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Canada and the Canadian Question: 05/01/18

Canada and the Canadian Question

Since 2009 I have been regularly including reviews of Canadian books, primarily fiction and primarily children's fiction. I've been tracking my progress through the Canadian Book Challenge, originally hosted at the Book Mine Set and now by the Indextrious Reader. The challenge has been around longer than I've been participating in it, but 2009 marks the birth of my niece. Since she's Canadian and a child, I thought I should learn about the books she'd be growing up with and into.

Fast forward to 2017 — which marked the 150th anniversary of Canada becoming an independent nation (though still part of the Commonwealth and the separation was far more polite than what we went through). It was also the year that we expected to move to Kitchener but didn't because of a global job shuffling.

Back in January of 2017 as Canada was preparing for July 1st and I was preparing for an international move, I thought I should include some nonfiction into my mix. The goal was also to fast track our becoming citizens and you need to know a thing or two to do that.

An obvious starting point is Canada and the Canadian Question by Goldwin Smith which was written thirty years into Canada's foray into independence. It's a combined history and study into the questions: why did it become independent and should it have done so.

Now as a one hundred twenty-seven year old text it is itself an interesting historical snapshot of where Canada was and what its reputation was like at the time. It also shows its flaws and prejudices as well as the author's own biases.

First and foremost (and it's still true though maybe not as strong as it was), proper Canada from Smith's point of view was English Canada. That's not to say English descended Canadians or Canadians who speak English. English Canada means Toronto and the immediate surrounding areas of Ontario, though not necessarily the entire province.

English Canada also means Anglican. If you were Catholic, you shouldn't bother with Ontario. You should go to Quebec (even if you didn't speak French).

Then we get to the rest of Canada (which for the purpose of this book doesn't really include First Nations groups). Canada is just made up of European stock. Anyway, the rest of Canada is the uncivilized, unsettled rest of the great frontier, including the extremely isolated British Columbia. By Smith's accounts, you would have to be insane to want to cut yourself off from the rest of the world by distance and mountains.

By the time I got around to actually reading Canada and the Canadian Question I was already settled into a new house only two miles from where my move started. Since I wasn't going to move to Canada after all, I didn't read this book as closely as I otherwise would have.

Two stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Thursday, May 03, 2018 at 16:47:02

Jenna @ Falling Letters

Hah, sounds like an curious book to read with the benefit of hindsight.

Comment #2: Tuesday, May 08, 2018 at 21:24:00


It is. Although I though the author was a complete ass, I'm glad to have read the book.

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