There are plenty of myths about Canada dreamed up by the rest of the world — that we live in a sub-zero climate, all talk with heavy accents or are unfailingly polite — but what do we really know about ourselves?

Inspired by Sarah Palin’s recent Paul Revere gaffe, Listed takes a look at some of the more bogus beliefs Canadians hold about themselves.

5. “Hockey is an integral part of our history!”

Lacrosse, though always less popular than curling and black bear wrestling, is our second officially designated national sport. Why? Because it’s way, way older, and is actually Canadian.

Ice hockey as we know it today didn’t become popular until the late 19th century, about 400 years after lacrosse was developed by First Nations peoples. It has origins in a Dutch game called “kolf,” which resembles golf but was played on ice and was popularized by British immigrants who carried a long tradition of stick-and-ball game permutations.

This is something First Nations descendants had to point out to the Canadian government in 1994, forcing a controversial, if appropriate, revision of the National Sports of Canada Act.

4. “Canada has always been strict on gun control!”

Despite being ranked 36th in world population, Canada’s rate of gun ownership is 13th overall, ahead of Germany and Mexico and only a few points behind the next top six, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Historically, Canada’s approach to gun control has been in line with the rest of the world, outside the U.S., with permits and registration required for personal use. This was the case until as recently as 2001, when the government finally outlawed certain calibre handguns and tightened laws and regulations gradually over the next few years.

3. “A Canadian invented the telephone!”

First, no one “invented” the telephone. It was the result of progressive improvements done independently of one another, and Alexander Graham Bell himself spent much more time on other research, which included a eugenic proposal that deaf couples should not have children. Go to the Bell Museum in Nova Scotia and you’ll find more space dedicated to his development of hydrofoil watercraft than the telephone.

Secondly, neither Bell nor his creation were “Canadian” by any exclusive standard. He was born in Scotland and didn’t emigrate until his mid-twenties, and though he spent much of his life here, research on the telephone was divided between Brantford, Ontario and Boston, where the first patent on the device was filed. Bell’s famous exchange with assistant Thomas Watson, the “first” telephone call, if you will, was undertaken there as well.  

2. “Tom Thomson led the Group of Seven to Canadian art stardom!”

Quick, how many members of that famous Canadian art collective can you name? If you answered the infamous Tom Thomson, you’re wrong: though initially associated with members of the Group, he died three years before they even formed. A minor technicality, except that, you know, they designated their numbers right there in the name.

While recognized as a promising talent, Thomson is mostly remembered because of the circumstances surrounding his demise. Thomson vanished while fishing in Algonquin Park, his body pulled from the water over a week later. There is still no official story on what happened, though it’s safe to say nature got the best of him, ironic considering the legacy his friends would carry on.

1. “Canada is a peaceful country, unlike those war-hungry Americans!”

Our army may be smaller, but that doesn’t mean Canada has any record of shying away from conflict or preferring peaceful resolution over war. Canada beat the U.S. to both WW1 and WW2 by several years, provided much strategic support during the Cold War and found 30,000 volunteers ready to ship to Asia during the Vietnam War, resulting in over a hundred confirmed casualties. We also provided one of the first testing grounds — CFB Gagetown — for the Agent Orange herbicide weapon used in ‘Nam.

But that’s in the past, right? Today we deploy “peacekeepers” and are seen as models of productive intervention in conflicts. However, the United Nations has listed Canada 55th out of 108 contributing countries, with that position “in decline.”

2 Comments | Add a Comment
I like the way all your "myths" are defaming. With respect to the "American War of Aggression", as it's known in Vietnam, there's a difference between instigating a conflict and reacting to one started by a neighbor. Canadians are proud that we held an integral role inventing the telephone. While not entirely accurate to say that a Canadian "exclusively" invented the telephone, I wouldn't go as far to call this fact out as a myth. Lastly, why are you hating so much? Jerk.
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