As Canada turns 150, we thought it was high time we took our country’s temperature.

Nationally, we pride ourselves on our cold-hardiness, and rightly so. After all, we are a boreal nation, imagined by a great deal of the rest of the world as snowbound year-round. We kick ass at winter sports, and most of us snicker at people who don’t know how to drive in the snow (sorry, Vancouver!).

Yet, even though we love our polar bears and pond hockey, the vast majority of us huddle as far down south as we can—according to the National Geographic Society, about three-quarters of Canadians live within 160 kilometres of the United States border. Hardly a people who unreservedly embrace the full expanse of northern splendour.

So what accounts for the contradiction?

With the title of his 1945 novel, Two Solitudes, Hugh MacLennan coined the famous term that has come to define the way we view the differences in our country’s English and French identities.

However, we’re more complex than that. Our two founding identities—of Upper and Lower Canada—are but one of our dichotomies. Urban, rural. Settler, Indigenous. Young, old. Eastern, Western. Habs, Leafs.

In this issue of Wayward Arts, we’re exploring the many ways that Canada embodies the duality of “cool” (or “cold”) and “hot”: from our cities and towns to our music and movies. It’s born from a different pair of solitudes: the extreme ends of our climate, from the howling blizzards that we collectively embrace as an emblem of our national ruggedness to the sweltering summers that we wholeheartedly cherish because of their fleeting nature.

And what better metaphor for a cultural portrait (albeit a brief, highly subjective snapshot) of Canada on our 150th birthday? After all, we are cool, and we are hot—and we’ve earned the right to boast a little. While overt national pride has never been our specialty, it’s a fact that Canada at 150 is in a great place on the world stage. Our standing as a beacon of progressiveness is as indisputable today as it was when we were the last stop on the Underground Railroad, when we provided safe haven for draft dodgers during the Vietnam War and when we legalized same-sex marriage.

Like any nation, we’re not perfect. We’ve made some grave missteps, and there are shameful moments in our history that we must never forget: Our residential schools and the continued challenges Indigenous people face. The Chinese head tax. The internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. Our complicated commitment to both natural resource extraction and reducing climate change.

But let’s not forget that, here at 150, it’s also a time of optimism for Canada. As our cultures continue to evolve and adapt, let’s celebrate all that we’ve become, and all that we can hope to be.

Here’s to Canada at 150!

Canadians are fond of a good disaster, especially if it has ice, water, or snow in it.

You thought the national flag was about a leaf, didn’t you? Look harder. It’s where someone got axed in the snow.

- Margaret Atwood

Cool places, off the beaten path, don’t try to please you. That doesn’t mean you won’t fall in love with them; it just means they do it on their own terms, without making a fuss. They don’t need to measure up to anywhere else because they’re uniquely themselves. From hip urban centres to under-the-radar treasures, they’ve got it all figured out—but you didn’t hear it from them.


Get it straight: Whitehorse is NOT in the Arctic. It’s a ways north (60.7212° N, to be exact), but you’re more likely to run into an all-night jam session, Dene-meets-the-runway fashions or artisanal coffee roasters than you are to catch frostbite. Plus, you’re only minutes from some of the most spectacular hiking and snowshoeing you’ll find anywhere in Canada (just don’t tell the Albertans).

Businesslike Yellowknife is where you go to make money; Whitehorse is where the North lets loose.

Athabasca Sand Dunes

Did you know that Canada boasts the most northern sand dunes in the world? Neither did we. It’s not too surprising that they’re a well-kept secret, considering sandy plains seem more Sahara than Saskatchewan—but really, nothing can prepare you for how impressive 100 kilometres of sand dunes looks in a Canadian setting (the dunes are bordered by forest along Lake Athabasca). It’s a jaw-dropping geological feature of our country, and in addition to being one of the largest active sand surfaces in Canada, Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park is home to more than 50 rare plant species—10 of which aren’t found anywhere else on the planet.

Nature lovers, take note: these sand dunes might be under the radar, but they shouldn’t be missed.


