Canadian Stereotypes: Not Always Funn’eh

There are a lot of expectations that come with being Canadian. As an inhabitant of the Great White North for the entirety of my years thus far, I would say that I have grown accustomed to the pressures of belonging to such a country. Those that are not from Canada anticipate us to be proficient in both English and French, overly polite, obsessed with winter and the sports that come with the season, drivers of deer or moose, and addicted to anything and everything bacon or maple flavoured. These are just a few of the very common stereotypes Canadians must face on a regular basis. At times, they can be quite humorous. However, there are many moments where these expected and overused comments become not only repetitive but offensive as well. It makes it difficult for those belonging to other countries to appreciate us for the type of people we truly are. When all they see is a large igloo and hockey stick representing our great nation, what we stand for becomes easily forgotten.

We may be the target of several jokes and entertaining parodies, but there is a bigger issue that arises out of this type of comedic criticism. It is imperative that those living in different parts of the world, belonging to different cultures and practising different customs, do not judge others based off of what they think a particular type of person should be like. Stereotyping is deeply rooted in our society, and Canadians are no exception to it.

I think it is no surprise when I say that hockey is more than likely to be number one on any list of iconic, and if I must say so, annoying Canadian stereotypes. What is even crazier is that if you are Canadian, and are not obsessed with hockey or even Tim Horton’s for that matter, people start to believe that there is definitely something wrong with you. The fact that everyone believes Canadians are hockey aficionados is quite confusing seeing as how it is not even the sport most Canadian adults play. Although many play both, golf is just as popular as hockey for some.

Yes, many NHL players hail from the Great White North, but when you grow up in such frigid and unfortunately, frostbitten weather conditions, there is nothing more satisfying than putting on a pair of skates and playing a good game of hockey with your friends and family. But hockey does not define our nation. Rather, it is something that Canadians feel gives them a sense of national pride. We may know the Hockey Night in Canada theme song by heart, but that is because we simply enjoy the sport and the way it brings us together.

In regards to the Tim Horton’s reference, I cannot say I do not agree with our love for this particular brand of coffee and the delicious treats that accompany it. However, I think it is safe to say that Canadians are addicted to caffeine, no matter where they choose to buy it. Those that are not from Canada may think the classic ‘double-double’ is synonymous with being Canadian but maybe, just maybe, they got it right this time. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being at a rink, with a Timmies hot chocolate in hand, watching your son or daughter play the beautiful game most of us love. For Canadians, that type of moment is not just a simple pastime. It’s home.

The next stereotype is the politeness and passiveness of Canadians. Now, many of us may catch ourselves being overly courteous most of the time, but who knew others viewed that as a bad thing. Why is it that we are mocked for our well-mannered behaviour? We may be polite but that does not mean we cannot show our more aggressive side at times. The larger issue that arises out of this is that others start to view Canadians as, dare I say, pushovers? It is as if people think they can get away with doing something unfair towards a Canadian, such as abruptly pushing them out of the way because, in the end, the Canadian is the one to most likely say sorry. So yes, we may apologize a lot and we may even be sorry that everyone thinks we are, so sorry, but sorry, not sorry. If you do not treat us the way you want to be treated, then do not expect to always receive our Northern hospitality.

The third and final stereotype is the hatred Canadians have for Torontonians, and that Torontonians even hate those living in their own city. I understand that those that do not live in Toronto regard the city’s inhabitants as obnoxious, but with the many wonderful things the city has to offer, such as well-known musical artists, talented actors, diverse street festivals, and historic neighbourhoods, it makes it quite difficult for Torontonians to not be proud of where they live. Many view Toronto as the centre of the country, often overlooking other Canadian cities such as Vancouver or Ottawa, but you can’t help but love and appreciate the Six for what it continuously brings to the table (and I don’t just mean Timbits).

In regards to locals having a strong distaste for one another, I think that is common in every city. How often do people like their own kind? It’s quite rare. There is always something we find to complain about. In Toronto, the suburbs hate downtown and downtowners hate the suburbs. We complain about our commutes, taking streetcars during rush hour, rubbing up against more than a dozen sweaty strangers in what feels like a slow-moving sardine can on wheels, Toronto’s real estate market, raccoons making their way into our garbage cans as if they are buffet tables, and the issues that arise out of municipal elections. It is only natural for us to think negatively about certain aspects of our city, but to say that Torontonians despise Torontonians is not a fair assumption.

