If you were a kid growing up in Canada in the 80s/90s, then you definitely remember watching more than a few Canadian Heritage Minutes. You know, those random commercials that would teach you about some piece of national history, remember? Exactly.
A couple of Heritage Minutes probably pop up in your brain first, but there's actually quite a large canon of the Canada-made pieces of media history. In fact, they're still being made, with the last Heritage Minute released this past February.
But not all Heritage Minutes are made equal. From incredibly cheesy to touching to simply strange, Heritage Minutes definitely range in quality, and because they're such an integral aspect of being Canadian, I thought I'd rank watch them all again from best to worst.
Of course, this is a very biased ranking system, with only my opinion (and my boyfriend, who, as an American, learned a lot about Canadian history) used as a point-system. So don't get in a miff if your favourite isn't ranked very high, just take in all the nostalgia of every single Canadian Heritage Minute which you can watch below.
82. Frontier College
Education is incredibly important and the work of these volunteer teachers definitely helped out the lives of those working in the Canadian Bush, but it doesn't make for the most captivating of stories. This Heritage Minute drags on quite a bit, and it's barely a minute so that says quite a bit.
81. Le Réseau
Here we have the origin of Bell Canada's domination over Canadian cell phone and cable TV packages. Yay? At least now we can all thank Thomas Eadie for making it all possible.
Defeating America (or just painting our southern neighbour in a bad light) is a common theme among Canadian Heritage Minutes. Unfortunately, the story of Bluenose makes for the least exciting tale of Canada overcoming the U.S., because boat races simply aren't that appealing anymore.
79. Saguenay Fire
Obviously dubbed with some of the worst voice actors ever (did anyone else want to murder that kid whining in the whole time?), this Heritage Minute also lost points for the overly dramatic music and rather poor editing.
78. J.S. Woodsworth
Despite the rather large repercussions from the creation of Canada's Old-Age Pension plan, what does this Heritage Minute really amount to? A bunch of white dudes talking around a desk. Colour me bored.
77. Responsible Government
A rather harsh reminder that Queen Victoria "let" Canada rule itself, and seemingly came up with the idea all on her own (with help from Lord Melbourne's mutton chops, of course), we can't help but see this as a rather inglorious moment in Canadian history. Important, yes, but not all that inspiring.
76. Valour Road
One of the more action-packed Heritage Minutes, Valour Road starts off strong, but then jumps around a bit too much from historical figure to figure. Not to mention the fact that the best parts of the story happen off-screen. I want to see Clark take out all those German soldiers!
75. Grey Owl
Yes, that is Pierce Brosnan playing the tole Archie Belaney/Grey Owl. How he popped up in a Heritage Minute is beyond me (and he's one of many random celebrities to appear), but it's nice to see a young Brosnan anyway. Back to the story itself: are we supposed to be proud of some guy pretending to be of First Nations descent? At least he did some good with the publicity, though.
It's pretty cool to see what the Canadian flag could have looked like, but couldn't they have told this story in a more dynamic way than some guy monologuing in a dark room? Looks like some low-budget one man show or something.
73. Joseph Casavant
Seeing the stories of lesser-known-but-still-important Canadians is one of the better aspects of Canadian Heritage Minutes, but lets be honest, Joseph Casavant's tale isn't exactly riveting. Sure, his time management skills were on point and his organs were world-renowned, but that doesn't equate to entertainment.
You would think that a Heritage Minute titled "Vikings" would actually feature more vikings. Instead we're treated to a rather trippy and strange ghost-like retelling of a native attack on a viking settlement which could have been cool to watch, except it all looks like it was done with cardboard cutouts.
71. Myrnam Hospital
The ending line of this Heritage Minute ruins the whole thing. Sorry, Alberta, but just because one community builds itself a hospital with gratis services does not mean you "started" free health care in Canada.
One could watch this Heritage Minute and see it as a commentary on our modern existence, how technologies that have cropped up in recent years has drastically changed our lifestyle in comparison to our parents and grandparents. And then, at the end, you hear the supposed-to-be-Itlian inventor Guglielmo Marconi speak with the thickest Quebecer accent and you can't help but remember how low budget this production is.
Before there was Bieber there was Tom Patterson, who first put Stratford on the map for the creative arts. Equating Patterson as the originator of festivals in Canada (even linking him to Montreal's JazzFest) is a bit much, though.
