Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative
November 30, 2016

As a new-hire at the Ottawa Journal in the autumn of 1971 I was assigned to the early shift in the newsroom. Behind my desk by 6 a.m., I was responsible for whatever news was breaking cityside that morning, writing it up and getting it to the editor before deadline at eleven. Much to my own surprise I turned out to possess a facility with the idiom. Snowstorms blanketed the city. Traffic accidents snarled the morning commute. Dog bites man. That sort of thing.

It was a winter...

November 23, 2016

One of the more unpleasant aspects of getting older is that one keeps losing friends, and culture heroes, along the way.

November has been particularly sad in that regard as two of my favourite artists, Leonard Cohen and William Trevor, passed on. Cohen I'm sure you know about but unless you are a writer, or a reader, of short fiction you may not be familiar with Trevor's work. If that is the case, I urge you to rectify the situation immediately. 

Trevor is known in particular...

November 21, 2016

Lots of years ago I wrote my MA thesis on the history of institutions for the mentally ill in Maritime Canada. At the time the story of the asylum had produced several studies in countries like the UK and US but not very much work had been done here in Canada. I hoped that one day I would return to the subject myself but not every enthusiasm becomes a book and this one didn't.

So I am intrigued by a new online...

November 16, 2016

In 1919, to celebrate its upcoming 250th anniversary, the Hudson's Bay Company sent a filmmaker named Harold Wyckoff into the Canadian northwest to document the fur trade at some of its remote posts. The result was a silent film, "The Romance of the Far Fur Country," released the following year, then forgotten.

A few years ago Winnipeg documentarians Kevin and Chris Nikkel discovered the film in a British archive and made their own movie, "On the Trail of the Far Fur Country," in...

October 18, 2016

In the summer of 1964 a whaling expedition mounted by the Vancouver Aquarium accidently captured a live killer whale near Saturna Island. Subsequently named Moby Doll, the young orca survived for almost three months at two different sites on the Vancouver waterfront.

Now journalist Mark Leiren-Young has written a book about the episode and its impact on public perceptions of the whales. My review of The Killer Whale Who Changed the World appears at the newly-launched...

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