With having said all of that, I believe that most of these stereotypes are quite accurate. However, that does not mean I do not take offense to the constant mentioning of them. Furthermore, I am often left wondering why these are the most common beliefs people have of Canadians. Are they simply making this stuff up or is this how we truly are? I believe it’s a combination of both.

Yes, most of us do love hockey and Tim Horton’s, but that does not mean we are mindless, eyes glued to the TV on Hockey Night in Canada evenings with an extra large Timmies coffee in hand kinds of people. When others mock us for loving the things that make us feel more Canadian and tie us together as a community, it is difficult to not regard their comments as negative and hurtful. I believe a lot of stereotyping, no matter of who or what, is the result of ignorance. When you hear someone ask a Canadian if they ride a deer to class or if they live in an igloo, it’s hard to not roll your eyes out of your sockets. Pick up a book and educate yourselves, please.

I must admit, I am a lover of Tim Horton’s and sometimes a frequent user of our well known ‘eh,’ but I have become more self-conscious of liking these things and using these terms because I know other non-Canadians will judge me for the mere mentioning of them. But we should not be ashamed of where we come from. We need to embrace these things. If people want to believe I spend most of my time wearing snowshoes, then let them. I know who I am and what I stand for and I think I am not the only one when I say, I am damn proud to be Canadian.

“Never Flinch, Never Weary, Never Despair”: Winston Churchill and The Incredibles

“We’re superheroes. What can happen to us?”

– Elastigirl [Helen Parr]

“The Incredible Family” by TEDDY NEWTON

It’s unusual for a movie to create as much controversy as The Incredibles did after its November 2004 release. Brad Bird’s defiant cri de coeur on behalf of promoting excellence instead of mediocrity has led to heated debate about the role of education in society. Bird has even been accused of supporting Ayn Rand’s theory that the gifted elite should rule for the benefit of all. However, this viewer thought that Bird’s influences weren’t Randian – but Churchillian.

Continue reading ““Never Flinch, Never Weary, Never Despair”: Winston Churchill and The Incredibles”

Hashtags and Rabbit Holes: Confessions of an Academic Writer

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” – Alexander Pope

“I want you to take a Post-It and write, ‘Don’t write like an academic.’” said my new Digital Communications professor. “Stick it on your desk, your wall, your computer. Anywhere you’re working. And don’t forget it.”

I blinked. But, ever the conscientious student, I slowly wrote it out in my notebook. (Yes, in ink, on paper.) I underlined it twice.

Tanya Image 1

As a mature student, I had enrolled in Humber College’s Professional Writing & Communications post-graduate program. I came armed with 6 years’ experience as a teaching assistant in Brock University’s English department, and a Master’s degree which focused on 18th and 19th century literature and gender studies. I loved studying that period, where manicured sentences wound long and lush as a garden path, heroic couplets were the chosen form of intellectuals, and you could stand on a Richardson novel to change a light bulb. Sadly, no one ever did beat down my door after graduation to discuss Judith Butler or Mr. Darcy’s masculine performance in Pride and Prejudice. So here I sat in this classroom, fluorescent lights buzzing, OSAP accruing, determined to bridge the distance between the ivory tower and the landscape beyond.

And, over the next eight months, my writing changed. Write for screens! Know your audience! Drop those adjectives! Bullet points! I ducked red pens and track changes, as my clauses fell away like petticoats. Watched as my murdered darlings dropped breathless to the floor, certain I’d never recover from the sacrifice. In time, I learned to step over them.

But if I bristled at changing my writing, I positively shut down when I was told to sign up for Twitter. As part of a teeny generation that has recently been dubbed “Xennials,” I grew up with the luxury of picking and choosing the parts of digital life in which I participated – and Twitter was not one of them. I dutifully claimed my handle, but I certainly didn’t see how I would ever need it in the workplace.

Is a tweet different than a heroic couplet? Yes, that’s a silly question. And no, it’s not silly at all. Alexander Pope may not have constrained himself to 140 or 280 characters, but he did know how to pack a nice, salty punch into two short lines. I learned to make my peace with the fact that a tweet is a similar burst of information, deliberately chosen to display its author’s worldview. As with any writing, both form and content are debated. Some are written poorly. Some are politically charged. Some will send you careening down a bot-peppered rabbit hole into chaos. Some are profound, impactful, and memorable.

