I Didn’t Know That They Still Made Heritage Minutes, but Now I’m Crying at My Desk

The new spot is perfect for Pride.

If you grew up in Canada in the 90s, you remember Heritage Minutes. They were those little mini dramas that re-enacted important, if forgotten, moments and figures in Canadian history. Off the top of my head, without so much as a Google search, I think I could probably describe like 5 of them—and that’s not including the parody ones that the nascent Comedy Network made.

Let’s see:

There was the one about young women teachers in the 1800s, the climax of which saw the teacher—who was in some kind of trouble—totally own one of the men at the table by asking him to read a passage from the Bible that his kid had read that morning. “You all know I cannot read a word…” Canada: a history of women literacy-shaming misogynists going all the way back to confederation.

There was the one about Superman, because Joe Shuster was Canadian. “You never know, it might be worth something someday,” Shuster says as his train pulls away, and his cousin unfolds a rough sketch of what would become the Man of Steel while familiar horns played faintly. That one was my favourite. Canada: Helping Americans change the world since, well at least since the 40s.

Oh, speaking of women: there was the lady doctor one, where the two women medical students stormed out of their lecture after pulling away the leaf someone had attached to a medican dummies penis. You know, because lady folk couldn’t deal with male genitalia. Canada: a history of women rolling their eyes at dude bros who think they are funny.

Now they are getting a little hazy.

There was the one where the explorers mistranslate an Indigenous person welcoming them to their village called Canada, teaching a generation of kids that our country’s name was essentially a goof. There was the one about epilepsy and brain surgery where the lady shouts, “I smell burnt toast. I smell burnt toast!” (Though, without the benefit of Google, I’m starting to doubt whether that one really existed, or if I made it up). And then there was the one where the Grandfather told his young grandson about how spirits were locked in trees? Really, the main thing I remember from that one was the Reboot-level of CGI.

Anyway, apparently they are still making these little tear-jerkers. The newest one is about Jim Egan, a gay activist who challenged homophobia way back in the late 40s, and who eventually got the Supreme Court to include sexual orientation as a protected class in the charter of rights and freedoms. And maybe it’s the depiction of an old gay couple, or maybe it’s the thought of it taking until 1995 for Egan to get a win, but I definitely teared up watching it.

Our country isn’t perfect, but we have some pretty great commercials.