Definding Canada North May 2019 Trip Journal

“Murtle the Turtle”

2 May 2019

Well the journey has begun. First night out after a somewhat challenging day. Got away easily enough from Mayne. Dropped by Peden Rv to say hi to their delightful service person, Lisa. Then on to Clair Downey Service. Transmission flush was uneventful, and they acknowledged they had put my new tires on the wrong wheels, so they corrected this too. They added a couple of nuts to the bolts stabilizing the front hitch mounted spare tire holder (apparently, I will need two spare tires for the Dempster Highway.

Things went downhill from there. I was hoping to get a new radio at Sound Advice in Victoria. The $500 (give or take) unit we had talked about was really $1200, so it won’t be happening. Departed and headed to Langford. Gassed up at Costco ($1.58.9 per litre and gas prices are getting lower as I head up island) and printed up some of the Definding Canada brochures at Staples.

From there headed up the Malahat hoping to make Ucluelet by 6:30 ish. On the approach to Mill Bay, however, the tire pressure light came on and the RV started subtly pulling left and right (wind was gusting all day and driving the RV is kind of like driving a sailboat). Pulled into Mill Bay. Bought a tire pressure gauge at the Co-op (forgot mine) and pressure was good, tires weren’t very hot either. Puzzled Phoned Clair Downey and they were as baffled as I was. Final determination is that the tire sensor is at fault. Carried on without expecting to make it to Ucluelet this evening. Warning light came on and went off a few more times. Sigh. Briefly considered turning around, heading home, selling the RV and going kayaking. Is the universe trying to tell me something? In any event, I carry on.

I’ve spoken to a few people along the way about the trip objectives. Folks seem, for the most part, intrigued by and supportive of the concept of an inclusive national identity for Canada. Will have to post the updated survey to the web site tomorrow.

So here I am at Rathtrevor Provincial Park north of Nanoose. What a lovely park! And seniors rates were a delightful surprise. Didn’t sleep all that well last night so ate some leftovers from lunch and will crawl into bed soon. Tomorrow Ucluelet.

3 May 2019

Ucluelet is a friendly enough little community. Population of roughly 1600 so larger than that of Mayne Island. Strong Indigenous population. The community really caters to tourism with a lot of whale watching, fishing charters, gift shops and guest accommodations. I’m staying at the Ucluelet Campground which is on the waterfront (if you don’t count the road between the campground and the ocean). Friendly, well maintained, and in the middle of getting ready for the summer invasion of tourists. The whole town, as a matter of fact, appears to be holding its breath in anticipation of the annual summer glut of tourists. There are already a lot of out of province license plates and rental RVs populating the town.

Had a bit of an epiphany today with regards to Definding Canada and Strategic Paradigm. I’ve been reading a most excellent book “How Did We Get Into This Mess” by George Monbiot (James it’s in your Kindle if you update the downloadable content) and it occurred to me that most folks today are drawing an imposed identity Peace Order and Good Governance = POGG) that has nothing to do with who we really are. Whether it’s the state, or corporate power brokers, we’ve, most of us lost our way – as individuals, as communities, as nations. The idea of Strategic Paradigm, on which I am basing Definding Canada, is that real identity is based on your relationship with your strategic and biophysical environment. In short, where you live (or choose to live) is directly connected to your identity. It determines what you do for living, how you live, what your values and priorities are, what your world view is. Unfortunately, in Canada, we have no real sense of identity beyond that imposed by government (or by simply stating that we are not like the United States and then running out of further descriptors). Canada was never intended to be a nation. Our geography is rich in resources. We were established as a resource extraction enterprise, at great cost on the part of Indigenous Canada and the disenfranchised settlers brought in from Britain, Scotland, Ireland, France, and the Ukraine (etcetera) to provide cheap labour and solve the problem of displaced tenant farmers as industrialization reduced the need for manual labour. We continue to be governed from that perspective even today (take a look at the current Ontario and Alberta governments) So if I could take back our identity from POGG and reconnect us with who we really are as a marvelously diverse collection of humanity defined by the land we call home, Canada, maybe we could move forward to a government that is more representative. Maybe we could adopt a stronger stewardship role for the land that supports and shelters us. Because I have to say, as the world climate changes, with more and more places becoming less and less habitable, Canada will be pretty appealing to a lot of people. Without a clearly defined national identity, there is no framework for new comers to adapt and become “Canadian”. Instead they will be hyphenated Canadians.

