, New Brunswick is the only province to be officially bilingual; having both English and French listed as its official languages.

New Brunswick is home to four unusual natural phenomena;
– The largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere (and second biggest in the world) is located between two of the province’s islands; Deer and Indian islands.
– The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world and they rise at a rate of 1 metre per hour.
– Due to the force behind the high tides, the Saint John River flows backwards twice every day. The phenomenon can easily be observed as the tide overpowers the regular current, causing it to flow upstream.
– Magnetic Hill, located in Moncton, isn’t as magnetic as its name may imply but drivers can put their cars in neutral and watch with amazement as it drives itself up the hill, without any help from the driver.

Nova Scotia

Halifax, the province’s capital, is where the first decorated English Christmas tree was located. In 1846, protestant Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King!) tried to reproduce the effect of stars shining through evergreens by placing candles on a spruce.

Nova Scotia was the first settlement north of Florida and named after Scotland.

There are 150 lighthouses in the province; the most in all of Canada

Prince Edward Island

The only province to be considered its own country according to the Travelers’ Century Club because of the distance between it and the mainland; officially making it the smallest province and the only one to be considered its own land.

Newfoundland & Labrador

There are no snakes or poison ivy found on the island of Newfoundland but the province has its own kind of dog and pony (originally named the Newfoundland dog and the Newfoundland pony)

A few “firsts” also occurred in Newfoundland;
– First province to respond to the Titanic distress signal
– First place to have a wireless communication in the world
– First transatlantic flight departed from Newfoundland in 1919

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Hockey, Poutine & That Funny Accent

With 13 provinces and territories, Canada has it all. Coastal towns renowned for incredibly fresh fish and seafood, never-ending fields offering the perfect background for amazing landscape photos, snowy peaks that are famous around the world are only some of the varieties of landscapes Canada has to offer.

July 1st is the day Canadians get hyped up on Tim Horton’s coffee, paint the town red, embrace their passion for hockey and fall in a maple syrup induced coma. In other words, July 1st is Canada Day. So beyond that funny accent and a love/hate relationship with Celine Dion, here are some purely Canadian things that make us proud to be Canucks.

Timmies

Forget Starbucks; Canada’s own coffee chain is as popular, if not more, as its’ American counterpart. Never had a double-double before? Head to Tim Horton’s to indulge in this Canadian favourite. Odds are you won’t have to look far to find one and you’ll feel right at home with the coffee-loving Canucks. The best part is, Timmies is slowly making its way into the U.S. market; one small step for coffee shops, one giant leap for this pillar of Canadian pride.

Passion for hockey

I’m not going to lie; I’m not a fan of hockey (shock, gasp, horror) but like most Canadians I know, once the playoffs start, I know it’s all about the game. Some people do take that passion a little far, as recently witnessed in Vancouver, but most of us are just extremely supportive of our teams and let’s be honest for a moment; there simply are no greater fans than the fans of the Habs.

Poutine

Is it a healthy meal choice? No. Is it appealing to look at? Not exactly. But combine fries, cheese curds and gravy and you get the ultimate decadent meal. For the original (and best!) poutine, the province of Quebec has you covered and while more and more restaurants around the country offer this gooey guilty-pleasure, it’s always best to go with the original.

Seafood

Being surrounded by two of the biggest oceans and having a strong fishing industry in several provinces means that no matter if you’re visiting the west coast or spending time in the Maritimes, fish and seafood are easy to find and always fresh. Besides, you’ve never actually lived until you’ve had a chance to ask for a side of lobster with your lobster club.

A genuinely good nature

Yes, jokes are made and yes, we may in fact apologize even when we aren’t at fault but we also have a reputation as one of the country with the nicest people. We know we’re not perfect and we know we could take notes from other countries on several things but as generalizing as this may be, I do believe we take pride in knowing what the world thinks of Canadians and we’d rather poke fun at our funny accent than get angry aboot the situation. Besides, it’s a lot more fun that way, eh?


The Passing of a Law

May 16th 2011 is the day commuters in Brussels need to start paying their fare when using the subway; at least if they need to pass through the Gare du Midi. Although everyone should have been paying already, the electronic access gates were left opened and had a notice stating that they would become active today; no doubt trusting the good nature of people, even though they obviously could go right through the gate without paying for passage.

To say that the lines were long at the various ticket booths compared to yesterday would be an understatement, especially during rush hour at the beginning and at the end of the workday.

There were also growing lines at a few gates as people seemed at a loss as to what they needed to do for the gate to open. Some section of the station only had an handicapped gate available which meant that people had to push a button to open the first door, then insert their ticket for the second door to open.

The lines at the ticket counters and the confusion to go through the entrance/exit gates probably is a very good indication that the city made the right decision and will actually benefit strongly from a working access system for the users of it’s extensive public transportation system. The added funds collected from people who were already using public transportation will probably be much greater than the amount of money collected from fines seldomly collected from those who didn’t have a valid ticket.

There were a lot of security/prevention personnel at the station throughout the day to assist people and make the transition go smoothly and although the gates are only active at the Gare du Midi for the time being, it isn’t hard to understand that now that the city’s busiest station is officially charging for passage, other stations will likely follow suit in the future in order to cover most, if not all of the city’s vast public transportation system.