They can be hokey. Campy even. But Heritage Minutes — those beloved, and okay, fine, gloriously cheesy 60-second shorts celebrating important Canadian heroes, innovations, and events — are every bit as much a part of the fabric of this country’s cultural landscape as the Habs and the Hip. First released in 1991, they would go on to become quintessential pieces of ’90s Canadiana. As someone who wasn’t born in this country, it’s how I first learned about the Halifax Explosion, and that Laura Secord wasn’t just known for making fancy chocolates. Far as I’m concerned, “I can smell burnt toast!” and “But I need these baskets back…” are essentially the Canadian equivalent of “I see dead people” and “You had me at hello.”
And, like pretty much every other piece of ’90s pop culture, they’re making a comeback. Since 2012, Historica Canada has revived the Heritage Minutes brand, releasing anywhere from two to four new shorts a year, covering everything from the Fathers of the Confederation to civil rights pioneers like Viola Desmond and Jim Egan. Even Kensington Market has gotten its own 60-second spot. Fine choices, all.
But it also got us thinking: what other bits of modern Canadian history deserve to be forever immortalized as ironic nostalgia for future generations of grade school kids? So, in honour of Canada Day, we came up with 14 suggestions for modern Heritage Minutes. You’re welcome, Canada.
The Bat Flip
Sure, it may only be the second-biggest home run in Blue Jays history, but with one epic toss of the bat, Jose Bautista forever changed the way the country thought about home run celebrations — and how the rest of the world thought about those “polite Canadians.” It inspired imitators and hand-wringing New York Times op-eds. It graced the fronts of cereal boxes and ugly Christmas sweaters. It has its very own Wikipedia entry. It should have its own Heritage Minute. (We even have an idea for who can play Joey Bats.)
We could’ve gone with the entire Raptors championship run here, but instead, let’s focus on something that future generations might actually need help to understand: how Kawhi’s extremely robotic laugh went from a cringe-y press conference moment to a viral meme to, apparently, a rallying cry for the entire skawh-uad, helping carry the Raps to the franchise’s first-ever title. Also, “I’m a fun guy” is already pitch-perfect stilted Heritage Minutes dialogue. You couldn’t write it better if you tried.
The Montreal Screwjob
It’s only fitting that one of the most infamous moments in wrestling history came when things went off script, with the sport’s biggest star getting screwed out of his championship belt by his real-life rival live on pay-per-view. And it happened right here in Canada. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t gotten the Heritage Minute treatment already.
Rob Ford’s Mayoral Tenure
Maybe you forgot, but those original TV spots could get pretty dark. (Go re-watch the Louis Riel one sometime.) And it doesn’t get much darker than the Rob Ford story, a scandal-filled tragic saga that saw Canadian municipal politics become prime late-night monologue fodder south of the border.
Justin Trudeau Goes Shirtless
His dad Pierre never made the Heritage Minute cut, but lucky for Justin, the current Prime Minister has had no shortage of newsworthy moments since being elected in 2015, and no, we’re not just talking about legalizing pot. We mean that time — sorry, times, plural — he was photographed without his shirt on, whether it’s jogging through Toronto or hiking in Quebec or photobombing a BC couple’s wedding shoot or, well, you get the idea… Call it a series of cynical photo-ops if you want, but future generations deserve to learn about the country’s first official Thirst Trap PM. (With apologies to Sir John A. McDonald, who historians have assured us was “a total snack.”)
The Invention of Ketchup Chips
All due respect to Frederick Banting — insulin is pretty great. But let’s be real here: that shit’s got nothing on ketchup chips, another all-time classic Canadian innovation.
The Racoon That Cracked Toronto’s Supposedly “Racoon-Proof” Garbage Bins
The noble beaver may be a proud Canadian symbol, and the loon’s got prime placement on our currency, but this guy started a veritable revolution. And I, for one, welcome our new trash panda overlords.
The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist
The story goes something like this: between 2011 and 2012, a crack team of smugglers infiltrated a Quebec cartel and made off with a score of over $18.7 million in pure, uncut… maple syrup. Following a cross-border investigation, over 17 men were arrested for the brazen, months-long heist that turned out to be an inside job. I’m not even joking here; this really would make for an amazing Heritage Minute. Or Steven Soderbergh movie.
That Time Meghan Markle Lived in Toronto for a Couple Years
The criteria for choosing the original Heritage Minutes went something like this: 1.) Is it an important, or overlooked, piece of Canadian history?, 2) Does it reflect and celebrate Canadian values?, and 3.) Will it provoke national reflection and re-examination? The criteria for determining this list was slightly simpler: Does it make me laugh to say “Part of our heritage” after it? As in: “When th Duchess of Sussex briefly lived in Toronto: Part of our heritage.” Yup. Put it on the board.
The IKEA Monkey
Terry Fox. Chris Hadfield. The IKEA Monkey. Three Canadian icons that captured the hearts and minds of the entire country. But only one rocked a shearling coat like a damn pro. It’s time Darwin got his due.
People like to abuse the term “the most Canadian thing ever,” but I think this might actually take the title. I’m not saying he deserves the Cross of Valour for ordering a double-double while riding a Zamboni, but at least give the man a Heritage Minute for doing Canada proud.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams Dating
For three glorious years, the Notebook stars reigned supreme as the ultimate Canadian power couple, taking the crown from Ryan Reynolds and Alanis. Unfortunately, like all good things, it came to an end in 2007. RIP McGosling.
Gord Downie’s Final Show
Honestly? This one’s just a good idea. A Heritage Minute about the beloved Tragically Hip frontman’s final concert in his hometown of Kingston would bring the house down.
Jimmy Getting Shot on Degrassi
It was the shot heard ‘round the world. The Canadian equivalent of “Who shot J.R.?” Maybe even the most significant moment in the history of Canadian television… Or maybe not. But without Wheelchair Jimmy, we may never have gotten Drake, which means we may never have gotten our chips with the dip. It’s like Canada’s very own version of the butterfly effect.