The Curious Case of Canadian Television – What’s Old is News

By Sean Graham

This week I talk with Jennifer VanderBurgh, author of What Television Remembers: Artifacts and Footprints of TV in Toronto. We discuss the challenge of studying Canadian television, how to find old programs, and why television researches often rely on the public. We also talk about Toronto as a television Canada’s television production centre, how the city stands in for other locations, and how that shapes what Canadians see on their screens.

Historical Headline of the Week

Kate Taylor, “For CBC fans, TV history is just out of reach,” Globe & Mail, June 2, 2017.

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Sensing (everything) Changes: A Tribute to Joy Parr

By Jessica van Horssen

This tribute was also published with NiCHE

Not many scholars have the desire or ability to challenge Descartes’ first principle “I think, therefore I am,” but Joy Parr was not the average scholar. Her concept of “I am here, therefore I am,” mapped out in her final monograph Sensing Changes (2010), gave insight, energy, and direction to local, place-based, embodied histories, and made me think, “Descartes who?”

I’ve been a Joy Parr mega-fan my whole academic life. In undergrad, I used to go to what I termed “the Parr section” of the library so I could let her work lead me in a new direction for any paper I had due, especially in the history of gender, labour, technology, and environment. Her award-winning monographs, Labouring Children (1980), The Gender of Breadwinners(1990), Domestic Goods(1999), and Sensing Changes have guided innumerable students and scholars into new realms and ideas while challenging the fields of Gender, Labour, and Envirotech History. I never considered the possibility that I would one day work with her during my PhD, and that she would continue to have such a dynamic impact on my scholarship well beyond those intense years.

Sensing Changes by Joy Parr cover

Along with her field-changing publications, Parr was an engaged and inspiring teacher, which can often get forgotten or pushed aside. She took her role as a teacher seriously and it was amazing to be in her classroom as she challenged students to think deeper, supporting us through our journeys. It always felt like we were on the cusp of something so exciting. Continue reading

Opting for “Sexual Wellbeing for All”: Community & Sex Education in Alberta, 1970s and 2024

Karissa Patton and Nancy Janovicek

Cartoon of a pregnant person nervously listening to a caricature of Premier Danielle Smith, who is saying "Oh, yeah, for sure. Doing that will get you super-pregnant. Your folks probably should have told you that bit if they weren't going to opt in to health class. But the good news is that now you get to say you have "parents' rights"!" The caption reads "Alberta has seen a remarkable reduction in teen pregnancies. The UCP is threatening us with changes to sex ed that risk reversing that 40 year trend.

Used with permission from Eric Dyck Slaughterhouse Slough Comics

Eric Dyck’s comic lampoons a longstanding dispute on sex education in Canada: comprehensive sex education as crucial to young people’s health, bodily autonomy, and human rights vs. parents’ rights to make decisions about what knowledge and services their children’s access. Since the 1960s, students and youth have been vocal in the debates about curriculum on sex ed (Sethna 2005, 2006; Patton 2021). Most recently, they have demanded GSAs and defended the inclusion of education about sexuality, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. In response parents’ rights groups have mobilized campaigns to oppose inclusive sex education. These groups mobilise broad and valid concerns from parents about their children’s education but, ultimately, the social conservatives leading these campaigns use homophobia and anti-trans sentiments that target extremely vulnerable youth. Continue reading

Women’s Sports & Identity – What’s Old is News

By Sean Graham

In this episode, I’m joined by Michelle J. Manno, author of Denied: Women, Sports, and the Contradiction of Identity. We talk about Michelle’s personal experience with collegiate basketball, how personal identity mixed with team identity in sports, and how players navigate contested spaces. We also discuss how coaches police players’ identities, the role of Title IX, and how players assert agency within college sports.

Historical Headline of the Week

Shireen Ahmed, “WNBA’s Toronto Expansion will help Amplify Culture of Women’s Basketball in Canada,” CBC Sports, May 15, 2024.

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Whose communities? Provincial funding support for community museums in Ontario

by Krista Barclay

This International Museum Day (May 18th) is an opportune moment to reflect on the essential community-building, research, and education work that happens at local museums. A closer look at Ontario’s Community Museum Operating Grant (CMOG) program can tell us a lot about how the provincial government approaches the many kinds of communities that make up Ontario. Community museums steward local history through the preservation and interpretation of culturally significant landscapes, heritage buildings, and artifact and archival collections, but they are also hubs for research, learning, community events and services, and much more.

Wellington County Museum and Archives, Fergus ON. Photo by User:Saforrest, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

In Canada, community museums are places where residents and visitors of all ages encounter the history of this place. Many scholars have also shown how museums have been a tool of colonialism and sites of trauma and harm for Indigenous peoples. It is no surprise then that museums are specifically mentioned in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report and Calls to Action as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Museums are called to acknowledge their roles in propagating and upholding white supremacist, patriarchal, and colonial structures in Canada. They are also called to support Indigenous sovereignty through repatriation and meaningfully engaging in the work of reconciliation and decolonization, both in their local communities and the field of museology more broadly.

Various levels of government across Canada provide some measure of (usually insufficient) funding for museums. In Ontario, the CMOG program has provided modest operating grants annually to community museums for more than three decades. It is a statutory grant set out by the Ontario Heritage Act and administered by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport using its Standards for Community Museums. Though it is disbursed annually, the program has been closed to new applicants since 2016 and its total funding has not kept pace with inflation for many years.

