CHARLOTTETOWN — P.E.I. is smaller than Algonquin park, and has fewer residents than Oakville, Ont., so it's used to being overlooked from time to time.
But Islanders are facing a fresh indignity: being wiped off the map — several of them.
The Hudson's Bay Company was recently caught selling T-shirts and onesies featuring a map of Canada without P.E.I., while a world map at the Vancouver airport similarly omits the island Anne Shirley made famous.
As well, a feature map in the Canadian Automobile Association's magazine highlighting some of Canada's historically rich destinations for its 150th anniversary forgot to label the very cradle of Confederation.
"We shouldn't be playing 'Where's Waldo' with a Canadian province," says Marie Gilchrist, an Ontario native who retired to P.E.I. with her husband.
She says she noticed the Vancouver airport's incomplete map as she was going through security on her way back to Charlottetown. She wrote a letter to the airport expressing her dismay and didn't hear back for two months, she says.
A spokesperson for the Vancouver Airport Authority says the graphic is meant to show the places travellers can fly to directly from the airport — but says the route map is being replaced to make it "more accurate."
"It is unfortunate P.E.I. was mistakenly left off the graphic," Christopher Richards wrote in an email. "We recognize the importance of P.E.I. in Canadian history and hope our two provinces can one day be joined by direct flights to better connect British Columbia and P.E.I."
Gary Howard of CAA Atlantic says the "mistake" in its print magazine was corrected on a digital version of the map, and the publication plans to showcase P.E.I. this summer.
"No one wanted to ignore the birthplace of Confederation," says Howard. "The story will show ... all the great things around Prince Edward Island, so we took a lemon and made some pretty tasty lemonade out of it."
A spokesperson for the Hudson's Bay Company, meanwhile, says the store pulled the errant T-shirts and onesies. The design is part of the store's "Grand Portage "commemorative collection that donates a share of its profits to Trans Canada Trail in honour of Canada's 150th birthday.
Despite multiple measures taken to protect P.E.I.'s sensibilities, though, few Islanders appear to be suffering an existential crisis.
Matthew Jelley, president of P.E.I.'s Maritime Fun Group, which owns the Shining Waters and Sandspit Amusement Park tourist attractions, understands the dynamic at play here.
It is, he says, a small island.
"Depending on the size and scale of the map, sometimes it could look pretty small for P.E.I. I don't see it as diminishing our place in Confederation or in history. We are still well over 1.4 million tourists a year finding their way to Prince Edward Island and I think that will continue to be the case," he said.
"Maybe we want to be Canada's best kept secret."
Kathy Pickles, who caught the Bay's snafu while browsing through its online store, says geographical misrepresentations of P.E.I. are nothing new. In her years working in elementary school classrooms, she says she has seen several maps that distort the shape of the province, sometimes reducing it to just a "blob."
Pickles, a Charlottetown native who moved to B.C., says the rest of Canada sometimes treats P.E.I. as an "afterthought," but once visitors see the Island's lush pastures for themselves, they never want to leave.
"Everyone who has come (to P.E.I) has said, 'I want to move here,'" she says. "Maybe we shouldn't tell anybody, or they'll all show up."
Similarly, says P.E.I. author and historian David Weale: "In some ways I like being missed or ignored by the mainland."
Gilchrist, though, hopes the slight can become an opportunity to put P.E.I. back on the map, even if Islanders have to draw it themselves in magic marker.
As Canada enters its 150th year, Gilchrist says she wants to start a "Where is P.E.I." campaign, encouraging people to draw the province that hosted the Charlottetown conference at the dawn of the country's inception.
"With such a sleepy, little island, I think we need to get a little bit of a bigger voice."
Many Islanders have noted, too, that the map comes at a time when P.E.I. has felt a need to defend its role as the cradle of Confederation.
Two bills have been introduced in Parliament to enshrine Charlottetown as the "birthplace of Confederation" after New Brunswick challenged the Island's claim to fame in its own slogan for Canada 150 celebrations: "Celebrate Where It All Began.''
Jelley says it's good for P.E.I. to keep on telling its story, but he's confident the Island has a safe place in the Canadian consciousness.
"Politically, we have a cabinet minister in the federal cabinet, we have probably the most famous senator, and we are the birthplace of Confederation, no matter what New Brunswick may say," he says with a laugh.
"I'm not reading too much into this."
— By Adina Bresge in Halifax
The Canadian Press