68. Jacque Cartier
If Jacque Cartier never listened to the creepy member of the Church in his posse (keep your eyes peeled for other clergy members throughout the Heritage Minutes, by the way, they never look on the level), Canada may not have bared its name today. Of course, that could have been a bit of historical embellishment, which is why this Minute lost some points, but it's cool to think about nonetheless.
67. John Cabot
Another one of those "important but not that interesting" moments in Canadian history, this Heritage Minute loses points simply because finding a bunch of fish isn't all that compelling.
66. Paul-Émile Borduas
Now we're getting into the more quality Canadian Heritage Minutes, although this one on Paul-Émile Borduas walks the fine line between creepy and compelling. I just can't shake the feeling that Borduas is about to murder some people, but that may be a stylistic choice given his frustration regarding the status of Quebec at the time.
65. Avro Arrow
Check it out, it's Dan Aykroyd! A favourite among many, and somehow the most often remembered, the Avro Arrow Heritage Minute loses points for not giving us the whole story. Why the hell did the government destroy all the prototypes!
64. Jean Nicollet
Poor, Jean Nicollet, you tried so hard to get to the Pacific Ocean and only made it Lake Michigan. More than a little funny, this Heritage Minute also gets points for showcasing the determination of North America's early explorers.
63. Maurice Ruddick
Incredibly compelling, I could easily see the story of Maurice Ruddick being turned into a feature film. The thing is, it would have been nice to have seen a legit reenactment of his story in this Heritage Minute, rather than just have the character give a brief rundown in a dark cave.
62. Andrew Mynarski
You might have thought Mynarski was kind of a douchebag at the beginning of this Heritage Minute, but you sure didn't by the end.
61. Juno Beach
Seeing a more personal, emotional perspective on the struggles of Canadian soldiers at Juno Beach is interesting, but it would have been nice if the entire regiment's accomplishments were showcased and not just Johnny Lombardi and his trumpet.
60. Joseph-Armand Bombardier
Yet another shockingly-poorly dubbed Heritage Minute (why weren't these just broadcasted in French with subtitles?), this Bombardier-centric story gets extra points for still being relevant today. I had no idea who started Bombardier before watching this.
59. Governor Frontenac
I really dug this look back into the Battle of Quebec despite its cheesiness, and it probably would have ranked higher on this list if not for the final line, which literally says "Frontenac beat off" the Americans. Poor choice of wording, to say the least.
58. Jacques Plante
Were Canadians taking crazy pills back in the day? Whoever would go out onto the ice and play as a goalie without a mask is simply insane, and the fact that people were opposed to helmets is even crazier.
57. Baldwin & LaFontaine
This Heritage Minute probably offers the best representation of Anglo-Franco tensions in early Canada better than any other, and I wish it focused more on that aspect of the story. Yes, LaFontaine running in Ontario was important, but just not quite as interesting, especially because we don't really learn how he and Baldwin helped form responsible government in Canada.
56. Pauline Vanier
Canada didn't do nearly as much as it could have during WW2 and helping displaced refugees, so it's nice to see this Heritage Minute showcasing this fact. Still, it would have been nice to see how Pauline Vanier actually helped refugees instead of just having good intentions.
55. La Bolduc
Mary Travers aka La Bolduc was a complete boss. Anyone who could thrive as an artist during the Great Depression deserves that title, no matter what anyone says.
54. Osborn of Hong Kong
One of the most well-constructed action sequences in the Heritage Minutes canon, the only downside to "Osborn of Hong Kong" is that it kind of leaves you feeling a bit depressed. Maybe that's the point.
53. The Paris Crew
Even though it's a little silly (and I already ripped on boat races) in comparison to some other Heritage Minutes, the higher production value of "The Paris Crew" gives it some points. Plus, the narrator actually notes how the uniform worn by Canada's athletes at the world rowing championship was more than a tad "absurd," which is a rare moment of self-awareness rarely seen in any Heritage Minute.
If you needed your heart strings tugged at, "Orphans" will do just that. My only question is, how did this Irish child learn French so quickly? Regardless, it's cool to see a nod to the Irish history of Quebec.
51. Maple Leaf Gardens
Maybe it's my inner-Torontonian who enjoyed this Heritage Minute so much, but regardless on your thoughts on the 6ix, the mash-up of vignettes towards the end of the production is a slick way of showcasing recent cultural history.
