O Canada


Canada: Geography


Goldwin Smith, Canada and the Canadian Question, 1891 [Carl Berger editor, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1971], p. 4-5.


WHOEVER WISHES to know what Canada is, and to understand the Canadian question, should begin by turning from the political to the natural map. The political map displays a vast and unbroken area of territory, extending from the boundary of the United States up to the North Pole, and equalling or surpassing the United States in magnitude. The physical map displays four separate projections of the cultivable and habitable part of the Continent into arctic waste. The four vary greatly in size, and one of them is very large. They are, beginning from the east, the Maritime Provinces - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island; Old Canada, comprising the present Provinces of Quebec and Ontario; the newly-opened region of the North-West, comprising the Province of Manitoba and the districts of Alberta, Athabasca, Assiniboia, and Saskatchewan; and British Columbia. The habitable and cultivable parts of these blocks of territory are not contiguous, but are divided from each other by great barriers of nature, wide and irreclaimable wildernesses or manifold chains of mountains. The Maritime Provinces are divided from Old Canada by the wilderness of many hundred miles through which the Intercolonial Railway runs, hardly taking up a passenger or a bale of freight by the way. Old Canada is divided from Manitoba and the North-West by the great freshwater sea of Lake Superior, and a wide wilderness on either side of it. Manitoba and the North-West again are divided from British Columbia by a triple range of mountains, the Rockies, the Selkirks, and the Golden or Coast range. Each of the blocks, on the other hand, is closely connected by nature, physically and economically, with that portion of the habitable and cultivable continent to the south of it which it immediately adjoins, and in which are its natural markets - the Maritime Provinces, with Maine and the New England States; Old Canada, with New York and with Pennsylvania, from which she draws her coal; Manitoba and the North-West, with Minnesota and Dakota, which share with her the Great Prairie; British Columbia, with the States of the Union on the Pacific. Between the divisions of the Dominion there is hardly any natural trade, and but little even of forced trade has been called into existence under a stringent system of protection. The Canadian cities are all on or near the southern edge of the Dominion; the natural cities at least, for Ottawa, the political capital, is artificial. The principal ports of the Dominion in winter, and its ports largely throughout the year, are in the United States, trade coming through in bond. Between the two provinces of Old Canada, though there is no physical barrier,. there is an ethnological barrier of the strongest kind, one being British, the other thoroughly French, while the antagonism of race is intensified by that of religion. Such is the real Canada. Whether the four blocks of territory constituting the Dominion can for ever be kept by political agencies united among themselves and separate from their Continent, of which geographically, economically, and with the exception of Quebec ethnologically, they are parts, is the Canadian question.