Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Canada Invaded

November 24, 2015


Thanks to this article by Robert Everett-Green in the weekend Globe and Mail, I was reminded that this autumn/winter is the 240th anniversary of the unsuccessful invasion of Canada by American troops led by Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery.

The Americans occupied Montreal for seven months and on New Year's Eve, 1775, tried to capture Quebec City. If they had succeeded, Canada may well have become the 14th American colony. But they didn't, so we didn't.

The reason I feel nostalgic about this event is that an article I wrote about it forty years ago was the first piece of mine that was ever published. It appeared in the Weekend Magazine on October 4, 1975 (see cover photo above) and I've added it to my journalism page for old time sake.

Weekend was an illustrated Saturday supplement which used to appear with the major daily newspapers from the 1950s to the 1980s. This particular issue, aside from my historical article and a selection of Thanksgiving recipes, featured several articles on Quebec politics, including one by the not-yet-premier of the province, Rene Levesque, in which he predicts that an independent Quebec is pretty much a certainty.

This is the only time that Rene Levesque and I appeared in print together.

November 19, 2015

Back in May The Economist magazine got up our noses here in Vancouver by declaring our city "mind-numbingly boring." How could they say such a thing, we fumed? What about the mountains? the bike lanes? the sushi? Weren't we Paris by the Pacific?

However, The Economist had a point. If the city  itself is not boring, its obsession with real estate is. Vancouver was created as the result of a huge real estate deal -- the grant of land to the Canadian Pacific Railway in...

November 17, 2015


What better way to spend a sunny, blustery Sunday than to go in search of historic sights? Which is why my companion and I were down along the Fraser River trying to get a look at the remains of the old Celtic Cannery, all in aid of a history of Vancouver upon which I have set sail. The original buildings still exist, though they are behind a fence on private...

November 11, 2015

For Remembrance Day, here are a trio of previously-published pieces about books related to war.

1. An essay on the Warrior Nation.

2. A note on an early Great War Novel.

3. The definitive two-volume history of Canada's participation in World War One.

November 4, 2015

Vancouver's current frenzy of real estate speculation is no secret so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, driving along Burrard Street on the weekend, to discover that a hole in the ground has replaced one of the city's well known business establishments, the Art of Loving sex shop.

Normally the Art of Loving would not be considered a literary landmark, but it played a delightful cameo in my own publishing history.

In 2006 I published a book about the history of...

October 31, 2015

The newest issue of Geist magazine (#98) is reaching the newsstands. My regular column looks at a new book by historian Christopher Moore, Three Weeks in Quebec City (Allen Lane), about the Quebec Conference of 1864.

The conference drew up the 72 resolutions that led to the creation of Canada three years later.

For me, the takeaway from Moore's fine book is that Canada was not born on the battlefields...