How to Spot a Canadian

Tracking down Canadians one toque at a time.

About this Site...

Canadians are a tricky people to distinguish. They are often able to blend into a society and appear to be American, British, French or any other number of nationalities. This site will provide you with some tips and tricks to help you recognize a Canadian no matter where you are.


This site is for entertainment purposes only. "How to Spot a Canadian" is filled with humour, satire, hyperbole, parody and sarcasm. All statements here should be taken with a grain of salt or a bottle of maple syrup, whatever the case may be.

They've Been Taught to Both Fear and Celebrate the Smell of Burnt Toast

Due to their close proximity to the United States, Canadians frequently have their culture overwhelmed by their southern neighbours. This has led to government rulings and a culture that tries to separate itself from the US whenever possible.

Unfortunately, this closeness also prevents many Canadians from learning the history of their nation. American blockbusters tell the story of Pearl Harbor and Apollo 13, but Canadian history is not glorified in the same way.

You'll never see a big screen version of "The Making of Maple Syrup."

Tom Hanks and Ben Affleck would probably make themselves unavailable for that one. Well, maybe not Ben Affleck.

in 1991 Historica Minutes: History by the Minute, better known as Heritage Minutes, began airing. I'm not ashamed to admit that the majority of my knowledge of Canadian history came from these 60-second pieces.

One of the most memorable was the minute on Dr. Wilder Penfield. Dr. Penfield was a brain surgeon. The heritage minute (you can view it in its entirety here) told the story of a woman who would always smell burnt toast before she had a seizure. Dr. Penfield discovered which portion of her brain created that same sensation and thus figured out how to cure her seizures. It was definitely a great moment in Canadian history and one that should be celebrated.

However it completely freaked me out.

You see, the average ten-year-old watching TV doesn't care about great Canadian medical discoveries. They just want the cartoons to come back on. So I didn't understand the significance of the piece when it was first aired. All I knew was that while a woman was missing a piece of her skull and a doctor was touching her brain she screamed "I can smell burnt toast!"

There was a six month period where I thought I needed brain surgery every time my parents used the toaster.

But "burnt toast" wasn't the only heritage minute to have an impact on me. No, I can tell you all the memorable lines now.

"I don't know, just 'Winnie. The. Pooh.'" (Winnie)

"Now the people will know we were here." (The Inukshuk)

"It'll never fly!" (Superman)

"You can't see down with that thing!" (Jacques Plante)

"Nice women don't want the vote!" (Nellie McClung)

"But I'm sure it means 'the houses,' 'the village.'" (Jacques Cartier)

"Take me to Fitzgibbon" (Laura Secord)

They were all quite memorable and all taught Canadians a lot about their history. The downside was a generation of Canadians grew up fearing their toasters.

The upside is that this fact has provided us with a good way to spot Canadians. If you suspect someone of being Canadian, tell them you "smell burnt toast." If they rush to the phone and call 9-11, they are Canadian.

If you liked this post, please consider Subscribing to our RSS feed or joining our group on Facebook.


  1. Andi said...

    Just found your blog and I'm loving it! My favorite heritage minute was the one with that guy from "Road to Avonlea" where he played Marshall McLuhan when he had his a-ha moment: "The medium is the message!"

  2. said...

    I don't think I've ever seen that one!

    I'll need to check it out online.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Pam said...

    I love those ads!!! I don't see them so much anymore, but I do see the one about the disaster in Halifax harbour all the time. That one isn't as interesting as the rest.
    Oh... and the national wildlife services ads about different animals?? I love those too!

  4. said...

    Do you mean the "Hinterland Who's Who" ones?

    Those are great.

    I'm so glad they brought them back.

  5. Anonymous said...

    So true! I remember always being worried that I smelled burnt toast. But then when I did burn the toast I thought it was my imagination and I was having a seizure - but it was actually burnt toast.

    Anyhow, just to say that this is definitely something you'd have to be Canadian to relate to.

  6. Anonymous said...

    I love the one with Jennie Trout, who "will repeat every word of this disgusting lecture to your charming wife!"

  7. Dawn said...

    A friend of mine never understood why American's didn't "get" the burnt toast joke... she had no idea those Heritage Minutes were only aired on Canadian tv!

  8. Anonymous said...

    must not forget: "Both of you know I cannae read a word"

  9. Kirsten said...

    Someone here at work in AK just said she smelled onions... and I went to crack a joke about checking on her for a seizure, but realized that no one would get the joke but me.

    I've since let them all in on the Canadian Heritage Minute phenomenon. They still think I'm batty ;)

  10. Anonymous said...

    Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

  11. Anonymous said...

    I always found the 'doctor Penfield, I smell burnt toast' funny. I then would feel bad about laughing that she was having a seizure.

    I couldn't help but laugh while reading the other posts, I remember every one of those lines. I wish the gov't would create more of these items, this is the closest thing we've had for culture.

    The Halifax disaster and John McCrae ads just made me sad.

  12. Anonymous said...

    I never understood why the Jacques Cartier moment with the word "Kanata' is something to be proud of. It just sounds like our country was founded on a misunderstanding! Although, for some reason it's very Canadian.

  13. Robert said...

    My favorite one was the fact we should be proud for killing thousands of Chinese immigrants. "There is one dead Chinese man for every mile of the track!" and he says it with a smile on his face and his grand kids seem excited lol

  14. Anonymous said...

    So, like, the first person to say , "Hands up!" was canadian, eh?

Post a Comment


Do you have your own unique way of spotting Canadians? If you'd like to share it with us, please contact us by email. We're always looking for new tips!