Our World Seven Canadian icons not to miss on your next trip

Photo of Suzanne Morphet

Whether you’ve visited often — or never — you probably know some of Canada’s symbols ... the official and the ordinary things associated with the country that Canadians themselves often call the Great White North. But do you know where to find them when you visit?

1. Mounties

The RCMP — or Royal Canadian Mounted Police — is famous partly because of Hollywood’s fictional Mounties, who “always get their man”, and partly because of the real-life adventures of the force, especially in its early years when illegal whisky trading was rampant. 

To see cadets in training, visit the RCMP Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan. Next door is the RCMP Heritage Centre with historical exhibits. This year, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, 32 RCMP officers and their horses will perform their renowned Musical Ride in up to 50 communities. See rcmp-grc.ca

2. Beavers

One animal was largely responsible for the exploration and settlement of Canada — the beaver. French and English explorers built a lucrative fur trade, sending beaver pelts back to Europe to be made into hats and opening up the continent with the establishment of trading posts. In the process, beavers were almost wiped out. 

Today, numbers are healthy but they’re still hard to see. Perhaps the easiest place, other than a zoo, to spot them is Vancouver, where a pair of beavers has built a house and started a family near Olympic Village.

3. Canoes

In 1973, Canadian historian Pierre Berton famously said “a true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping”. These days, most Canadians have never even paddled a canoe, let alone tried anything more daring. But they cherish the idea of paddling and for centuries the canoe was the vehicle of indigenous people and early explorers. 

For a taste of what that must have been like, take a voyageur-style canoe for a paddle at British Columbia’s Sun Peaks Resort, followed by a four-course fur trader’s feast. See voyageurbistro.ca/canoe-tours.

(Picture at top: Paddling at Million Dollar Falls, Yukon, courtesy Government of Yukon/Derek Crowe.)

4. Maple syrup

 If there’s one food Canada is known for, it’s maple syrup. Canada produces about 80 per cent of the syrup sold worldwide and the vast majority of that comes from Quebec. 

Visiting a cabane a sucre or “sugar shack” is one of the highlights of a spring visit to la belle province, when temperatures rise and maple sap begins to flow. Some producers offer sleigh rides through the woods and live entertainment along with — of course — plenty of maple syrup, maple taffy and maple sugar.

5. Ice hockey

 Ask Canadians what they do on Saturday nights in winter and you’ll get the same answer many times over: they watch Hockey Night in Canada on CBC TV. That is, if they’re not cheering on their favourite team at a local rink. 

Hockey has largely taken the place of religion in secular Canada, with the game played from coast to coast to coast. Visitors can tune into a game on TV, catch a junior league game in any town or city, or buy tickets to a National Hockey League game.

6. Tim Hortons

 Closely tied to Canadians’ obsession with hockey is their addiction to Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. Tim Horton was a national hockey legend when he opened a coffee shop in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1964. He died a few years later but his coffee legacy is booming, with more than 3500 franchises across the country. 

Tim’s even has its own lingo, so it’s important to know how to order. A “double double” means a double serving of both cream and sugar, while a regular means one of each.   

7. Loons

 For many Canadians, it wouldn’t be summer without hearing the haunting call of the loon. According to Doug Tozer, who leads Bird Studies Canada’s Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, 95 per cent of the world’s common loons breed in Canada and they can be found on lakes in every province and territory. 

An image of the common loon is on the back of the Canadian one-dollar coin, earning its nickname the “loonie”. Canada has hundreds of thousands of lakes, so it’s not hard to find one to listen to during the summer.

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