Dan Aykroyd calls Canada ‘beacon in the world today’

TORONTO — Dan Aykroyd is uber Canadian.

The Oscar-nominated comedy star was born on Canada Day — July 1, 1952 — in Ottawa, no less. He was bilingual growing up, thanks to his French-Canadian mom. And before he hit the big time on “Saturday Night Live,” the criminology and sociology major worked for the federal government: at the Department of Public Works, with the Canadian Penitentiary Service, and Royal Mail Canada.

His father, an engineer from London, Ont., also worked for the federal government and was a Privy Council officer for then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. And his grandfather was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff sergeant.

“I am thoroughly, through and through, a Canadian,” the Emmy Award-winning actor, comedian, writer, producer and businessman said in a recent phone interview.

Fitting, then, that Aykroyd is the narrator behind a new three-part History documentary series about Canada’s great contributions to this world.

Airing this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, “The World Without Canada” explores an alternate reality in which the country and its inventions and innovations ceased to exist.

Experts highlight the benefits of Canada’s natural resources, technological and medical breakthroughs, and humanitarian efforts as dramatized scenes depict the global ripple effect if such contributions suddenly disappeared.

Aykroyd seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Canada’s accomplishments and is able to rhyme off a long list of them.

“But to me, really the most striking and meaningful and positive message about what Canada has accomplished falls in the human rights and peacekeeping aspect of our culture and our pursuits,” he said from California.

“Our country is made up of immigrants who have been welcomed…. That’s deeply ingrained in us — tolerance, understanding, compassion, acceptance of those who are different, and a welcoming spirit. And that really comes through in the documentary…. Canada is a beacon where hopefully some of the oppressed can flee to in time of distress.”

When he’s south of the border, Aykroyd — the co-writer and star of the first two “Ghostbusters” films — has been known to champion this country in various way. In 1995, for instance, he pushed for the Tragically Hip to get a coveted performance slot on “SNL” and introduced them onstage wearing a Canada-themed T-shirt.

“I’ve known them since the early ’80s and I’ve been great friends with the guys for a long, long time and supported them in everything they’ve done,” he said, adding he’s closest with drummer Johnny Fay.

“I’ve had the pleasure of actually playing with them onstage a couple of times and it just seemed logical.”

Asked which Canadian invention has had a major impact on his life, Aykroyd said: “The snowmobile. There’s nothing like a good old snowmobile race and especially ice and open-water snowmobile racing and grass drags. This is a big part of Canadian culture and I’ve had some fun on snowmobiles.”

Aykroyd said he’s developing several projects, including an animated ”Blues Brothers” TV series, for which he’s looking for a distributor.

“It’s a half-hour animated show where music is the star,” he said. ”We’re talking to a few people about that. We’re working with Bento Box (Entertainment). They do a show called ‘Bob’s Burgers.’”


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