Could a podcast convince you that Canadian history is spiffy and filled with fascinating nuggets? Do you have a minute? Do you have 62?
Three recommended podcasts dispel the myth that this country’s lore is as dry as Nellie McClung’s liquor cabinet. CBC’s The Secret Life of Canada gives crash courses on everything from the homosexual history of Winnipeg to Bernelda Wheeler, dubbed the First Lady of Indigenous Broadcasting in Canada.
Cool Canadian History is what it says it is, with bite-sized shows devoted to such unexpected topics as Léo Major (the French-Canadian Rambo) and a mysterious fellow who was known as the Mad Trapper of Rat River (if he was even known at all).
The newest entry into the strange-but-true North genre is Minute Women, an irreverent expansion of the history lessons taught by Heritage Minutes, those time-specific, quick-hit history lessons unavoidable in the 1990s. One recent episode offers 1 hour 2 minutes on James Naismith, the McGill University-educated basketball inventor who had to deal with that janitor who was so stingy with his peach baskets.
The women of the comedy-history series Minute Women are Linnea Swinimer and Grace McNutt, a delightful pair who giggle, educate and take tangential flights. The Naismith episode, for example, bounces around like a last-second shot from Kawhi Leonard, involving a broken nose, venereal disease, a Teddy Roosevelt look-a-like, theology studies and a crazy 19th-century children’s game called “ducks on the rock.”
With its most recent episode, Minute Women celebrates Pride Month by discussing Canadian writer and gay activist Jim Egan.
Minute Women: This week, Haligonian co-hosts Linnea Swinimer and Grace McNutt speak with Theodore Saunders, the actor who played gay activist Jim Egan in a 2018 Heritage Minutes spot devoted to LGBTQ rights. The bearded Saunders also, we find out, put the hair in Heritage Minutes. Fun fact: k.d. lang narrated the vignette.
The Secret Life of Canada: Co-hosts Leah-Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson like to say their show is “about the country you know, but the stories you don’t.” This week’s episode is titled Kanesatake 300 Years Later, a lead-up to what is known as the Oka Crisis. It’s the first half of a two-parter on the Mohawk land dispute at Oka, Que., that happened 30 years ago, but actually began well before that.
Cool Canadian History: Most Canadians know at least a little about the the Underground Railroad, an informal system of covert routes and safe houses that sneaked enslaved African-Americans into British North America. In Cool Canadian History’s final episode this season, host David Morris neatly breaks down a complicated history involving secret lingo and bizarre legal distinctions, while spotlighting key figures such as Mary Ann Shadd, an American-Canadian abolitionist and the first Black female newspaper publisher in North America.
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