Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

Protestant King in His Catholic Realm

George VI in Quebec

In the midst of some unrelated research the other day, I came across these photos of George VI on his first visit to Quebec as King in 1939. I think the Parlement du Québec is probably the only Commonwealth legislature to have a crucifix in its plenary chamber (c.f. ‘Christ at the heart of Quebec’, 25 May 2008). No, no, of course the Maltese do as well, in their surprisingly ugly parliament chamber. But Malta is now an island republic, while Quebec retains its monarchy.

In the above picture, the King and Queen of Canada hear a loyal address in the Salle du Conseil législatif of the Hôtel du Parlement in the city of Quebec. Below, the King speaks at a state dinner in the Chateau Frontenac. Seated is Cardinal Villeneuve, the Primat du Canada and Archbishop of Quebec.

February 10, 2013 9:20 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The UN at Quebec

IN 1943, THE BRITISH, Canadian, and American governments descended upon the city of Quebec, capital of la vieille province, for an intergovernmental conference to plan the invasion of France — surely one of the greatest military tasks ever undertaken in the modern era. The site proved auspicious due to a peculiar combination of factors: Quebec City enjoys a certain European cachet but with both the geographic safety of North America and the more spacious accommodation usual to that continent. The three governments held a second conference there in 1944, and in 1945 the International Labour Organisation met in the city, followed a few months later by the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the nascent United Nations.

With this track record of indisputable experience, the ville de Québec, lead by its mayor Lucien Borne, put in a bid to be the permanent seat of the United Nations Organisation. (more…)

August 5, 2012 8:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

A Breath of Fresh, Northern Air

The Dorchester Review Proves That Canada is Still Thinking

This summer I received an email from my friend Bruce Patterson, all-around nice guy and Deputy Chief Herald of Canada, informing me of a new historical and literary review just founded called the Dorchester Review. Intrigued, I obtained a copy and was pleasantly enthralled with what I found. The first issue of the Dorchester Review contained a variety of thoughtful articles on fascinating subjects. I spent an entire morning sitting comfortably on a café sofa and imbibing the intelligent and enlightening contents of the magazine.

The editors did issue a brief statement explaining the genesis of their new review. They had me at their Pieperian first sentence: “The Dorchester Review is founded on the belief that leisure is the basis of culture.”

Just as no one can live without pleasure, no civilized life can be sustained without recourse to that tranquillity in which critical articles and book reviews may be profitably enjoyed. The wisdom and perspective that flow from history, biography, and fiction are essential to the good life. It is not merely that “the record of what men have done in the past and how they have done it is the chief positive guide to present action,” as Belloc put it. Action can be dangerous if not preceded by contemplation that begins in recollection.

The endeavour of reviewing books, the editors acknowledge, has too often been reduced either to brief puff-pieces in the Saturday insert of the local paper or more high-minded but uncritical praise of like-minded academics for one another. “There are too few critical reviews published today, particularly in Canada, and almost none translated from francophone journals for English readers.” As someone with a lifelong love of Quebec, I am relieved that finally there is a review in my own language willing to take Quebec seriously.

“At the Review,” the editors continue, “we shall praise the good books and assail the bad.”

They also forthrightly explain their rejection of the narrow nationalist perspective that has been on the ascendant in Canada throughout the past century, especially since the foundation of The Canadian Forum. The Dorchester Review effectively throws Canada’s doors open to a more reasoned understanding of the country’s relationship with Europe (Britain and France particularly), America, the Commonwealth, and the world.

But the Dorchester Review is not a publication just for Canadians. There is a great deal of Canada in it, but also a great deal of the world. The second issue (just printed) features articles with titles such as “Why Marx is Still (Mostly) Wrong”, “1789: The First Counter-Revolutionaries”, “What Sort of Autocrats Were the Popes?”, “Can Vichy France Be Defended?”, and “The Scots Fight Back” (the last in response to an article in the first issue: “How the English Invented the Scots”).

Contributing editor Chris Champion is interviewed by CBC Radio here. A number of the contributors (Conrad Black, Paul Hollander, etc.) readers of The New Criterion will already be familiar with. The latest number also includes a book review by this, your humble and obedient scribe.

Head over to to find out more or subscribe.

