Claire Welch's Ontario

A slight emendation of Calixa Lavallée’s words familiar to all Canadians, “my home and native land”—from Canada’s national anthem—came to mind when I began to write this review.* Ontario has been my home since I was twelve, and it is now very much my “native land” by choice. Initially when I came to Ontario in December of 1965 I was none too thrilled: there was no rich history like my native England, few battles, fewer heroes, or so it appeared to a young boy raised on military heroes like Richard the Lionheart, Warwick the Kingmaker, Nelson and so on. But over the past forty-five years I have learned to love this land, which the dust-jacket of this book calls a “magical province.” No doubt, the main draw of this book is its stunning photographs, many of them places very familiar to me, such as the aerial picture of Niagara Falls (p.99). It is essentially a coffee-table book, to be picked up for a few moments in which one can savor some of the photographs in its pages. Alongside the photographs, though, there is also a textual narrative that sketches the history of the province. It begins with the first peoples, the Algonquians and Iroquoians, their encounter in the seventeenth century with the first European settlers, the French and the British, and goes on to more recent political and economic developments. This text gives a fair overview of the province’s history, but I felt that there was one striking lacuna that I have encountered again and again in recent histories of either Ontario or Canada: there was nearly nothing about the formative role that religion has played in Ontario’s development. I say “nearly nothing,” for there is a photograph of St Sylvester’s Roman Catholic Church in Nipigon (p.114). Beyond that, though, the impression given is that historic Ontario was as secular as the modern landscape. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The historic strength of the part of Canada that I call home and now native land has been the Christian faith. While that is no longer the case—a fact that cries out for an explanation—we do Ontario’s past a grave injustice if we fail to recall all of its inner and outer architecture.

* Claire Welch, Ontario (Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2008).

(This review first appeared on The Official Blog of the Sola Scriptura Ministries International. See here. Used by permission).