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10 surprising facts about communication in Canada

  • Dec 22, 2014
  • 702 words
  • 3 minutes
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Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing a selection of my favourite stats and feats from my new book Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures (in stores now!). If you enjoy trivia, particularly Canadian trivia, or have a particular fascination with Canadian facts and accomplishments, you’ll surely enjoy my book. In the hopes of further capturing your interest, I’ve been sharing a top-10 selection of items from each category that particularly stood out for me. This week: communications.

1. Alexander Graham Bell was a man of many firsts, not the least of which was making the first one-way long-distance telephone calls between the Ontario communities of Brantford and Paris, and Mount Pleasant and Brantford, on August 10, 1876. Bell received that first call from Brantford in Robert White’s Boot and Shoe Store and Telegram Office in Paris.

2. Who doesn’t know the phone number 911 and what it’s for? But did you know that Winnipeg was the first city in North America to implement a central phone number to contact emergency services? The number (the city used 999 at the time) was introduced on June 21, 1959, at the suggestion of Winnipeg mayor Stephen Juba. Most of North America adopted 911 as the emergency contact number on June 22, 1975.

3. Seems as though the impression that all the top musical acts on the radio are Canadian isn’t so new. Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden, born in Knowlton, Quebec, made the first public broadcast of music and voice on December 24, 1906. The broadcast, from Fessenden’s headquarters in Brant Rock, Massachusetts, included a Bible passage, a phonograph recording of Handel and a performance of “O Holy Night” on the violin by Fessenden himself.

4. Fessenden (see previous) is also credited with the first achievement in the creation of what is now radio. On December 23, 1900, he sent the world’s first wireless transmission of a human voice at Cobb Island, Maryland. The signal, sent via electromagnetic waves, travelled about 1.5 km.

5. The first commercial radio station in Canada, and some argue, in the world, was XWA Montreal (subsequently known as CFCF, CIQC and AM940). It hit the airwaves in 1919. The first broadcast: “Hello! Hello! This is wireless telephone station XWA at Montreal. Hello! Hello! How are you getting this? Is it clear? Is the modulation okay? XWA at Montreal is changing over.” The station stopped broadcasting in January 2010.

6. Doesn’t it figure that the first broadcast on Canadian television would include a weather update? Canada’s first television station, CBC’s CBFT Montreal, debuted on September 6, 1952. The first broadcast included the flickering test pattern of an Indian surrounded by a geometric design (broadcast upside down!), followed by a news item on two men who had just robbed a bank, a puppet show (Uncle Chichimus), and then, finally, a weather report with meteorologist Percy Saltzman.

7. It was a humble beginning, but an important one. Printed on half a foolscap sheet, Canada’s first newspaper debuted on March 23, 1752. The day’s edition of the Halifax Gazette boasted news from Europe, Britain and the other British colonies to the south.

8. The Montreal Gazette is the nation’s oldest continuously operating newspaper and one of the oldest in North America. Founded by Fleury Mesplet as a French paper in 1778, the paper became bilingual in the late 1700s, then changed to English-only in 1822. Today, the Gazette is the dominant newspaper for reaching English speakers in Montreal.

9. The Toronto Star is the nation’s largest daily newspaper. Established as The Evening Star on November 3, 1892, the paper now has more than three million readers every week (in print and online). Its weekday editions are circulated to nearly 350,000 people, while its Saturday paper reaches more than 470,000 readers.

10. Harlequin Romance, one of the world’s leading publishers of books for women (it has sold an estimated 6.28 billion books since its inception), was founded in May 1949 in Winnipeg. In 1969, the company relocated to Toronto, where today it publishes more than 110 titles a month in 34 languages, which are sold in 110 countries on 6 continents.


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