The Active History of Canada’s First World War: A Thematic Guide

By Sarah Glassford and Nathan Smith

The “Canada’s First World War” series launched on ActiveHistory.ca with a Call for Blog Posts, published on 4 August 2014. It concluded in the Fall of 2019, with a total of 78 posts, including this post. The series editors during this five-year run were: Mary Chaktsiris, Sarah Glassford, Christopher Schulz, Nathan Smith, and Jonathan Weier. This final contribution is a thematic guide to the series in the form of a bibliography organized by subject. There are thirty subjects in total, a breadth difficult to achieve in a traditionally published collection, and indicative of the war’s relevance to historians working in diverse fields.

Also included are references to the series webpage at Active History, and to two pre-series posts which, in retrospect, seem like a prelude to the series. The bibliography’s format follows the Chicago Style for newspaper or magazine articles online. Additionally, we offer readers a larger “Bibliographic Resource” that organizes series posts chronologically, by author, and by subject.

  • Sarah Glassford and Nathan Smith, “The Active History of Canada’s First World War: A Bibliographic Resource,” ca, Published 6 December 2019.

We hope our resource will be useful to our contributors, readers, and historians working in classrooms, and elsewhere. Researchers and students may also find that the resource offers a user-friendly guide to informative pieces on a wide-range of topics.

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Historical Pedagogies & the Colonial Past at Huron University College – Part II

On October 24, 2019, Active History commenced a series on education “after” residential schools with an article written by Clinton Debogorski, Magdalena Milosz, Martha Walls and Karen Bridget Murray. The series is open-ended. Active History welcomes additional contributions on related themes. This is the second part of a two-part reflection from Huron University College at Western University.

By Amy Bell, Scott Cameron, and Thomas Peace

Huron University College is London, Ontario’s oldest post-secondary institution. The college was founded in 1863 to train priests and missionaries to evangelize throughout the Lower Great Lakes.

Over the course of its history, the college has had two locations, one on either side of Deshkan Ziibii, or Thames River, the waterway which today runs through the heart of London. This river has been (and remains for the latter three) of central importance for Attawandaron, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Lenni-Lenape Peoples; a homeland where relationships between nations have been and (are) governed by the Dish with One Spoon Treaty, the 1796 London Township Treaty, and the 1822 Longwoods Treaty. As such, Huron has a deep and complex history interacting with Chippewa of the Thames, Aamjiwnaang, and Bkejwanong First Nations as well as the Haudenosaunee at Oneida of the Thames and Six Nations of the Grand River.

Huron University College played an active transitional role in normalizing a settler presence on Indigenous lands. For much of its history, the church and the college were tightly interconnected: sharing a name, similar heraldry, common resources, staff, institutional structures, and a focus on evangelizing First Peoples.

Today at Huron, there are few reminders or institutional references to Huron’s complex missionary past, its close connection with the Mohawk Institute or Shingwauk Residential School, or even of the Indigenous students who attended the college and went on to become priests and missionaries themselves.

Huron students were introduced to this material in two upper-year classes and over two academic years (2015-6 and 2016-7). Continue reading

The Murder of Constable David Dunmore & the Long Debate over whether to Ban ‘Military-Style’ Rifles

By Blake Brown

In the recent federal election campaign, the Liberal Party proposed banning ‘military-style’ semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15.[1] Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, now leading a minority government, will need to decide whether to fulfill this promise in the face of strong opposition from the Conservative Party and gun-owner advocacy groups.

Limiting the availability of such firearms is not new idea. Police and some politicians first began raising concerns with the sale of semi-automatic rifles in the 1970s. However, legislators have been reluctant to ban such guns despite their use in several infamous shootings, including the 1989 shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique (which occurred 30 years ago Friday), the murder of three RCMP in Moncton in 2014, and the 2017 Quebec mosque shooting. As a result, while some such guns are now prohibited, many others are classified as ‘non-restricted’ or ‘restricted’ firearms.

The reaction to a 1984 police murder involving a semi-automatic rifle highlights the typical Canadian legislative response to violence committed with such guns: piecemeal reform designed to avoid angering firearm owners. Continue reading

Tenth Anniversary Repost – She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bais, and Student Evaluations

Active History is celebrating its tenth anniversary! As part of our anniversary celebrations we are sharing glimpses of how Active History developed and showcasing our favourite and most popular posts from the past ten years. 

Today we are revisiting 2017 which included a number of great series including: Women’s Social and Political Activism in the Canadian West, Deconstructing Children’s Books, Archives and Archival Labour, History Curriculum, and Income Tax Centenary. 

We also started our partnership with the Graphic History Collective and their Remember/Resist/Redraw project and we co-sponsored the Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories Twitter conference.

In 2017 one of our most popular posts was Andrea Eidinger’s “She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bias, and Student Evaluations.” To date, this post has been viewed 53,251 times, making it our second most popular post of all time – only surpassed by Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky’s 150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150 which also appeared in 2017.