December 4, 2011 9:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

Le drapeau « Jacques Cartier »

To be filed under ‘Flags I Never Knew Existed’: the Québécois heraldist Maurice Brodeur designed a flag commemorating the French explorer Jacques Cartier, founder of Quebec and Canada. The banner was designed to hang as an ex-voto in the Memorial Basilica of Christ the King in Gaspé, conceived in the 1920’s as an offering of thanks for the four-hundredth anniversary of the claiming of Canada by Cartier. The Great Depression brought the project to a halt, and the church was finally finished in 1969 as a modernist cathedral in wood — the only wooden cathedral in Catholic North America.

Was the flag ever actually executed? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

December 4, 2011 7:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Meanwhile, in the Dominions

The University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto is, so far as I can ascertain, home to the only memorial ‘slype’ in the world, the Soldier’s Memorial Slype. Today being Remembrance Sunday, it was adorned with the old Canadian flags: the Union Jack, the Red Ensign, and the Air Force Ensign. (I can’t quite make out from the photograph whether it’s an RAF ensign or, more likely, an RCAF ensign).

The University of Toronto is, curiously, a university with constituent universities (such as St. Michael’s) within it, something which always confused me even though it’s an increasingly common phenomenon (such as with the National University of Ireland). At U of T, Trinity College (sorry, the University of Trinity College) is generally considered the most trad, but it’s nice to see St. Mike’s, a Catholic institution, being a bit old-school itself.

St. Michael’s College also boasts such illustrious alumni as Marshall McLuhan and Dino Marcantonio.

Source: RHM
November 13, 2011 8:00 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Canada’s Royal Standards

In anticipation of the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Canada, the government of that dominion unveiled new Canadian personal flags for the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. The British Empire started out as a group of states and colonies united in the British crown, but as the Empire evolved into the Commonwealth, dominions were gradually recognised as sovereign entities of their own. Thus when, for example, Elizabeth II visits, say, Vancouver, it is not the ‘Queen of England’ who is visiting but the Queen of Canada exercising her functions in her own country. (This is a point frequently lost upon ideological republicans). Even when Elizabeth remains in London she puts on different ‘hats’ for different occasions. The only time I ever saw the Queen was at a Service for Australia at Westminster Abbey, thus it was the Queen’s Personal Flag for Australia which flew from the tower of the Abbey, not the British Royal Standard.

The Queen’s Personal Flag for Canada (above, top), often informally known as the Canadian Royal Standard, was devised in 1962 (the same year similar banners were created for Australia and New Zealand). Until 2011, the Queen was the only member of the Canadian Royal Family to have a personal flag for Canada, but now she is joined by her son and grandson, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge respectively.


September 8, 2011 8:25 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Les fondements de notre civilisation occidentale

« Les fondements de notre civilisation occidentale sont chrétiens ; le respect du christianisme est une condition sine qua non d’une droite qui veut conserver non seulement la prospérité économique, mais ce qui est au fondement de toute prospérité durable : le souci du bien commun, le respect de la loi naturelle, le sens de la justice. »

The latest issue of Égards, the premier journal of traditional conservatism in Quebec, contains an interesting analysis of the current situation faced by the various streams of the centre-droit spectrum in the province. I am, however, very much against the perpetual organisation-founding that goes on in political circles. There seems to be a belief that, when in doubt, start a new organisation, but this is precisely what the author, M. Décarie, proposes.

June 12, 2011 2:46 pm | Link | No Comments »

Canada’s Temporary Commons

Canada boasts one of the most imposing parliamentary complexes in the world, presiding from a lordly bluff in the federal capital of Ottawa. While I think the city could do with an overall Hausmannisation, the government of the Confederation is undertaking significant efforts to renovate the buildings on Parliament Hill.

While the House of Commons chamber is renovated, the dominion’s lower house will meet in a new temporary chamber (above) constructed in the inner court of the West Block, one of a pair of high Victorian Gothic structures that flank the main parliament building. The restoration will take five to seven years, after which the temporary chamber will be converted into parliamentary committee rooms.

March 6, 2011 9:09 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Interesting Things Elsewhere

This determined Celt is gunning for Thabo

Kevin Bloom | The Daily Maverick
Ireland’s Paul O’Sullivan took over as head of security at South Africa’s airport authority in 2001, and discovered something was wrong from the start: why didn’t the policeman on duty want to take a statement about the attempted theft of his baggage? Since then, his life has been a series of bizarre events leading him ever deeper into the most complex criminal network of the post-apartheid era, including the recent the trial and conviction of former national police chief Jackie Selebi. But O’Sullivan’s determined quest to expose crookedness isn’t over yet, and he now has former president Thabo Mbeki in his sights. read more

The apparatus of state will simply ignore the government

‘Inspector Gadget’ | Police Inspector Blog
Police across England were told by the responsible minister of the democratically elected government that they must not chase performance targets any longer. “I can also announce today that I am also scrapping the confidence target,” said the Home Secretary, Theresa May, “and the policing pledge with immediate effect”. But the ‘senior management team’ of the West Yorkshire Police have stated they will go on no matter what the government says. read more

Has Christian Democracy reached a dead end?

