t begins with a fast paced canadian history 101, which is mind-numbing for those of us who haven't studied can history in years. issues are broken apart and dealt with one by one, allowing for the conversation-style narrative to present cause and effect for the topics presented.
actually, the book is largely a culmination of radio programs that robert bothwell did between august 1994 to feb 1995. so from that perspective, the book really is a series of conversations with brief introductions. however, bothwell gives coherent commentary throughout, which aids the reader in following what can be extremely complex issues.
for example, religion, the division between typically english protestants and french catholics, is examined as a driving force of hostility between the two groups through history. as well, religion plays a role in that as the french population moved away from the church there was a dramatic decrease in the birth-rate. canada's once thriving french culture has been declining in comparison to population growth in non-french canada. whereas a few decades ago french speakers made up a third of canada's population, that has dropped to a quarter. that is just one example of how events and their effects are followed out through the course of the book.
the historical aspects are good, but not overwhelming in terms of the books overall structure. there is a brief look at important historical issues tied to the core of canada. certainly, if a person wants an in-depth look at canada's founding events they should easily find some topic specific texts in their local library.
bothwell breaks the chapters into manageable, chronological chunks. usually, within each chapter there is at least one major theme explored in reasonable depth through his conversations with respected individuals on that topic, often people directly involved with the issues. we read opinion from economists, editors, advisors, MPs, historians, political scientists; with many recognizable names such as jack granastein, jean chrétien and ovide mercredi.
there is certainly heavier weight given to the present situation, but with good cause since these are the issues which we are still grappling with. fortunately bothwell has many of these policy makers voices in this book, which presents a lively immediate feel to such topics as meech lake and charlottetown, and following the lead-up to the 1995 referendum. this revised edition also includes a postscript which looks at the results for politics and for canada.
robert bothwell shows both struggling sides on these contentious issues without playing sides or moralizing. throughout Canada and Quebec he asks 'what does canada want,' and, 'what does quebec want.' it is the results of this questioning that we have here in a valuable resource to anyone trying to understand canada and quebec and all the issues in between.
published by ubc press