The Coasts of Canada: A History

Article excerpt

Lesley Choyce, The Coasts of Canada: A History (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2002), 308pp. Cloth. $37.95. ISBN 0-8649-2360-0.

The idea behind this book is simple and appealing. It is to recount the history of Canada by looking at its three [sic] coastlines and the peoples who dwelt along them. It naturally begins with the first Aboriginal peoples and works its way from the earliest European arrivals through to Canada's participation in the Second World War. A few postwar occurrences are mentioned, and there is a gentle nod towards the creation of Nunavut. So far, so good, but what purports to be a work of history is really Choyce, writing in a peculiarly 'street-wise' style, revealing his seeming inability to separate truth from legend and also, it must be said, revealing his prejudices. Early chapters introduce figures such as St Brendan, along with the early Norse explorers ('brave and proud but obsessively violent') and the Basque whalers and fishermen who 'travelled to the Grand Banks and the coast of Newfoundland as early as 1199'. No sources are given to substantiate these statements, despite the author's claim that he used a team of researchers. A noticeable feature of the text is its frequent use of phrases such as 'it is believed', 'there's a good chance that' and 'may have visited' when discussing the period before Columbus and Cabot. There is even a suggestion that the Holy Grail 'may remain' in Nova Scotia after being taken there by a member of the Knights Templar a hundred years before Columbus. …