100 Great Canadian Quotes

Leave it to Canadians to tell it like it is. Check out this collection of our favourite Canadian quotes of all time.

1 / 14
Michael J. Fox making a speech
Photo: drserg/Shutterstock

1. “Pity is just another form of abuse.” – Michael J. Fox, actor and activist

2. “If wine is fruit, then vodka must be a vegetable.” Jann Arden, singer-songwriter

3. “I believe in judging people and governments by results, not myths.” – Brian Mulroney, 18th Prime Minister of Canada

4. “I’m not that prolific. I’m just really old. Stuff has accumulated, like fluff under the bed, so that it seems like a lot.” – Margaret Atwood, novelist (Here’s what Margaret Atwood can’t wait to read next!)

5. “You can shed the past. You can’t shake it. But you certainly get new skin. You can grow and become stronger.” – Lesra Martin, lawyer

6. “The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.” – Glenn Gould, late pianist

7. “I think celebrity in all but exceptional cases of personal integrity and a measure of humility, always has a dark side.” – Linden MacIntyre, journalist

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Catherine O'Hara
Photo: Feature Flash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

8. “Even before you’ve earned it, treat yourself and your career with the level of respect that you hope to one day deserve.” – Catherine O’Hara, actress

9. “Taking drugs to enhance your performance isn’t a little white lie. It’s an egregious affront to the very foundation upon which sport is built.” – Adam van Koeverden, sprint kayaker

10. “The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons. We lived in three places – the school, the church and the skating rink – but our real life was on the skating rink.” – Roch Carrier, novelist

11. “I only use my iPhone as a camera. I don’t even know my number. I don’t belong to this modern world and I’m out of it, but I don’t want in.” – Joni Mitchell, singer-songwriter

12. “I don’t know what to say. I’m just a kid from Nanaimo who had a good band teacher and good parents, and I don’t know how I ended up here.” – Diana Krall, singer and pianist

13. “It’s the ordinary things that seem important to me.” – Alex Colville, late painter

14. “To me, science is just formalized curiosity.” – Chris Hadfield, astronaut (Here’s what Chris Hadfield has to say about what it means to be Canadian!)

3 / 14
Steven Sabados
Photo: CBC

15. “I don’t like the [phrase] “moving on” because you never move on: you just adapt. And you, in some ways, just survive. And you change.” – Steven Sabados, designer and television personality

16. “Canada is the essence of not being. Not English, not American, it is the mathematics of not being.” – Mike Myers, actor (Here’s what Mike Myers has to say about manners, Caesars and true patriot love!)

17. “Baking for me is like kitchen yoga: it’s what I do to relax.” – Anna Olson, chef and television personality

18. “If a caveman saw tennis or hockey or football or golf, he wouldn’t know what the heck was going on. But if he saw two guys fighting and throwing punches at each other, he’d understand that.” – George Chuvalo, former professional boxer

19. “Only make moves when your heart’s in it.” – Andrew Wiggins, NBA player

20. “To me, the fundamental tales of life are: do good, do the best you can and reach for the stars sometimes.” – Valerie Pringle, journalist

21. “I’m proud to be a happily married bisexual mother. Marriage is about love, not gender.” – Anna Paquin, actress

4 / 14
Xavier Dolan at the Cannes Film Festival
Photo: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock

22. “Everything we do in life, we do to be loved, to be accepted. I will make films my whole life, loved or not.” – Xavier Dolan, actor and director

23. “I’m kind of a Jewish atheist; I bathe in the racial beauty of Judaism, but I don’t really see what that has to do with a belief in God. The only time I pray is on the tennis court.” – Geddy Lee, rock musician

24. “I’m human. You’re human. We all go through the same doo-doo. No need for makeup, lights, action.” – Shania Twain, singer-songwriter (Check out what Shania Twain has to say about her latest album!)

