20 Facts You Never Knew About Canada
For Canada Day, July 1, here’s a look at some wonderful and wacky trivia about our quirky friends to the north.
Canada is the second largest country in the world
Canada is an enormous country, extending all the way up to the Arctic. With 3,855,102 square miles of total area, it’s the second largest country in the world behind Russia. The United States, though, isn’t far behind Canada, with 3,796,742 square miles. Although it has a huge amount of land mass, much of Canada is taken up by water, with more lakes than the rest of the world combined. More geography facts you didn’t learn in school? Canada also has the largest ocean coastline in the world, due to its Arctic archipelago, which has over 36,000 islands.
Canada contains fewer people than Tokyo
Although it’s the second biggest country, population-wise Canada is way down at 38th, with only around 36 million people. That’s less than the Tokyo metropolitan area, which has 38 million people. Eighty percent of Canadians live in urban areas, with Ontario as the most populated province—not surprising since it contains the country’s most populated city, Toronto (which is not the capital, Ottawa is; this is one of 30 geography facts everyone keeps getting wrong). Most Canadians live in the southern part of the country within 200 miles of the U.S. border, which means that vast areas of Canada are pristine wilderness with no humans at all.
Canada produces the majority of the world’s maple syrup supply
Move over, Vermont: Canada produces about three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup. Maple trees are so valued that Canadians even put its leaf on their flag. As more evidence of maple syrup’s importance to the country, the Canadian province of Quebec even has its own “world syrup reserve” for maple syrup emergencies. Before you laugh, there actually was a Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist in 2012, in which millions of dollars worth of syrup was taken—file this under the most expensive things that have ever been stolen.
Canadians drink milk in a bag
In Canada, particularly in the eastern part of the country, you don’t go to the store for a carton of milk: You go for a bag. This is why Canadians drink milk out of bags: In the 1960s, heavy glass bottles fell out of favor, and new plastic milk bags, which were easier to resize to the metric system Canada uses than cartons and jugs, became popular. The tradition continues today, with Canadians snipping off the corner of the bag and placing it in a pitcher for pouring. For those concerned about environmental impact, the milk bags are now recycled in Toronto; one company even makes the bags into sleeping mats for those in need.
Canadians love a concoction called poutine
A Quebecois specialty, poutine combines French fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy in a dish invented in the 1950s and now considered a French-Canadian classic. For those from New Jersey who may be thinking, “Hey, those sound like disco fries!” there is one notable difference: Disco fries are made with melted mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds. Both, though, are known as late-night, after-party foods and are a staple of diners and greasy spoons—also called snack bars or “casse-croutes” in Quebec. Poutine is now even sold in Canada at McDonald’s, as well as more gourmet spots. You can also get poutine in the United States at one of these restaurants you never knew had secret menu items.
The Hawaiian pizza comes from Canada
You’d think Hawaiian pizza came from Hawaii. But nope, it was a Greek Canadian, Sam Panopoulos, who invented it for his restaurant, The Satellite, in Chatham, Ontario, in 1962. The question of whether ham and pineapple belong on a pizza has been a hotly debated topic among food lovers, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Team Pineapple with a Twitter post, writing, “I have a pineapple. I have a pizza. And I stand behind this delicious southwestern Ontario creation.” Find out the surprising birthplace of 20 more of your favorite foods.
Canadians eat up Kraft Mac & Cheese—or as they say, KD
Simple comfort food seems to be a trend in Canadian cuisine. Invented by a Canadian in America in the 1930s, Kraft Mac & Cheese was originally called Kraft Dinner on both sides of the border—but the original name never caught on in the United States. For Canadians, though, Kraft Dinner became a beloved tradition, earning it the nickname KD, with the official name changed to the initials in 2015. Can you guess what these 12 brands are called in other countries?
Canada still has Toys”R”Us
For Americans still mourning the closure of Toys”R”Us stores last year, take a quick trip across the border to Canada, where over 80 stores remain open. Instead of folding as the company did in the United States, in Canada Toys”R”Us was sold to Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, which proclaimed the toy chain would be “here to play and here to stay” in Canada. The stores, which faltered in the United States partly due to the popularity of Internet shopping, had actually remained profitable in Canada; and the new company’s goals include giving the stores a more “experiential” feel, with events, play areas, and birthday parties.
Canada can get really, really cold
You undoubtedly know that Canada has brutal winters and that the destination is one of 11 perfect vacations for people who love winter activities. But you might not know it gets this cold. The country’s lowest recorded temperature was -81.4 degrees Fahrenheit on February 3, 1947, in Snag, Yukon—a record for the entire continent of North America. A local weather officer told the Montreal Gazette that day, “The boys are glad that we’ve got Snag on the map,” and the event remains the tiny village’s claim to fame. Canada’s coldest day even earned a Google Doodle in 2014.
Canadians devise quick escapes from polar bears
The isolated town of Churchill, Manitoba—accessible only by train and plane—is called the polar bear capital of the world, and one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be seen. Because of this, residents always leave their doors and vehicles unlocked, in case anyone encounters one of the huge animals and needs to get to safety quickly. A Polar Bear Alert Program is also in effect: Just dial 204-675-BEAR if you spot one in town. Bear offenders may end up in “polar bear jail,” a holding facility that also relocates problem animals. But still, each year thousands of tourists flock to the small town for the bucket list experience of seeing the bears in the wild. Here are 13 more polar bear facts you never knew.