canadian English

From sea to sea

The discussion of Canadian English here on this blog continues with a guest post by Shauna Rae, a radio and television personality, freelance writer and social media blogger, based in Ontario, Canada.


A mari usque ad mare“, on Canada’s coat of arms, translates “From sea to sea”. This refers to the fact that Canada is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by the Arctic Ocean. How ironic that the Canadian national motto is almost identical to the last line (“from sea to shining sea”) of the United States favourite, “America the Beautiful”!

We have a lot of space in Canada. A claustrophobic American friend says he could never visit because he would have to spend too long in the car to get from point A to B. But the vastness of our wonderful country has permeated into our language. Ever heard of a crop tour? Driving your car for hours to visit a relative over the holidays, whether it’s at Christmas or during summer break, is part of everyday life here.

Sure, we have public transit, Via Rail, Go Trains, monorails, and of course the TTC (Toronto’s intricate subway and bus system), but it’s almost a necessity, if you don’t live in one of the large metropolitan cities, to own a vehicle. We are getting “green” with the rest of the world; however Canada has apparently been dragging its heels in this department. Bike/commuter lanes are not as mainstay as they are in Europe, although many city planning departments are busy trying to play catch-up.

Montreal has something called BIXIs. Simply put, they are a combination of a bike and a taxi. There are stations all over the city where you can pick up and drop them off. They launched in the spring of 2009 when 2,400 of them were seen on the streets of Montreal.

We also have forms of transportation primarily for our winter months. As Europe broke records for cold temperatures and snow in 2010, we Canadians chuckled as we watched large cities struggle with the snow removal and being storm-stayed (= snowed in). The province of Quebec has made snow tires mandatory for vehicles during the cold season. This means residents must have two completely separate sets of tire. Most of the world is now familiar with the term snowplows. We Canadians have things called snowmobiles or ski-doos that, during the stormy weather, coast over the top of the snow in order to get first responders to work so they can save lives. There are intricate trails in the northern sections of the provinces. Snowshoes are also a transportation aid in the winter.

Many of us have roof racks for the car and although obviously they are not exclusive to Canada, many of us have them to transport bicycles and/or skis and snowboards, as we travel to our next adventure or family outing. We don’t mind driving to the “family cottage” or the “lake” for a summer long weekend, especially if we have a boat in tow. And we DO love our toboggans that are a scream on the snow hills but in a pinch can take bundled up infant “Bobby” the short walk to the store for staples.

Most of us have taken the Greyhound, a Canadian bus system for long-haul trips at a reasonable price. Canada is a large winding road, open for exploration, and we have all the tools to make it an experience! But if you’re not a fan of long-haul travel, like my claustrophobic friend, you may want to think twice. Oh, and a crop tour? Guess you’ll have to ask a Canadian!

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Shauna Rae


  • The BIXI’s sound great 0-wish they had that in Ontario! Canada’s size is incredible but it’s just more to love! Great article!

  • Good one Shauna eh….love our Canadian winters…skating on the lakes and ponds and winterfest in Ottawa with the ice sculptures and skating on the 7km long canal are winter favourites in our area.

  • I now see Canada in a whole different light…..still not fond of the snow though! Give me Aussie sunshine any day…love the post Shauna. You are brilliant.

  • If Canada wants to “go green” it will have to get on the ball with more public transportation to the outlying town and cities. Perhaps the train would be a viable alternative. The investment in the existing railway system would certainly benefit the public and the environment for those who live outside the Metro areas. I grew up in a town of 6,000 and they have not had railway transportation available in decades. The nearest station is 6 miles away and CN recently stopped service to that station. Now the nearest stop is 45 miles away. It’s pretty hard to bicycle 45 miles to the nearest train depot! If you don’t own a car, you don’t travel from Sea to Sea–period! No wonder we are so far behind the rest of the world in “going green”.

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