Jan-Werner Mueller |
The commentator completes a brief survey of the struggles of Christian Democracy in Germany and Europe today. The French leader Georges Bidault claimed that Christian Democracy meant “to govern in the centre, and pursue, by the methods of the right, the policies of the left”. But Christian Democracy’s brief French moment in the 1950s didn’t survive the return of de Gaulle, and Christian Democratic parties on the continent today face an existential crisis. read more

Also: Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro’s talk at the Roman Forum’s 2010 Summer Symposium, entitled The Problem of Christian Democracy will be made available online in audio form sometime in the coming months.

Deep in Shanxi, the most Catholic village in China

Anthony E. Clark | Ignatius Insight
Church after church dot the landscape and high steeples rise above small villages as they do in southern France. Passing through a narrow side road one arrives and is welcomed by three great statues at the village entrance: St. Peter holding his keys is flanked by Saints Simon and Paul. Thirty minutes before Mass the village loudspeakers, once airing the revolutionary voice of Mao and Party slogans, now broadcasts the rosary. Welcome to Liuhecun, the most Catholic village in China. read more

Look for me in the Cotswolds.

Dino Marcantonio
The apologists for modernist architecture have tried for a century to gain public acceptance of and appreciation for their horrors. While the elites have almost overwhelmingly been converted, the general populace around the world still sees that the Emperor has no clothes, and almost always prefers architecture that reflects the tried and true, the local and the natural. Alain de Botton, the Swiss essayist, ‘pop philosopher’, and former ‘writer-in-residence’ at Heathrow Airport, is the latest to give it a go, this time in the pages of the modernist Architectural Record. Dino Marcantonio provides a most useful fisking. read more

Canada is a French country

Andrew Coyne | Maclean’s
At the recent Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill, Canadian PM Stephen Harper spoke of “the steadfast determination and continental ambition of our French pioneers, who were the first to call themselves ‘Canadians.’” At other times he has spoken of Canada as having been “born in French,” of French as “Canada’s first language,” and, most famously, of Quebec City as “Canada’s first city,” its founding in 1608 as marking “the founding of the Canadian state.” While the sentiment may seen anodyne, moreover, the implications are radical. read more

July 21, 2010 2:14 pm | Link | No Comments »

Happy Dominion Day

Souhaitant une très bonne
fête du Dominion
à nos voisins du nord.
Wishing a very happy
Dominion Day
to our neighbours to the north.
July 1, 2010 5:23 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

Tintin à Quebec

Tintinophilia and its allied science of Tintintology can almost seem like a cult sometime, with Moulinsart, the commercial wing of the Hergé Foundation, acting feverishly to quell any and all unauthorised outbreaks of Tintin resurrection. Their assiduity notwithstanding, Tintin pastiches are fairly common (though illegal) and vary in nature from respectful admiration to downright mockery. The Quebecois cartoonist Yves Rodier is one of the foremost pasticheurs of the famous Belgian boy reporter, and produced this cover (above) of a non-existant Tintin book set in the beautiful capital city of Canada’s French province.

While Tintin did visit Scotland in The Black Isle, I’d love to see a Tintin in Edinburgh book, and even more so Tintin in the Cape.

April 26, 2010 8:23 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

A Seraphic Book Launch in Toronto

Torontonians or those in the general vicinity of that metropolis might be interested in attending the upcoming launch of Seraphic‘s new book, Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life. Of course, Dorothy is no longer single but instead happily married to a Scottish friend of mine, and you can see her gleefully prancing about the grounds of the Historical House the happy couple now call their home in this 4m29s video clip.

But when & where’s the book launch you say? It’s Thursday, March 25, from 7:00–10:00pm at the Duke of York Pub, 39 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, in God’s Own Dominion of Canada. The book is printed by the Canadian publisher Novalis, and is already obtainable from Copies of the book will also be available for purchase at the book launch.

