Here are a few really weird news stories…that could only have happened in Canada. (This article was first published in Uncle John’s Factastic Bathroom Reader. )
Nelson Rubia of St. Jude’s, Newfoundland, got his snowmobile back from the mechanic in March 2015 and decided to take it for a test ride…only it hadn’t been completely repaired. As Rubia attempted to cross a highway, the throttle got stuck and the snowmobile picked up speed. Rubia was thrown from the vehicle, and the snowmobile took off on its own, heading west down the Trans-Canada Highway, bouncing off the snowbanks on either ride of the road. Rubia, uninjured, called the police for help. They were unable to stop the snowmobile, which traveled 15 miles before it hit a snowbank, flipped onto its side, and died.
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables is about a plucky 11-year-old redheaded orphan named Anne who charms a stuffy town on Prince Edward Island. It’s a Canadian classic, and dozens of printings of the book, as well as numerous film and TV adaptations, have depicted Anne exactly the way she’s referred to in the original: as an 11-year-old redhead. In 2013 a company called CreateSpace caused a minor uproar when it published a new version of Anne of Green Gables with a cover depicting not a redheaded child but a sexy blonde in her 20s.
Grin and Bear It
In March 2014, cab driver Mohammed Naim had just dropped off a passenger in a Toronto suburb when he spotted a bear. He immediately locked himself in his cab and called police. They quickly arrived on the scene and tracked the bear tracks…to the home of the man Naim had just dropped off. Bear attack in progress? Nope—what Naim thought was a bear was actually a 150-pound very shaggy dog of the Newfoundland breed. The dog’s name: Bear.
Canada is a bilingual nation, at least legally. Only 22 percent of the general population speaks French, but public signage must be presented in both English and French, a law fiercely enforced by the Office de Langue Francaise (French Language Office). In November 2014, the comedian Sugar Sammy paid for a series of ads in the Montreal Metro subway system that read, “For Christmas, I’d like a complaint from the Office de La Langue Francaise.” Because he didn’t include the French translation, he got his wish. Sid Lee, the advertising firm responsible for the ads, was required to black out most of the sign’s text so that it read, Pour Noel, j’ai eu une plainte de l’Office de Langue Francaise. Translation: “For Christmas I got a complaint from the Office de la Langue Francaise.”
Foot in Mouth
The signature cocktail of the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, is the Sourtoe. It’s a tourist tradition to try the drink—a shot of whiskey with a leathery, black mummified toe in it. It started in 1973; the first toe was the detached frostbitten toe of a 19th-century fur trapper. Customers aren’t supposed to consume the toe—only to let it touch their lips (the alcohol reportedly keeps it sterile), but some people have accidentally swallowed the toe. If it happens, the Downtown Hotel charges $500. The hotel has gone through two dozen old toes in the past 40 years and was down to its last toe. In 2013 a man named Josh (from New Orleans) came into the bar, drank a shot with the toe in it, swallowed the toe, slapped $500 on the bar, and left. The hotel is now running this print ad: “Got frostbite? The Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, is currently seeking toes for its World Famous Sourtoe Cocktail.”
When the 2014 winter began, Yann Lefebvre of Beaconsfield, Quebec, promised his four kids that he would build them “the fort of all forts.” He did. It was the size of a small house, with two snow couches and a snow coffee table inside. Neighborhood kids loved it, until the city government told Lefebvre in January 2015 that he’d have to remove it. Reason: it was blocking snowplow paths. “We’re not against snow forts,” Mayor Georges Bourelle told reporters, adding that technically, it was built on city property. Lefebvre had a party, during which he and friends tore it down and rebuilt it farther back from the road. (They invited the mayor, but he didn’t show.)
Odd Canadian Tax Rules
- Benefits paid to Canadian war veterans aren’t taxed, but benefits paid by Germany to former members of the Nazi Party living in Canada are.
- All cosmetic procedures are taxed, including nose jobs, botox, breast enhancement, and teeth whitening. Exceptions: “congenital abnormality, a personal injury, or disfiguring disease.”
- When Canadians buy a new car, there’s a hidden $100 fee buried in the cost—a tax on automobile air conditioners. (Hearses, ambulances, and motor homes are exempt.)