Transcending Boundaries: All the Parts are in Conversation with Each Other

This essay is part of an ongoing series reflecting on this summer’s Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute (MISHI).

By Phil Henderson

On the shores of Lake Mindemoya, Alan Corbiere talked about how Nanabush escaped from the Haudenosaunee by running up the length of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula and paddling across Lake Huron to Manitoulin Island. In the local coffee shop that graciously played host to so many of our group’s participants for our week-long stay, Bill Fox provided the archaeological evidence of the extent and intention behind Anishinaabek mobility throughout the vast Great Lakes Basin. In that same space, Anong Beam explained the process of pottery crafting, highlighting the uniqueness and place-based qualities of clays with which she and her family have worked – revitalizing a tradition of Anishinaabek ceramic-work, the very existence of which many have sought to deny. At a campsite near the shores of Providence Bay, laughter and stories moulded new friendships together. And, in the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF), Michael Belmore told us about the conversations occurring between the elements in which he works to produce art that embodies spirit as a way of being.

Alan Corbiere teaching MISHI participants at Lake Mindemoya.

For myself, I will remember the Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute as a space – or, better, spaces – teeming with relationships, connectivity, and care. First and foremost as modeled by the Anishinaabek peoples who hosted us in their territories, on the island of the manitous; and, in particular, of the generosity that was shown to us by M’Chigeeng First Nation in opening the OCF to us.

Most of all, I appreciate being given the chance to look at the world and at my scholarship in a different light. My own discipline, political science, has a particular penchant for working with – indeed, depending upon – various models of containment. Inside/outside models of sovereignty, discriminative notions of citizenship, and atomistic ideas about identity formation – to name just a few – typify the normative models of thought in contemporary political science. So much so, that they tend to reassert themselves even in works that claim to criticize these models. Continue reading

Decolonizing Cottage Country

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Bbadgett/Wikimedia Commons

Peter A. Stevens

In Canadian popular culture, few symbols are as iconic as the family cottage. The summer home appears regularly in Canadian novels and films, and it has long been used by governments and private corporations to signify what the good life looks like in this country. Cottaging thus represents escape from the cares of the world, and immersion in a natural landscape that is dedicated to pleasure, relaxation, and tranquility.[1]

Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden Taylor disrupts this idealized image of cottage life in Cottagers and Indians, a new play running until March 25th at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. The play uses the interactions between its two characters to show that cottage country is a contested place, home to misunderstandings and conflict between competing interest groups.

On one side is Arthur Copper, an Anishnaabe man who seeks to renew his community’s relationship with the land by reviving the traditional practice of harvesting manoomin, or wild rice, from northern Ontario’s lakes. Opposite him is Maureen Poole, an uppity Torontonian who fears that Copper’s rice-planting activities will ruin swimming, boating, property values, and the manicured version of nature that is favoured by cottagers. Through warring over wild rice, the characters reveal the many factors that divide them—wealth, education, urban-vs.-rural perspectives, and most importantly, race and ethnicity.

Though Cottagers and Indians largely plays these differences for laughs, it raises a serious question: what does decolonization mean for cottage country? In the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on residential schools, even some native leaders have argued that Canada has reached a turning point in its relationship with First Nations people. The Idle No More movement has kept Indigenous demands in the public spotlight, and the current federal government at least pays lip service to decolonization. But what implications do such developments have for Canada’s resort and tourist regions?

In the history of outdoor recreation in Canada, Indigenous people play a complicated and contradictory role. Continue reading

History Slam Episode 111: From Left to Right

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By Sean Graham

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Brian Thorn about his book From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women’s Political Activism in Postwar Canada. We talk about the book’s origins, the nature of women’s activism on both the left and right of the political spectrum, and the issues supported by those on both sides. We also talk about women’s participation in the political process and the book’s connection to the current events.

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“He Will Again Be Able to Make Himself Self-Sustaining”[1]: Canadian Ex-Officers’ Return to Civilian Life

Brittany Dunn 

With the end of the First World War in November 1918 and demobilization following soon after, hundreds of thousands of servicemen returned to Canada and civilian life. Veterans approached their relationships with the government as they applied for state assistance in various ways, but ex-officers typically wanted to avoid dependence on the state, feeling it compromised their status as self-sufficient providers.

Ex-officers were often in a better position than other veterans because of their pre-war social status and class backgrounds. Many officers were drawn from the middle and upper classes and thus usually returned home to more financially stable lives after the war.[2] Yet many of these men still applied for, and some received, pensions from the Canadian government. In their applications to the Board of Pension Commissioners – renamed the Canadian Pension Commission (CPC) in 1933 – they often presented themselves as breadwinners who reluctantly turned to the state for aid.