Girl Sitting at Desk

Girl sitting at desk flipping through textbook pages at Putnam School. 1961. Gar Lunney. Canada. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, e010976007. CC by 2.0. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/7797311412/

by Andrea Eidinger [1]

I would like to acknowledge and thank the many female instructors who got in touch with me over the past week, not only for their bravery in sharing their experiences with me, but for their strength in continuing in their dedication to the field of history and education. I am profoundly grateful and honoured.

“I think your feminist stances are slightly overcorrecting reality. I’m sure minorities had a harsher experience than women, ESPECIALLY today, a point you seem to overlook. You’re a really nice person though.”

That comment comes from my student evaluations from one of the first courses I ever taught, back when I was still a graduate student. At the time that I read that, I burst out laughing. I mean really, how else can you react to that kind of statement? But many courses and student evaluations later, I am starting to think that this is reflective of a larger problem in the world of academia, and history in particular, with respect to female sessional instructors and course evaluations.

Over the course of the past year or so, there have been a number of studies that have emerged detailing the gender bias against female instructors in student evaluations.  According to one study, male professors routinely ranked higher than female professors in many areas. [2] For instance, male professors received scores in the area of promptness (how quickly an assignment was returned) that were 16% higher than those of female instructors, even though the assignments were returned at the exact same time.  Another research project, which examined word usage in reviews of male and female professors on “Rate My Professor” found that male faculty members are more likely to be described as “funny,” “brilliant,” “genius,” and “arrogant,” while female faculty members are more likely to be described as “approachable,” “helpful,” “nice,” and “bossy.”[3]

While many of these studies discuss the negative impact that this bias has on tenure and promotion few consider how devastating they can be to sessional instructors, particularly given the overrepresentation of women at this academic rank. Continue reading

Wexit and the Alternative Right

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By Andrew Jones

“What is Wexit?”: this is the question that many Canadians were asking in the immediate aftermath of the 2019 federal election.

Justin Trudeau had just won a minority government, while the Conservative party had won a larger share of the popular vote, leading some in Alberta to question their place within Canada.

While the significance of Wexit has yet to manifest itself in support from Members of Parliament, it cannot be easily dismissed. The five years since the last Canadian election have been dominated by the political influence of the Alternative Right across the anglosphere. Both Brexit and Donald Trump’s electoral success demonstrate the power of feelings of alienation towards the liberal multicultural politics that Justin Trudeau’s government seems to embody, at least outside of Canada.

Is Wexit indicative of the Alt-Right’s presence in Canada or is it anchored in another ideology?

Western alienation is nothing new. The Wexit movement originates out of the sense of western alienation that has simmered in the hearts and minds of many Canadians from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Continue reading

Listening to Anishinaabemowin: the Voice of Mnidoo Mnising

This is part of an ongoing series of reflections from the Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute (MISHI)

What can historians learn from engaging with Indigenous languages, and how can we do it in a respectful, reciprocal way?

Aanii Cathleen ndi-zhnikaaz. Toronto ndoo-njibaa. Hello, my name is Cathleen and I am a settler person living in Toronto and also a PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of Toronto.

Sara McDowell ndi-zhnikaaz. Toronto ndoo-njibaa. My name is Sara McDowell. I am a settler from Toronto and a graduate student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education focusing on Indigenous Studies.

As former classmates of Anishinaabemowin at the University of Toronto studying under Professor Alex McKay, and as settler scholars interested in Indigenous language learning, we want to share some of our experiences at MISHI 2018 and 2019, and to highlight some of the ways that they have enriched our understandings of Indigenous histories and Indigenous language revitalization. We acknowledge our privilege in having access to Indigenous language learning resources and opportunities when so many Indigenous peoples still face barriers to learning their own language. With this in mind, we also offer a few suggestions for settlers about how to engage with Indigenous languages responsibly and respectfully.

LEARNING TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN THE LANGUAGE Continue reading

Historical Pedagogies & the Colonial Past at Huron University College – Part 1

On October 24, 2019, Active History commenced a series on education “after” residential schools with an article written by Clinton Debogorski, Magdalena Milosz, Martha Walls and Karen Bridget Murray. The series is open-ended. Active History welcomes additional contributions on related themes.

By Amy Bell, Scott Cameron, and Thomas Peace

The filing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report marked a watershed moment when Canadian universities began to respond to calls for recognition and reconciliation. Land acknowledgements recognizing the link between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories have gradually spread to universities across Canada, and university administrations have begun processes of self-auditing and consultation with Indigenous communities and nations.

Three weeks after the TRC report, Universities Canada, which represents the leadership of 96 universities across Canada, published a set of thirteen principles on Indigenous post-secondary education to advance opportunities for Indigenous students in post secondary institutions and integrate Indigenous themes and topics throughout the academy. In 2017, eighty percent of their member universities self-reported that they were conducting activities to promote intercultural engagement through cultural activities, events and forums, talking circles, competency or reconciliation training; just under seventy percent were developing strategic plans for advancing reconciliation; and two-thirds were working to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and methods into research projects and classrooms on campus.

These initiatives range from teach-ins on Indigenous law and practice at the University of Waterloo, to University of Toronto’s hiring of an outreach librarian to work with Indigenous students, communities and collections, to the University of Alberta’s Massive Open Online Course [MOOC], Indigenous Canada, which explores contemporary issues and Canadian history from Indigenous perspectives and can be audited for free.

