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The 13 greatest things from Canada

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While the U.S. is throwing Kid Rock keggers and obsessing over football, Canada broods reservedly upstairs, hoarding maple syrup, dumping gravy on French fries, and manufacturing a metric ton of the world’s favorite things. Just take a look at these 13 crazy awesome inventions, people, concepts, and general demeanors us folks in the states totally wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Canada.

James Naismith

The father of basketball was born in Kansas. Just kidding! He was born in Ontario, where as a youth he perfected the lobbing, basketball-shot motion while playing some weird game called "duck on a rock". He went on to study Physical Education in Montreal, and eventually found his way down to Massachusetts where he was asked to create an indoor sport for the YMCA International Training College in Springfield. To see just how Canadian Naismith was, watch this delightful Canadian Heritage Minute, which is Canadian as hell.

Michael J. Fox

There were so many beloved Canadian entertainers to choose from for this slot -- Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen, Dan Aykroyd, the legendary Christopher Plummer, the legendary Ryan Reynolds... But none of them were named one of the world’s most trustworthy celebs, traveled through time in a DeLorean, psychically communicated with ghosts, ran a mayor's office, and generally warmed the hearts of the entire nation. Also, hover boards. Thank the Queen that he found his way to Hollywood all the way from Edmonton.

The Canada lynx

We challenge you to find a lynx more bad ass than the Canada lynx. Look at how big its feet are! That's so it can cruise over deep snow, which other lynxes would just sink into. Also, those ears! Amazing. More amazing: the Canada lynx can be found in some of America's northernmost states. If you run into one, be sure to compliment it on its Chester A. Arthur mutton chops, or it will eat you (not really, its diet is almost exclusively snowshoe hare).

BlackBerry

Once upon a time, the BlackBerry was a sign of business prestige -- and somehow, it still is in any Washington D.C. political TV drama. Seriously, put your iPhone down and pay attention (unless you’re reading this on an iPhone): the BlackBerry was the phone that made doing business on a phone into a thing. And guess what? BlackBerry Limited, which began as Research In Motion, opened its doors in Waterloo, ON, thus giving Canada claim to all that groundbreaking prestige, as well as that weird scrolly ball thing.

Drake
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The Degrassi Franchise (really just Drake)

Named for a street in Toronto, the various Degrassi series (Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, Degrassi: The Next Generation) broke controversial new ground in the subject matter teen dramas were allowed to cover, notably the episode where Arthur and Yick watch a pornographic movie called "Swamp Sex Robots". But the show's most notorious now for launching Aubrey “Drake” Graham into the spotlight so he could tickle eardrums with songs about starting from "the bottom" -- which in Canada is apparently being the star of an iconic TV show.

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Are You Afraid of the Dark

Submitted for the approval of the midnight society: every single nightmare of 90’s childhood. This Nickelodeon classic was born as a coproduction between the American Nickelodeon Studios and Cinar from, yup, Canada. A stipulation in the original production contract meant that every scene had to be filmed and produced in Canada. Remember that classic campfire intro? That was filmed in a studio in Quebec, not creepily in someone’s Michigan backyard. Ahh, the magic of TV.

Snowmobile
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Most things that manipulate snow

A not-all-that-surprising amount of snow-displacing machinery has been invented in Canada. The snowblower was first crafted out of a motor and truck chassis by Arthur Sicard in Montreal, probably after a particularly grueling afternoon of shoveling. Additionally, Ski-Doos, the first legitimately commercialized snowmobiles, were designed by the Canadian company Bombardier Recreational Products. Not enough fun facts for ya? Well, Ski-Doo is only the company's name because someone who was so excited about cruising around snowy tundras accidentally wrote that into the brand’s first brochure instead of the intended name, Ski-Dog. You had one job, Phil.

Rush

Full disclosure: there was plenty of internal debate about which Canadian artist to choose for this list. There were a ton of highs (Arcade Fire! The Guess Who! Neil Young! Loverboy!), and more than a few lows (Nickelback? Avril Lavigne? The Biebs?). But with almost two dozen studio albums, an army of middle-aged air-drumming fanatic fans, lyrics that include references to Kubla Khan, the priests of the temples of Syrinx, and "the suburbs", and a stoic rejection to hiring any auxiliary musicians (is it really practical to use bass foot pedals?), the Toronto rock trio won out because…come on, it's Rush.

Insulin

This one is so important that it earned one famous Canadian the Nobel Prize in 1923. Frederick Banting, an essentially unheard of surgeon, took to the University of Toronto in early 1921 to start lab testing pancreatic secretions on diabetic dogs. Fast-forward to 1922 where Banting conducted the first human trials on a 14-year-old boy, ended up saving the kid’s life, and eventually scored that Nobel. Good work, eh? 

The telephone

The most popularly recognized inventor of the telephone (and the dude who actually got to the patent office first) was Alexander Graham Bell. And before you yell “he did that in America! I learned that in my American school” in your most American bellow, let us just clarify that while some of the prototype research was done outside of Canada, the actual idea for transmitting sound via telegraph was conceived in the summer of 1874 at Bell’s home in Ontario. So even though Bell was actually a Scotsman and lived in Boston for a while, he got serious with his research starting when he moved to Quebec City in 1870. So, without Canada, you couldn’t be calling your 3rd grade textbook publisher right now to yell at them for leaving crucial historical info out of your education.

The Actar 911 CPR Mannequin

For something a little more specific, let’s turn to an absurdly Canadian show (The Greatest Canadian Invention) on an absurdly Canadian network (CBC Television) for one of their all-time ranked Canadian inventions: the Actar 911 CPR mannequin. When it was invented, it was the most lightweight, convenient, and realistic mannequin on the market. And today, it’s used by the Red Cross, the military, and a bunch of other serious folks. Ergo, Canada had a huge hand (well, torso) in bringing proper CPR training to the rest of the world.

Time zones

Allow us to substantiate. The worldwide origins of relative time zones are fittingly far-reaching. Different cultures throughout history have attempted to account for relative daylight timekeeping, but it was North American railroad companies that finally started making a push for standard time zones in our neck of the woods. They ultimately divided the continent into four parts (sound familiar?). But the original proposal, which was presented to the Royal Canadian Institute in 1879, and later picked up by American railroads, was famously presented by Kirkcaldy native Sandford Fleming.

Being polite
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Courtesy

Canadians are so damn polite they have their own pronunciation of “sorry” (say it with us: “sɔr-i”). But is that politeness just a comedic stereotype? Well sort of, but that courtesy goes waaaaay back. Remember how America forcibly claimed its independence by dumping herbs into a harbor and then kind of having a war? Well Canada’s version of our Independence Day is called Canada Day, which commemorates the enactment of the 1867 North America Act -- where Britain simply said “meh, Canada, you're such nice folks and you’ve been waiting so patiently; go ahead and be free". So basically every time an American doesn't complain about things and then magically gets what he wants anyway, he can thank Canada.