The image of the independent provider was an important ideal to many men, both before and after the war, and so they sought to prove that they could care for themselves without state aid.[3] This construction of the hard-working, self-reliant man was also endorsed by the government in its policies for veteran re-establishment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment distributed posters such as this one between 1917 and 1919. They were likely created to assure the public of the state’s benevolence towards its veterans. This poster in particular emphasizes regaining independence through retraining and eventual employment. Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. Victory Over Wounds, The Soldier’s Return. Library and Archives Canada. 1914-1918. MIKAN 3667233.

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Jury Selection and the Gerald Stanley decision

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By R. Blake Brown

A jury’s decision to acquit farmer Gerald Stanley for second-degree murder in the death Colten Boushie, a Cree man, has brought jury selection issues to public attention in Canada. Press reports note that the jury lacked any Indigenous members, a composition achieved at least in part by the defendant’s use of ‘peremptory’ challenges. The Criminal Code provides these challenges to defendants, who can challenge the inclusion of potential jurors without providing any reason.[1] Since the verdict, many, including Boushie’s family, have called for reforms to jury selection processes, including measures to ensure that defendants cannot use peremptory challenges to prevent Indigenous Peoples from serving on juries in criminal cases.[2]

W. S. Gilbert’s illustration for “Now, Jurymen, hear my advice” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury. (Wikimedia Commons)

Historians of the criminal justice system will not be surprised that jury selection became contentious in the Stanley trial, in part because of the long history of bias against First Nations people in the courts, and in part because jury selection has often been a heated issue when jurors deliver verdicts in cases steeped in racial, ethnic, political, and/or religious tensions. Allegations of ‘jury packing’ have been common in such cases. The lack of Indigenous jurors in many courtrooms in Canada is the most recent, and perhaps the most troubling, example of this historic problem.

Most complaints about jury selection have been animated by a concern for protecting the interests of defendants against the power of the state. Continue reading

Marijuana, Capitalism, and the Canadian Strategy

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By Stefano Tijerina

A commercial-scale medical licensing system involving a Canadian company with ties to Colombia is set to turn the image of widespread illicit pot growing in the Colombian countryside on its head. Canadians are well informed about the internal debates surrounding marijuana but they tend to be not as aware of the nation’s foreign policy and global strategy. The national media and the government propaganda systems have historically constructed a narrative that limits people’s understanding of Canada’s role around the world and particularly in the Global South. The case of Canadian marijuana oil production in Colombia tailored for the Canadian medical marijuana consumer illustrates this point.

By looking at the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana from a transnational perspective one is able see a more holistic picture of the government’s strategy as well as the dynamics of the Canadian government-business partnership. Canada’s strategy in Colombia debunks the idea that the legalization of marijuana is purely a local issue, questioning the essence of the policy as well as the long-term sustainability of the emerging industry.

Marijuana. Poster, 1936. Pacific Show Print of Los Angeles

For those following the legalization of marijuana in Canada, the issue seems to be a local one. How is legalization going to contribute to economic development at the national level? Will the medical and recreational marijuana industry revitalize local urban economies and serve as a catalyst for new economic growth? Will it rejuvenate decaying local economies? Will it solve social and health problems? But the real question should be if marijuana would place Canada in an advantageous position, as a leader in the export and trade of this emerging global commodity?

Courtesy of Marijuanadoctor. “Healthcare issues new medical marijuana regulation.” Canada Press, 2014.

It is not commonly known that Canada’s oil-based economy was initially fueled by oil extracted by Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in Perú, Colombia, and Venezuela. A few scholars and policy makers know that Colombia’s oil and pipeline infrastructure was developed by Tropical Oil and Andian National Corporation, two Canadian subsidiaries that fell under the umbrella of the American oil corporation. Kruger Inc., the Montreal-based paper company, is a dominant player in Colombia’s paper industry operating under the name Papeles Nacionales. Canadian ship builders built the ships for the Colombian merchant fleet, Flota Mercante Grancolombia, back in the 1950s. Canadair was directly involved in the modernization of Colombia’s Air Force in the 1960s. Some Canadians are aware of current Canadian mining operations in Colombia and some might even know that Canada’s private sector has injected millions of dollars into the Colombian economy through Foreign Direct Investment, but very few know that Canada’s PharmaCielo is the biggest producer of marijuana oil in Colombia and the first company to obtain a production license overseas.

“Growing Cannabis on the Equator for Export Around the World.” Cannainsider.com, 2017.

If Harold Innis were alive he would probably incorporate marijuana into his staples thesis. Continue reading

On Being a Scholar-Ally in the Wake of the Gerald Stanley Verdict

By Erin Millions

On Friday, February 9th, a jury in Battleford, Saskatchewan found farmer Gerald Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of a twenty-two year old Cree man, Colten Boushie. Canadians across the country have expressed their outrage at the verdict and organized protests, while Colten Boushie’s family mourns the lack of justice for their loved one.

