And you won’t be the same person again after walking among aquamarine glaciated lakes, lofty snow-capped peaks and verdant, rainforest-lush forests. Go to Lake O’Hara and see for yourself. It’s truly amazing. Truly Canadian.” – Reader Christopher Lailey, St. Catharines, Ont.
131. Canoing the Toronto Islands
“I have been paddling in and around the Toronto Islands for 15 years, and they never fail to impress. Some reasons include: the stunning contrast of solitude, gliding through forest-lined canals – then catching views of a megalopolis pulsing with five million souls only one kilometre away; catching a pike or watching fuzzy ducklings up close with three city kids on their first-ever canoe ride; paddling up to Hanlan’s Point Beach on a scorching day, stripping off all your clothes, and diving into the cool water (wishing you had discovered nude bathing before you were 40); hearing languages from all over the world spoken at giant family picnics that only new Canadians know how to stage any more.” – Reader Geoff Lumby, Toronto
132. Clara Hughes
“When things get tough on the bike, I think: “WWCD” (What Would Clara Do)? A winner of multiple medals in both the winter and summer Olympics, an amazing motivational speaker, a fantastic sports commentator for the CBC – and she’s been riding across Canada to raise awareness for mental health. She is truly inspirational to me as a person and an athlete.” – Reader Michelle Daniels, Vancouver
133. Butter tarts
“Canadians take these sweet treats so seriously that whole towns have been pitted against one another claiming the title of Butter Tart Capital or being a part of the Butter Tart Trail.
Debate is just as intense among purists and innovators: Runny or firm? Flaky crust or dense? Plain? With raisins? With pecans? Or more recent and exotic incarnations such as coconut, mint or peanut butter?
No matter. Sweet-toothed Canadians just love to gobble up this mainstay of Canadian cuisine.” – Reader Grant Gingrich, Waterloo, Ont.
134. My mom
“Why, you ask, would I put my mom on a list of the top 147 reasons to love Canada? Because my mom represents everyone’s mother. My mom is like so many moms who worked hard to raise her family here.
Alice Mitchell of Paris, Ont., is 92. She raised nine children on her own and supported countless others who needed a home for a few days or for few years.
She sponsored foreign exchange students from Asia, because she wanted to expose them to this country (many keep in touch on a regular basis). She opened our home to politicians because she believed in democracy; she also used our house as the local polling booth. She was a tireless volunteer who actively supported Meals on Wheels and cancer drives. (If you live in a small town, you know that cancer patients need treatment in bigger centres.)
She also supported her family with three jobs. But when minimum-wage jobs became too taxing, she returned to higher education, at the age of 42.
She told her six daughters: ‘You do not need to get married to be successful, but you need an education to be independent. So become independent, and get married if you are in love.’ She told her sons to do the same thing – but that if they married, they were to treat their wives with total respect.
In my mind, her story is worth telling not for the goals she scored (she still cannot skate) but because her life represents what Canada is about: freedom, equality, access to a better life if you are willing to work hard for it.” – Reader Jim Mitchell, Unionville, Ont.
135. Our volunteer firefighters
“There are about 85,000 volunteer firefighters in Canada. The volunteer fire department is the only thing most small Canadian rural communities have in the event of an emergency – whether it be a house fire or a motor-vehicle accident. These men and women tirelessly dedicate themselves to the service of their communities. Among them is my best friend MacGregor Grant, pictured here, a volunteer firefighter in Sackville, N.B. He went to Texas to attend a firefighting course, which he paid for out of his own pocket.” – Reader Trevor Donald, Sackville, N.B.