The best part about Winnipeg is that no one there cares much what you think about it. Sure, it can be cold, and it’s one of the most remote major cities on the planet, but maybe because of those supposed drawbacks, a DIY spirit pervades every inch of the city. In Winnipeg, they don’t wait for bands to tour there—they support their own damned scene, thank you very much. The dining is unabashedly unpretentious, with tapas and Italian mingling alongside Latin street bites and food-truck perogies. The city regularly spews out offbeat artists and authors. Heck, they’re probably the only city that’s elected a former rapper, Wab Kinew, to the legislature.

Rent is low, the sky is big, the people are almost too friendly — what’s not to like?


The artists and musicians figured it out long ago: Montréal, c’est très cool. It has all the benefits of big-city living but with an ample dose of carefree, laid-back charm. Instead of being defined by emotionless condos and skyscrapers, Montréal supplies European-infused architecture, culture and cuisine—poutine and bagels, need we say more?—that will win your heart or stomach. And, oh yeah, you’ll actually be able to get out and enjoy the city, because rent is cheaper than any other major urban centre.

Montréal: nothing to prove but everything to offer.

It might be hard to remember a time when half the Billboard charts weren’t stuffed with Drake, Bieber, the Weeknd or Carly Rae Jepsen—or even when the scenes in Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver weren’t the envy of everywhere but Brooklyn and London. But there’s a long tradition of irreverent, iconoclastic—one might call them “cool”—bands, singers and writers from every corner of the country. Here’s just a sampling.


“One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” composed in Kingston, Ontario, by Robert S. Ambrose, becomes one of the century’s most popular songs, setting Phoebe Cary’s lyrics to music. Legend has it that a gambler, upon hearing someone humming the song, renounced gambling and turned his life around.

Not quite the impact of the Beatles crossing the Atlantic, but it’s a start.

“O Canada” is written in Québec City for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations (we won’t make too much of the irony). Contrary to the 2016 hubbub around replacing the gender-specific “in all thy sons command,” the most broadly adopted English translation of the lyrics didn’t actually use that term at all (it was changed later by the Educational Book Company of Toronto); the lyric had read, “True patriot love thou dost in us command.”


Leonard Cohen is born in Westmount, Montréal.

Hearts across the world mysteriously begin palpitating.

Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern opens, with blues and folk artists taking to the stage in its early years before becoming a must-play venue for just about any and every musician you’ve ever heard of.


American jazz impresario Norman Granz hears a young Oscar Peterson playing live at a nightclub in Montréal and signs him immediately.

Within the year, Peterson debuts at Carnegie Hall, unleashing a career of jazz virtuosity on the piano that spanned six decades and more than 200 records.

Glenn Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations sets the standard for this suite of music and sets the classical world on fire.


Two members of Ronnie Hawkins’s backing band, Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm—the former an innovative guitarist who learned to play on the Six Nations Reserve, the latter a wayward drummer from Arkansas with a voice like grits and gravy—add Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson to the fold. After six years spent gigging around Toronto and touring as the backing band for Bob Dylan, the quintet branches out on their own as The Band.


Billboard magazine names Plains Cree singer Buffy Sainte-Marie Best New Artist on the strength of her anti-Vietnam War protest song, “Universal Soldier.”


Neil Young leaves Toronto after the Rick James–fronted (yes, that Rick James) Mynah Birds falls apart, and heads for Los Angeles to start Buffalo Springfield.

Then he goes solo, then he starts up Crazy Horse, and then he teams up with Crosby, Stills and Nash, and then he goes solo again, and then ...

The Happy Gang alumnus and commercial jingle writer Bobby Gimby writes “Ca-na-da” to mark the Centennial; it quickly becomes known as the Centennial Song and the top-selling single of the year in Canada, beating the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” and Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” to name a few.


The Guess Who, a quartet from Winnipeg, unleash “American Woman” on the world.

The song also unleashes the single greatest guitar riff ever recorded by a Canadian band.

Saskatoon native Joni Mitchell releases Blue, an intimate, intelligent masterpiece that redefines the idea of a “singer-songwriter” for decades to come.


Rush’s masterpiece 2112 redefines the idea of what three guys from the burbs with too much talent and time on their hands are capable of.

I.e., a fantastical, mind-boggling, sci-fi concept album that would soundtrack Dungeons & Dragons games for the next decade.

A riot breaks out during Teenage Head’s set at the Horseshoe, immortalized as the last true punk concert in Toronto in the documentary The Last Pogo.