We are so rich and take this wealth so for granted. I’ve driven across Canada many times. This trip to the north is long overdue. So very much of this incredibly beautiful geography is empty of humanity (not a bad thing) but the resource extraction mindset of government and corporate Canada seems determined to destroy it all int the name of short-term profit. Maybe, just maybe, if I can help us reconnect our identity with the land, we can begin a grass roots movement to displace POGG and evolve governance that is inclusive, one that fully embraces the responsibilities of stewardship that are vital to a sustainable future. It would be so nice if the Queen was no longer head of state for Canada.

I am very weary of this colonial identity.

7 May 2019

Left Ucluelet early this morning. The German invasion (15 RVs full) turned my peaceful, sleepy little campground into a very busy and noisy place. Stopped to refuel and had them check tire pressure and fluid levels. Imagine my surprise when the mechanic asked if I knew the engine battery was not secured! Clamps of some kind were missing. They didn’t have the parts there so planned to stop at Canadian Tire in Port Alberni. More to follow on that adventure.

The forest and coastline, bays and inlets around Ucluelet are quite beautiful and I took great delight in visiting the sea lions who had taken over some poor boats float dock in the Boat Basin. I don’t imagine they’ll be able to use the barge tied up there til mating season is over! There are so many of them they weight the otherwise high riding float dock down to being flush with the water. They are HUGE critters, especially the bull corralling his harem. They start their chorus early every morning, take off to fish for a while then come back and snooze. The chorus starts up again in the evening as they argue over who will sleep where. They’re like a group up squabbling kids as they crawl over each other, push each other off the dock and generally complain a lot. Grandkids would be impressed.

Found an old Navy YAG vessel. That’s Yard Auxiliary General Vessel. We learned navigation and rope work on those when I first joined the Navy. This one has been through several owners since being sold by DND in 2011. Poor thing looks much the worse for wear.

Ucluelet itself is a small town, once well supported by logging and fishing. Both industries have fallen off however and tourism is now the mainstay of the economy. And boy are there a lot of international tourists. Tourists are also much friendlier than most of the townsfolk. Understandable if the town gets inundated with strangers for much of the year.

Headed up towards Tofino because one cannot really be on the west coast of Vancouver Island without getting to the beaches that stretch from Ucluelet to Tofino. Stopped at Comber Beach and as I emerged from the rainforest to see all the sand and waves I was reminded of when my youngest son Toby first saw Long Beach. He was about three at the time. He paused at the top of the first dune and looked out thoughtfully then murmured “I need my shubbel”. Grandkids would probably have a similar reaction today. Comber Beach, however, would not be a good choice for building sandcastles. At high tide there is no beach and there is a strong rip tide. Beautiful though.

Vancouver Island for all the lakes and meadows is, essentially, one long mountain range and driving to and from Ucluelet made this very clear. Speaking of lakes, Kennedy Lake is huge and beautiful with hardly any sign of human habitation along its shores. Except for the road work being done along the rather rough and windy highway. Interesting that once you get out of Ucluelet and head towards Tofino the roads improve. Higher tax bracket I guess. The road over the island is rough, windy and provides the happy driver with many steep and windy hills. Fun in Murtle. Lots of places to let those in a hurry get by. I am NOT in a hurry.

Went into the Canadian Tire in Port Alberni to see about getting the battery secured. Also had to get the oil changed, a new air filter and new wiper blades. Frustrating because all these things were supposed to be taken care of by the garage I dealt with in Sidney before departure. Sigh.

Opted for the coast highway once it was clear Murtle didn’t like the higher speed and hills of the main highway. Prettier and more interesting anyway.

Sitting in a pleasant and quiet little campground near Courtenay tonight, right on the beach. It’s a wonderfully windy evening so I will have the sound of waves to lull me to sleep tonight. Here for a few days so will kick back, relax and get on with the writing. Getting a lot of break throughs on both Strategic Paradigm and Definding Canada so am quite content.

Rather than add photos to this little missive, I’ve finally been able to upload photos to my Flickr page for those who have the url. I’ll update as wifi is available and I have pictures to share.

10 May 2019

Well I was quite spoiled with my seaside campsite in Courtenay! Not only did I have a great view, I met a new friend, Maggie, who was right next to me. A few years older than me, she’s a retired nurse travelling alone who has also been a teacher, a pilot and who knows what else. She’s decided to look at Mayne Real Estate.