The verdict is not shocking when contextualized in the long history of systemic racism against Indigenous peoples on the prairies. But, even knowing that, I hoped for better. I have spent the last few days since the verdict combating racist trolls under the hashtag #SettlerCollector, started by allies to try and deflect attacks on Indigenous scholars, activists, family members, and others on social media. I’ve been having conversations with non-Indigenous Canadians about the verdict – some of whom are defensive and some of whom are genuinely shocked at the verdict and open to learning more. And I’ve also been thinking about how I am going to address the Stanley decision in my classroom this week.

I am a non-Indigenous scholar from rural Saskatchewan. My great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents were all Saskatchewan farmers. I grew up in a small, rural farming community. Gerald Stanley is my people. Continue reading

Teaching U.S. History Abroad during the Age of Trump

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By Frank Cogliano

On a recent trip to Sweden I encountered an elderly gentleman out walking his dog. We engaged in a brief conversation. Hearing my accent, he detected that I was an Anglophone and asked me if I’m English. “No,” I replied, “American.” He broke into a smile, laughed, and made a Nazi salute and said, “Trump!” We continued our conversation and he asked me, “Is Trump really as bad as the media here make him out to be?” He sought suggestions for newspapers and websites to find out “what’s really going on.” Although the dog-walker couldn’t have realized it, his combination of perplexity, curiosity, and mockery epitomises my experience as an American teaching the history of the United States during the Trump presidency.

Source: Creative Commons. Bridges Not Walls Banners Edinburgh, 20 January 2017. Credit: Colin Hattersley

I arrived in Britain in August of 1992. I was nearing completion of my Ph.D. at Boston University and my supervisor had advised me, “It’s easier to get a job if you have a job.” So I accepted what I thought would be a one-year visiting lectureship in American history at a small teacher-training college in Southampton, England. Little did I know then that one year would turn into a career in the UK. I spent five years in Southampton before moving to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1997. I had arrived in Britain just before the 1992 U.S. election when George H. W. Bush was still president. I’ve lived abroad and taught U.S. history during the two-term presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now during the first year of Donald Trump’s administration.

During my tenure in Britain U.S. history as a subject has remained very popular. Continue reading

Rounding Up the Confederation Debates

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By Daniel Heidt

In July 2016, when Canadians were beginning to think about Canada 150, I posted a brief article on ActiveHistory.ca about an emerging and largely crowdsourced project – The Confederation Debates – an initiative to digitize and popularize over 9,000 pages of Canada’s founding historical records.

I am pleased to say that Canadians were eager to contribute to this important legacy project. Thanks to the contributions of the Crabtree Foundation, SSHRC, St. Jerome’s University, the University of Waterloo, the York Canada 150 fund, several professors and additional post-secondary institutions, multiple archives, and hundreds of volunteers from across the country, these records have been brought together for the first time and posted in a variety of forms that are useful to Canadians of nearly all ages and walks of life. We produced:  Continue reading

We Regret To Inform You: The Emotional Labour of Academic Job Applications

Book with folded pages to form a heart

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Andrea Eidinger

I would like to acknowledge and thank the many academics who have reached out to me on this subject over the past few months. Once again, I am profoundly grateful and honoured by their strength and generosity. Special thanks to Ian Mosby for permission to include his story in this piece.

Everything in academia has its season: SSHRC applications, archival research, syllabus preparation, and all the other yearly routines that come with academic life. But for those of us who work as sessional instructors, the worst season, without a doubt, is job application season. These days, applications for even sessional positions can involve countless hours of work and upwards of fifty pages of written materials, much of which has to be customized for each individual application. The sheer amount of work is mind-boggling, particularly to those of us with friends and family who are not familiar with the academic world. I was personally shocked to find out that outside of academia, a job application usually only consists of a cover letter and a one or two page resumé. Can you even imagine?

These days, the components of a job application can vary significantly between institutions but generally include: a cover letter, a detailed c.v., letters of reference from referees, sample course outlines, teaching evaluations, a teaching dossier, and custom course outlines.. The intellectual labour involved in producing these kinds of applications is a major issue. But today I want to focus specifically on the emotional labour that goes into job applications. While most of the specific examples in this essay refer to the Canadian job market generally, and the field of history specifically, the issues raised in this essay are not discipline, or country,specific.

Understanding Emotional Labour in Academia

The term “emotional labour” is a relatively new one in academia circles, but it generally refers to the effort involved in caring. It is related to, but not the same as service. This often involves things like providing a sympathetic ear to a student struggling with homesickness during office hours, the expectation that requires female professors be “nice,” settling disputes between colleagues, having to swallow down anger following an insensitive remark from a senior colleague, and much more. Female, disabled, and LGTBQ+ professors, as well as professors who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour often bear the brunt of this labour, whether this involves handling unwelcoming and exclusionary environments and attitudes, the expectation that many of us feel to “represent” our “people,” as well as the expectation that we are supposed to be educating others. Sessional instructors also often perform a disproportionate amount of this labour. Continue reading