When I did my internship at House & Home Media, in the third term of Humber’s program, I was surprised at how many of my days were spent focused on their social media and online presence. From there, I did a short contract at the Toronto International Film Festival, where my work was solely for web. And when finally, happily, I was hired for the Journals Division at the University of Toronto Press, it was as their Digital Marketing Coordinator. Now, one of the largest parts of my job is to run their Twitter accounts. And I’ve been pleased to find out along the way that Alexander Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu both have hashtags, and that a “Swiftie” not only refers to songstress Taylor, but satirist Jonathan.

I slid back into the academic world like a hand finds its glove. I knew this world. I loved this world. But what was different now was that I knew how to promote this world. And I also knew that, in some ways, it would be a challenge. Part of each day is spent finding newly published contributors on Twitter in order to market their articles and gain a wider reach. I search for the handles of their university departments. I track and promote the work of grad students. Though they are often quite sparing with their words, I try to get scholars talking on social media. Much like I once balked, some don’t see the point of being on the platform at all.

Tanya Image 3

As humanities majors, we’re told we have a wide variety of skills; we just need to market them. But we are rarely taught how, and many of us are more comfortable curled up with a good book than we are singing our own praises to potential employers. One week into my job at UTP Journals, I went home to my own academic, a quiet historian who’s writing his dissertation in Russian history, and told him to make sure he uses social media to promote his research. That when the time comes to apply for one of those coveted academic positions, to show not only that he can write, teach, and produce, but that he can help promote the department on its digital platforms. Useful advice? Academics on hiring committees would know more than I.

Is the debate about writing for social media similar to the heated debates about the potential dangers of the novel when it first appeared? Poetic license with the sonnet? The modern, post-Victorian aesthetic?

Today I saw a man reach out to another I follow on Twitter: “It grieves me that I’ve had to degrade myself to contact you over Twitter. Is there really no other way to reach you?” I trust by this point you know I understand the sentiment, but here is the truth, the raw truth for those of us who, as author Tim Bowling puts it, are “dragging the bloodied pelt of the twentieth century” behind us: social media is simply an exchange. A hand reaching out across a shrinking globe to create and participate in community. How does Alice not fall down the rabbit hole? If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. Sometimes I feel like I’m leasing space down there.

But here is what I also know to be true, as the world in which I once belonged shifts shape into something new: there is a way to marry the two, and still retain the integrity and traditions of the former.

I was recently in Washington at the American Historical Association meeting, and my colleague was attending the Modern Language Association convention in New York City. As I was tweeting from both, what struck me was just how many academics were reaching out to each other in kind and positive ways. During the worst of the January storms, there were offers of child-minding services for presenters if daycares were closed, promises to post grad student papers online if they couldn’t attend their sessions, and gentle reminders to tenured professors that a drink and a chat with a vulnerable adjunct can go a long way.

Can you fall down the rabbit hole, Alice? God help you, yes.

But you can also find support in an online academic community that will help you market your research, increase your career options, and put you in contact with new publications. You just need to make sure you’re opening the Twitter handle to the right door.

Tanya Rohrmoser is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at University of Toronto Press Journals, a freelance writer, and a graduate of Humber College’s Professional Writing & Communications Program. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from Brock University. Tanya currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, and is a lover of basil, toile, and William Morris wallpaper. You can follow her on Twitter at @TanyaRohrmoser.

Why I Write

I started to write because it was the only way my friends would let me tell stories.

It was 1970. Like many young Baby Boomers, I was a big Star Trek fan. So were my friends. We wanted to pretend that we were Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, and all the others. The biggest fan of all, I even made 3D cardboard phasers, communicators and tricorders for us to use as props.

We lived in a half-finished subdivision, and so would go adventuring among the pits dug for the foundations of houses that were yet to be built. Down into the depths of the pit we’d climb (today’s parents are getting more horrified by the syllable as they read this), phasers at the ready to face any aliens we encountered or foes we conjured up in our imaginations.Paul Keery Blog Image

The real foe we met was me.

“Look!” Henry playing Spock cried, pointing towards a pit wall. “There’s a bunch of bad aliens over there.”

“Spock wouldn’t say it that way,” I as Kirk put in, the pre-teen writer/editor at work. “He’d say ‘Those aliens may present a danger to us.”

“No he wouldn’t!”

“Yes he would! You’re not saying it logically.” And the debate would go on from there, allowing the aliens to go uncontacted and ruining the game.

The same thing happened with other friends playing other characters, with me correcting their dialogue as Uhura, McCoy or Scotty. Finally, I was told to cease and desist, or risk mutiny by being pushed into one of the pits. Grumbling, I went along.