As new wave starts sweeping through the country, Rough Trade, fronted by openly gay vocalist Carol Pope, releases “High School Confidential,” a salacious single about a same-sex crush.


Music videos start populating the Canadian airwaves with the launch of MuchMusic. Original programming such as Electric Circus, Rap City, MuchLoud and The Wedge gives voice to a much wider range of music than could be found on the radio and eventually launches the careers of George Stroumboulopoulos, Sook-Yin Lee, Avi Lewis and Jennifer Hollett.

MusiquePlus follows in Montréal in 1986.

John Ruskin, the music journalist better known as Nardwuar, the Human Serviette, debuts on college radio at UBC.

Doot doola doot doo ...

While Drake is still in kindergarten, Dream Warriors release their jazz-inflected And Now the Legacy Begins, one of the most critically adored alternative hip-hop albums from the genre’s golden age.


The Tragically Hip release Fully Completely, their breakthrough album where they evolve from bar-band basics to weighty themes of Canadian history, while indefatigable Halifax pop-rock craftspeople Sloan release their debut album, Smeared (finally overtaking the late, Hamilton–born Stan Rogers’s reputation as Nova Scotia’s best-known musical export).

Also, Exclaim! magazine, a somehow-still-running-despite-being-free-for-a-quarter-century music magazine, publishes its first issue. 1992 was just generally a good year for Canadians with guitars.

Ottawa’s Alanis Morissette releases Jagged Little Pill, a biting, rollicking album that catapulted the former teen pop singer to international stardom, selling more than 16 million records in the US and 2 million in Canada.


Montréal’s Dubmatique score the first-ever number one hip-hop song on Canada’s francophone pop charts with “Soul pleureur.”


Who’s coming down with that “Northern Touch”? Why, it’s the Rascalz, Checkmate, Kardinal and Thrust (and Choclair), with Canada’s first great posse rap cut.

It’s also the perennial contender to replace “O Canada.”

Toronto scene vets Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning enlist a bunch of their friends to record Feel Good Lost, the first album under the Broken Social Scene banner and the first drop of what would become a deluge of Canadian indie goodness.


Canada’s great indie boom features seminal albums from Arcade Fire (Funeral), Stars (Set Yourself on Fire), Broken Social Scene (Broken Social Scene), Feist (Let It Die), The New Pornographers (Twin Cinema), Hot Hot Heat (Elevator) ...

... and Junior Boys (Last Exit), Caribou (The Milk of Human Kindness), Metric (Live It Out), Wolf Parade (Apologies to the Queen Mary), the Deadly Snakes (Porcella), Joel Plaskett (La De Da) and many more.

The first ever Polaris Music Prize for the best full-length album by a Canadian goes to Final Fantasy for He Poos Clouds.

Subsequent winners include Caribou, Fucked Up, Arcade Fire, Feist, Tanya Tagaq and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Aubrey Drake Graham, best known for acting on Degrassi: The Next Generation, drops his debut album, Thank Me Later, which goes platinum almost immediately.

And so do his next three albums and two mixtapes, en route to his becoming the world’s biggest hip-hop star.

Carly Rae Jepsen, from Mission, British Columbia, dominates the airwaves with “Call Me Maybe,” a piece of pop perfection so sweet you’d hardly know that her previous claim to fame was being an also-ran from the fifth season of Canadian Idol.


Grimes, a.k.a. Vancouver-by-way-of-Montréal pop experimentalist Claire Boucher, earns relentless critical praise for Visions, an album whose lead single, “Oblivion,” is named by Pitchfork as the best song of 2012.

Pitchfork also named it as the best song of the 2010s so far.

Scarborough’s Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, releases “Can’t Feel My Face,” a love letter to cocaine that channels Michael Jackson and screams its way to the top of the Billboard singles chart—a feat Drake, his early booster and mentor, had yet to accomplish.


Drake finally gets his first number one with “One Dance.”

It’s no “Hotline Bling” or “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but hey, good for Aubrey.

“I don’t trust any country that looks around a continent and says,

‘Hey, I’ll take the frozen part.’”

– Jon Stewart

Residents of Québec City enjoy some wintertime fun on the shores of the St. Lawrence River

The Simcoe Hockey Club, winners of the Lacrosse Hockey League Championship, pose for a team photo in 1899.

