5 myths about Canadians debunked

A group of people waving Canadian flags.
Photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

There are Canadians, and then there is the myth of “the Canadian.” People have lots of ideas of what a Canadian is, from friendly peaceniks who don’t lock their doors to igloo-dwelling beer swillers. But real Canadians are a more complex bunch, and we don’t always fit the stereotypes that other countries have about us—or that we have about ourselves.

So read these five myths about Canadians, and then go out and create your own version of what a Canadian is.

Canadians drink more beer than anyone in the world

Yes, we Canadians love our beer—we drink more of it than either liquor or or wine—but we aren’t the biggest beer-consumers in the world. That honour goes to the Czech Republic. On average, a Canadian drinks about 60 litres of beer per year, whereas a Czech drinks around 142! So, while we may have the most beer pride, when it comes to consumption, there are dozens of countries ahead of us—which actually may not be such a bad thing.

We constantly say “eh”

The stereotype of the Canadian who ends every sentence with a resounding “eh” is a persistent one. Even Canadians love making fun of this supposed Canadianism—the fictional brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie on SCTV used it liberally, in between bouts of calling one another “hosers.” However, according to University of Toronto Linguistics Professor Sali Tagliamonte, “eh” has experienced a sharp decline. In fact, people under 30 in particular are much more likely to end a sentence with “right?” Still, we’re fairly certain that “eh” will remain a subject of conversation for a long time to come.

We are well-informed about our country

Canadians might have a lot of national pride, but apparently we aren’t all up on our Canadian knowledge. The Dominion Institute (now Historica Canada) found in a poll that just a little over half of Canadians knew the first line of the national anthem. In other polls, Canadians have been found to be woefully uninformed about historical figures and events. Canadians actually performed worse in a quiz about Canadian history than Americans did in an American history quiz. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the Canadian history syllabus!

We are bilingual

French may be an official Canadian language, and Anglophones may learn the basics of French in grade school, but fully bilingual people are fairly rare. The last Canadian census that compiled information on languages found that 22 million Canadians speak only English, 4 million speak only French, and 6 million speak English and French. Also, most of the fluent French-speakers are in Quebec, so the odds are that in other provinces, you’re unlikely to stumble across many fluent Francophones.

We don’t have guns

Canadian gun laws are stringent compared to America’s, but to say that Canada is a gun-free country is a huge exaggeration. In fact, a Swiss University did a survey on gun ownership by country, and Canada came in 13th place—higher than either England or Australia. The survey estimated that there are approximately 31 firearms per 100 Canadians. (America has nearly 89 guns for every 100 residents.) On the plus side, a Stats Canada report in 2012 found that there were fifty times less gun homicides in Canada than in the U.S.

We all love—and play—hockey

Some consider hockey to be a national obsession, but you can’t entirely believe the hype. For one thing, Canada is only one of Canada’s national sports (the other is lacrosse), so it’s clearly not the one and only national pastime that represents us. Further, most Canadians don’t pay as much attention to hockey as you might think. Only three out of ten Canadian adults are fairly close followers of hockey, according to sociologist Reginald Bibby. And when it comes to enrolling kids in sports, we only enrol 11 percent of children ages five to fourteen in hockey, while 12 percent are enrolled in swimming, and a whopping 20 percent play soccer.

Also on RNR: