Prince Edward Island (Potato isle)

Since it’s such a chore to write about Canada, let’s ease back into this by writing about the insignificant Prince Edward Island.

It’s a small island of nearly 158,000 people. The population has increased by nearly 2% recently, thanks to international immigrants; among native-born citizens the number leaving for other provinces is double those arriving.

P.E.I’s biggest claims to fame: potatoes, the fictional book character Anne of Green Gables and calling itself the “Birthplace of Confederation” (which is a bit like Frankenstein bragging about his creation).

History

The Mik’maq natives were the original inhabitants for thousands of years. At some point the French landed and made a settlement, then were more or less booted out by the British who anglicized the island to “Saint John”. The bulk of immigration came from Britain with an influx of Loyalists after the American revolution. The island was controlled by Nova Scotia, changed its name to Prince Edward, began running its own affairs and eventually joined the Confederation in 1873.

Now, islanders did not want to join Confederation but were eventually forced to because of a crippling railway debt. Attempts to bribe them were made by offering to pay off the island’s debts; still they declined a few times. Eventually when on the brink of an economic collapse, they relented.

Indigenous

The Mik’maq First Nations claim they never technically gave away their land or rights to it. There’s a tricky history where they signed treaties which “contained no monetary or land provisions” but did guarantee land use rights and the end to various disputes. (There was also that time Governor Cornwallis punished them by offering money for their capture and scalping.)

What else?

The capital city is Charlottetown – population just under 40,000. The backbone of its economy is farming, followed by fishery, tourism and some tech companies. It’s the lead province in producing potatoes, which employs 12% of the island’s workforce. Glamorous stuff.

According to a report: 23% of Charlottetown children were living in poverty, and about 17% on the island as a whole. House prices have jumped over 38% in the past 3 years. The average house price in Charlottetown is $277,000. Yes, in a province with under 200,000 people and a city under 40,000! The rental vacancy is 0.2%

Winter isn’t too much fun: it lasts from November to April on average, with a mean minimum temperature of -26 C in January and February, and plenty of snowstorms each year.

To Summarize:

Prince Edward Island is an insignificant place even by Canadian standards – quite the feat. It’s a cute little place to wander for a day or two while eating ice cream or nibble on some potatoes in a field. Crime is low because barely anyone lives there and more citizens leave it than arrive.

There’s no point in going there: housing in the only “big” city is unaffordable, rental vacancy is almost nil, and there’s little employment if you aren’t a farmer or getting a job transfer from a local company. Housing and rental prices are going up due to limited supply, population growth is driven by new immigrants, and there are very limited resources for homelessness, poverty and social issues.

The bulk of the people there were born on the island, will die there, and everyone else in Canada will continue forgetting the place even exists. Fun stuff.

O Canada!

Recommended Reading

Here are some books I recommend reading (if you can be bothered to read about Canada) mentioned in this blog and elsewhere.


(My favorite on this list) Black Ice by Darril & George Fosty.

“In 1895, The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes was formed in Halifax, Nova Scotia … The Colored League would emerge as a premier force in Canadian hockey and supply the resilience necessary to preserve a unique culture which exists to this day. Unfortunately their contributions were conveniently ignored, or simply stolen, as white teams and hockey officials, influenced by the black league, copied elements of the black style or sought to take self-credit for black hockey innovations. Black Ice is the first written record of the Colored Hockey League in the Maritimes.”

This book is about so much more than hockey: the Maritimes, slavery and Black history in Canada, and interesting, worthwhile people.


Keeping Canada British: The Ku Klux Klan in 1920’s Saskatchewan by James M. Pistula.

“The Ku Klux Klan had its origins in the American South. It was suppressed but rose again in the 1920s, spreading into Canada, especially Saskatchewan. This book offers a new interpretation for the appeal of the Klan in 1920s Saskatchewan. It argues that the Klan should not be portrayed merely as an irrational outburst of intolerance but as a populist aftershock of the Great War – and a slightly more extreme version of mainstream opinion that wanted to keep Canada British. Through its meticulous exploration of a controversial issue central to the history of Saskatchewan and the formation of national identity, this book shines light upon a dark corner of Canada’s past.”

It can be a bit of a dry read at times, and the bumbling characters of Saskatchewan aren’t too exciting, but it’s educational regarding Canadian racism and the Klan.


Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage by Marcel Trudel and George Tombs.

“… By painstakingly combing through unpublished archival records of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Marcel Trudel gives a human face to the over 4,000 Aboriginal and Black slaves bought, sold and exploited in colonial Canada. He reveals the identities of the slave owners, who ranged from governors, seigneurs, and military officers to bishops, priests, nuns, judges, and merchants. Trudel describes the plight of slaves–the joys and sorrows of their daily existence. Trudel also recounts how some slaves struggled to gain their liberty. He documents Canadian politicians, historians and ecclesiastics who deliberately falsified the record, glorifying their own colonial-era heroes, in order to remove any trace of the thousands of Aboriginal and Black slaves held in bondage for two centuries in Canada.”

An eye-opening history of slavery in Canada and the best place to start on the subject.


Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada’s Serial Killer Capital, 1959-1984 by Michael Arntfield.

” … From the earliest documented case of homicidal copycatting in Canada, to the fact that at any given time up to six serial killers were operating at once in the deceivingly serene “Forest City,” London was once a place that on the surface presented a veneer of normality when beneath that surface dark things would whisper and stir. Through it all, a lone detective would go on to spend the rest of his life fighting against impossible odds to protect the city against a tidal wave of violence that few ever saw coming, and which to this day even fewer choose to remember… Murder City is an explosive book over fifty years in the making, and is the history of London, Ontario as never told before. Stranger than fiction, tragic, ironic, horrifying, yet also inspiring, this is the true story of one city under siege, and a book that marks a game changer for the true crime genre.”

There’s a lot of information here and it does jump around a bit. It’s a horrifying, disturbing look at serial killers and unsolved crime in Canada.


Loss of Faith: How The Air India Bombers Got Away With Murder by Kim Bolan.

“On June 23, 1985, Canada found itself on the international terrorism map when two bombs built in B.C. detonated within an hour of each other on opposite sides of the world, killing 329 men, women, and children… When charges were finally laid against three Sikh separatists, the families believed justice was almost theirs. But their faith was shaken when one suspect pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got a five-year sentence for more than three hundred deaths.”

A disturbing look at terrorism in Canada and the men who got away with mass murder. It’s difficult to read about the incompetence of Canadian law enforcement and its judicial system.


The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper.

“Writer, historian and poet Afua Cooper tells the astonishing story of Marie-Joseph Angélique, a slave woman convicted of starting a fire that destroyed a large part of Montréal in April 1734 and condemned to die a brutal death. In a powerful retelling of Angélique’s story—now supported by archival illustrations—Cooper builds on 15 years of research to shed new light on a rebellious Portuguese-born black woman who refused to accept her indentured servitude. At the same time, Cooper completely demolishes the myth of a benign, slave-free Canada, revealing a damning 200- year-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery.”

This book is not just the story of one condemned slave, but a sweeping history of slavery and early Canada.


This list will be updated periodically.