Canada simply wouldn't be Canada without a Heritage Minute devoted to our holiest of exports, magical maple syrup. Seeing how First Nations communities were integral to the formation of maple syrup farms and the originators of the practice itself makes for some solid edu-tainment, too.
49. Joseph Tyrrell
Somehow, the director of this Heritage Minute managed to make archeology seem gritty, intense, and suspenseful. Tyrrell's discovery of dinosaur bones does bolster the cool-factor too, but I can't help but think this Heritage Minute is more style than substance.
Canada and Winnie the Pooh share a pretty deep history, and it's great to finally get to discover why the bear is called "Winnie" at all. The "Pooh" part is a little less revelatory, as the Heritage Minute will show you.
47. Marshall McLuhan
Okay, so the media-studies geek in me gave this Marshall McLuhan-centered Heritage Minutes more points than others would. The very meta talking-to-the-audience thing at the end fits so well thematically, too, creating a fairly well-rounded minute of Canadian history.
46. Sir John A. Macdonald
One of the newer Heritage Minutes (you can tell from the production quality alone), there's a simple reason why this one didn't rank higher on the entire list: the cheese. Sorry to say, but the importance of Sir John A. Macdonald and the Charlottetown Conference is somewhat underscored by the sheer cheesiness of the overall tone of the piece, all bolstered by the incredibly cliche slow-clap at the end.
45. Sir Sandford Fleming
The role of the railroad in forming Canada as a nation is further bolstered in this Heritage Minute, though the real thing to take away is how a Canadian, Sir Sanford Fleming created the concept of Standard Time. And he did it all with a rocking beard.
44. Nat Taylor
I'm in love with this conception of Nat Taylor in this Heritage Minute, who always seems to have a cigar in his hand. I also can't get over the fact that the notion of multi-screen movie theatres was baffling in the 70s, something that is pretty much a standard for any cinema today.
43. Halifax Explosion
The tense music, the frantic screams, the disbelieving community; there's a lot working for this Heritage Minute focusing on the Halifax Explosion. With a bigger budget and a narrative less focused on a telegram, it may have ranked higher on this list, but that isn't to say the minute isn't well done.
42. Sitting Bull
At the forefront of this Heritage Minute is how Canadians treated First Nations peoples far more humanely than Americans. The ending narration goes back on that, and basically shows how Canada isn't any better. If only that was made a bit more explicit.
41. Rural Teacher
So much shade is thrown at Mr. Clarence from the guy with the beard, I simply couldn't not mention it. The tradition of Canadian female teachers overcoming the demands of men in the community and educating them is cool too, but it's all about that shade.
40. Mona Parsons
More than a few Heritage Minutes focus on some badass Canadian women, and this one on Mona Parsons is definitely a part of that collection. I only wish we got to see more of Mona Parson helping downed airmen and getting out of her "death by firing squad" sentence, but I guess there's only so much you can pack in a minute.
39. Louis Riel
Even though it starts off slow, the buildup is worth it. Showing Louis Riel hanged on television may be a lot to see, but it definitely showcases the struggles of the Métis in a very powerful way.
38. Maurice "Rocket" Richard
Seeing the man behind the legend of Maurice Richard and his personal struggle earns this Heritage Minute some major cred. The only downside is the rather unenthused narrator at the end who seems like he's just spitting out his lines as fast as possible.
The moustache and suspenders...wow, how the times have changed. Or maybe they haven't, because I don't think anyone would be surprised to see a Montrealer rocking that getup. Regardless of fashion choices, this places basketball directly into Canadian history, even though no one thinks of it as a Canadian game.
36. Hart & Papineau
Granted, this isn't exactly the most enthralling of Heritage Minutes, but it does focus on the very important topic of religious tolerance and persecution. And given how Canada is modernly seen as a haven for peoples of all creeds, it's a pretty important story in our nation's history.
35. Marion Orr
I simply adore how Marion Orr nonchalantly takes off her helmet after being called "sir" like three times, then just brushes off the compliments with a "no biggie, I'm just awesome like that" kind of demeanour. It's also kind of heartwarming to know Orr eventually did become Canada's first female flight school operator, we just would have liked to see more of her badass endeavours.
34. Richard Pierpoint
Pierpoint's exchange with the British army officer is pretty damn great, especially because Pierpoint totally puts him in his place by the end for being a complete ageist. Of course, the entire Heritage Minute is pretty interesting, too, highlighting a regiment in the 1812 not many know about.
