A Review of Daniel Macfarlane’s Negotiating a River: Canada, the U.S. and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway

By Natalie Zacharewski

In his work Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Daniel Macfarlane recounts the policy, negotiations and later impacts of the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The comprehensive detail of his research and depth of analysis sheds important light on Canada and its technological advancements in the twentieth century.

UBC Press, 2014 Casebound, 356 pages, $34.95

UBC Press, 2014 Casebound, 356 pages, $34.95

In the forward of the book, Graeme Wynn sets the stage for Macfarlane’s message “The realization of powerful, brute-force technology deployed when high modernist confidence in the value of transforming nature for human purposes met few challenges” (xiv). This is overwhelmingly evident through the duration of the book as Macfarlane weaves through the mounds of negotiating politics that brought central Canada the St. Lawrence Seaway. However, despite his detailed examination of the evolution of this project, at times the human element and impact of the seaway feels missed in the chronology of politics, policy and presumptions from the major players. This seems though, to be somewhat fitting as the St. Lawrence was also at times, lost in a myriad of complications. Continue reading

A Fish Box and a Folk Festival

By David Frank

The fish box in 2015. Author's photo.

The fish box in 2015. Author’s photo.

I keep my camping gear in an old wooden box that sits neatly in the back of my car. Nothing unusual about that. But when I packed up to go Canso for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival this summer, I realized this would be a kind of homecoming — for the box.

Let me explain. The box is about thirty-two inches long, twenty inches wide and maybe ten inches deep. Just a few boards nailed together, and an opening for your hands at each end so you can get a good grip. It’s what they call a fish box, standard equipment on fishing boats a generation or two ago. You needed them to load and carry fish.

I’ve had that box ever since I was a student in Halifax in the 1970s. There were at least a dozen of them in the old garage behind the house where I lived, and the reason they were there is the story that takes us all the way back to Canso. Continue reading

When writing the First World War comes home: Remembering Pvt. Harold Carter

By Dimitry Anastakis

Private Harold Carter

Private Harold Carter

I am not, by any stretch, a specialist in the First World War, but I did have an experience in lecturing and writing about the war that really brought home to me the importance of how we treat history. Though as historians we often think, write, and teach about history at a distance – it is the past, after all – history can reach through the expanse of time to teach us an important lesson in taking care of history. Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting Canada in Cape Breton

By Tina Loo

“The bigger-is-better approach to art is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme-park entrepreneurs and insecure municipalities hoping to waylay bored drive-by tourists…. A brutal megalith doesn’t prompt individual introspection – it mocks it. And by defiling a quiet beauty spot with its grandiose bulk, Mother Canada will only diminish the heritage it claims to honour.”

Globe and Mail editorial, 23 June 2015

“It’s great. It’s good. We need it. Maybe we can get the frigging highway fixed.”

Glenn Warren, Ingonish, 7 March 2014

In the last few months, the media has been filled with reports and opinions about “Mother Canada,” the twenty-four metre high statue proposed by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation (NFNMF) to commemorate the country’s war dead. Part of the reaction has focused on the site of the statue, at Green Cove, in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, an area whose natural beauty and ecological integrity some feel would be severely compromised by the memorial. To them, Mother Canada is “hubristic, ugly, and just plain wrong.”

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Heritage vs. History in the Commemoration of War in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

By David Campbell, Jonathan Roberts, Corey Slumkoski, and Martha Walls

This is an expanded version of an op-ed piece originally published in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. See David Campbell, Jonathan Roberts, Corey Slumkoski and Martha Walls, “‘Mother Canada’ elevates bombastic heritage over subtlety of history,” Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 5 June 2015.

The proposed statue. Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation

The proposed statue. Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation

We are well into the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Having observed the centenary of the war’s outbreak last year, we have now begun to mark the anniversaries of Canada’s first major battles in Belgium and France. Over the next few years, we will be inundated with laments for the blood spilled and the lives lost during this “War to End All Wars.”

This is to be expected; new military technologies meant that the First World War saw death and destruction on a scale like never before. Canada was not immune from the horrors of the conflict; approximately 60,000 Canadian lives were lost during the war, or roughly one percent of our population. Shockingly, Canadian sacrifices paled in comparison to those made by some of our European allies. France, for example, saw over four percent of its citizens killed. Clearly, the story of the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform is something that we mustn’t forget.