25. “Without a function, we cease to be. So, I will write till I die.” – Farley Mowat, writer and environmentalist

26. “Take your voice to where it’ll be most effective.” – Buffy Sainte-Marie, singer-songwriter (Here’s how Buffy Sainte-Marie is making Canada a better place—for all of us!)

27. “You have to ask yourself, Am I building a birdhouse or a deck? Measure twice, cut once.” – Alistair MacLeod, novelist

28. “It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal.” – John Ralston Saul, philosopher

5 / 14
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Photo: Art Babych/Shutterstock

29. “Being real is not a strategy.” – Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Canadian First Lady

30. “I want to get into people’s bedrooms. I want to get into their cars. I want to get into their homes. I want to seep into their lives. I want to be their friend. I try to tell people, you’re not alone when you have music.” – Kevin Drew, rock musician

31. “My motto? Time spent laughing at yourself is time well spent.” – Jim Carrey, actor (Don’t miss the 70 funniest Reader’s Digest jokes of all time!)

32. “There’s nothing worse than things happening to you that you’ve planned. You want something that completely comes from the side to surprise you.” – Robert Lepage, playwright

33. “Does it pay to listen? Always.” – Arlene Dickinson, businesswoman and television personality (Here’s more great advice from the Dragon’s Den crew!)

34. “Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” – Stephen Leacock, late political scientist

35. “I know my tattoos are not for everybody. I don’t get them for everybody.” – Kaillie Humphries, bobsledder

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Kardinal Offishall
Photo: Stacey Newman

36. “A lot of times, people associate power with tyrants and dictators, but I think power can be a very positive thing if you can influence a generation and make a difference.” – Kardinal Offishall, rapper

37. “Storytelling in general is a self-discovery masquerading as entertainment. The best stories address the things that confound us the most.” – Jason Reitman, director

38. “You know what they say: Dying is easy, comedy’s hard.” – Jason Priestley, actor (Psst—did you know Jason Priestley has a donut named after him? Here are 10 crazy Tim Hortons facts you never knew!)

39. “Every time I fall in love, I become absolutely, pathologically obsessed. The moment that you have what you want, and you’re not totally ready for it, you become obsessed with the idea that you don’t deserve it.” – Sara Quin, singer and multi-instrumentalist

40. “The leadership role is really to build the riverbanks and let the water flow freely.” – Bonnie Brooks, vice-chairman of Hudson’s Bay Company

41. “Sleep is like my cat. I can call him by his name, but he still won’t come to me.” – Shane Koyczan, spoken word poet

42. “Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” – William Gibson, writer

7 / 14
Gord Downie on stage
Photo: Paul McKinnon/Shutterstock

43. “A great song’s greatest attribute is how it hints at more.” – Gord Downie, rock musician

44. “Climate denial is not just about denying the science; it’s about denying the urgency of the science.” – Naomi Klein, author and activist (Scary fact: Here are 13 islands that won’t exist in the next 80 years.)

45. “When you behave well toward somebody regardless of what you’re receiving, you feel better about yourself. So be decent to people.” – Joshua Jackson, actor

46. “It’s ultimately about the tension between commitment and desire. That, I really think, is at the centre of the drama of all adult life.” – Shad, rapper (Check out our countdown of the top 25 Canadian albums of all time.)

47. “We’re all privileged, but I think an awareness of that is important, and we don’t just start accepting the fact that that’s the norm.” – Daniel MacIvor, actor

48. “You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle, any kind of motorcycle!” – Dan Aykroyd, actor and comedian

49. “Just because you’re able to do something doesn’t mean it fulfills you.” – Evangeline Lilly, actress

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Photo: Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

50. “My old mentor once told me: if you find yourself too comfortable, move.” – Victor Garber, actor

51. “Make more time for yourself: simplify, unplug and really focus on living in the present.” – Karen Kain, retired ballet dancer

52. “I don’t really feel like I want to chase youth. I want to get old. I want to experience all the seasons of my life.” – Pamela Anderson, actress, model and activist

53. “Hockey is our winter ballet and, in many ways, our only national drama.” – Morley Callaghan, late novelist (New to the good old hockey game? Check out our ultimate guide to hockey lingo!)

