Tuesday, 6 August 2013

All Canadian

It is a cold, dark morning here in Northwest Ontario. The skies are closed over with a chilled steel sheet of cloud. The rain is falling steadily giving proof to the name Rainy River and Rainy Lake, the water courses on which Fort Frances is placed. The price of this beautiful green landscape is cool days like this in the midst of summer. It will be one of those days, those dragging kind of days where the road is a slick and every stop is a wetting. It's not depressing but it could be if I let it.

I slept in this morning, not arising until after 8:30. The drive from Winnipeg to Fort Frances was not all that long, only 6 hours. But after the pain of yesterday and my decision to have a few beers while watching the BC/Winnipeg CFL game, I needed some extra rest. The cloud cover outside didn't help either; it's 9:00 AM and I have to turn the lights on in the hotel room in order to see my keyboard.

The change from the open prairie of Manitoba to the closed confinements of the Canadian Shield make for a dramatic and sudden transition. As you drive east, you move from wide four lane highway with broad medians and smooth terrain onto a sharp, rolling, cutting, curving two lane road that trickles its way through bog and muskeg, lake and river, where the rocks blasted from one section are used to fill the swamp of the next section. From a land with few trees you are thrust into a scrubby mixed forest of deciduous and evergreens all too short and thin for any timber logging; the logging here is pulpwood and firewood.

Northwestern Ontario is a misnomer. This region is right on the border of the US. Fort Frances is a border town. It is the far west of Ontario, and certainly it is north of Toronto, the centre of the known universe, but it is the southern edge of this massive province. To get some sense of the scale of this country, consider this. Yesterday I crossed the longitudinal centre of Canada, the geographical point where a vertical slice would cut this country in half. This is my fourth day on the road.

Ontario is big, as is Quebec. To get from the Pacific coast to this point, you cross BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. To get from here to the Atlantic, you cross Ontario and Quebec. You could certainly include the Maritime provinces, those tiny siblings on our eastern shores, but you don't have to. You can reach the sea by driving out the north shore of the St. Lawrence River as far as the road goes. It stops along the shores of the eponymous gulf, an intrusion of the mighty Atlantic.

I will take as long crossing Ontario as I have crossing the three "western" provinces; for those of you who don't understand the geo-politics of Canada, BC may be the most westerly province in Canada but is a stretch to call it one of this nation's western provinces. It is most often referred to as either "the west coast", or laughingly "the wet coast", or the Pacific province. BC is different; that's all one can say about it. Of course every part of this patchwork country is "different"; that's what makes us all Canadians, we're different and in our differences we are so much the same.


  1. B.C. is proud. Especially the coast where we think of us as God's country. I am sure God planted his foot on our soil in the beginning.
    Love you

  2. Rick, don't you remember that when we were kids, going back east could mean Calgary, Winnipeg, or Toronoto? And it was ludicrous to us that Alberta would consider itself 'west" since it was obviously 'east' of B.C.

  3. I do remember that, Adam. However as I have matured, so has my view of the country and its constituent parts.