Book Launch
Seraphic Singles:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life


25 March 2010 (Thursday)
The Duke of York Pub
39 Prince Arthur Avenue
Toronto, Ont.

March 18, 2010 8:04 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

La Grande Séduction

This is a perfectly charming film. “La Grande Séduction” comically celebrates the dignity of work and the assault on the human character that inevitably results from reliance upon government welfare for survival. The inhabitants of the small fishing village of Ste-Marie-La-Mauderne have refused to abandon their homes after the collapse of fishing, but lack the resident doctor a potential investor requires in order to build his factory in the town. “La Grande Séduction” (released in Anglophone cinemas as “Seducing Dr. Lewis”) depicts the efforts of prominent townsfolk to unite and persuade the arrogant city-slicker Dr. Lewis to sign up as doctor for their little corner of the world.

Fans of “Local Hero” or “Waking Ned Devine” will find the theme familiar, but with a remote corner of maritime Quebec substituting for the Celtic hinterlands of the British Isles. If anything, the film allows the viewer an opportunity to hear that charming Québécois back-country accent. There are also elements that will grate somewhat the prudish tendencies of Anglos like us, but one must make allowances for the Latin temperament that survives in la Nouvelle-France and the other Romance realms.

Overall, a celebration of place, work, and community, and an interesting exploration of the conflict between artificiality and authenticity.

January 8, 2010 3:50 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Canada’s Bastion of Catholicism

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in Barry’s Bay, Ontario

Many of our readers doubtless enjoy this blog for its unabashed defence of the glories of Christendom, all too many of which have passed into the pages of history. But highlighting those glimmers of hope that yet exist is another worthwhile task. The renaissance of Catholic higher education in the United States proceeds apace, with new institutions like Thomas Aquinas College, Christendom College, and such leading the way, while others retake the older Catholic universities from the inside. These places of learning have been gathered together in the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic Colleges, the guide to Catholic colleges for Catholics who actually want their Catholic colleges to be Catholic. An almost ridiculous thing to say, but such is the state of modern higher education.

While the Guide‘s purview was initially limited to the United States, Canada’s Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy — a college in Ontario offering one-, two-, and three-year Catholic liberal arts programs of study — began to get such rave reviews that, as Joseph Esposito, editor of the guide, put it, “we were so impressed by Our Lady Seat of Wisdom that we felt compelled to include it as well. The academy has accomplished much in a short period of time, and we look forward to it being an influential force in Catholic higher education.” In particular, the Academy has excelled at introducing home-schooled students to a more formal style of education to ease their transition into higher studies.

That, as the Newman Guide puts it, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom “provides a wonderful curriculum at a breathtakingly low cost” to students and the families supporting them is admirable, but the word on the street is that current economic woes of the world have landed the Academy in a bit of a financial bad-patch. The folks in charge are taking the proper steps of reducing pay and seeking out other savings, but I hope & pray that Catholics will be able to keep afloat this splendid institution which is utterly loyal to the Magisterium and devoted to educating the next generation of America’s and Canada’s Catholics.

Those interested in helping out can find out how to do so here. Americans in particular might take advantage of the non-profit status of the U.S.-based Friends of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. There is also a PayPal button in the right-hand column on the college’s main page. Having been on the receiving end of generosity myself, I know that every little bit helps.

Giving something to help this institution keep going is an act in keeping with the spirit of this Advent season.

December 9, 2009 10:26 pm | Link | No Comments »

A Tale of Two Headscarves

In Deference to Islam, U.S. Secretary of State Dons Headscarf, while that of Canadian Governor-General Michaëlle Jean is Conspicuous in its Absence

In the clash of civilisations between Islam and “the West”, there are Churchills and there are Chamberlains. A recent New York Times front-page photo shows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton donning a headscarf on her recent visit to Pakistan. But Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s Governor-General (and thus that country’s highest-ranking official after the Queen), recent journeyed to the “Af-Pak” region herself. Photos released by Rideau Hall show Her Excellency breezily taking questions from girls in an Afghan school build with Canadian development funds. The photos show a woman who appears free, confident, and easily engaged by her interactions with those around her. The contrast with Secretary Clinton couldn’t be greater.

The advice si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more, traditionally attributed to no less a sage than St. Ambrose, is sound counsel indeed, but one can’t help but wonder if in this circumstance the Governor-General’s way is the more appropriate one. How rare it is that we find Western leaders with enough self-assurance not to pander deferentially towards a culture alien to our own. Secretary of State Clinton, in her headscarf, broadcasts the signal that she is following an agenda set by others, whereas Governor-General Jean chooses to set the agenda herself — fitting for the viceroy of one of the most stable countries in the world, that enjoys an enviable constitutional longevity.

