From sea to shining sea, a chance to celebrate Canada, with no faux guilt or self-congratulatory fluff


National Post, 29 June 2017

Travelling across the immensity of Canada is a reminder of how relatively little of it belongs under man’s dominion

Soon upon driving into Pacific Rim National Park there is a roadside marker indicating the 49th parallel, a handy reminder that while that latitude serves as a metonym for the entire Canada-U.S. border, for most of us the 49th parallel is entirely in Canada, and we live south of it. The 49th parallel is only the border for the four western provinces. But even Victoria lies below it, as the 49thruns through Vancouver Island. Indeed, all the capital cities — save for Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg — lie below 49, even St. John’s, out at sea in the north Atlantic.

The 49th serves as a sort of counterweight to the maple leaf as a national symbol. Just as the 49th parallel has no practical meaning east of the Manitoba-Ontario border, maple trees are not found in any abundance west of it. Our national symbols are not really national; the country is simply too big. Even our national anthem is entirely different in English and French, and rather incoherent if sung bilingually.

What remains quintessentially Canadian is that we are a continental nation. In a certain sense, the confederation of 1867 was not complete until the transcontinental railway was built, the first great project of the new Dominion of Canada.

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