#PandemicMethodologies Twitter Conference Programme

For many people the last year and a half has been a time of crisis. Academics have adapted research goals and timelines (when they’ve been able to), abandoned projects, shifted focus, been forced to put research on the back burner as other priorities in their lives have demanded attention.

The upcoming Pandemic Methodologies Twitter Conference started with a seemingly simple question: What has historical research looked like during the COVID-19 pandemic? Perhaps more importantly, what has it felt like? And how has it looked and felt differently for different historians at different stages in their careers, in relationship with different communities? As the joke goes: It’s complicated.

Conference Programme/ Programme du conference
@PMTC2021 / #PandemicMethodologies

June 24-25, 2021
Schedule in Edmonton/MDT

*indicates presenter for a group.
Sponsored by the Canadian Historical Association (CHA)

Thursday June 24, 2021

10:00: Jacob Steere-Williams (@steerewilliams), “Pandemic Public(s): At the Intersections of Public Health and Public History”

10:30: Esyllt Jones (@panhist), “Public Health History and Pandemic Policy-Making”

11:00: BREAK 

11:30: Crystal Gail Fraser (@crystalfraser), “Thinking through Indigenous Archives & the Interpretation of History in Canada”

12:00: Peter Fortna* and Sabina Trimble (@willowspringsss), “Testing Different Paths: Oral History, Ceremony, and Reimagining Histories during a Pandemic” Continue reading

History Slam 184: The Past & Present of Strathcona Park

By Sean Graham

Located on Vancouver Island, Strathcona Provincial Park was established in 1911 by the British Columbia government. Covering 250,000 hectares, the park’s architects had an initial vision of it drawing tourists escaping the stress of modern urban living. Using Banff as a model, there were discussions of how to best create an appealing natural setting that wasn’t too natural – there were concerns that the area had too many cougars for tourists, so they culled the cougar population. At the same time, the park was seen a valuable site for resource extraction and efforts to conserve the space were viewed by some industries as disruptive to their business.

Over the park’s 110 years it has continued to be a site of tension between preservation and resource extraction. These debates are just part of Catherine Marie Gilbert’s wonderful new survey of the park. Covering the park’s evolution, the book wonderfully takes the reader through its various stages of development, from a site for relaxation to a site of extraction to a site for recreation. A story of Strathcona, the book places the story within a wider national context of park development, most notably the lack of consultation with Indigenous communities.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Catherine Marie Gilbert, author of A Journey Back to Nature: A History of Strathcona National Park. We talk about the discovery of new photos of the park, how they were useful in writing the book, and the initial idea of Strathcona as ‘Banff West.’ We also chat about tourism as natural exploitation, the national resources in the park, and Strathcona (and parks in general) as part of Canada’s colonial project.

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The 1946 Windsor Park Patrol Campaign Against Queer Men

17 members of the Parks Department after taking the oath as auxiliary constables. Windsor Daily Star, 10 Sep 1946.

Walter T. Cassidy

In a webpage dedicated to the history of its Auxiliary Service, the Windsor Police force presents the story of the “Windsor Slasher,” responsible for a series of violent attacks in the city between 1945 and 1946. The story explains that deaths resulting from the series of attacks led directly to the formation of the Auxiliary Service when “in September 1946 the first group of volunteers to assist the Windsor Police were formed from Parks & Recreation personnel.” Two key historical facts, however, are missing from this story. The first relates to the identity of the victims. While the story describes the Windsor Slasher as a “Jack-the Ripper style killer,” the killer in fact targeted queer men, attacking five and killing two, in Windsor’s riverside parks over two summers. Second, the story leaves out that the main targets of the new Auxiliary Service patrols were also queer men. The result is the whitewashing of a traumatic period in the history of Windsor’s queer communities.

The Windsor Slasher has been written about a few times. The most extensive researched work was done by Patrick Brode. Brode’s book is thorough and well written but authored from a straight lens. One aspect that has not been touched on, and which had one of the largest repercussions for men who have sex with men, was the creation of the “War Against Sex Crimes” campaign. Continue reading

Lessons Learned from Twelve Months of COVID-19 Data Activism in Canada

This post by Alex Luscombe and Alexander McClelland is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

In the fall of 2019, the world saw the emergence and global spread of a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) capable of causing acute respiratory syndrome (COVID-19) in humans. First appearing in Wuhan, China, COVID-19 quickly spread around the world, eventually reaching Canada. As scientists began work on a vaccine, governments sought ways of slowing the spread of the virus through emergency legal interventions, including travel bans, school shutdowns, and mandatory closures of non-essential businesses. Additionally, governments across Canada sought ways of enforcing these restrictions, granting a range of new COVID-19 related powers to police and bylaw officers nationwide.