54. “I’m starting to think my inner life is 75 per cent grocery lists.” – Samantha Bee, television host

55. “Read something that upsets your worldview, that makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable.” – Esi Edugyan, novelist

56. “The constant happiness is curiosity.” – Alice Munro, Nobel Prize-winning short story writer

9 / 14
Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock

57. “One time I was in a casting meeting, and my shoe flew into the casting director’s face. She ducked. I remember her saying, ‘Well, I won’t forget you.'” – Coco Rocha, model

58. “Part of the reason I improvise is I love not really working hard.” – Colin Mochrie, comedian (Don’t miss these 10 great jokes from Canadian comedians!)

59. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog in the fight that matters.” – Maurice Vechon, late professional wrestler

60. “Moral courage is a concept that isn’t talked about but is always noticed by its absence.” – Sally Armstrong, journalist

61. “Twitter isn’t real. There’s no gauge on real life on Twitter. That’s a terrible medium to exist in. You can enjoy it. You can even indulge in it. Just don’t live life by that weird code.” – Drake, rapper

62. “I think reconciliation with indigenous people remains the biggest social justice issue facing the country, because we don’t do a good job of acknowledging the contributions native people have made. This is not just a country of immigrants.” – Wab Kinew, politician and broadcaster (Here’s what Wab Kinew has to say about Canada Reads, dream interviews and what it’s like to hear Paul McCartney address you by name.)

63. “One of the luxuries and requirements of a country like Canada is that we need to be engaged.” – Joe Clark, former politician and statesman (Don’t miss the 10 things you can’t say to a Canadian.)

10 / 14
Photo: Jaguar PS/Shutterstock

64. “Who the hell wants to be happy all the time?” – Christopher Plummer, actor

65. “Chopping carrots has literally brought me around the world, twice.” – Chuck Hughes, chef and television personality (Don’t miss Chuck’s recipe for tomato pie with herb salad—it’s seriously drool-worthy!)

66. “It’s difficult to learn from success. I’ve learned more from my mistakes.” – Louise Penny, author (Here are 10 Canadian books you need to read now!)

67. “You have far more power as a citizen than you do as a consumer.” – Carol Off, journalist

68. “Let me ask you: Would you be happy if all your emails were made public?” – Janice Gross Stein, political scientist

69. “Falling in love helps with depression. And so does drumming.” – Serena Ryder, singer-songwriter

70. “Life is challenging, and I’d say that there is no guidebook – but there’s about a million guidebooks out there. All people have been doing since the dawn of time is trying to figure out how to live this life and be happy.” – Will Arnett, actor

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Celine Dion performing live
Photo: JStone/Shutterstock

71. “I shake my husband’s hand and knock on wood with him every night, before every show. Even after he’s gone, I still talk to him.” – Celine Dion, singer

72. “Legitimately, the meanest thing you can do to a person is to land a plane and then not let them off it.” – Debra DiGiovanni, comic

73. “One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes we don’t realize how strong we actually are.” – Malin Ackerman, actress

74. “We seem to be so hard set in what we call our principles, which are not so much our principles but our prejudices. Let’s try to get beyond that.” – Alex Trebek, television host (Don’t miss these five secrets of a Jeopardy! whiz.)

75. “Just received a text that started with ‘Good afternoon, Mr. Buff…’ and I gotta say… I did not hate it.” – Brent Butt, actor and comic

76. “We can’t dream our way out of oppression.” – David Chariandy, writer

77. “Running is a great way to multi-task. You can get in a workout, but you can also help clear your mind.” – Brendan Brazier, athlete and author

Don’t miss our great Canadian bucket list: 25 essential experiences in the Great White North!