33. Home from the War
Showcasing the horrors of war, even after the battles are done, is often unseen in pieces of media-history, especially when talking about veterans returning home. Usually the return is shown to be glorious and uplifting, so kudos to this Heritage Minute for demonstrating that it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.
32. Vimy Ridge
Mixing in primary sources with newly filmed footage, this Heritage Minute does a great job of streamlining all the visual segments. Combined with some narrated letters from soldiers and you get to view an equally horrifying and inspiring documentation of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Next to no Heritage Minutes include Inuit culture or history, so it's refreshing to see "Inukshuk" represent the community. And honestly, it was pretty informative, since most folks have no idea why the stone structures are erected.
30. Winnipeg Falcons
A hockey movie condensed into a single minute, "Winnipeg Falcons" covers a lot of emotional ground and is actually rather inspiring by the end. To be honest, it's the most I've been engrossed by hockey in a while.
29. Queenston Heights
Out of the many war movies that Hollywood has ever produced, none of them seem quite as heroic as the notion of 80 soldiers holding back thousands. Of course, America is the enemy in this narrative, so they probably wouldn't make a movie about it. Canada, here's your call to arms then, because a Queenston Heights movie would be great.
28. Water Pump
Two aspects of "Water Pump" really sold me on this Heritage Minute: the first being the whole 80s montage vibe to it, and the second for how it demonstrates that modern technology and scientists can still learn a lot from the traditions of various communities.
27. Les Voltigeurs de Quebec
The fact that "O Canada!" was first played on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec City utterly baffled me the first time I watched this Heritage Minute. My, how the times have changed. The tiny moment when the French Canadian band totally butchers the national anthem in a small act of defiance was pretty great, too.
My inner comic book nerd couldn't let this Heritage Minute fall too far down the list. But besides, it's interesting to see a decidedly American icon like Superman be placed into Canadian history.
It's really easy to hate the younger woman in this video, but that's only because the protagonist-midwife is such a complete soldier. I'm also a little curious as to which young kids saw this Heritage Minute and were completely baffled as to what was happening to that woman on the bed, which no doubt led to some baffled parents.
24. Emily Murphy
While I've already ripped on the stylistic choice of having a historical figure just talk at the camera for an entire minute, "Emily Murpy" pulls it off. Not only is the story super interesting, but the actress can actually act, creating a pretty compelling Heritage Minute despite its lack of action.
To a religion-and-myth geek like me, learning about an Iroquois legend was (and is) pretty cool. And yes, while the Heritage Minute can be described as cheesy, that's mostly because it's pretty damn old, and I actually give kudos to the makers for going full-on with the mystical aspects rather than trying to rein it back.
22. John McCrae
No one can deny the continued cultural importance of the poem In Flanders Fields, so it was pretty easy to place this Heritage Minute in the top 25. Getting to the horrors that inspired the poem definitely adds in some appeal, too.
The music, the camera angles, the actors; everything in this Heritage Minute combines to truly showcase just how much of a struggle it was to live in the Praries for early settles. Even though the content itself isn't that interesting, the way all the elements of this Heritage Minute combine to create a seamless narrative makes it earn its ranking.
Right when the mine worker says "that's the third one we lost this month" you get a sense of just how poorly Chinese workers were treated in Canada years ago. And while the Heritage Minute does end on a happy note, it's important in how it explicitly shows the rather racist viewpoints of Canadians in the 1880s.
19. John Humphrey
Montreal may be known for many things, but all too seldom is the great John Humphrey brought up. And as the writer of the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, at least this Heritage Minute is doing its part to have Humphrey's contributions to global society remembered by Canadians.
18. Étienne Parent
Few Heritage Minutes truly showcase the historical tensions between English and French Canadians living in Quebec, but "Étienne Parent" does a great job of providing viewers with a look into just how bad things were in the 1800s. How the piece links Parent to the Quiet Revolution is also a great way of how the past can inform the present, a fact seldom pointed out in most Heritage Minutes.
17. Sam Steele
You have to love the stark contrast between the rowdy, gambling American and the proper-and-refined Candian mountie Sam Steele in this Heritage Minute. America as the "other" is a running theme across Heritage Minutes, but the characterization is definitely most apparent in this one. I also kind of love how Steele has some unseen power over the American, who couldn't work up the gumption to shoot the unarmed Steele.