In direct response to the announcements from Canadian government officials that police and bylaw officers would be fining, arresting, and potentially jailing Canadians for allegedly violating the new emergency orders, we launched the Policing the Pandemic Mapping Project (PPMP) in April 2020. Continue reading

(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19: New Histories of Human Vulnerability, Community Resilience, and the Struggle for Social Justice

Artwork by: Tobias Merlo.

This post introduces “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19,” a ten-part blog series that will be featured on ActiveHistory.ca over the next six weeks. Visit the series page here.

We are the (In)Security Working Group, a collective of historians based at the University of Toronto committed to developing a rigorous and critical analysis of the ways in which security regimes impact people’s lives.

We understand “security” as a set of police practices that states mobilize to protect property under the guise of keeping people safe. Historically, these governmental techniques designed to foster a healthy population and to ensure capital accumulation have also produced precarity, exploitation, and skewed life chances among “undesirable” populations. Security regimes thus render Black and Indigenous; LGBTQ2+; mentally or physically disabled; undomiciled or precariously housed; undocumented; and poor people vulnerable to premature death despite their stated objective of fostering life. Policing practices that ostensibly keep people (and property) safe and frequently culminate in the disproportionate arrest, assault, and execution of black people are one example of the Janus-faced nature of security. Yet, even seemingly benign professions like social work and governmental agencies like public health play increasingly important roles in contemporary security regimes that underpin what Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls “organized social abandonment” in the age of austerity.  Prioritizing property and profit over people leaves too many people vulnerable to the direct and indirect violence of market forces. Our collective believes that alternative ways of keeping people safe exist. Indeed, the very same communities abandoned and targeted for injury and death are often the birthplaces of innovative strategies for survival and harm reduction.

The (In)Security working group was created during a state of emergency. Continue reading

Lessons From a Not-so Distant Pandemic: The H1N1 Pandemic and Indigenous Disparities

Indigenous pharmacist Dr. Jaris Swidrovich preparing to administer vaccines at the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s clinic.

Curtis Fraser

Over 80% of Indigenous adults have now received their first vaccination against COVID-19, compared to 57% of the Canadian population as a whole. Active COVID-19 cases among Indigenous peoples peaked in January of 2021, but have since dropped by 85%, thanks to the successes of the vaccination campaign. While the number of cases among Indigenous people is likely undercounted, as Courtney Skye showed in a Yellowhead Institute report, Indigenous activism is resulting in improved health outcomes for Indigenous peoples, although much work remains to be done. Canada’s health care system continues to struggle with systematic racism as we have seen recently in the case of Joyce Echaquan, the forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Saskatoon, and widespread discriminatory practices within British Columbian health care against Indigenous patients.

The most recent epidemic was that of H1N1. For Canada as a whole, the history of H1N1 is seen as a success story – the epidemic was not nearly as severe as was initially feared. There were fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths in many regions from H1N1 than during a regular flu season. But this was not the case for Indigenous peoples. In 2009, Indigenous peoples made up roughly 4% of the Canadian population, but they accounted for 25.6% of those who became critically ill.

The H1N1 deaths in Indigenous communities cannot be blamed on the virus.  The Federal government badly mismanaged the epidemic. Continue reading

Death was the Point: Interrupting our shock at colonial practices. Thoughts on the Kamloops discovery.

By Samantha Cutrara

Trigger Warning: This article discusses the residential school system. The National Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.

When the news came out about the mass grave at Kamloops Indian Residential School located on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation – or the news from this past weekend which identified 104 ‘potential graves’ as part of the Brandon Indian Residential School on Sioux Valley Dakota Nation – I wasn’t shocked, I wasn’t in disbelief. While I was incredibly sad, I found familiarity in what was being announced, because for so long I’ve heard residential schools described as schools with graveyards rather than playgrounds. The loss of life – physical life, along with spiritual and cultural life – has long been part of the narratives of residential schools by members of Indigenous nations and was most formally “heard” by Canadians in the TRC final report that was published in 2015. As Kukpi7 Chief Rosanne Casimir said in the Tk’emlúps te Secwe?pemc press release: “We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify… We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families…”. This briefing also identified that this work was the result of preliminary work in 2000, eight years before the TRC was established.


