Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Breaking Away

June 27, 2016

To quote the immortal words of cartoonist Aislin, "OK, everyone take a valium."

In the welter of reaction to last week's Brexit vote, what has struck me is the appalling tone-deafness of the losing side, aka "the elites." It is typical of losers to blame their defeat on the ignorance of the winners. If only "they" had known better -- if they hadn't been misled, or frightened, or just too damn stupid to see the truth -- "they" wouldn't have made the egregious mistake of voting against their own self-interest. Because "we" know better what's good for them.

For me this arrogance reached its peak with a weekend piece in the Globe and Mail by historian Margaret MacMillan, the sage of St Antony's College. Is there anything more grotesque than an Oxford don mocking her cabbie for not being smart enough to agree with her?

According to the losing side the world has shifted on its axis. Britain will break apart; the economy will nosedive; Europe will fracture. The fallout will even result in the election of Donald Trump! Time will tell, as it always does, though I suspect very little will play out as the alarmists predict. It never does.

Meantime, how self-satisfied the elites are in defeat and how quickly they tiptoe away from democracy when it does not give them the results they thought they'd orchestrated.

June 22, 2016

Should coastal British Columbia ever need an anthem, I'd suggest setting my pal Howard White's marvelous poem "Oolachon Grease" to music. It appears in his 1993 collection Ghost in the Gears.

I found it finally

in Bella Bella price $120/gal.

and it smelled like the cracks

between the deck planks of an old fish barge

if you can imagine spreading that

 on your bread -- quite enough to hurl...

June 14, 2016


My latest book, Where Mountains Meet the Sea: An Illustrated History of the District of North Vancouver, is due from the printer next week and should be in bookstores soon after.

I am going to launch it with a slideshow and talk next Wednesday, June 22. So if you are in the Lower Mainland, come on over to the Lynn Valley Library in North...

June 3, 2016


Nice to see that John Thistle's book, Resettling the Range, has won this year's Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize.

The prize goes to the best scholarly book on a British Columbia subject and at first blush the subject -- the consequences of settlement on the ecology of the province's Interior -- may seem "academic" in the disparaging sense. Far from it. Thistle's prose is very...

May 22, 2016


The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is one of Vancouver's feature attractions. Opened in 1986, it was built under the direction of master craftsmen from Suzhou and was the first garden of its type outside China.

Last week I paid the garden a visit, not I must admit to drink in its...

May 17, 2016

Not long ago I noted that one of the pleasant discoveries I made during the research for my new history of the District of North Vancouver was the enclave of West Coast modernist houses in the Edgemont Village area, just five minutes from my own home.

Now I've discovered an interesting online feature on the career of another practitioner of the West Coast Style, Judah Shumiachter, and other Jewish architects in...