Happy Canada Day! The holiday honors Canada's formation out of three British colonies in 1867 — but it also offers a great opportunity to set some rampant rumors about "America's Hat" straight. Here are five things you probably didn't know about the Great White North.
1. Hockey ain't everything.
Sure, we've all seen the photos of fanatic Canadian hockey fans cheering (and jeering) in sub-zero temperatures, and Canadians certainly have a history of rioting in the streets when one of their hockey teams makes it through an NHL playoff round. "The Hockey Sweater" by Roch Carrier is pretty much required reading for any Canadian kid, as is at least a couple years playing pee-wee.
Hockey was designated as Canada's national winter sport in 1994, with lacrosse occupying Canada's "summer sport" spot. The Globe and Mail has even written about the trend, wondering if the national pastime is "getting out of hand."
However, the stats tell a different story: just 11 percent of five to 14-year-old Canadian kids play hockey, well behind the 12 percent of children who swim and the 20 percent who play soccer, according to Statistics Canada. As for adults, their top sporting activity is golf, which has been more popular than hockey since 1998.
“Hockey has a relatively small number of devoted followers,” University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby told Reader's Digest. “It’s hardly a sport that captivates a nation.”
2. For most Canadians, its about, not aboot.
Jokes "aboot" the Canadian pronunciation of certain words — like, yes, "about" and "sorry," are popular fodder for Americans and others looking to poke some good-natured fun at Canada. But that odd bit of speech hardly deserves its near-global comedic status.
The "aboot" pronunciation is actually only used in some pockets of Canada's Atlantic provinces, specifically by Scottish and northeastern English settlers of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
As Ben Trawick-Smith of The Dialect Blog writes,
This is probably one of those bits of dialect folklore that survives despite evidence to the contrary. It’s a bit like New Jersey’s reputation for being pronounced “New Joysey” even though virtually nobody in Jersey says it like that anymore (and even when they did, this pronunciation would have been confined to a small area near New York).
3. The healthcare system isn't all that great.
The healthcare system, which provides basic medical services under statewide health insurance programs in each province, is often seen as a point of pride for Canada.
In reality, though, it's far from perfect. Canadians consistently wait longer for medical services than patients in any other country: a 2010 study found that 59 percent of Canadians waited four weeks or longer for an appointment with a specialist, more than double the wait time in the United States. Canadian doctors also make considerably less than their American counterparts: $125,000 a year on average, compared to US doctors' $186,000, according to the Washington Post.
This might contribute to Canada's shortage of doctors — just 2.1 practicing physicians for every 1,000 residents, one of the developed world's lowest ratios. The College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada recently said Canadians' access to physicians was in an "alarming state," according to the Globe and Mail.
Canadians aren't too happy about it, either: A 2007 study by Queens University in Kingston, Ontario found that “a large majority of Canadians still believe that the system is unsustainable and urgently in need of substantive change."
4. Canada is more gun-happy than you think.
Ever since Michael Moore's gun control documentary "Bowling for Columbine," Canada has gotten a reputation for being decidedly disinterested in guns.
The numbers paint a slightly different picture. Canada ranked 12th out of 178 countries in terms of the number of privately owned guns, and 13th in the rate of overall private gun ownership, according to GunPolicy.org. That's double the gun ownership rate of Australia and Mexico, and five times more than England, according to Reader's Digest.
GunPolicy.org does characterize Canada's gun control laws as "restrictive," which may explain the country's lower rates of gun-related deaths and injuries.
5. The capital isn't Toronto.
Contrary to popular belief, Canada's capital isn't its biggest city: that would be Ottawa, the seat of Parliament and the Canadian government.
At a population of 2.79 million people, Toronto is far and away Canada's largest city, and considered the country's main economic hub. It is also the capital of the province of Ontario.
Toronto did, however, have its moments in the spotlight: it was the capital of the united Province of Canada from 1849 to 1852 after unrest in Montreal, and again from 1856 until 1858.