The drive up the coast was pleasant and uneventful, but the Port Hardy RV campground is a little disappointing.

Though I did buy some fresh prawns from young fisherman neighbor Alistair. The campground itself is a little spartan but the RV services seem fine. Power, water, sewer and wifi. My life is so easily summed up by those needs being met these days. That and decent gas prices. ($1.49.9 at Costco in Courtenay this morning).

Murtle is running well and so far seems to require about 22 litres per 100 km. Hoping to improve that as I get used to driving her. She is probably the smallest RV at every park, but folks seem to think she’s terribly cute and well equipped. I agree.

On the 15th I catch the ferry to Prince Rupert.  I’m quite excited about heading up the inside passage. I arrive in Rupert on the 16th and catch the ferry to Haida Gwaii the same day.

Tomorrow I’ll walk in to Part Hardy just to explore (and resupply on white wine) but for now, the info from a web search is as follows:

Port Hardy has a population of 4,132 at last census (2016). It is the gateway to Cape Scott Provincial Park, the North Coast Trail and the BC Marine Trail, located on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. The community has access to spectacular wilderness adventures, such as kayaking, caving, world-class scuba diving, nature viewing, surfing, unique saltwater rapids, fishing and camping.

The economy was once based on fishing logging and mining. Port Hardy’s economy today relies greatly on tourism. Ferries to Prince Rupert, another popular tourist destination in British Columbia, depart every other day during peak season. Tourist traffic in the summer is immense, and hotels and restaurants usually find themselves with no room to accommodate all travellers.[

Port Hardy’s twin city is Numata, Japan.

 “Located on the northern end of Vancouver Island, Port Hardy is built along the shores of a natural deep water harbour. Hardy Bay overlooks the Queen Charlotte Straits and the mainland where the snow-capped peaks of the BC Coastal Mountain Range loom in breathtaking splendour.  The community is bordered on the east by water and on the west by the foothills of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range.”

“First Nations Information

Port Hardy is located within the traditional territory of the Kwakiutl First Nations on the northern-most tip of Vancouver Island. In addition to being the home of the Kwakiutl, the District is also home to two neighbouring First Nations bands — the Quatsino and Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw. Approximately 35% of the local population is of First Nations descent.“

11 May 2019

This morning, after a little research on the history of wildlife encounters in the area, (campground has decent wifi) I set out along the estuary trail into Port Hardy. I’d been concerned, you see, with all the signs warning against bear and cougar, that it might be a little foolish to venture out alone on a forested path. Needless to say I not only survived the walk, I enjoyed it. No bears, Black or Grizzly, and near as I can tell I was the only “cougar” on the path.

Port Hardy continues to depend heavily on fishing and logging for employment, but the mines have closed, and tourism has become something of a boom industry. It’s typical of your small coastal community until you factor in proximity to the BC Ferries terminal that takes thousands of tourists up the inside passage every year. The population is less than 5000 but there are a lot of tourist type accommodations, some high end, as well as whale watching, and fishing charters. Not a lot of kayak outfitters (didn’t actually see any) but suspect the ocean can get a little rough at this northern most tip of Vancouver Island.

Port Hardy is within the traditional territory of Kwakiutl First Nations and is also home to the Quatsino and Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations. The combined First Nations component of the Port Hardy demographic is roughly 35%. When I had the opportunity, on a shared cab ride back to the campground, to visit the Kwakiutl Reserve I was impressed with the overall state of the community and the pride my fellow passenger felt in the condition of his own home compared to that of his neighbor. He was happy to point out areas of the community that were thriving, newly developed or just plain prospering. My taxi driver however, an older German fellow who had worked in the copper mines and lived for a time in South Africa, was more critical, pointing out properties that were the worse for wear and weather or just plain abandoned. He was quite vocal in his determination that there should only be one class of Canadian and anyone who couldn’t accept that should leave. He complained that the Indigenous population was a drain on the economy and should work harder towards economic and infrastructure self-sufficiency. Mentally I was squirming at his monologue while my fellow passenger was soon mute. Very awkward. He was also adamant that there should be no more refugees coming in from the States burdening our social safety net. I resisted the urge to point out, especially in the company of my fellow passenger, that he and I were descended from immigrants and refugees and that refugees were not the financial drain he imagined them to be. More mental squirming.

The estuary is quite the bird haven and the morning opens very early with a wild range of bird song. Most visible, however, are the nesting Canada Geese. They can be pretty vocal too when competing over nesting and foraging.