Still, the Governor-General’s head did not remain bare for the entirety of her visit to Afghanistan. Her Excellency is Colonel-of-the-Regiment of the three units of Canada’s household guard, and, donning the military beret, Madame Jean visited a memorial to the soldiers of her country who have given their lives in the endless conflict in Afghanistan. After the proper solemnities were observed, the Governor-General took a few moments to meet with some of the Canadian soldiers who stood guard during the ceremony.

November 19, 2009 8:47 am | Link | 24 Comments »

The Evolving Heraldry of the Dominions

WHAT DO THESE three coats of arms, their representations produced for the 1910 coronation, have in common? The first thing that might come to the mind of most of the heraldically-inclined is that all three are the arms of British dominions; from left to right, of Australia, Canada, and South Africa. Aside from this commonality, however, each of these three arms have been superseded.

The Australian arms above were granted in 1908, and superseded by a new grant in 1912, though the old arms survived on the Australian sixpenny piece as late as 1963. The kangaroo and emu were retained as the shield’s supporters in the new grant of arms which remains in use today.

The Confederation of Canada took place in 1867, but no arms were granted to the dominion so it used a shield with the arms of its four original provinces — Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — quartered. As the remaining colonies of British North America were admitted to Canada as provinces, their arms were added to the unofficial dominion arms, which became quite cumbersome as the number of provinces grew. A better-designed coat of arms was officially granted in 1921, and modified only slightly a number of times since then.

South Africa‘s heraldic achievement, meanwhile, was divided into quarters, each quarter representing one of the Union’s four provinces: the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State. While South Africa is (like Scotland, England, Ireland, and Canada) one of the few countries to have an official heraldic authority — the Buro vir Heraldiek in Pretoria — the country’s new arms were designed by a graphic designer with little knowledge of the rules & traditions of heraldry. As a result, the design produced is unattractive and very unpopular, unlike the new South African national flag, introduced in 1994, which was designed by the State Herald, Frederick Brownell, which enjoys wide popularity and universal acceptance.

The current arms of Australia, Canada, and South Africa are represented below.

October 5, 2009 8:04 am | Link | 2 Comments »

The Emperor in British Columbia

The Emperor & Empress of Japan in the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, on a recent visit to British Columbia.

September 16, 2009 5:09 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

First Things, Three Songs

Through an interesting post by Joseph Bottum on the First Things blog, I discover that R. R. Reno posted all three of the songs I elaborated upon in my June 2007 post “We’ve Lost More Than We’ll Ever Know”, though (so far as I can tell) he arrived at the same three without stumbling across my entry on them. I always read First Things in New York (it’s one of my favourites, and simply a must-read), but it’s sadly not available in South Africa (bar actually scraping one’s pennies together for a subscription) so I’ll just have to wade through friends’ archives when I return to the Empire State. (Or does the Society Library have a subscription? And if not, why not?).

While it has a reputation among some Catholics as being a bit too liberal & democratist, I suspect the whiff of Americanism one finds in the pages of First Things is akin to the aroma of tobacco in an old bar: the smell lingers but that doesn’t mean anyone’s actually still smoking. Nonetheless, they often feature top-notch articles and writing that are of interest to Catholics & other traditionalists.

July 1, 2009 3:45 pm | Link | 25 Comments »

Quebec Stamp

This stamp was designed by Jorge Peral, the artistic director of the Canadian Bank Note Company, for Canada Post to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of Quebec.

July 1, 2009 10:46 am | Link | 2 Comments »

A new look for The Walrus

The Walrus is Canada’s general-interest magazine, a sort of New Yorker for the Great White North. Founded just a few years back in 2003, it has taken many of its visual cues from The New Yorker and the result has been a very handsome monthly and a surprisingly interesting one. That’s not to say that it’s a very interesting magazine (like The Spectator), but one which surprises with the occasional article of note. Canada’s intelligentsia is notoriously boring and liberal; they tend to sneer at the neighbouring United States while simultaneously attacking long-held Canadian traditions. For some reason, Canadian intellectuals have yet to comprehend that making Canada less British doesn’t make it more Canadian but instead more American because it is precisely Canada’s Britishness that distinguishes the Great Dominion from the republic to the south.


May 12, 2009 1:19 pm | Link | 2 Comments »
Home | About | Contact | Categories | Paginated Index | Twitter | Facebook | RSS/Atom Feed | © Andrew Cusack 2004-present (Unless otherwise stated)