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The Old City of Quebec City sits atop a plateau that commands the spot where the St. Lawrence Bay (above) narrows into “merely” the St. Lawrence River. It is one of the most strategic spots in North America. Any maritime commerce into Ontario or the Great Lakes region must pass it. The French, the original settlers of Quebec City, chose their location well.

But as central as Quebec City is to regional maritime transport, it – and the rest of Canada’s Quebec province – is surprisingly isolated from the rest of the continent. The lands on either side of the St. Lawrence are rugged and forested, sporting only very narrow habitable zones both upriver into Ontario and downriver toward the Atlantic Ocean. North America’s two great francophone cities, Quebec and the larger Montreal, essentially are cultural islands largely cut off from the rest of North America, including the rest of Canada.

One of many results is that Quebec’s cultural identity often leads to clashes with the rest of (Anglophone) Canada, and the Quebecois’ blazing of a legitimate, legal path to full independence. Quebec has chosen to not actually walk that path, but simply use it as a threat in negotiations with the rest of Canada’s provinces on topics like budgetary disbursements. But that path’s mere existence is about to cause all of Canada an existential crisis.

For more on the dawning Canadian secession crisis, and how it isn’t Quebec that the Canadians should be worried about, see Chapter 12 of The Accidental Superpower.