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Canada Known & Unknown

July 2024
2min read

We devote nearly half of this issue of AMERICAN HERITAGE to Canada. If we are asked Why? or Why now? we must reply that there are almost more reasons than we have space to print them in. Canada, approaching the hundredth anniversary of Confederation in 1967, is in ferment. It is a bundle of paradoxes. Loyal to the British Crown, Canadians are nonetheless insistent on complete control of their own affairs. They prefer the word “sovereignty” to what we would call “independence,” and anyone who thinks this is casuistry should have heard the pipe bands and the rolling cheers with which Toronto recently welcomed the Queen Mother. Two sharply defined national, or at least linguistic, groups, French-speaking and English-speaking, proclaim their search for “identity.” There is, one hears, a “Silent Revolution” going on among the French-Canadian separatists, but the silence is punctuated by exploding bombs. Meanwhile, all Canadians seem to worry about being swallowed up by the huge republic to the south—most of whose citizens are not even aware that they constitute a menace.

If the Americans have any view of Canada at all, it is generally that reflected in the affectionate satire on the two preceding pages, drawn for us by Michael Ramus. Here is the familiar Northland of the movies, where the Mountie (played by Nelson Eddy) always gets his man. It is a dream world where redcoats still parade, bootleggers replenish their stocks, all the explorers are named for automobiles, and Evangeline never dries her tears. It is a good, stirring set of misconceptions, in which we take great pride.

The country behind the ferment and the misconceptions is examined in this issue by an eminent Canadian author, Hugh MacLennan, anil further studied in a portfolio of paintings, prints, and photographs assembled from a wide variety of sources in that country. We believe Mr. MacLennan will deeply affect those who take Canada for granted, and we think that the pictures will also prove surprising.

Canada—vast, enormous Canada, stretching from ocean to ocean to ocean—is in many ways our twin. There are so many familiar scenes—explorers in the wilderness, immigrants, Indians, plainsmen, raw cities going up, golden spikes completing transcontinental railroads. But there is sometimes a mirror image, in which our defeats are Canadian-British victories, as in the War of 1812. There are also strong contrasts: the melting pot in America and the very much unmelted French in Canada; the widely separated roads the two nations took to self-government.

In the study of American history as it is carried on south of that now (but not always) peaceful border, Canada figures prominently during the first two centuries. Cartier, La Salle, Montcalm, Wolfe, and similar names march through the pages. Then, when our independence is won in 1783 and sealed in 1815, the American eye strays away. There are some half-forgotten border incidents. A few slaves escape to Canada along the Underground Railroad. In the two great wars, you can go to Canada if you want to get into the fight early. The Canadians are very brave, especially at Vimy Ridge. In the twenties you can get a drink across the border. The place is run by the King—or is it Mr. King?

It is all a rather hazy picture. The article that begins on page O is intended to clear away a considerable amount of mist.

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