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150 Little Known Canadian Facts #12

May, 2017

In this edition of 150 Canadian facts, we have some information about our national parks, wars and conflicts in which Canada took part and our health care’s earliest beginnings.

77.  Canada’s national health care system started in Saskatchewan. On July 1, 1962, Tommy Douglas of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) brought in the first government controlled, comprehensive, single-payer medical insurance in North America. Just like in the States, most medical professionals and insurance companies weren’t too happy with this Medicare. They put out about $100,000 worth of anti-Medicare and anti-Socialist propaganda in hopes of dissuading the public from accepting the CCF and its health care proposal. Doctors who were for this new Medicare were belittled and harassed by their peers. This tension brought on the Doctors’ Strike that went from July 1st to 23rd, which is said to have nearly caused a provincial civil war. Despite all the hostilities, Medicare became very popular with the public, and in 1966, the National Medical Care Insurance Act was passed in the House of Commons, whereby on July 1, 1968, the Act officially started.

78.  Canada has 47 national parks, 3 of which are national marine parks. The national park system began in November of 1885 with a small area (26 km2) of the Sulphur Mountains of Alberta that was set aside for the public. This little area was the start of Banff National Park. On June 23, 1887, The Rocky Mountains Parks Act was passed. After that bill was passed, Canada started the world’s first national parks administration in 1911, called the Dominion Parks Branch. Today, the total area of Canada’s national parks is over 300,000 km2. The latest park to be recognized is Nááts’ihch’oh National Park, NWT, in 2012. It has an area of 4,850 km2.

79.  Vancouver Island can lay claim to having had the oldest living tree in Canada on record. It was a Yellow cedar found in the Caren Range along the Sunshine Coast. In 1980, the tree was felled without anyone really knowing how old it was. But, in 1993, members of the Friends of Caren found the stump, and were able to deduce that the tree had been 1,835 years old. A scientific paper written by Laroque & Smith in 1999, says that the Yellow cedars on Vancouver Island are the longest-living conifers in Canada.

80.  Continuing with the tree theme, a long-lost tree nursery (for reforestation purposes) was rediscovered in Perth County, ON, and it’s over 100 years old. This nursery was one of two pilot projects of test plots to grow conifers in the very early 20th century. It’s located on the Monteith Farm, and the owner never knew the history of the plot until a forestry consultant rediscovered it in 2016. It’s been determined that this tree nursery is the oldest tree plantation in Ontario.

81.  Canadian airport codes confuse a lot of people. The codes started out as two-letter codes that the National Weather Service in the States used to differentiate among its cities. This code was also used to differentiate among radio transmitters. However, in the 1930s, air travel became more popular and the two-letter codes couldn’t cover all the cities that now had airports, so they bumped up the letter count. With three letters, there were now over 17,000 different combinations to label airports across the world. Canada was given ‘Y.’ The designation code is given to airports by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In Canada, there are just 518 airports, and all but 80 start with ‘Y.’

82.  The Korean War is the third bloodiest overseas conflict in which Canada has fought. The war began on June 25, 1950. The United Nations was only five years old at the time, and Canada was part of its force along with 15 other countries. Just going by a country’s population density, Canada’s military contribution was one of the largest compared to the other UN countries with 26,791 military personnel fighting or peacekeeping. The Battle of Kapyong (a.k.a. Hill 677) is one of this country’s greatest achievements: 700 Canadian troops of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Regiment helped defend the strategic hill in a two-day battle against 5,000 Chinese troops in April, 1951. When the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, there were 516 Canadians dead and 1,200 wounded. The last of the Canadian military personnel left Korea in 1957.

83.  Located in the Memorial Room in the Peace Tower in Ottawa, there are seven books on stone altars. These books are called the Books of Remembrance, and each contains names of military men and women who gave their lives for Canada since Confederation. There are over 118,000 names so far in these books. Each book is designated either for a war or a group of people: World War I Book, World War II Book, Newfoundland Book, Korean War Book, South African War/Nile Expedition Book, Merchant Navy Book and In the Service of Canada Book. There is an eighth book in the works for the War of 1812. The stone altars were actually made for the 100th anniversary of WWI. All the names commemorated in the seven books can be looked up on-line by going to

84.  The Nile Expedition is Canada’s first overseas “participation” in a war. It began in 1884 when a Muslim uprising occurred in the Sudan. Charles Gordon, a British general, went to the Sudan to rescue a trapped Egyptian garrison, but he and his men also became trapped. Canada’s then Governor General Landsdowne recruited 376 voyageurs (mainly lumbermen) to help rescue Gordon. These voyageurs were skilled river navigators and for six months, they tried to get the expedition’s boats up the Nile to Khartoum. But two days before they reached Sudan’s capital city, General Gordon was killed when it fell to the Mahdists. Sixteen of the 376 Canadian voyageurs died in the Nile Expedition.

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