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Mobilizing Resistance: The “Action Patriotique” Movement within Montreal’s Haitian Diaspora, 1971-1986

Source: Centre International de Documentation et d’Information Haïtienne, Caribéenne et Afro-canadienne (the International Center for Haitian, Caribbean, and Afro-Canadian Documentation and Information), also known as the CIDIHCA Collections.

Virginie Belony

As the situation in Haiti becomes increasingly complex and challenging for many observers to comprehend, delving into Haiti’s past and the experiences of its diaspora here in Canada can offer valuable insights and examples of resilience, resistance, and community mobilization.

The election of François Duvalier as President of Haiti in September 1957 marked the onset of a period ostensibly characterized by political stability yet marred by significant human rights violations. This pattern persisted throughout the tenure of his successor, his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who held power from 1971 to 1986.

While in exile in Quebec, Canada in the 1970s, many Haitians participated in a resistance movement commonly referred to as the “Action Patriotique.” The exiled Haitians engaged in organizations, debates, and critiques, particularly through printed materials, targeting the actions of the Duvalier regime. Additionally, they adopted a critical stance towards both the Quebec and Canadian governments for their support of the Haitian dictatorship.

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The Canadian Mind – What’s Old is News

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By Sean Graham

We’re back with Season 2 of What’s Old is News and to kick it off, Sean Graham is joined by Andy Lamey, author of The Canadian Mind: Essays on Writers or Thinkers. They talk about Canadian literature in the second half of the 20th century, where nationalism fits into the story, and the how literary critics treated Canadian writing. They also chat about questions related to identity, language, and legacies and major literary figures.

Historical Headline of the Week

Bob Weber, “Vast Digital Trove of Recordings by Canadian Literature Greats Nears Completion,” Canadian Press, November 4, 2023. Continue reading

On Bill 18: Danielle Smith, the Calgary School, and the Politics of Academic Freedom

Mack Penner

Photo of a white woman with shoulder-length brown hair wearing blue and black in front of a blue background.

Manning Centre c/o: Jake Wright
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

On 10 April 2024, the United Conservative Party (UCP) introduced Bill 18, or the Provincial Priorities Act, in order to “support Alberta’s government in pushing back against overreach by the federal government.” If passed, the bill would require “provincial entities” of all kinds to pass any agreements with the federal government through provincial review. The bill fits neatly into the ongoing agenda of the UCP and its leader, Danielle Smith, to resist the federal government at every possible turn.[1]

Immediately, the introduction of Bill 18 provoked outcry, including from academics, who rightly saw the legislation as a threat to academic freedom. Not only was it plain to see that the bill made room for political meddling with research funding, it could also potentially drive scholars and researchers out of the province or discourage them from coming in the first place.[2] With the total amount of tri-agency federal funding for research in Alberta totalling well over $300 million just in 2022-23 according to the CBC, the stakes are high. Continue reading

We Are What We Eat: A Review of “The Human Cost of Food” Digital Exhibition

Portuguese immigrant Rui Ribeiro and co-workers in a tobacco farm in Delhi, Ontario, September 1957. Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, Domingos Marques fonds, F0573, ASC29598.

To launch the exhibit The Human Cost of Food, part of the new Active History on Display initiative, we invited award-winning public historian Gilberto Fernandes, whose public history project City Builders was a major inspiration to the exhibit, to provide commentary.

By Gilberto Fernandes

Time is of the essence out in the fields. When to seed, water, feed, harvest or cure are decisions that dictate the fortune of crops and cause farmers to lose sleep. Laying in their own beds, own homes, own land, own country, where they raise their families and where many were raised themselves, most farmers would say that their stressful love of farming is permanent. Food is temporary. If left alone, its natural fate is to rot. It truly only becomes food when eaten. Such a simple and usually inattentive act, yet so fundamentally constitutive to all societies. Not just in an obvious biological sense, but also culturally, economically, emotionally, and in whatever other ways people make sense of their individual and collective identities through food; including those who preoccupy themselves with that annoyingly persistent question, what it means to be Canadian.

If we are what we eat, what then are those who feed us? For nearly six decades, immigration officials have asked that same question and decided that the over 70,000 temporary migrant workers from the Global South, whose seasonal labour has been critical to every stage of the annual farming cycle, are not to be Canadian. They don’t get to stay. Continue reading

More Than A Face

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Photo of the author, courtesy of Fung Ling Feimo.

To launch the exhibit More Than a Face, part of the new Active History on Display initiative, we invited   Fung Ling Feimo, one of the storytellers, to set the stage: 

More Than A Face opens at!

It is a collection of soundscapes, visuals, written and spoken word, offering stories told through our individual voices.

We have storytellers from distinct backgrounds, time and space; from different places in the immigration cycle and eras. Yet our faces all fit the “Asian” catchall as if there’s a language and culture called “Asian”.

The irony is we often find ourselves the wrong kind of Asian while there is no one “Asian”. The diaspora identity is fluid, and the beauty is that is we can be “Asian” and “Canadian” and everything in between; free to choose which to embrace at a given moment. We can reminisce about ancient traditions, blurry memories, things lost, at the same time know English and French as “bad” as any other Canadian. Continue reading