Skip to main content

On July 1, Canada turns 147 years old and we're celebrating with a list of people, places and things that make this country special. We asked some well-known Canadians and you, our readers, to help us build our list. We've clipped our favourites here but if you'd like, you can scroll through the entire list.

1. Our raw natural landscape

Several years ago, Suzanne Dimma, the editor-in-chief of Canadian House & Home magazine, built an off-the-grid home with her husband in Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands. “It was an incredibly humbling experience to build on such powerful terrain – to become the custodians of this beautiful wilderness.”

To celebrate her passion and respect for “the towering trees, the fresh water, the ancient rock and mighty wind,” she quotes from a poem that her sister, Katherine Dimma, wrote:

Your wolves speak a secret language of woods/ that teem and thick in the burning cauldron of night./ The moon goes on forever in you and this the wolves know,/ raking mercury over your vast museum of lakes, your ancient granite – you are almost as pure as when the world began./ And your people say, we know we are home,/ for nowhere can we live as free and mild,/ nowhere can we walk beside so much space,/ and nowhere is the human heart more realized.

2. The Canadian flag

“I hate winter. My parents immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in the 1970s and I tease them often about their decision to leave a tropical island for the wooly sweaters of Ontario. But the truth is that I understood as a child, and even more so now, that their decision to come here had nothing to do with the weather. It was about finding a place where they could reach their full potential and raise three kids who would have the ability to reach theirs.

And they weren't the only ones – I love that so much of our country’s collective pride is wrapped up in the fact that so many Canadians weren't born here but instead chose to be here. As a family travel writer I've taken my sons around the world and back. Each time we return and catch that first glimpse of a Canadian flag we’re reminded of all that it stands for – and how lucky we are to call it home.”

Heather Greenwood Davis, family travel writer and blogger

3. Beaver Tails

4. Lucky Iron Fish

“I love Canada for the creativity of each new generation – creativity that can make a difference in people’s lives. A wonderful example of this is the Lucky Iron Fish. Developed at the University of Guelph, the Lucky Iron Fish is a simple and inexpensive object used to reduce iron deficiency in Cambodia and elsewhere. People from so many nations have contributed to making Canada a great country. The Lucky Fish is one of the ways Canada is giving back to the world.”

David Mirvish, theatre producer and art collector

CP Photo

5. Trudeau on a trampoline

“When I was much younger, I was at Canada Day in Ottawa. Outside the National Arts Centre there was a huge crowd gathered around a trampoline. As I walked towards it, I caught sight of a familiar face, but thought, ‘No can’t be...’ And yet as I got closer I realized that, ‘Yes, it was.’ Pierre Trudeau on the trampoline with his sons standing around in the crowd watching their dad.

If there were security people there, I couldn’t see them. And that experience gave me a sense of direct access to our political leaders, which I have claimed as a right since then, making a part-time career out of advocacy on various issues, most recently involving Canada’s built heritage.

Last week I was flying to Ottawa, waiting in the flight lounge to board and noticed Tom Mulcair, no security, no aides, the leader of the official opposition flying along with everyone else. I have also run into Michael Ignatief at the airport, same story. All alone, no one bothering them.

Over the past five years, I have been advocating to protect the views of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, working with former Speaker Steve Peters. That campaign had some success, but I think my sense of its symbolic importance is directly connected to my ongoing sense of wonder that even post-9/11 Canada is a place where our leaders walk among us so easily, something that is uniquely Canadian, and that we should never take for granted.

Catherine Nasmith, architect and heritage activist.

6. Gentle patriotism. Sometimes expressed with a bugle

“There is a gentler patriotism more about the traits and qualities that inspire and encourage that we should never fail to embrace.I tear up easily at stories of refugees who as adopted Canadian citizens achieve huge new vistas for their new country and their own lives, or veterans of old or new battles whose selfless devotion to others preserved freedom or let girls in far away lands attend school‎.

But a Canadian moment I shall not forget was Remembrance Day, 2012, in Kingston, Ont., Cold and windy, but not too wet. The usual large gathering at the cenotaph behind the hospital next to Lake Ontario. Prince of Wales Own Regiment had marched in, along with the flag party from the Royal Canadian Legion. To applause all around the distinguished, irrepressible and sometimes halting veterans marched i‎n too. Wreaths were placed. Padres offered prayers. ‘The act of remembrance’ was recited.

But as we glanced around for the bugler to do the last post – that place next to the podium was glaringly empty. For some logistical reason, no bugler was there.

A cadet band commander gently asked Margaret ‘Meg’ Morgan,a young PWOR cadet Sergeant Bugler (not quite 14) if she might step in.‎ Her eyes said ‘I have not practiced, there are a thousand people here, and why me?’ Her voice said, ‘Yes, sir, I will do my best.’ No one outside the immediate podium area realized someone was standing in for the designated bugler, whose car problems prevented his arrival. Meg’s notes, cadence and tone were that good, that broad and that clear.