16. Sir George-Étienne Cartier
A major point of Heritage Minutes is to actually teach people about Canadian history, and while many offer small tidbits into Canada's historical narrative, "Sir George-Étienne Cartier" does a great job of providing an expansive (while still being informative and somewhat detailed) overview of confederation. The visual transitions are pretty slick too.
15. Nursing Sisters
After more than a few Heritage Minutes focusing on the contributions of men/soldiers in WW1, it's refreshing to see women represented and not in some glorified, idealistic light. "Nursing Sisters" shows that the women caring for wounded soldiers didn't have it any easier, dealing with hardship and violence like everyone else part of the war effort.
14. Agnes MacPhail
For taking a flog into the House of Commons, Agnes MacPhail should forever be remembered as a complete badass of Canadian history. Thankfully, her Heritage Minute proves that fact.
13. Lucille Teasdale
You may be noticing a trend of seeing female-centric Heritage Minutes near the top tier ranks of this list, and that's simply because Canada was home to some incredible women. Lucille Teasedale is but one of many, and her Heritage Minute pulls no punches in retelling her accomplishments and struggles. Not to mention the level of blood and gore, which is more than I've ever seen on what's supposed to be a segment between TV shows.
12. Jackie Robinson
Oh, the Expos, how we miss you. But enough about our forever lost baseball team, because while they may be gone, the legend of Jackie Robinson remains. It's also a point of city pride to see Montreal play a role in launching the career of the first black baseball player in major league history.
11. Nellie McClung
Don't mess with Nellie McClung is the lesson of this Heritage Minute, something Premier R.P. Roblin should have known long before he basically said she was a silly woman. But good thing Roblin did, because otherwise McClung may never have had the ambition to prove him wrong and fight for the right to vote, and win.
10. Laura Secord
Most may know Laura Secord as the brand of ice cream, but this Heritage Minute reminds us that the famous Canadian woman was also a total hero. Focusing on her harrowing journey rather than her triumphant act, the piece does a great job of highlighting how much Secord overcame to bring news of an American attack.
9. Tommy Prince
While giving credit to a seasoned veteran, "Tommy Prince" is also able to point out the struggles faced by First Nations communities in Canada, which has never been a well publicized fact. So while this Heritage Minute can be seen as a tad bit sad, I think that's the point and why it's one of the most effective in the canon to drive home a message.
8. Jennie Trout
I'm pretty sure the mutton chops on the professor in this Heritage Minute have a life of their own, but the story of Jennie Trout overshadows even their presence.
7. Emily Carr
More than a little introspective and trippy, "Emily Carr" will take your mind through a loop in the best way. This is also one of the few that actually features a Canadian artists, giving "Emily Carr" a bit more significance.
6. Underground Railroad
From start to finish, "Underground Railroad" takes you on an emotional journey, all while providing you with a pretty important piece in Canadian history. By the end, you can't but help but be relieved to see the family reunited, which goes to show how engrossed you can get in a single minute.
5. Expo 67
Okay, so as a blog about Montreal, we need to give some special status to all Heritage Minutes about Montreal. And while that's somewhat the case for "Expo 67," the piece also provides some pretty cool visuals of the fair itself. Plus, who knew that the excavated dirt from the metro network was used to expand Île Sainte-Hélène!
4. Wilder Penfield
If there's one quote every Canadian kid remembers from their youth spent watching Heritage Minutes, it's the classic "toast is burning!" Seriously, say this to anyone who grew up here and they'll instantly be washed with a wave of nostalgia. That fact aside, "Wilder Penfield" is also a solid Heritage Minute unto itself, and even goes as far as showing viewers some exposed brain.
3. Dextraze in the Congo
Intense and informative, "Dextraze in the Congo" is one of the few Heritage Minutes that will compel anyone, while also leaving them proud to be Canadian by the end.
2. Terry Fox
Well made, with a good message, and some original footage thrown in, "Terry Fox" is incredibly inspiring while also providing a more emotional characterization to a Canadian hero people only know for the Marathon of Hope.
1. Viola Desmond
The latest Heritage Minute also happens to be the greatest. Inspiring and heartbreaking, "Viola Davis" reminds Canadians that we haven't always been the racially-accepting nation we think we were, or are today. And no joke, Davis' final line straight up brought a tear to my eye.