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Coates, Kenneth.

Toronto, James Lorimer, c1985. 251pp, paper, ISBN 0-88862-932-X (cloth) $15.95, 0-88862-931-1 (paper) $7.95. (Canadian Issues series). CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Lois Hird

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

Canada's Colonies is an enlightening, but short book about the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. However, it is not a dry presentation of the historical events or facts. Rather, Kenneth Coates concentrates on the relationship between the native population and the white man, weaving into the text the impact of the presence of the latter.

With detailed accounts in hand, Coates points to the role of the business community and the federal government. He states that the only time the North is of concern to the South (the rest of Canada) is at the times when resources seem of immediate benefit to the South. As for the role of the federal government, Coates believes that Ottawa intervenes only when the presence of the United States awakens it, as was the case during World War II and in 1985 during the passage of the American icebreaker.

Coates argues that the colonial status of the North has institutionalized its unstable development. There is a need for a change in the prevailing colonial patterns that include: the visible national bureaucracy, the reliance on federal subsidies, the intervention of the federal government in regional affairs, and the neglect by the business community. However, he also states a need for assistance and defence protection by the federal government. The assistance should take the form of representation of the interests of the region "rather than looking at its resources as a 'quick fix' for the economy." He lists the pros and cons of provincial status for the North and suggests that land claims must be dealt with before broader constitutional concerns, including self-government.

The book consciously tries to dispel the myth that there was an economic collapse of the northern economy after the Klondike gold rush. Also discussed are the problems created by the literary community as they romanticize the North, and the views held by Vilhjalmur Stefansson on the development of the North half a century ago. Coates devotes full chapters to the fur trade as well as the mining and whaling industries, contemporary resource projects, and the construction of the Alaska Highway. A shortcoming of the book however is the lack of an index.

Lois Hird, Calgary, Alta.
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