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Jann Arden
Photo: Shawn Goldberg/Shutterstock

78. “If your’e going to get out there and not be prepared to fail, you’re missing out in life. Failure is half the fun.” – Jann Arden, singer-songrwriter

79. “Exploration is not something you retire from. It is a part of one’s life ethic.” – Roberta Bondar, astronaut and neurologist

80.  “Really, the best way to celebrate 25 years of being in a band is to start another year of being in a band.” – Ed Robertson, musician (Here are 10 essential tracks for the ultimate Canadian road trip playlist!)

81. “Pay attention to yourself. Build on who you are. Become a whole person. Enjoy life.” – Andrea Bain, television host and author

82. “I got asked once if we use lighter pucks. I won’t tell you who asked me that. It was someone very famous—and a hockey player, too.” – Natalie Spooner, ice hockey player (Don’t miss our guide to pronouncing 15 of the NHL’s most tongue-twisting hockey player names!)

83. “Every school has bullies, but there’s not just one main bully. Everyone can be rude and everyone can be kind.” – Jacob Tremblay, actor (Check out more wise words from the mouths of babes.)

84. “The best poetry jolts and shocks; it mines language for what we have not seen, have not heard.” Dionne Brand, poet

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Ellen Page at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
Photo: BAKOUNINE/Shutterstock

85. “Making someone feel ashamed of who they are is a cruel manipulation, designed to oppress and repress.” – Ellen Page, actress

86. “We shouldn’t forget to be happy about celebrating who we are and what we’d like to become.” – Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada and astronaut (Looking for more words of wisdom? Here are 17 great pieces of advice from epic graduation speeches!)

87. “I don’t know if I have charisma or not. I just keep changing. But I know I can’t sing, okay?” – Neil Young, singer-songwriter

88. “History is an awful lot more than statues and names on buildings. If it was that easy to erase, we’d all be in trouble.” – Malcolm Gladwell, journalist (Here are 22 lessons your history teacher lied to you about!)

89. “I was planning on starting my diet this week. But I have too much on my plate.” – Ron Sexsmith, singer-songwriter

90. “Obviously I enjoy being well received or successful, but my goals aren’t for other people to know about, they’re for me.” – Lynn Crawford, chef (Check out these 10 easy Lynn Crawford recipes you can make at home!)

91. “If I had the choice—which I do not—I would choose better political conditions and literary obscurity.” – Margaret Atwood, writer

92. “We limit what we set out to do by what we convince ourselves is realistic. But I believe in possibilities, and sometimes we have to redefine what is realistic.” – Heather Moyse, athlete

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Dan Aykroyd
Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

93. “I’m sorry I live in the greatest country in the world. I’m sorry! I’m sorry, but Canadians apologize so much because we know we’re the greatest. Sorry!” – Dan Aykroyd, actor

(Don’t miss our countdown of 13 reasons it’s great to live in Canada!)

94. “Don’t worry, folks. As long as the sun is revolving around the earth, we’ll be fine!” – Jim Carrey, actor

95. “Getting pregnant is the only celebratory life event you can’t immediately celebrate.” – Jessi Cruickshank, television host (Don’t even think about saying these 10 things to a pregnant woman!)

96. “The wonderful thing about this country is that we don’t shy away from debate and discussion.” – David Johnston, former Governor General of Canada

97. “Science is one of the few institutions remaining that seeks the truth.” – Bob McDonald, journalist

98. “I know less now that I ever did about how life is supposed to go. It’s relaxing.” – Leslie Feist, singer-songwriter

99. “It takes me as long to find the right file for an email attachment as it used to to write a letter longhand and send it through Canada Post.” – Steve Patterson, comic and radio host

100. “I’m really just a lucky old farm boy… All I ever wanted to do was stick around for a while, but as time went by, I decided I’d play 20 years.” – Gordie Howe, hockey legend

Don’t miss the 70 life lessons we’ve learned from Reader’s Digest!

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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