Made great progress on my book Strategic Paradigm. I’ve gotten to the last chapter in terms of adding all the stuff I had to leave out of the MA thesis. Once that is revised and updated I will go back and go through the whole thing to correct for flow, unnecessary repetition and typos. The formatting and bibliographic updating and revising and I believe it will be done.

This trip is not a touristy vacation and only mildly a research trip until I get farther north. Even then it’s more about expanding my “feel” for Canada. It’s also a much needed time of self-isolation. To think, read, write, maybe even draw this week, learn a tune on the harmonica or the penny whistle packed away. I’ve found many positives to travel with an RV. There’s no need to unpack and pack or set up tents at every stop. I back into my spot, connect to the available services and relax. What I DON’T like is the cheek by jowel proximity to other RVers. And a lot of the other rigs are huge. Kind of fascinating lifestyle for many too. They pull in, hook up, extend the pop-outs (full living rooms and kitchens in some of them) turn on their TVs, fire up their BBQs and call it camping. Provincial parks are great in that you have more privacy, but no hook up services, so with my solar panel I can manage about 3 days with power. Propane would likely last much longer and most provincial parks have potable water, showers and toilets. Definitely the route to go next time. Might need to take a small generator too if I am travelling with computer and cameras.

Things I should have packed . . . a screen tent. Lots of bits and pieces I haven’t needed yet but the journey is barely begun so we shall see. Items that have proven their worth . . .  my TFal manual chopper, my electric lunch box (tiny rice steamer) and my little travelling garden. Oh, and Murtle.

16 May 2019

Departure from Port Hardy yesterday was relatively uneventful. The Northern Adventure is apparently not the regular vessel for this route up the Inside Passage and is not a true roll on roll off ferry. With only one access to the car deck, loading took about two hours. Vehicles had to either back on from the car lot or turn around once on board and back in to a designated spot. Very much like Tetris with cars, trucks, and massive RVs. Murtle is so tiny compared to these behemoths.

We didn’t slip from the terminal til about 6:00 so I had a typical BC Ferries supper then explored the outer decks (we’re not allowed to be on the car deck while the vessel is underway). Cold, windy and invigorating. The first few hours were open ocean with a nice rolling sea, and we were too far out from the coastline to see much. Once it began to grow dark, I retreated to my cabin for a nap.

Around 11:00 pm I was awakened by a loud announcement requiring all passengers to gather up their belongings, head to the vehicle deck and prepare to deboard. Not really awake I got up, got dressed and packed up my gear then went to the night stewards’ desk. “Why, I asked him, to I have to go to the vehicle deck? We’re not in Prince Rupert”

Best he could answer was “oops, forgot to specify all passengers headed to Bella Bella.” Somewhat disgruntled I returned my stuff to my cabin and went to the outer deck to watch the loading and unloading. The moon was almost full (promising for my stay on Haida Gwaii), blurred by light clouds.

The weather has not been the most conducive to photography. Flat light under grey skies make any sense of depth difficult. Will have to play with the few images I did try to capture. Also difficult in a narrow passage on a moving vessel. Still breathtaking scenery. Heavily forested everywhere with grey rock faces and waterfalls breaking through the steep slopes surrounding the passage. No structures, no evidence of humanity beyond the vessel itself. Marvelous.

In all my travels around Canada, and I do love a good road trip, I am struck again and again by how much of our landscape is wonderfully wild. Void of human habitation and rich with such diversity. Travelling up the Inside Passage this is even more the case. The cluster of islands that fringe the coast are blessedly free of our rather destructive species. No sign of wildlife on the beaches but I can imagine if I pulled up in a kayak there would be encounters soon enough.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on identity these past many months and seeing this marvelous wildness makes me wonder why it’s not better incorporated into Canadian identity. It used to be, at least from an external perspective. The bulk of our population clings to the southern border like a string of multi-colored beads. Once we had a more direct relationship with the land around us. Where did we lose it? How do we get it back? Can we get it back? I think if it were better incorporated into our conscious identity and consistently reflected in our day to day lives it might make it easier for folks immigrating to Canada to find their place in the larger population.

We appear to be somewhat behind schedule, no doubt because of the complex loading this one door ferry requires. Given that it’s the same boat I will be taking to Haida Gwaii, I shall likely be late getting into the campsite in Queen Charlotte. We have to deboard then reboard after refueling and cleaning. A safety precaution I was told. I shall use the time to refuel Murtle. Gas prices in Port Hardy were $167.9. They’re $1.46.9 in Prince Rupert and $1.70 in Queen Charlotte. I’m hoping I can find a sign somewhere, once on Haida Gwaii, that says “Graham Island” so I can take a picture for posterity. A nice addition to my walls at home.