That night, I started writing my own Star Trek fan stories, two-finger typing on my mother’s old manual typewriter. At least the paper couldn’t answer back.


The writing bug never went away. In high school, my friend Kevin and I managed to persuade the English Department to let us publish a science fiction magazine, The Reticulum. We used one of the old hand-cranked ditto machines to run off 100 single-sided copies of a 40-page issue (any more and we risked getting high from the fumes emitted by the copying chemicals, and the English Department wouldn’t let us have any more paper, anyway). To our surprise, it was a hit. We published another issue the following year, then The Reticulum came to a sad end; we graduated, and went our separate ways. In those pre-internet days, there was no way to work together across a 2000-kilometer separation.

When I went to university, I found that I enjoyed writing history, politics and other non-fiction essays for my courses. Writing for my undergraduate and graduate courses took up all my time, and so I stopped writing anything that wasn’t for school.

But I remembered. After I established myself as a teacher, I started to write again. I began with more newspaper articles at first. A foray into fiction brought some very nice personal rejection letters from fiction editors, though no sales. Then I returned to writing non-fiction and expanded my repertoire to include advertorial and educational writing.

Dissatisfied with many of the texts I was using in class, I tried writing books in my classroom teaching style, using humour and anecdotes to make history more interesting. I enjoyed writing the books, and they were both warmly received – though the first had very limited distribution, as the publisher went bankrupt the week after publication. Only later did I learn I was writing creative non-fiction, which, of all the styles I can write in, is the one I most enjoy.

Writing has always been a big part of my life. I always wanted to write for a living, and admired others who did. My goal now is to become a full-time writer, and taking Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications program is a big step towards achieving that goal.

Maybe at last, after five decades, I’m doing what I was meant to do.

Eileen Magill: My mom, the Superwoman


PWC student Eileen Magill shares a personal reflection on her mother’s experience with Celiac disease.

I must have been 12 or 13 when I realized my mom wasn’t well. She was showing signs of illness before then, but I had been too consumed with teenage affairs to notice. She was Superwoman, and to a naïve 13 year old, Superwoman could defeat any and every type of adversity.

In her 20’s, she was nothing short of stunning. She had thick brown hair, a flawless tan the colour of beach sand, and the body of a supermodel. But most importantly, she was healthy.

When she was 35, she was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease, but was sick for a long time before then. For years, she experienced massive weight loss, chronic pain, constant fatigue, anemia, and confusion. I remember at one point she had become so thin and fragile that I could see the bones protruding from her skin. Her face had developed so many wrinkles and her hair had grown so gray that people were astonished when shown photos of her in her 20’s. She was hospitalized 18 times before doctors finally discovered what was wrong with her. But by then, it was already too late. The Celiac had already eaten away at her digestive tract and it can now never be repaired.

Celiac disease causes the immune system to mistake gluten as a toxin and therefore sends out immunities to attack it in the intestines, destroying them in the process. It causes both physical and mental breakdown – nausea, pain, weight loss, dental enamel, depression, anxiety, irritability, and more.

The day I learned how serious my mom’s illness was, we were baking a cake for my 13th birthday. We were laughing at something my little sister did when my mom sneezed and cake batter flew and showered her face – her mouth, her nose, her skin – with gluten. We knew she wasn’t allowed to consume it, but we were ignorant of the consequences if she did.

Later that day, my friends and I were playing video games on my Nintendo 64 when I heard a big bang from upstairs. I ran up to discover that my mom had fallen over in pain and was too confused to find her way to the bedroom. Terrified, I called an ambulance and they arrived right away. I felt just as confused as my mom when I finally realized the source of her pain– the cake batter she had accidentally inhaled earlier was quite literally destroying her. Gluten was her kryptonite.

Today, my mom is much more careful around gluten, but even a crumb the size of a grain of salt can trigger an episode of violent illness, confusion, weakness, suffering.

While I was home visiting her this past weekend, I tagged along to one of her doctor’s appointments. I learned that her Celiac had progressed so much that it created other health problems such as hypothyroidism and collagenous colitis.

She doesn’t tell anyone about her illnesses because she doesn’t want them to think any differently of her. “My having Celiac may limit me from doing the same things as other people” she says. “But it will never change the one thing I really care about – my ability to be a good mother.” And she is right. She doesn’t let her kryptonite disable her. She has and will continue to be my mom, the Superwoman.