Recently, a proposal has come forth calling on Parks Canada to allow a private foundation, led by businessman Tony Trigiani, to build a memorial in Cape Breton Highland National Park Continue reading

A Monument to the Past? The Never Forgotten National War Memorial Project

By Jill Campbell-Miller

The proposed statue. Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation

The proposed statue. Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation

Over this past winter and spring, the controversy around the proposed Never Forgotten National War Memorial Project has become increasingly intense, even reaching the pages of the Guardian. The project, sponsored by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, and specifically, Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani, intends to honour fallen soldiers who served abroad. Positioned overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Green Cove in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (CBHNP), the idea has drawn support from those who see the attraction as having potential economic benefits for the area. Local supporters even held a rally to show their enthusiasm. However, it has also caused a furor among others, who worry that the magnitude of the monument, which currently includes a 25-metre statue of “Mother Canada,” a parking lot, two interpretive centres, and other amenities, will have serious environmental and cultural consequences for the scenic area. Twenty-eight former Parks Canada managers wrote an open letter to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq to oppose it.

I should start by saying that I am not neutral on this issue. I grew up in Cape North, a village situated in the middle of the CBHNP. As a kid, Green Cove was one of the many spectacular views that I passed on the way to dentist appointments and Christmas shopping trips. The Never Forgotten project has no appeal to me. As much as I appreciate the sentiment of those who wish to honour Canadian soldiers who died overseas – including my uncle, Donald Campbell, whose plane went missing during WWII – the oversized scale of the project strikes me as inappropriate both to particular area of Green Cove and the Park in general. Continue reading

Podcast: Public, Private, Political: Charitable Organizations and Citizen Engagement

On June 2, 2015, a roundtable was held as part of the CHA Annual Meeting that examined the Canadian politics of charity through the history of citizen engagement and the historical relationships between state and charity and public and private.

Chaired by Lara Campbell (SFU), the roundtable featured Sarah Glassford (UPEI), Ian Mosby (McMaster), Will Tait (Carleton), Shirley Tillotson (Dalhousie), and Jonathan Weier (Western).

Activehistory.ca is pleased to present a recording of this roundtable.

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Podcast: Children’s Drawings and Humanitarian Aid: Transnational Expressions and Exhibitions

On June 2, 2015 Dominique Marshall delivered her Presidential Address to the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting. The address was entitled ‘Children’s Drawings and Humanitarian Aid: Transnational Expressions and Exhibitions.’

Activehistory.ca is pleased to present a recording of the address.
Continue reading

Coming Clean About Operation Soap: The 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids

By Forrest Picher

Implicitly, gay men are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and supposedly enjoy the same rights as heterosexual people.1 Yet, there remains a legal discrimination against homosexual sex: homosexuals cannot engage in group sex, while heterosexuals can. Writing in 2014, Thomas Hooper explains “section 159 of the Criminal Code codifies mononormativity and maintains the legacy of gross indecency, as anal sex is only legal in Canada if it is ‘engaged in, in private, between… any two persons.’”2 In this way, any group sex between homosexual men, for example, is technically illegal in the Canadian Criminal Code and police are legally justified to raid places in which such activity occurs. And they do. In Calgary in 2002, for example, the police raided Goliath’s bathhouse, an establishment that was used by gay men in the community as a meeting place for sex.3 This raid demonstrates that the legal ambiguities that led to the 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto, as I will discuss, continue to be problematic. In fact, one bartender in Calgary stated after the 2002 raid: “This is so reminiscent of 1981 in Toronto, it’s sickening.”4

On February 5, 1981, 200 plainclothes police officers raided four Toronto bathhouses leading to the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis ten years earlier. Continue reading

The Central Experimental Farm’s Inclusion on Endangered Heritage Place List is a Call to Action


Fields at the Central Experiment Farm. Author’s photo

By Pete Anderson

On May 26th, Heritage Canada The National Trust included an important Ottawa site in its annual list of Canada’s top ten endangered heritage places. Declaring that “the Feds play fast and loose with a national historic site,” the National Trust denounced the proposed severing of 60 acres of the Central Experimental Farm’s Field 1 for a future hospital campus without consultation. The Farm’s placement on the list is a call to arms for everyone who supports Canada’s history and federal scientific research programs. Continue reading