Going Out

SO CANADIAN: New website sells collectors on the accomplishments and eccentricities of the Great White North

This story appears in the Winter edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands or order your online edition.

Josh Fine can find no definitive list of Canada’s icons — those things that we, as Canadians, can agree are “definitely Canadian.” He and his father, Ray, have set out to rectify the situation, launching the website Canadianicons.ca as an online exhibit that rejoices in, and tells the stories of, Canada’s national treasures. And — bonus — if browsers like what they see, they can purchase a bit of that Canadian cool. By Matt Harrison

Josh Fine and his dad Ray (not shown) created a website for all things "Canadian." Photo by Dwayne Brown.

How did the idea for this online exhibit come about?
For the past 10 years, I’ve been marketing and distributing Canadian items abroad. I realized that people weren’t buying these items just because they’re exceptionally made. They were also buying them because of their history.

You call your website “an online curated exhibit.” What are the criteria you use to determine Canadian icons?
While we seek to represent different geographies and cultures in Canada, there’s nothing definitive. We see it as a kind of living exhibit that we can continue to add to as people approach us with items and a desire to share their stories.

Were there any items that you had difficulty deciding whether to include?
At the start, we had lists of hundreds of items. There were iconic things like the hockey stick, which was not included because it isn’t a Canadian invention although it’s become a symbol of Canada.

What is the most significant icon?
I wouldn’t say any one icon is more or less significant, but I’m personally connected to mukluks, the parka, and the culture of Aboriginal people of Canada. When we speak about defining “what is Canadian,” we’ve got to go back thousands of years before Confederation. (more…)