The Island of Canada


Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on earth, together with the world’s largest lake and river system.

In fact, bounded on three sides by oceans, and with a lake and river system that crosses the entire country east to west, Canada can be thought of as an island nation. Now, Victor Suthren, one of Canada’s most articulate historians and an expert on maritime history, has written the first history that shows how the oceans and lakes of Canada have shaped our nation.

From the earliest days of Inuit and Aboriginal hunters, the Norse, Basque, Spanish, and French adventurers and fishermen to the explorers of the Pacific coast and the Arctic, the royal fleets of Britain and France, privateers, pirates, and merchantmen, the fur trade, and the great Age of Sail, here is a sweeping history that traces the development of the Canadian psyche as it has been shaped by its waters.

The Island of Canada is an extraordinary story about a sea-going nation informed by an examination of the mentality, which has made Canadians, inhabitants of an enormous land mass, nonetheless islanders in their unique character and heritage.

There is no nation on earth with a greater physical connection to the sea than Canada. Canada is the most astonishing of aquatic nations an here is its first truly national maritime history.


This is not only a compelling history of Canada and saltwater, but a wholly original way of looking at who we are as a people. Thank you, Victor Suthren, for this unique gift to our country.

A sprawling tale of bravery and deceit, of heroes and traitors, that puts lie to the notion of Canadian history as boring.

Toronto Star (review of The War of 1812)

What Suthren sets out to prove--and does so with the gusto of a true believer, is that sub-consciously Canadians are water creatures. His remarkable work of the imagination definitively explains the mysterious reality of our existence.

...a fine accomplishment...a tremendous contribution to a field of scholarship and a facet of Canadian history and identity that we can only hope will continue to blossom.

The Northern Mariner

About the Author

Victor Suthren

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014

Victor Suthren

Victor Suthren is a writer and historian with a special interest in maritime history. A former director general of the Canadian War Museum, he lives in Merrickville, Ontario.