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Imaginary Line
Imaginary Line

Imaginary Line

Shortlisted, Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing and Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing

Once, a single francophone settlement shared both sides of the Saint John River, until a political trade-off between countries split it down the middle. From that inauspicious start, the Maine-New Brunswick border, the first boundary to be drawn between the two nations, has served as a microcosm for Canada-U.S. relations.

For centuries, friends, lovers, schemers and smugglers have reached across the line. Now, post-9/11, mounting political paranoia has led to a sharp divide, disrupting the lives and welfare of nearby residents. An elderly Canadian couple's driveway touches the border, leading to a Kafkaesque overreaction by Homeland Security. The Tea Party political movement advocates complete border shutdown. Once friendly neighbors have become increasingly isolated from each other.

In this timely exploration, Jacques Poitras travels the length of the border, from Madawaska and Aroostook counties through Passamaquoddy Bay to a tiny island still in dispute to uncover the arbitrarily drawn line that shouldn't be there, almost wasn't there, and can be difficult to find even when it is there. The stakes are high as New Brunswick and Maine re-imagine their relationship for the 21st century and communities strive to stay together despite the best efforts of parochial politicians, protectionists, and overzealous border officials.


Jacques Poitras has been CBC Radio's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He has written numerous award-winning feature documentaries and has appeared on Radio-Canada, National Public Radio, and the BBC. His first book was the critically acclaimed The Right Fight: Bernard Lord and the Conservative Dilemma. He lives near Fredericton.

Shortlisted: Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
Shortlisted: Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing
"If you like to explore the nooks and crannies of the Canada-US border, if you know the idiosyncrasies of more than four border crossings (the Ambassador Bridge and the Peace Bridge don't count), and if you think that the National Film Board's Between Friends/Entre Amis (1976) is one of the great coffee-table books (and cultural statements) of all time, then Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border deserves a place on your nightstand." — Globe and Mail

"By highlighting what makes this part of the world unique, Poitras brings alive the quirks of communities whose cross-border heritage defies narratives of identity in both Canada and the United States." — Canadian Geographic

"A very impressive volume. Not an easy subject to tackle but wonderfully researched and so very revealing. Canada-U.S. relations at the regional level have rarely been so expertly explored." — Lawrence Martin

342 pages
Pub date: September 23, 2011