Patriotism is about character, steel, spirit and being there to help. A young cadet bugler created a rare insight about what that all means.”

Former senator Hugh Segal

7. My Norman Rockwell, On Top of the World

“Norman Rockwell’s On Top Of The World is the very first work of art that I acquired when I was 17.

I have always believed that everything I ever dreamed was available to me in Canada. On Top Of The World represented all if my boyhood dreams. I made – made – my parents hang it above my Dad’s La-Z-Boy recliner. My dad drove a beer truck for 49 years, and the La-Z-Boy sat across from our black-and-white television with rabbit ears on top in our 800 square-foot castle at 2570 East 5th Ave.

Then On Top Of The World hung above the fireplace of our house when I married the girl I met in grade 4 (I was 20).

And today On Top Of The World hangs on our warehouse wall watching over a contemporary art collection, just waiting to go into one of my children’s homes, reminding me every day that I am still a Canadian boy that knows where my home is, here in Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA.

Bob Rennie, Vancouver’s “condo king,” is owner of Rennie Marketing Systems and an avid art collector who maintains his own art museum.

8. Newfoundland

“We have visited the island four times and every time I’m reminded how supremely special it is. This picture was taken by my husband when we were on a hike on the Skerwink Trail near Trinity, Nfld., in the summer of 2008. The trail (called “one of the top 35 walks in North America and Europe”) was magical as the fog descended and then pulled away to reveal the coastline. Canada would not be the same place without Newfoundland and its people.”

Reader Mary Ellen Stoll, South Porcupine, Ont.

9. Sandbanks sunsets

10. Harris Park, London, Ont.

I took this photo in Harris Park in London, Ont., while going for a walk during my lunch. It was spring of 2013 and the colours were absolutely beautiful and the scenery was stunning. The park is located near Thames River and I could just sit there all day and just enjoy the beauty of nature.

Reader Nikolina Vratonjic, Etobicoke, Ont.

11. The illuminated High Level Bridge in Edmonton

This bridge deserves to be on a list of reasons to love Canada – or, more precisely, the spirit that went into raising money to light it.

About a year ago, a group of Edmontonians pitched the idea of adorning the century-old High Level Bridge with tens of thousands of LED lights. But no government money was asked for. Instead, money was raised by citizens: Edmontonians donated for their children, their parents and their schools – their stories collected online.We raised the $2.5-million needed for the project. And the bridge became a bridge of stories.

Our newly lit bridge debuts on Canada Day 2014.

Reader Glenn Kubish, Edmonton

12. Shinny

There is no other activity that unites Canada from coast to coast and from border to border more than shinny. It’s the only sport where young kids, teenagers and adults can all join together, regardless of skill, and enjoy a friendly game of hockey outdoors on ice. It’s a time for old-timers to feel like kids again, and for kids to feel like they are professional hockey players out on the rink with players three times their size. When all the sticks get thrown into the pile every player anxiously awaits their call, excited to be a part of whatever team they are selected to play on. And with each stick that is pulled is the opportunity for someone to emulate their favourite player. Shinny is Canada and Canada is shinny.

Reader Shawn Danko, Memphis, TN

13. Our backyards

A reason to love Canada? We have amazing back yards. This photo was taken in September of 2013 from the top of the Dome Road in Dawson City, YT. It was the first snowfall of the year.

Reader Bonnie Macdonald, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

14. The stone bridge in Pakenham, Ont.

It is the only five-span stone bridge in North America. As a child, it was our stopping point on the way to my grandparent’s cottage. We would get an ice cream from Petersen’s ice cream and play on the limestone flats below the bridge and the falls. I could describe every turn in the road leading up to coming’’down and around the corner’ and then onto the bridge. A few years ago I took my husband and two of our children there for the first time.

Reader Angelique Ball, Bowmanville, Ont.

15. Our water

16. Wolfe Island, Ont.

I live on the south shore of Wolfe Island, which is the largest of the Thousand Islands. My husband retired from the military in the fall and we found a piece of paradise to put down roots: Our new community is small, friendly and people look out for one another, my son is thriving in the local school and our home represents so much of what Canada is known for – according to The Arrogant Worms – rocks and trees and water!

Reader Glennis Newton, Wolfe Island, Ont.

17. Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener and Waterloo turn into a Bavarian outpost during Oktoberfest – pretty girls in drindles, men in tracht, spontaneous outbreaks of polka, lots and lots of sausages, schnitzel (my mouth is watering just thinking about it) and beer steins. The picture I have uploaded is from the opening ceremonies of 2012, where the Canadian Pickers were the parade marshals. They are standing on either side of Miss Oktoberfest. To left of the picture – keg tappers. It is a great way to close off the fall.

