Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


January 20, 2014

In the latest issue of Geist magazine (#91) my regular column looks at two new books about the fetishization of the canoe in our national mythology.

The books are Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: the Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalism by Misao Dean and Bruce Erickson's Canoe Nation: Nature, Race and the Making of a Canadian Icon.

"The virtue of these two new books is that...

January 14, 2014

Back in November the history department at Simon Fraser University sponsored an interesting panel discussion about Trudeaumania, past and present. You can watch it here.

It brought to mind my own brush with Pierre Trudeau back in the federal election of 1968. (I recently recalled this incident in a talk at Carleton University as one of the events which awoke in my younger self a dormant interest in Canada as a subject of...

January 6, 2014

Here we are, just a few days into the centennial year of World War One and already shots are being fired in the History Wars.

In Britain, the education secretary, Michael Gove, got off the first round, urging the commemoration of the war and dissing those "left-wing" historians who, he claimed, are misrepresenting the real meaning of the conflict, which...

December 24, 2013


Santa Claus (aka Canada Post) brought a wonderful Christmas present to my door this morning: a copy of Arvik! In Pursuit of the Bowhead Whale, hot off the presses.

Arvik! is a new book from the Avataq Cultural Institute, a Montreal-based organization devoted to promoting the culture of the Inuit...

December 17, 2013


The Big Idea in Canadian history circles in 2013 was probably the Warrior Nation.

It popped up most provocatively in the 2012 book by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift, Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety, but it also figures in the complaints about the federal government's War of 1812 commemorations and the reconceptualizing of the Canadian Museum of Civilization as the new Canadian Museum of History.

I wrote about this issue in a...