Cree children attend All Saints Residential School in Treaty 6 Territory, La Ronge, Saskatchewan. The Canadian government’s residential school program, supported by all major churches in Canada, aimed to destroy cultural ties and forcibly assimilate Indigenous children into the Canadian mainstream.

A steam-powered snowplow clears train tracks outside Saint-Agapit, Québec.

Fishermen in Lockeport, Nova Scotia, admire their haul: two 650-pound tuna.

If any of us think about it at all, we’d probably think of cuisine at the time of Confederation as being bland, and it certainly didn’t offer the variety that most of us enjoy today. Winters were long, and “just in time” delivery that allows for year-round fresh fruits didn’t exist (no one expected strawberries in January, apart from those you canned yourself).

That said, Canadian winter cuisine wasn’t entirely lacking in variety, and a lot of it resembles the so-called comfort foods that are enjoying a resurgence on restaurant menus today. Long-lasting vegetables such as onions, potatoes and squash were a staple, as they had been for centuries for Indigenous nations before Europeans arrived. Dried legumes, along with cured meat, added some welcome protein—often in the same dish, such as split pea and ham soup. Tourtière, of course, dates as far back as French settlers. Pemmican on the Prairies, salt cod on the East Coast, and smoked salmon in the West all helped get families through the winter. Bannock, the result of Scottish ingredients and Indigenous ingenuity, spread as far north as the Arctic Ocean. Just about everywhere, dinner could be concluded with a dessert that usually featured a variation on brown sugar, maple syrup or molasses.

Today, for the vast majority of city- and town-dwelling Canadians, our winter comfort foods would be barely recognizable to the Canadians of yesteryear, now that we’re prone to tucking in to chili made colourful with ghost peppers and fresh corn, rice studded with scallions and bok choy, and burgers piled high with chèvre and organic arugula.


From snowshoeing to curling to snowboarding, winter sports have played a major role in helping Canadians embrace the colder months (or, if not to embrace, at least to prevent cabin fever).

And, for the largest portion of our 150 years as a country, the dominant force in our winter activities has been hockey. It’s the only sport immortalized on our currency and the only one that can still shut the country down when a gold medal’s on the line

But recently, fewer and fewer kids have been dragging their parents out to the rink at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning in the middle of January.

As youth hockey participation rates plummet and TV ratings stagnate (even if Canada still produces the most—and best—players), our attention in the doldrums of winter has started to shift to another game with Canadian origins.

James Naismith, from Almonte, Ontario, might have invented basketball, but for the better part of the sport’s first century, Canadians only had a passing interest in the game. The Toronto Huskies, hastily formed by some National Hockey League brass who saw an opportunity to fill empty arenas in the off-season, played one pro season in 1946–47 before calling it quits. Only after Toronto and Vancouver were awarded National Basketball Association franchises in the 1990s did basketball start to catch on—and slowly, at first. The Vancouver Grizzlies limped through six seasons before hightailing it for the slightly greener pastures of Memphis. The Toronto Raptors also had a tough go in their early days as Toronto’s fourth sports franchise, lagging well behind the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays (who’d just won two World Series) and even the Argonauts.

Then, in 1998, Vince Carter arrived in Toronto. With a penchant for highlight-reel dunks, and a steadily improving corps around him, “Vinsanity” suddenly electrified audiences at Air Canada Centre just as their building-mates, the Leafs, began yet another decade-long stretch of despair. A few years later, a short-statured (by basketball standards), long-haired kid from Victoria, BC, named Steve Nash took the NBA by storm, winning two consecutive MVP awards and setting numerous records, all through amassing that most Canadian of sports statistics—the assist.

For once, kids from St. John’s to Surrey could see themselves not just playing basketball in the park, but devoting their lives to it. Hockey, with its rigid culture of conformity, high cost of entry, punishing physicality and Everest-like learning curve, for the first time faced competition from a sport its diametric opposite. Basketball encourages individuality and personality (to a point); shoes, shorts and a ball are the only equipment needed; and its massive international appeal resonates with the children of immigrants from every corner of the world for whom hockey is as foreign as snow tires.