Reflections on Port Hardy: A typica small coastal community, dependent on resource extraction like mining, logging and fishing for its very survival. The closing of the large mine hit the community hard and many stores are empty with For Lease signs in the window. Tourism has become vital to the economy but doesn’t seem to be particularly valued by locals. Understandable. I’ve found in my travels that the smaller communities of Canada are quite wedded to micro thinking with little interest in matters that don’t directly impact on their immediate wellbeing. Whatever is going on in the wider world, if it doesn’t impact on an individual’s day to day it’s of passing interest or of no interest at all. This includes a kind of naïve notion that any troubles beyond our borders will never intrude on this micro view of life. I can’t count the number of times folks have questioned the need to have a standing military. “Who would want to invade us? Everybody likes Canada. The USA would never let anyone hurt Canada.” I call this thinking naïve because we take for granted the richness of Canada. That friendly neighbor to the south won’t be so friendly when climate change makes much of the central plains of America (and Canada) uninhabitable. We have the lion’s share of natural resources like fresh water, minerals, forests, vast tracts of arable land and interconnected rivers and lakes beneficial to cost effective transportation. We also forget that the world climate is changing and will displace entire populations as temperatures get too warm to support human habitation, as potable water disappears and soil ceases to support agriculture. Canada is a very appealing place to move to. We face quite an influx of displaced people in the years ahead. What do we tell them about what it means to be a Canadian? Our diversity is great in so many ways, but if we don’t establish a clearer and stronger sense of an inclusive national identity will we simply fade away as a distinct nation, and gradually be absorbed into the right-wing, fear mongering American identity? I hope not.

18 May 2019

I rented a car yesterday, expecting to put it to good use for the weekend, but after driving up island to explore Masset, there was not much else I could explore by car that was relevant to my objectives on this strange trip. So I returned it. $280 later (for one day!) I’m content to explore Queen Charlotte on foot. I’ve also upgraded my ferry back to Prince Rupert to include a cabin. The cabins have SHOWERS!

The campsite I am enjoying in Queen Charlotte is rustic in the extreme. The owner is a colourful character of unclear and variable origins. It depends on which story he’s telling you and he does love to talk. The advertised amenities, beyond the full service hook up, are supposed to include toilets, showers and laundry. Camping guests that had used the showers said it was just a hose that provided hot water. Hmmmm. Sponge baths then til I get into that cabin on the Northern Adventure. This is, however, the most private site I’ve had and that part is wonderful. Very peaceful.

Haida Gwaii is an interesting community. Islanders are most welcoming and inclusive in a laid-back sort of way. The economy has taken a hit, like other coastal communities, with the decline of logging and commercial fishing. Like so many other places, tourism has become the most robust source of income.

The drive up to Masset was interesting. I stopped to enjoy the Haida Museum and spent far too much on a carved silver bracelet and books for grandchildren. But hey, you can’t take it with you. This whole trip has been an expensive undertaking but worth every penny of credit card use.

The eastern coastline may be protected from Pacific storms, but that’s not to say that the weather over Hecate Strait doesn’t get pretty rough. There are Tsunami warning signs everywhere and along some stretches of the coastal highway they have massive rock dikes to try to offer some protection from storms and storm surges. Even then, waves will wash over the highway and leave behind massive logs and other flotsam.

I’ll borrow from Wikipedia here with a little history. “Part of the Canadian province of British Columbia, the islands were formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, and colloquially as “the Charlottes”. On June 3, 2010 the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act formally renamed the archipelago as part of the Kunst’aa guu – Kunst’aayah Reconciliation Protocol between British Columbia and the Haida people.

The islands form the heartland of the Haida Nation. Haida people have lived on the islands for 13,000 years, and currently make up approximately half of the population. The Haida exercise their sovereignty over the islands through their acting government, the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN, X̱aaydaG̱a Waadlux̱an Naay), which aspires to independence. As recently as 2015 the Haida Nation hosted First Nations delegations such as the Potlatch and subsequent treaty signing between the Haida and Heiltsuk. A small number of Kaigani Haida also live on the traditionally Tlingit Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.”

