Thursday, 30 October 2014




Can you recall your first encounter with Canadian history? Like many Canadian children of the 90's, I vividly remember learning about compelling historical narratives during commercial breaks on the CBC and CTV. I first learned the stories behind maple syrup, Winnie the Pooh, Laura Secord, the Underground Railroad, Jacques Cartier, the Halifax Explosion, and Nellie McClung to name a few, through HISTORICA MINUTES: History by the Minute

Better know as Historica Canada's Heritage Minutes, this series of sixty-second films illustrate key events in Canadian history. Using affect and storytelling devices, Heritage Minutes developed compelling accounts of foundational events in Canada that continue to evoke memory and nostalgia amongst society. Because these stories were communicated through mass media, their narratives are now embedded within our collective psyche. Heritage Minutes taught me to value Canadian history and inspired me to explore my own familial heritage. Who said watching television couldn't be educational?!

Here's a roundup of my favourite Heritage Minutes (in random order). What are yours? How have they impacted your understanding of Canadian history and heritage?

1.  NELLIE McCLUNG:  The infamous feminist and political activist who demanded the right for women to vote in Manitoba.

2. JACQUES CARTIER: The french explorer who encountered the Iroquois people and mistakes their word, "kanata" meaning village, as the name of their land.

3. JOHN CABOT (Giovanni Caboto): A look at the Italian explorer who discovered an ocean full of cod fish off the coast of Newfoundland (single tear...Newfie pride).

4. MAPLE SYRUP: Ojibwa or Iroquois families teach Canadian settlers how to tap for maple water.

5. LAURA SECORD: With the help of Mohawk warriors, this Canadian heroine warned the British of an American Military advance during the War of 1812.

6. JOSEPH BURR TYRRELL: Explorer and geologist discovered dinosaur bones in present day Drumheller, Alberta.

7. THE INVENTION OF BASKETBALL: The story of how sports coach, James Naismith, invented basketball.

8. WINNIE THE POOH: The story of how a Winnipeg soldier's bear became the inspiration for the beloved series of children's books.

9.  THE HALIFAX EXPLOSION: Train dispatcher, Vince Coleman, sacrificed his life to send a message warning a train full of passengers of the impending explosion.

10. MARSHALL McLUHAN: The story of how the Communications theorist coined "the medium is the message" and the "global village".


  1. What a great list! Definitely the source of everything I know about Canada. I think the only notable omission from this list is the minute devoted to celebrated Montreal brain surgeon, Wilder Penfield. Who could forget, "Dr. Penfield, I smell burnt toast!"

  2. Oh yes! Who could forget that one! It was probably one of the most dramatic of minutes. :)

  3. I have to admit that as a rather recent Canadian (9 years or so), these have been quintessential to understanding Canadian culture (not as much for their content but for what they represent and for the fact that they exist as signifiers of Canadian history. Great to see the list here!

  4. I'm so delighted that Heritage Minutes impacted your early encounter with Canada! They are truly embedded within our collective cultural experience, no matter what background or ethnicity.