A few starts and stops later, and the Raptors are the hottest ticket in town. Basketball is flourishing at the university and club levels. The national women’s team, led by Kia Nurse, won gold on home court at the Pan Am Games in 2015; in another couple of years, the men’s team, stuffed with talent like never before, could make a run for a medal in the Olympics. NBA teams have drafted a slew of young Canadians with serious skills in recent years, such as Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph, almost all of whom cite Carter or Nash as inspiration. Outdoor courts are packed in the summer, and laneway basketball nets are about as common as their hockey equivalents; snagging gym time in the winter is almost as tough as getting ice time.

Two scenes from 2016 on the same patch of land in downtown Toronto illustrate this shift. The Raps embarked on their longest playoff run in team history, making it all the way to the conference finals. Outside the Air Canada Centre, thousands of fans—mostly young, and representative of the dizzying diversity of the city they call home—crammed Maple Leaf Square, turning it temporarily into Jurassic Park. The city and much of the nation were held rapt (pardon the pun) for every free throw, every three-point attempt, every adorable interaction between stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, even as LeBron James made it quite clear that the Raps wouldn’t make it past him to make the finals. A playoff loss has hardly been more noble in Canadian sports history.

Contrast that with just a few months later, when the inaugural World Cup of Hockey came to town. Exorbitantly expensive tickets proved a tougher sell than anticipated—you could get tickets for as little as $25 on the resale markets for the first finals game, and the rows of empty seats garnered as much discussion as the games themselves. Team Canada, to no one’s surprise, steamrolled through the competition, sapping the tournament of any real drama. And the fans noticed. In that same Maple Leaf Square, a camera crew had to squeeze together the dozen or so fans who showed up on a balmy September day to take in the game for free outside to give the appearance of pandemonium. If crickets could be found in downtown Toronto, you would have heard them chirping.

At 150 years, Canadian hockey is far from its deathbed. Millions of people still tune into Hockey Night in Canada each weekend, and, while fewer kids are playing the game, the calibre of play in Canada has only improved in the past decades. But during our cold, dark winters, it’s no longer the only game in town.

Cool Heads Prevail

Sometimes stereotypes, no matter how positive they might seem, can be a double-edged sword. For every person who thinks Canadians are polite and well tempered, there’s someone who thinks these qualities aren’t endearing, but aggravating: we’re too polite, too boring or too naive. But in the heat of the moment, we know that cool heads prevail — and a lot of good can come from it.

Egg Cartons

Canadians don’t just solve global disputes—we’re good with homegrown problems, too. In 1911, British Columbia newspaper publisher Joseph Coyle heard of an argument between a local farmer and a hotel owner, who claimed his eggs were regularly delivered broken. To solve the problem and restore the peace, Coyle got to work and developed the egg carton, a brilliantly simple invention that’s so handy it’s remained largely unchanged for over a hundred years. It might not be wise to put all your eggs in one basket, but in one carton? Safe and snug.


Instead of following the UK’s lead during the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956, Canada took a rational step back and focused on resolutions to the situation in Egypt. Spearheaded by Lester B. Pearson (at the time a diplomat and later the prime minister overseeing the de facto abolition of capital punishment in Canada and keeping our country out of the Vietnam War), the first United Nations Emergency Force was born, which contributed to an eventual ceasefire and earned Pearson a Nobel Peace Prize. For all the flack Canada gets for having a supposedly “underfunded” military, the Canadian Forces’ legacy as peacekeepers instead of warmakers still resonates today. Now that’s a reputation worth fighting for.

Standard Time Zones

After missing his train because of a printing error on the schedule, Sir Sandford Fleming didn’t get mad—he got scientific. Building from train timetables, Fleming realized the world could benefit from a universal 24-hour time system, and he proposed standard time zones to the Royal Canadian Institute in 1879. Fleming continued to promote his idea at major conferences, and by 1929 nearly all major countries in the world had accepted time zones. Thanks to Fleming, if you miss a train now, it’s all on you.

Trivial Pursuit

Question: What happens when you settle down to play your favourite board game and discover that you’re missing some pieces? Do you: A. Rifle through your couch cushions, swearing all the while? B. Prod the family pet to see if they’ve swallowed them? C. Break down and cry? If you’re Chris Haney and Scott Abbot, you get over it and make up your own game. And that’s exactly how a few missing Scrabble tiles and a cool attitude paved the way for Canada’s brainiest game: Trivial Pursuit.