Travel

5 true things about Canada that Jonny Harris has learned from making Still Standing

The truth about the politeness thing and more, in his own words.

The truth about the politeness thing and more, in his own words

(Courtesy of CBC)

Canada's a big place filled with thousands of unique communities. To truly understand "Canadianess", you'd have to visit them all. That would probably be impossible, but Jonny Harris has given it a darn good try. In Still Standing, Jonny travels from coast-to-coast-to-coast showing us parts of the country most have never seen. The show's fifth season, premiering September 17th, takes Jonny from Campobello Island in New Brunswick to Siksika Nation, Alberta. 

This up-close tour of our country has given him a unique view on what it means to be Canadian. While we may share some common characteristics, Jonny's learned that this country is a lot more diverse than people may think. 

Here, in his own words, Jonny Harris shares five characteristics of Canadians and how he's seen them manifest across the country: 

1. Canadians are known for being polite, and that's certainly true, but polite varies from place to place. 

In Rankin Inlet, Nunavut (Season 6, airing in 2020), the polite thing to do is to walk right into people's houses. It's actually considered rude to knock. It's pretentious to think that somebody should drop everything they're doing and come to greet you and open the door. "Oh yeah I was just fixing a pipe under the sink but jeez I wouldn't want you to open the door by yourself — come on in, here are some rose petals for you to walk on." 

There are quirky differences in etiquette all over the country. For example in Churchill, Manitoba (Season 5) it is considered in extremely poor taste to lock your car doors. Why? Read on, reader, read on...

2. Canada is the land of the free and the home of the brave, emphasis on brave when you are in Churchill, Manitoba, where the polar bears outnumber the people. 

Churchill was the only town where our 'fixer' (a local who helps us out for the week) wore a fur hat and a 12 gauge shotgun. In Churchill it is in poor taste to lock your house or car doors just in case someone needs to make a hasty escape from a potential confrontation with a 900lb alpha predator. Now, you may wonder if this custom makes car theft an issue but there are no roads coming or going from this fly or train-in community — the worst any potential car-jackers could do is drive across Kelsey Blvd and take your change.

3. Canadians are a proud people, sometimes to a criminal degree.

In Fraser Lake, British Columbia (Season 4), they are really proud of their town and rightfully so, it's a beautiful place. Trouble is, not a lot of people know about it, so they are trying to get the word out. How are they spreading the good word of Fraser Lake? Hostage-taking. They're kidnapping people. They set up a roadblock to grab tourists right off the highway and offer them a wicked (free) weekend celebrating their summer 'Mouse Mountain Festival'. Nobody really knows when this strange tradition began or who started it. Or maybe they know but they're not saying anything without a lawyer present. In fact, the strangest thing about the whole thing is that the cops are in on it! Of all the times I've been stopped by the RCMP it's the only time they asked me if I would like something to drink.

Jonny Harris and Sasquatch expert, Thomas Steenburg, Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Airing Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. (Courtesy of CBC)

4. Outside of Quebec, Canada is much 'Frencher' than a lot of people expect.

The only officially bilingual province is, of course, New Brunswick, where the Acadian culture is alive and well. But, something a lot of Canadians might not know about is the French-speaking population in the Prairies, towns like Willow Bunch, SK (Season 1) and Gravelbourg, SK (Season 5). They call themselves Fransaskois — referring to the Francophones of Saskatchewan… not to be confused with Bigfoot's wife, Fran Sasquatch.

We're even close to France geographically. The French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are just a one-hour ferry ride from Fortune, NL (Season 5). And it's for real France, like, you will need your passport and an outlet adapter (and an appetite for baguettes).

Jonny Harris, Tony Nootebos and Rick Hansen after a successful dayfishing for Sturgeon on the Fraser River. Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Airing Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. (Courtesy of CBC)

5. Our hearts are in the right place.  

A New York Times article recently called Canada the moral leader of the free world. In small towns I have seen the kind of tolerance, kindness, acceptance and diversity that makes Canada so. I've visited Syrian refugees in Cape Breton (Mabou, NS, Season 2) and been to the most northerly Mosque in the world (Inuvik, NWT in Season 2 — where Muslims established and run a community food bank). I've seen little New Brunswick towns with crosswalks painted the colour of the LGBTQ rainbow (Rogersville, Season 4). I've spoken to two little girls in Tyendinaga, Ontario (Season 4) who consider Mohawk their first language. After all the international awfulness we watch on the 6 o'clock news, I think it's a great idea to watch an episode of Still Standing to look on the bright side, acknowledge some human positivity and see just how far we've come!

Still Standing airs Tuesday nights at 8/8:30 NT on CBC and CBC Gem.  

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