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Entries in Canada 150 (2)

Wednesday
Mar152017

This Canuck Reads

I've not had time for a lot of reading other than school reading, but I do make an effort to read for pleasure. It makes being a student that much more enjoyable when we can relax with a book. This year, in light of Canada's 150th birthday, I have been reading Canadian fiction and non-fiction. So far, I have enjoyed a few.

Fiction:

The Break, Katharena Vermette:  Vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg. This is a brilliantly crafted story about interconnecting relations between Métis women in the north end of Winnipeg. 

The Birth House, Ami McKay: The story of a Nova Scotia girl who becomes a midwife. It is set in the early years of the 20th century. Someone told me later that it may have been on Oprah's reading list. I didn't pick it for that reason. I enjoyed it, but there were some anachronistic parts. 

The Way the Crow Flies, Anne-Marie MacDonald: A story of a young girl living on a military base in the London, Ontario area in the 70's. In the summer months, one of her classmates goes missing. The story also has multiple layers of relationships. 

Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan: Wonderful book by MacLennan set around the Halifax explosion in 1917.  MacLennan was a brilliant writer, and this was one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Non-Fiction:

Shattered City, Janet Kitz. A carefully compiled account of the Halifax explosion. I picked this up after reading Barometer Rising. Years ago, our family visited a museum in Halifax where there was a lot of information about the explosion. The chapter about what happened to the children was rather heartbreaking.

Just Started:

The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir, Joseph Augustus Merasty with David Carpenter:  The story of Canada's residential schools is not a pleasant one, much like many stories related to Canada's First Nations. The story of how Merasty collaborated with David Carpenter is just as interesting as the first couple chapters of Merasty's narrative.

Looking forward to:

The Orenda, Joseph Boyden: Although there has been some controversial accounts of Boyden's claim to aboriginal heritage (I have closer Métis ties than he claimed at one time), I love Boyden's writing. Looking forward to this one. 

Peace Shall Destroy Many, Rudy Wiebe:  I have read reviews of Wiebe's writing, and heard many others say how good it is. I'm going to find out for myself. This is the first of his novels. Another, Come Back, sounds very good. I read a review of it recently.

Vimy, Pierre Berton:  I have read many of Berton's books. I am drawn to Canada's history in the first few decades of the 20th century, inclding her war history.

Monday
Jan092017

Canada and the US: the difference was Victoria

I've been reading a book by the Canadian biographer and historian, Charlotte Gray. Gray is British by birth, but has spent her career in Canada, writing about her adopted country. Her book The Promise of Canada, was written in anticipation of Canada's 150th birthday. It is filled with stories of people who have contributed to Canada's history. In the opening chapter, she talks about some of the prominent figures of Confederation.

I loved high school history. When I was in my last year of high school, I took Canadian history, and the year's study focused a great deal on the differences between Canada and the United States. The teacher, Mr. O'Hearn, was one of my favourite teachers. I think he would endorse Charlotte Gray's observations about Confederation.

Unlike Amrerican independence, Confederation in Canada was achieved apart from the blaze of revolution. Confederation was not meant to permanently sever the link between Canada and England. Gray makes an interesting observation about how Confederation would have affected the ordinary Canadian:

The truth was that the central government was almost irrelevant to most people's lives. Citizens expected little from the new federal government in Ottawa: municipalities provided most policing; provincial governments administered most laws; people looked to churches and service clubs for charity. There was only one national symbol in the Dominion, and that was a symbol that resided elsewhere. In parlours across Canada, you would likely find a picture of Queen Victoria -- dumpy, unsmiling, but a crucial part of Canadian federalism. Loyalty to the distant monarchy was a defining difference between Canadians and Americans (emphasis mine).

I believe that last sentiment is an important part of understanding the differences between Canada and the United States. I think it would be a fascinating study to track the implications of that loyalty to the crown and see how those differences influenced Canada over its last 150 years.