Canada Letter: Wolves in Captivity and Gord Downie’s Last Album

James Gorman, a science writer at The Times who often covers the animal world, recently came to Quebec to look at what separates wolves from dogs. Along with gaining a better understanding of the topic, Mr. Gorman developed a moral quandary, as he explains:

Read: Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild.

Watch: How Did Wolves Become Dogs?

Canadians knew that time was running short for Gord Downie, the singer-songwriter and member of the Tragically Hip. But when news alerts and social media posts this week announced that the man whose lyrics gave voice to Canada had died of brain cancer, it seemed slightly unreal.

“The place of honor that Mr. Downie occupies in Canada’s national imagination has no parallel in the United States,” Simon Vozick-Levinson wrote in an article about the recording of Mr. Downie’s final album. “Imagine Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe combined into one sensitive, oblique poet-philosopher, and you’re getting close.”

Read: Gord Downie, a Canadian Rock Legend, Sings Goodbye

Read: Gord Downie, a Distinctly Canadian Rock Star, Dies at 53

Trade relations between Canada and the United States continued downward again this week on a variety of fronts.

The most sensitive of the trade spats, a preliminary tariff from the Trump administration that quadruples the prices of Bombardier’s new C Series airliner in the United States, took an unexpected turn this week. After spending more than $5 billion to create the airliner, the Montreal-based Bombardier sold just over 50 percent of it to Europe’s Airbus. Underscoring Bombardier’s desire to save the project, Airbus will not pay a penny or take on any of the project’s debt. The move will, however, mean that the plane can dodge the new American tariff by shifting some of its production from Canada to an Airbus assembly line in Alabama.

President Trump’s end-of-the-year deadline for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement was extended this week to sometime next year. But given the demands put forward by his administration over the past few days, many of which went beyond unacceptable for both Canada and Mexico, there was little optimism that more time will produce an agreement.

Ana Swanson, the Times’s trade reporter, made her way to Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, to illustrate a part of Nafta in which Canada is often a loser: provisions that allow American companies to claim millions of dollars in damages when Canadian governments enforce environmental laws.

And Elisabeth Malkin reported from Mexico City this week about the preparations there for economic life without the trade pact. While Mexico is looking for alternative sources of imports, Canada doesn’t seem to be high on its list. Argentina is poised to sell it 30,000 tons of wheat.

Read: Bombardier Turns to Airbus to Salvage Imperiled Airliner

Read: Nafta Talks’ Extension May Make for Slow, Painful Demise

Read: A Nafta Battleground on the Shores of Canada

Read: Mexico Braces for the Possible Collapse of Nafta

Britain is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about hockey talent. But the writer Tal Pinchevsky has told the improbable story of Tony Hand from Edinburgh. During the 1980s, Mr. Hand was signed twice by the Edmonton Oilers, the dominant team of the era. Both times, however, he headed back home and finished his season in Britain.

Read: Britain’s Ice Hockey Icon Wonders, What If?

Catherine Porter, our Toronto bureau chief, has traveled to Auschwitz with Holocaust survivors, written an e-book about a survivor from the Bergen-Belsen camp and produced a thesis about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident.

She recommends watching “I Have a Message for You,” an Op-Docs video from the Opinion side of The Times.

“This story about a woman’s bravery, remorse and wisdom and then the message she receives from her father long after he died, gave me both hope and chills at the same time,” she said.

The Times is a taking part in a daylong conference on artificial intelligence, Go North, that Google is holding in Toronto on Nov. 2. The speakers include Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and Geoffrey Hinton, a professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Toronto and a pioneer of artificial intelligence. Cade Metz, a tech reporter for The Times, will interview Mr. Hinton live on stage.

We’re giving away 10 tickets to Times readers for the invitation-only event through this draw. We will also stream the Schmidt and Hinton sessions live on our YouTube channel.


Walmart came to Canada 23 years ago, not 17 years ago, as I wrote in last week’s newsletter, an error some of you pointed out.

—Dan Levin went to Keno City, Yukon, and found a “quirky testament to human tenacity.”

—Quebec passed a religious neutrality law that will bar women from covering their faces when receiving government services, including receiving medical attention or hopping on a bus or subway, without exemptions. It has dissatisfied people on both sides of the issue.

—A multigovernment agency picked one of Google’s corporate siblings to rethink abandoned docklands in Toronto as a sensor-laden, carbon-neutral, weather-moderated neighborhood of the future with autonomous shared vehicles taking people to modular homes. Even garbage and recycling bins wouldn’t be immune from tech innovation.


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