Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative
April 30, 2017

 

One evening this past week I was at an historical society meeting and out of the blue someone asked, "should they remove Begbie?" I knew what she meant and answered, abruptly, No. Sometimes we find out what we think without thinking.

For those of you who missed it, Begbie is Matthew Bailey Begbie, original Chief Justice of British Columbia, and the reference to removal is a decision taken by the Law Society of BC a few days ago to remove the statue of Begbie that has been...

April 13, 2017

Let's indulge in some counterfactuality.

Recently I was doing some house-sitting in Kitsilano, which gave me a chance to visit some of that neighbourhood's historic sights, one of which is here

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on the beach at the bottom of Trafalgar Street, looking across English Bay at the West End.

As you can see, there isn't much there. Now. But at one time the Canadian...

April 11, 2017

This past weekend was the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and I found myself getting irritated at the number of times I heard the old cliche that Canada was born at Vimy.

Much of the journalistic and academic commentary I read about the centennial made the point that this was not true, but nonetheless the generals and the politicians repeated it like a mantra. "Canada was born here," our prime minister said in his speech at the Vimy monument in France.

In their new book...

March 22, 2017

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Next Tuesday, March 28, I am giving a talk about prohibition, sponsored by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Details are here.

You'll note that the event takes place at Hycroft, a fabulous mansion completed in 1911...

March 15, 2017

I recently prepared a short entry for the Canadian Encyclopedia about the Last Spike and I realized once again how important a single nine-day stretch in November 1885 was in the history of the country.

As you know, the Last Spike marked the conclusion of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The company held a modest ceremony at Eagle Pass not far from Revelstoke in the British...

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