The community is an interesting collection of Haida, descendants of long-time residents and more recent arrivals fed up with city living happy to embrace the slower pace and the autonomy. There’s a Mennonite community near Masset, but I couldn’t find much about them. They appear to keep to themselves and are not much evident in the larger community.

I was surprised to see extensive farming and ranching on the drive to Masset. The island is certainly a part of the rugged northern landscape of Canada but with a fairly benevolent climate for growing, except for the winter storms of course.

There’s still some chatter about Haida Gwaii declaring independence from Canada, but beyond that many residents are simply indifferent about Canada. The national politics and economy, beyond gas prices and a loathing of Enbridge, are of no interest.

I was going to try to get over to Moresby Island, the southern of the two larger islands, but was told that there wasn’t much to see there unless I was looking to explore the wilderness. Road traffic on Moresby is mostly gravel and logging roads. I was hoping to find a sign that said Graham Island (the northern of the two larger islands) just to get a photo but apparently there is no such sign. Understandable given the return of the islands to the Haida.

The wildfire situation seems to have stabilized, but I will still be heading home after Prince George. Was originally thinking of heading over to Alberta and dropping down to Calgary to visit family, but now will more likely come down the Fraser Canyon highway. I have what I came to find on this trip. Well, for the most part anyway. I can still do the northern leg of the journey in the late summer, early fall. The self-isolation has provided plenty of reading time opportunities and I am coming to realize that the smaller communities across Canada have much in common. I believe I referred to that in the previous journal entry. I also find I am homesick. I miss my little island home. I also realize that I was overly optimistic in my trip planning. Doing the north after doing coastal BC and Haida Gwaii was definitely biting off more than I am prepared to chew. Murtle has been a great refuge and portable office and I am undecided as to whether to keep her for further adventures or clean her up for sale when I get back. She’s very handy for visiting family in Maple Ridge and enjoying short expeditions to local provincial campgrounds. Much to think about.

23 May 2019

Finally arrived, safe and sound in Prince George. It’s the first time I’ve done the drive From Prince Rupert to Prince George. Decades ago I did the run from Edmonton to Prince Rupert on a regular basis as an employee of VIA Rail, so in that regard the names of the towns along highway 16 are familiar. Spectacular scenery along the way. I was too busy driving a highway heavily populated by logging trucks and container trucks to stop and take photos, so borrowed a few.

The highway follows the Skeena River to Hazelton where it is joined by the Bulkley River. It’s a winding incline that brings you to the inland plateau that makes up the interior of British Columbia. Swift flowing, especially in the spring, it’s impressive like so many of the BC rivers.

The railway runs along beside much of the highway, sometimes on the opposite side of the river. Rail cars carry a lot of raw materials west to the port of Prince Rupert and bring a lot of manufactured goods east in containers stacked two high on each car. A reminder that much of Canada’s economy continues to be based on resource extraction industries rather than manufacturing. We also tend to forget how significant Prince Rupert has become as a port. No doubt it hasn’t always been the case but today trucks and trains traverse the west from central Canada, passing through Edmonton, the “gateway to the north” (and west of course) headed for Prince Rupert.

Murtle managed the twists and turns as well as the steep inclines and declines and brought me safely to the Fort Telkwa Campground by 9:30. Given that I left the ferry at about 5:30 it was not bad as travel times go.

I am constantly fascinated by the small communities that cling to the highways and waterways of Canada. There are also isolated homes, large and small, splendid and ramshackle, so far from any kind of town or settlement that I have to wonder how they survive. Sadly there are more and more homes and small businesses along our highways that have been abandoned and are falling to ruin.

The campground at Fort Telkwa was nestled between the highway, the Bulkley River and the rail line, just after a bend, so I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of trucks roaring by and train whistles as they thundered around the bend and headed in to the straightaway. River sounds you kind of had to be right down on the river bank to appreciate given the competing sound effects. The amenities at Fort Telkwa were a decided improvement on those I found at the Bunkhouse Campground in Queen Charlotte.