Reader Ana Golobic, Cambridge, Ont.

18. Georgian Bay

Every night I am reminded how lucky I am to live in the most beautiful country in the world by the stunning show of light and color that takes place right outside my front door in Georgian Bay. This picture was taken off my front deck.

Reader Lois Barron-Ralph, Parry Sound, Ont.

19. Gros Morne National Park

20. Lots of places to chill

Just about everyone in Canada is close to a spot where they can sit and chill. And just about everyone does it. I've included a shot of me, reading and having a beer by the fire at Monck Provincial Park in British Columbia. It’s located about 15 kilometres east of Merrit.

Reader Peter Taylor, Vancouver

21. Newfoundland Icebergs in June

A lot of the locals will tell you that it’s only the tourists that love the icebergs because of the June cold that comes along with them, but I never get tired of them and am awestruck by their magnificence. This photo was taken from Signal Hill in St. John’s.

Maureen Bennett, St. John’s, Nfld.

22. Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon

This photo shows the Slims River West trail en route to Observation Mountain at Kluane National Park and Reserve. A visit here provides a staggering illustration of the untouched vastness of Canada. In a land governed by grizzly bears and mountain goats, a turn of the head in any direction points to hundreds of kilometres of pristine nature without a human soul in sight.

From lush valleys, to lumbering ice fields, to Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, even the least spiritual can’t escape the power of the land.

Reader Greg Kennedy, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

23. Canoeing 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 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 anymore.

Reader Geoff Lumby, Toronto

24. Caesars

25. 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.

26. West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island

The photos are from my first experience of the West Coast Trail in August, 2006. I’ve hiked it twice, the first time with good friends, the second time with my wife. Unparalleled scenery, incredible challenges. Surely a Canadian treasure...

Reader Tavis Newman, Lethbridge, Alta.

27. Salmon

If we we’re having a whole bunch of people over, we could make wild salmon. One of my favourite ways is doing a very quick cure on it of a little bit of kosher salt and brown sugar for 10 or 15 minutes. Then bake that very low, at about 100 degrees Celsius. You cook that for about half an hour. It doesn't lose any moisture and breaks away beautifully. I like to serve a sauce that’s got washed shallots, Tabasco, Worcestershire, olive oil, chives, chervil, tarragon, parsley, and the secret ingredient is a good spoonful of ketchup.

Vancouver Chef David Hawskworth

28. Blackcomb glacier

A mid-season day on Whistler’s Blackcomb glacier with fresh snow underfoot and blue skies and sunshine above. Unbeatable!

Reader John MacLeod, Toronto Ont

29. Our children

30. The Post Hotel in Lake Louise

The Post Hotel opened in 1941, the year I was born. We had many ski trip vacations in the old Pipestone Lodge (the cottages situated along the Pipestone Creek are pure Canadiana). Views of the Lake Louise ski area bring back memories ago of watching ‘torch skiers’ bringing in the New Year. We would also eat lunch on the lawn and watch hikers and the CNR freight train go, reinforcing how this spot fits into Canada’s history. Whenever we pass through this little area of God’s Country, we always stop in for at least a meal.

Reader Ross Chevalier, Chilliwack, B.C.

31. Kodiak construction boots

In Grade 8 it was considered the height of fashion to wear Kodiak construction boots, unlaced, with their tongues hanging out like the head-banging rockers my friends and I so admired. The trick was to perfect a laissez-faire walk that allowed you to scuff your way forward without the laces getting tangled. This was not easy, especially in winter when the ground was ice-patched and often treacherous. The boots are steel-toed and sturdily constructed, practical, anti-fashion even. Still, as a footwear trend, I miss them. They made me feel grounded, not to be messed with. Boys and girls wore them with equal ease. They are working-class and outdoorsy. They’re named after a bear. They also make me feel nostalgic for a different Canada, I think – a Canada that values hard work and decency and won’t let someone bigger or richer step on its toes.

– Heather Birrell, author of Mad Hope; illustration by Charles Checketts

32. Egg cartons

Invented in 1911 in Smithers, B.C., by Joseph Coyle. Replaced costly, impractical earlier practice of putting tiny helmets on eggs.

12 eggs = 12 provinces and territories … oh right … NUNAVUT. Well, maybe it was an early indicator of our protective peace-keeping leanings? Our fussiness about unsmashed food?

Anyhow, good job Canada! – Illustrator, Graham Roumieu

Read them all: 147 reasons why we love our country

On July 1, Canada turns 147 years old and we're celebrating with a list of people, places and things that make this country special. We asked some well-known Canadians and you, our readers, to help us build our list. We've clipped our favourites here but if you'd like, you can scroll through the entire list.