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Breakup: The Coming End of Canada and the Stakes for America.

People have been predicting the collapse of Canada for decades, and in recent years the forecasts have grown ever bleaker. Lansing Lamont's take on the subject is one of the most pessimistic--and one of the most illuminating.

Lamont, a former newsmagazine correspondent and later director of Canadian affairs at the Americas Society, has written a book that is half history and half docudrama: The first half is a concise account of the first 300 years of Canadian history; the second half is a "scenario for the future," the author's speculation on what is still to come.

Lamont's is a grim prediction: Quebec's separatists will win their long struggle to take the French-speaking province out of the Canadian confederation and make it a sovereign state. This is followied by a brief outburst of violence; eventually the remaining Canadian provinces coalesce into regional groupings whose economic ties to the United States are stronger than their political ties to Ottawa.

One can disagree with Lamont's predictions--everyone who follows events in Canada has his own version--but you can't argue with his estimate of the present situation: Canada's never robust psyche had been buffeted over the last four decades by the nation's final severance of its umbilical ties to Britain and the Empire; the rise of its new trade and economic dependency under the American Colossus; the emergence of a militant Quebec in the 1960s; and successive waves of immigrants...who changed the ethnic mix of large urban centers like Toronto and Vancouver, threatening to marginalize Canada's once-ruling WASPs.

Lamont goes on to discuss each of these factors--"the country's bedrock incompatibilities"--and show how they are rooted in the country's history, economy, and geography.

Canada's demographics are startling: The country is composed of nearly seven million square miles--but there are only 28 million people, or an average of just four people per square mile. Almost all Canadians live in a narrow strip adjacent to the U.S. border; only seven percent of the country's land area is fully settled.

For all that, the reader will find striking similarities with U.S. politics today: a lack of strong leadership, a pervasive public disillusion with politics, mushrooming public debt, a revival of populism.

Every schoolchild knows that the U.S.-Canadian border is the longest underfended frontier in the world. (Lamont labels that "the longest undefended cliche in Canadian-American relations.") But most Americans know almost nothing else about Canada. They could remedy that ignorance quite painlessly by reading this book.
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Author:Bailey, Charles W.
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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