Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Finalist


Imaginary Line


Jacques Poitras
Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border

Published by Goose Lane Editions



Jacques Poitras

Jury Citation

The imaginary line between Maine and New Brunswick that is the subject of Jacques Poitras’ delightful book was vaguely defined by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, argued and nearly warred over through the first half of the 19th century, set in its place in 1842, and hardened by the events of 9/11. Poitras argues this artificial bifurcation helped create the conditions for the flourishing of a bicultural, bilingual community on the British side but set the stage on the other side for Acadian assimilation into the American melting pot. He meets the descendants of those 19th century settlers on both sides as he travels the border from Fort Kent to Campobello Island. As it was in the 19th century, so it is today: decisions made far away from the headwaters of the Saint John River – in Washington, Ghent, London, and Ottawa – have dramatic impacts on those who live on this border. And, as Poitras notes, their challenge now is “to take their rightful place at the centre of border affairs.”

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About the Book

The first boundary between Canada and the U.S. was drawn between Maine and New Brunswick and it has served as a microcosm for relations between the two nations ever since. For centuries, friends, lovers, and smugglers reached across the line to one another, but now, post 9/11, political and security concerns have begun to isolate friendly neighbours from one another. Colourful community eccentricities – driveways that straddle an international border – have been transformed by new restrictions. Poitras travels the length of the border and uncovers an arbitrary line that shouldn’t be there, and almost wasn’t there as he details a relationship re-imagined for the 21st century.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras has been CBC Radio's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He is the author of two previous books: The Right to Fight: Bernard Lord and the Conservative Dilemma and Beaverbrook: A Shattered Legacy, which was a finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Nonfiction and won the APMA’s Best Atlantic Published Book Award. Poitras lives in Fredericton.


Samara Canada sat down with Jacques Poitras for a Q&A about his experience writing Imaginary Line. Read the interview here.



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