The 15 Greatest Canadian Inventions

What an innovative nation, eh?

From snowblowers to Superman, Canadians can lay claim to some pretty great inventions. In celebration of this country’s 150th birthday we’re taking a look at some of the best inventions to come out of Canada or at the hands of Canadians.


Both hockey and lacrosse are considered to be Canada’s national sports. It might come as a surprise to some to learn that basketball was actually invented by a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith used peach baskets with the bottom cut out and a ball to keep young athletes active indoors during winter months.



Invented by Walter Chell in Calgary back in 1969, the Caesar has been a staple in hungover breakfast orders ever since. Typically a mix of vodka, clam juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, optional items like horseradish, olives, spicy green beans, and served in a celery salt-rimmed glass, it’s a uniquely Canadian alcoholic drink you won’t find in many other countries.


The electric wheelchair

Canadian engineer George Klein helped make the world more accessible back in 1952 with the technological innovations that would lead to the advent of the electric wheelchair.


Garbage bags

Canadian inventors Harry Wasylyk and Larry Hansen developed the first disposable green polyethylene garbage bag in 1950, which would later go into production at the Union Carbide Company in Lindsay, Ontario. Canadians have been filling the bags with Tim Horton’s coffee cups since the mid-1960s.



Hockey’s exact origins will be debated until the end of time, but the game as we know it today is rooted in Montreal, where the first indoor hockey game was hosted on March 3, 1875. Whatever the case, there’s no debate that Canada is the first nation to dominate the world in hockey.



In 1921 a team at the University of Toronto tested a new approach to preventing diabetes and regulating metabolism, led by Dr. Frederick Banting. It eventually led to the invention of insulin, and Banting and J.J.R. Macleod received the Nobel Prize for the breakthrough in 1923.


Nanaimo bars

The city of Nanaimo, British Columbia is so proud of this chocolate, wafer, and custard combo that it has the recipe for “The Legendary Nanaimo Bar” on its official website. The dessert has since been named Canada’s Favourite Confection in a country-wide survey and has made some guest appearances on the Tim Hortons and McDonalds menus as special Canadian menu items.


The paint roller

In an effort to save time on the job, Toronto native Norman Breaker glued fabric to a cardboard tube. Over 70 years later and the paint roller is the the most widely used commercial wall painting tool. Although the invention was quickly copied and produced by bigger companies, Breaker is the true father of the paint roller.

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Peanut butter

Peanut paste was originally marketed as a source of protein for people with no teeth. Over a century later and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg is to thank for 50% of the childhood classic, the PB&J. Whether you prefer chunky, smooth, or flavoured, peanut butter is a North American favourite that goes with just about everything.



Arthur Sicard of Montreal is the man to thank for making Canadian winters slightly more bearable for all of those who encounter a sidewalk or driveway in their morning commute. Sicard was inspired by agriculture machinery (and was probably sick of shoveling) when he started working on what was to become the world’s first snowblower in the late 19th century. Though it took over 30 years to perfect, the snowblower was worth the wait and is never without use when winter arrives.



The Man of Steel was co-created by a Canadian, Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster. Shuster, along with American writer Jerry Siegel, created Superman while they were still high school students in Ohio back in 1933. Many Canadians of a certain vintage will recall the Heritage Moment commercial that documented the creation of Superman.


the telephone

Another one subject to controversy…Alexander Graham Bell is credited with the invention of the telephone, having developed the technology in Canada. Bell was the first to register a patent for an “apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically,” after first sending unintelligible sounds across the wire and later, as legend has it, accidentally communicating with his assistant Thomas Watson. The working telephone as we know it was built in America, but there’s no discounting its roots north of the border.


Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit was the brainchild of Chris Haney and Scott Abbott who, after a few drinks, decided to invent their own board game. In this pre-internet era Trivial Pursuit was named, “the biggest phenomenon in game history” for its explosive popularity and pop culture relevance. Now there are countless versions of the game, from country music to Star Wars and everything in between.


The walkie-talkie

Canadian inventor Donald Hings is one of several people credited with the advent of the portable two-way radio during World War II. His work eventually led him to develop the walkie talkie, or “packset” as he initially called it. Used originally for military communication, Hings’ development went on to become one of the coolest toys you could get your hands on in the 1970s and 80s.


The Wonderbra

The Wonderbra was a saving grace for Canadian women who were tired of the painful wire contraptions and ill-fitting girdles on the market in the mid 20th century. Louise Poirier brought the Wonderbra to the forefront of the market with the promise of comfort and style, ultimately winning over customers and changing the lingerie industry as a whole.


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