Our history is harder than you think

I’ve recently taken up a new morning ritual.

No, it’s not getting up earlier, getting early morning nutrition or going for a run or anything sensible like that.

I’m testing my knowledge.

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, as of Feb. 1, Maclean’s is running an online daily Canadian trivia contest, each day until July 1.

Exactly 150 quizzes to celebrate 150 years.

The questions cover Canadian culture, history, art and geography and some are real head scratchers.

My co-workers in the editorial department and I like to think that as reporters we’re fairly informed about the world around us and all of the goings on.

So, we figured we could easily tackle whatever Maclean’s was going to throw at us and we could brag about how Canadian we are.

Boy, were we in for a surprise. Some of the questions have really stumped us.

For instance, we had no idea that the first capital of the province of Canada in 1841 was Kingston or that as of 2016, Islam is the second largest religious denomination in Canada after Christianity.

The one that really got us was a question about the Canadian Coat of Arms.

Such a symbol seems to be something I should easily recognize but it turns out I had no clue.

The quiz is multiple choice and we, somewhat confidently, guessed answer A – that the two animals on the Canadian Coat of Arms are a beaver and a bear.

My fellow reporters both said they were sure they could recall there being antlers on the Coat of Arms.

Well, at the end of the quiz when our results were tallied and spit back out at us, we were pretty shocked to learn that the Canadian Coat of Arms features a lion and a unicorn. As it turns out, those antlers they thought they remembered were really the horn on the unicorn. A unicorn!

Of course, I immediately had to Google the Canadian Coat of Arms to see for myself.

Lo and behold, there is indeed a lion on one side of a shield and a white unicorn standing off to the other side.

As I learned through my Google search, the coat of arms is modelled after the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom and the lion represents England while the unicorn is symbolic of Scotland – members of the United Kingdom.

Sometimes it really is true when they say ‘you learn something new everyday.’

One of my co-workers told me he thinks that’s the whole point of the quiz, that you’ll see the answer, think ‘huh!’ and do a bit of research and in the process, add to your knowledge base.

He has a point.

One of the questions we got last Friday asked what province three novels written by the author Margaret Laurence were set in. We of course had no idea, and had never even heard of the novelist.

But perhaps these vague questions are there for a reason, so that we’re forced to learn more about Canadian culture. These days we’re so inundated with American news and culture that it’s easy to forget about our own.

It’s just something to think about.

In any case, at a time when I think a lot of us are feeling pretty lucky to be Canadian, it’s fun to celebrate Canada and put our knowledge of our fair country to the test.

We’ve decided to track our results and I can tell you that since the quizzes started, we’ve yet to get all five questions right.

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