Confession time. I am actually sad to say goodbye to Ontario. I know, I know. How could I be down about leaving Canada’s centre of the universe? Like many Canadian westerners, I was raised to dislike Ontario and, Toronto in particular. You know, the city that brought us Rob Ford and once called in the military to plow snow. Yup, that place. That said, here I am already thinking about my return all because it has become evidently clear that Ontario, to an outsider, is Canada.
Pass the Maple Syrup ya Hoser
In the past I have mostly written off Ontario as being, for lack of a better word, too Canadian. What I mean by this is that pretty much every stereotypical Canadian thing can be found in Ontario, except for maybe Inuit culture…although you will find plenty of made-in-China inukshuk keepsakes. Within a couple of days of arriving in Ontario I had picked up a 2-4, viewed the CN Tower, the Stanley Cup, and ate a bun stuffed with peameal bacon.
What the eh?
A Canuck on a Mission
I recently wrote a post on 150 Very Canadian Things to do for Canada’s 150th as a laugh. It was meant to be a joke of sorts, celebrating the stereotypical things that set us apart from the rest of the world. Once I got to Ontario and inadvertently began ticking these items off I started to have a lot of good clean Canadian fun. Niagara Falls (#12)? Check. Lounge in a Muskoka Chair? Check. Maple syrup all the things (#6), say hi to Sir John, and eat a butter tart???
Check, check, and check.
Suddenly this list of very Canadian things became “what else can I do in Ontario that the rest of the world thinks represents all of Canada?” One by one I worked my way through the list. Some came to me with zero effort on my part. Others I had to seek out like visiting a National Park (#3 – Thousand Islands) and having a double-double (#24) at Tim Hortons. There is nothing tough about ticking off the latter, you can pretty much trip over a Tim Hortons in Ontario and fall into another one. What made it a challenge was detouring to the very first Tim Hortons store in Hamilton.
Again, good clean Canadiana, and I was eating it up…literally
Some on the list were random Canadian combos like drinking strong beer (#77) at a brewery that just happened to have a crokinole board (#37). Some went beyond a double-double combo ie. not only did I listen to the Tragically Hip (#11), I played and sang Hip songs around a campfire at a cottage. If that’s not a Canadian trifecta I don’t know what is.
What’s it all Aboot?
The point is what the world (and myself apparently) knows about Canadian culture, Ontario slaps you in the face with it. Now, obviously, there are plenty of things on my list that is beyond Ontario’s border, but as I thought about it, not many of the stereotypical ones. Is this because Ontario makes up close to 40% of the country’s population? Or perhaps it’s because the bulk of American tourists only make it to Toronto, and thus that is what makes it into pop culture? I know in my travels when I have told someone I am from Edmonton, Yellowknife, or Vancouver the reply is almost always “is that close to Toronto?”
Either way, the stereotypes are noticeable and in a weird way, charming. I really felt like a tourist in my own country and that is pretty odd but also pretty great. It shows how different this grand place is. I already noted this with Newfoundland – boldly stating it is my favourite country in Europe. Now I see that Newfoundland is not alone all the way out there in the Atlantic. Canada is big, diverse, and full of surprises. In this case, even when they are not so surprising.
This realization couldn’t have come at a better time. I am writing this from my sleeper car in a train that will take me across this massive country I call home (#150). Fittingly named “The Canadian,” this passenger train will take me from Toronto to Vancouver, covering 4,500 km in 4 days. I can’t wait to see what else surprises me about my home.
What say you?
Thoughts on my time realizing Ontario is Canada ?
Let’s hear it!
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