I think, more and more, that it’s the smaller communities, the northern communities and the coastal villages that are most representative of Canadians. In large urban centres people lose sight of their connection with the land altogether except as a recreational resource, perhaps for golf, or skiing, maybe a weekend of camping. Canada is a massive country, geographically speaking, with a relatively small population. The infrastructure that we need to maintain for transportation and communication from coast to coast and into the north is staggering in terms of scope and cost, but easy to take for granted when you live in a densely populated urban centre. In a small isolated community just the challenge of dealing with waste can be problematic. It’s expensive to have your old cars and appliances hauled away, especially when they have to be hauled hundreds of kilometres away for disposal. All too often there’s no choice but to leave them where they failed, to rust away. Groceries, clothing, building supplies, all necessities that an urban dweller takes for granted, are in limited supply in a small, remote community and are often far more expensive than in a city. For many the option of a long drive into an urban centre to stock up is a seldom and costly excursion involving a long drive, possibly a ferry trip and the need for accommodations while away from home. In the far north, for most it just plain isn’t possible.

Numerous conversations over my years of Canadian road trips suggest that many of the smaller communities are also quite insular, focused on getting by, day to day, helping each other out as needed but otherwise relatively disinterested in the goings on of the rest of Canada, much less the rest of the world. The challenge, as I see it, is to come up with sufficient common ground, quite literally, to find and define an inclusive national identity that can celebrate our human and geographic diversity, overcome the insular perspective of the smaller communities and reconnect the urban dwellers with the land that supports them, the land they take for granted.

28 May 2019

This is the last campsite on the journey. Willow Springs RV Park and Campground, just south of Clinton. I suppose I could have done the drive to Maple Ridge in one day, but I wanted a couple of days to myself, so here I stay, til tomorrow morning.

Willow Springs sits by what amounts to a large pond, right next to highway 97. Well maintained and sites aren’t too tightly packed. I still prefer staying at Provincial Parks.

Thoughts on Canada as I prepare to head home and dive into completing the near finished first book, “Strategic Paradigm”. Then I can start planning and writing for “Definding Canada”.

It’s occurred to me that identity, whether individual, community or national, is both important and often undervalued or mis-valued. Odd until you consider that the imposition of individual identity, genetically, environmentally and socially begins before we’re even born. It’s something we seem to take for granted, yet many of us will spend an inordinate amount of time navel gazing and lots of money on DNA sampling or, psychiatrists, psychologists and new age gurus in an effort to “find ourselves”.

The notion of looking for a national Canadian identity in my travels has typically met with humour. The only real response I’ve encountered is the statement “Well, we’re not like Americans!” From there the conversations stalls. Folks then get a little perplexed while they struggle to sum up their identity as a Canadian. Then they shrug and change the conversation. It would appear that Canadians, for the most part, see no point in coming up with an inclusive national identity. I mean, what on earth is it for?

What is a national identity and why is it important?

According to Wikipedia,

“National identity is a person’s identity or sense of belonging to one state or to one nation. It is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics. National identity may refer to the subjective feeling one shares with a group of people about a nation, regardless of one’s legal citizenship status. National identity is viewed in psychological terms as “an awareness of difference”, a “feeling and recognition of ‘we’ and ‘they'”.

As a collective phenomenon, national identity can arise as a direct result of the presence of elements from the “common points” in people’s daily lives: national symbols, language, the nation’s history, national consciousness, and cultural artefacts.

The expression of one’s national identity seen in a positive light is patriotism which is characterized by national pride and positive emotion of love for one’s country. The extreme expression of national identity is chauvinism, which refers to the firm belief in the country’s superiority and extreme loyalty toward one’s country. “

This takes us back to the notion of establishing a social contract to enhance security and productivity. Identifying with the contracted collective provides individual benefit. As Canadians we’re quite comfortable with the individual benefits of our collective. Health care, education, transportation. Lovely. But I believe that there’s another side to national identity, and that’s how it shapes the shared values and ideals of a collective and influences individual and government choices and decisions pertaining to a shared vision for the future. What happens then, if a people coast along on the identity imposed by government? In Canada we have complacently accepted the identity of POGG, Peace Order and Good Governance, since before confederation. But is that an accurate reflection of the hard work and dreams of the men and women who have made this country what it is today? The geography of Canada has shaped us in so many ways. I want to find and define us as a civic society with a shared vision for the future and I believe geography will pay a large part in that “definding”. I also believe it’s vitally important because if you’re being led by a government that is not representative of your core values, they cannot possibly make choices that meet your perceived needs. A more accurate and concise framing of an inclusive Canadian National Identity will also make our shared values and ideals clearer to visitors and immigrants. Diversity is great but a certain embracing of core values and ideals is kind of important in newcomers. I’m looking for a shared grass roots identity for Canada, and maybe even lead to a less centralize balance of powers in this amazing chunk of real estate we call home.