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Residential Schools: How Quebec Colonized the West

By Catherine Larochelle

Trigger Warning: This article discusses the residential school system and the Roman Catholic Church. The National Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.

With the Quiet Revolution, identity in Quebec shifted from an association with French Canada to one more tightly bound by the province’s political borders. Quebec’s so-called national history similarly refocused to emphasize histories of Quebec rather than histories of francophones living elsewhere in North America. Along with this transition was buried the shared history between Quebec and the Prairies. As a consequence, many Quebecers today have difficulty associating Quebec with Canada’s colonization of the west.

Memorial statue of Father Albert Lacombe, one of many French Canadians who worked on the Prairies during the 19th and 20th Century. (Wikimedia Commons)

Although the media has begun to discuss Quebec’s twentieth-century residential schools, too often in Quebec, when we learn about tragedies like the one at Kamloops Residential School, we continue to hear common refrains that absolve Quebecers of their participation within this genocidal system.

Some say: “It was the Federal government!” As if Quebecers do not elect their members of parliament and participate through them in the government… don’t forget about Hector-Louis Langevin.

Others reflect: “It was the church! And the church also oppressed French Canadians.” As if priests and nuns were not themselves French Canadians… don’t forget about Albert Lacombe.

And yet others lament: “We have suffered under the British yoke. French Canadians were friends with Indigenous peoples.” As if the desire to eliminate these peoples did not begin in the seventeenth century… don’t forget about the narrative of New France’s Golden Age.

These are not old pre-Truth and Reconciliation Commission claims. From his perch at the Journal de Montreal, columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté made just these arguments earlier this week.

And yet…

The history of residential schools in Western Canada is part of Quebec’s history. The history of genocide is part of Quebec’s history. Continue reading

Historia Nostra Bookclub: Why I Don’t Like Guns, Germs, and Steel

By Erin Isaac

2021 has been a long year. It’s only June, but I’m calling it—2021 has been a year to endure or make the most of rather than one rife with opportunities. At least, that’s been my experience. My YouTube project, Historia Nostra, has pushed through it and, I hope, given viewers a chance to “visit” places they couldn’t physically go during the pandemic. While I’ve got more of those videos in the works, this month we’re taking a step back from travel videos to try something new.

The Historia Nostra Bookclub is my way to take advantage of the daunting amount of reading history that PhD students are required to do during their first years of study. While we’ve been locked down I’ve had the pleasure and pressure of reading for my comprehensive fields exams—many of which I want to talk about here. I’ll share my thoughts about some of the books I’m reading and hope that viewers will be challenged to read along with me or contribute their own reflections in the comment section.

First up to bat is an old foe of mine, Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Over the years, this is a book my non-academic historian friends and family have often referenced in discussions about history or recommended to me for a “fun” read. As a younger scholar I wrote it off as a “popular history” that was, in my biased and frankly conceited opinion, not worth my time. Continue reading

History Slam 183: American Refugees

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By Sean Graham

On January 1, 2015, Rita Shelton Deverell landed at Miami International Airport from Santiago, Chile for what was scheduled to be a brief layover on her way back home to Toronto. When US border agents scanned her passport, they noticed that it listed her birthplace as Houston, Texas. A Canadian citizen who had lived in Canada for the past half century and a Member of the Order of Canada since 2005, Deverell was quite surprised when border agents detained her to tell her that she was still a U.S. person and that “the United States still loves you.” That incident proved a strong motivation to expediate a book project that had been in the works for the previous two years.

That project is American Refugees: Turning to Canada for Freedom. In the book, Deverell explores the history of Americans moving to Canada at various points over the past two centuries. From the underground railroad to Vietnam War resistors to Americans crashing the Canadian immigration website following the 2016 election, the idea of Canada a safe haven for some Americans has loomed large in the Canadian imagination. In the book, Deverell uses powerful personal stories to contextualize the mythology that has been built around American immigration to Canada. By telling these stories, the book is an important contribution to an oft-discussed yet understudied element of Canadian history and the country’s relationship with its southern neighbour.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Rita Shelton Deverell about the book. We discuss her personal story and its influence on the book, American immigration to Canada in the popular imagination, and what has traditionally drawn American immigrants to Canada. We also chat about racism in Canada and the United States, colonialism’s influence on perceptions of diversity, and the current state of Canadian-American relations.

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