Broader initiatives include greater outreach and recruitment within Indigenous communities, developing curricula specific to Indigenous cultures, hiring more Indigenous faculty positions and incorporating Indigenous representation in university governance. Both Ryerson University and Acadia University have, for example, committed to long-term decolonization strategies that will incorporate these types of systemic changes (Acadia Launches, 2018, Truth and Reconciliation, 2018). They require a long-term financial and resource commitment, a willingness to consult and listen to Indigenous communities, and an openness to structural change.

But what happens when your home university is not able to, or is unwilling, to engage institutionally with the Calls to Action? Continue reading

History Slam Episode 140: Brotherhood

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By Sean Graham

Brotherhood opens for a week-long engagement at the Cineplex Yonge & Dundas in Toronto starting December 6. It will also be shown at the Sudbury Indie Cinema on December 13.

In the summer of 1926, a group of young men were attending a camp along the shores of Balsam Lake in Ontario. Part of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew leadership group out of Toronto’s St. James Cathedral, they had come to the lake for two weeks outside their daily lives in the city. Led by First World War veterans, the experience turned into a nightmare when they were caught on the lake in the midst of a major storm. What followed was a struggle for survival.

That real-world story is the subject of Brotherhood, a new historical drama written and directed by Richard Bell. In telling the story of the young men, both that lived and died during that fateful trip, Bell explores issues that not only shaped their lives, but also continue to influence life in the 21st century. From the impact of war to questions about masculinity to navigating adolescence, the film explores questions that, 100 years later, still confront young people as they transition to adulthood. Beautifully shot in northern Ontario, Brotherhood both tells a fascinating and captivating story in a visually striking manner.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Richard Bell about the movie. We talk about his research into the story, masculinity in 2019, and the First World War’s role in the story. We also talk about the challenges of shooting on location, taking artistic liberty with historical events, and writing dialogue for real people who left no record.

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Tenth Anniversary Repost: Listening to History: Correcting the Toronto Metis Land Acknowledgement

Active History is celebrating its tenth anniversary! As part of our anniversary celebrations we are sharing glimpses of how Active History developed and showcasing our favourite and most popular posts from the past ten years. 

In 2016 we ran a number of thematic series including the Indigenous Histories series edited by Crystal Fraser and the Confederation Debates series in partnership with Canada Watch.

Today we are re-posting Jesse Thistle’s 2016 post titled “Listening to History: Correcting the Toronto Metis Land Acknowledgment.” 

Map ascribed to Louis Jolliet after 1673 showing ganatchakiagon and the rouge trail the eastern arm of the Toronto carrying place

Map ascribed to Louis Jolliet after 1673 showing ganatchakiagon and the rouge trail the eastern arm of the Toronto carrying place

One of my friends is a teacher for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). She recently asked me for help regarding their traditional land acknowledgement recognizing the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and the Metis. She told me that the board was facing considerable resistance from the community regarding the acknowledgment of the Metis. The blow back is understandable, and here’s why.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the Metis wars on Twitter raging amongst our scholarly friends. They rail on about who is and who is not Metis; where the historic Metis homeland is and where it is not. Well if you’re wondering, Toronto isn’t Metis, nor are its historic mixed-bloods. But beyond the contested lines drawn in the scholarly sandbox, here is some actual history to break down why Toronto sits outside of the western Metis homeland and thus should not be included in the TDSB Indigenous land acknowledgement. Continue reading

Poppies, Cherries, and the mis-Meaning of Remembrance Day

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By Owen Griffiths

As most everyone knows by now, Don Cherry was fired recently for saying that “you people” should wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. Love him or hate him, and with Cherry there is no middle ground, he has been known throughout his broadcasting career for his unequivocal championing of Canadian players and his denigration of those foreign born. From “face mask wearing Swede” to “Hockey night in Russia” to “you people,” Cherry bombs became an accepted part of his on-air persona: an old-fashioned, rock ‘em, sock ‘em, Canadian patriot.

Lost in the controversy over Cherry’s bigoted reference to immigrants is the reason he claimed “you people” should wear the poppy. “These guys paid [the biggest price] for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada,” he said, referring to the consequences of our (male) soldiers’ sacrificial death. Here, we confront a commonplace that the soldiers who fought in Canada’s wars (especially WWI and WWII) did so for us and that without this greatest of sacrifices we would not enjoy the life we have today. These claims are not just Cherry bombast but are regularly expressed throughout Canada: from the Moncton Times Transcript’s statement that “they gave their lives so that we may live in peace” and Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan’s assertion that our soldiers sacrifices “allow[ed] us to have the wonderful life that we have in Canada” to my son’s elementary school song teaching that our “soldiers, sailors, and airmen… fought across the sea… keeping Canada free.” These stories are comforting. They reassure us that sacrifice was not in vain. And they ground our identities as Canadians by reminding us of our debt: There but for the grace of “they” go “we.”

However, such statements are deeply problematic for many reasons, four of which I will address here. Continue reading