In anticipation of Canada’s 2017 sesquicentennial, a breezy year-by-year survey of its history.
MacLeod takes a consciously multicultural approach, highlighting both highlights and lowlights. The first game of indoor hockey (1875) is celebrated, as is the discovery of gold in the Yukon (1896) and the birth of the Dionne Quints (1934). Likewise, Treaty No. 7, the 1877 appropriation of much of what is now Alberta, and discrimination against the Chinese, 8,000 of whom arrived in 1882 to help build the railways, are duly noted. When Canada’s history intersects with world history, the book leaves North America, as in the span from 1914 to 1918, which also includes a profile of “In Flanders Fields” poet John McCrae, a sidebar on trench life, and the invention of the gas mask (by Newfoundlander Cluny Macpherson in 1915). Though the format is limiting, it’s a surprisingly effective tour that gets at both parochial Canadian culture (“1955: Fans riot over Maurice Richard”) and its too often overlooked impact on international affairs, as with Lester B. Pearson’s part in resolving the Suez crisis. Still, for all MacLeod’s admirable attention to Canada’s problematic history with First Nations peoples and minorities, it doesn’t get at the constant Anglophone-Francophone tension that has defined Canada from its inception, largely sidestepping it until the 1968 emergence of the Parti Québecois. Smith’s brushy vignettes include both people of color and white figures as appropriate.
Both revelatory and entertaining, though not without its gaps. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)