Point of View

Dear rest of Canada: There is more to B.C. than Vancouver and, yes, we know what snow is

Also: Saskatchewan has trees and the Maritimes are actually multiple provinces, small-town Canadians reveal

Also: Saskatchewan has trees and the Maritimes are actually multiple provinces, small-town Canadians reveal

The annual High on Ice Festival in Fort St. John, B.C., capitalizes on the long winter months with events that include outdoor ice carving and contests such as "The Silly Bobsled Race." (City of Fort St. John)

CBC's flagship newscast the National shared a video on Jan. 29, informing viewers that while most of the country was dealing with winter, those of us in B.C. were enjoying the sight of flowers in bloom.

"The west is best!" replied one user. "B.C. residents: what's winter?" said another.

The next day, a cartoon started going around depicting a map of Canada. Most of the country was covered with frost and the words, "polar vortex," but the chill stopped at B.C.'s border, where a voice bubble exclaimed, "Ooooh! Look! Cherry blossoms."

Meanwhile, those of us living in the top two-thirds of the province were being issued weather warnings predicting up to 50 centimetres of snow and temperatures below –30 C.

Despite the northern weather, buses kept running, stores stayed open and when Monday rolled around, students of all ages were expected in their classrooms.

This is because, despite what often feels like popular belief, there is more to British Columbia than its South Coast and Vancouver Island.

Not just Cascadia North

This lack of acknowledgement for the rest of B.C. goes beyond weather patterns. Over the past year, I've seen maps carving up the province in ways that pay no attention to the politics or culture of our region.

Boosters of Cascadia figure that along with Portland and Seattle, they'll take Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, even though residents sync their clocks with Alberta and have plenty of Oilers jerseys.

Meanwhile, Alberta separatists plan to leave Confederation with a chunk of B.C.'s North Coast, a left-leaning area as likely to oppose a pipeline as support it.

This region, the size of a European country or American state, is treated as a blank slate with no identity of its own.

B.C. is not unique in this regard.

After I expressed my frustrations online, I heard from people across the country with their own revelations: turns out there is more to Ontario than Toronto, Saskatchewan has trees, and the Maritimes are, in fact, several different provinces which don't even include Newfoundland.

A cultural divide between urban and rural Canada

According to Canada Research Chair Ken Coates, there is more at play here than a simple desire for geographic correctness.

Over the course of four decades, Coates has chronicled how the Canada that exists outside major cities was first exploited for its resources then gradually ignored as the country and its economy further urbanized.

We don't have a literature that celebrates a vibrant and diverse and exciting character of living in small towns... We're kind of losing the culture wars.- Canada Research Chair Ken Coates

Today, he argues, we're approaching a "city-state economy" where wealth is concentrated in a few major centres, as the rest of the country declines.

When I asked whether I was reading too much into cartoons and headlines, Coates told me popular culture "filters into the consciousness of the country as a whole."

"We don't have a literature that celebrates a vibrant and diverse and exciting character of living in small towns," he said. "We [those of us who live in, or are concerned, about small towns] are kind of losing the culture wars."

University of Saskatchewan professor Ken Coates studies rural and northern Canada and argues mid-sized and small communities deserve more attention. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Asking to be acknowledged

When you're overlooked or lumped in with cities hundreds of kilometres away, it's a reminder that in the minds of most of the country, your community doesn't even register. And that can be disheartening when you're struggling with doctor shortages or declining populations or the loss of a major employer.

So, while I fully understand why on days like today it's newsworthy that Vancouver and Victoria have snow, I have a simple request: Rather than using phrases like, "B.C. experiences rare winter weather," can we qualify that with a "southwestern" at the front to clarify you're referring to a specific part of the province rather than the whole place?

It's small, but for those of us who don't experience flowers in January, it provides something we don't always get: acknowledgement we exist.

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

@akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is a radio producer and digital journalist in northern British Columbia, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George.

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