- Feb 2017
Generally, when Canadians spoke or speak of "the North," they are referring to both a particular geographical region as well as an idea with rich symbolic value. Geographically, "the North" usually references the area within Canada that lies above the 60th parallel, which roughly corresponds with the territories of the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Sometimes, commenters distinguish between this "territorial north" and the "provincial north," since there are lands within the Canadian provinces (and thus below the 60th parallel) that have features typically considered "northern": sparsely populated, vegetation and animals common in boreal and tundra environments, and infrastructures that are more common in rural rather than urban settlements. Canadians also have historically viewed "the North", as Berger says here, as a frontier, and thus imbued it with rich symbolic value. Since the confederation of Canada in 1867, "The North" has figured prominently in nationalist views of progress, usually in the context of economic development, defense and geopolitics. Over the 20th century, Canadians began including ideas associated with "the North" into expressions of their national identity. For instance, the lyric "the true north strong and free" can be found in the national anthem. Berger's foregrounding and usage of "the North" here is meant to bring the reader into what will be a very different view of a place that many people think they know well.
Annotation drawn from Sherrill Grace, Canada and the Idea of North (Toronto: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007).