Series @ ActiveHistory.ca: 2014-2015

As part of our summer hiatus, ActiveHistory.ca is featuring summaries of the papers and series we’ve run over the past year. Today, we provide a list of the series we’ve published since September 2014:

The Home Archivist (by Jess Dunkin) – Ongoing

Anishinaabeg in the War of 1812 (by Alan Corbiere)

200 Years of the Old Chieftain – January 2015

Infectious Disease, Contagion and the History of Vaccines – March/April 2015

Commemorating 35 years of the Marathon of Hope (Jenny Ellison) – April 2015

Thirty Five Years after the Abortion Caravan – May 2015

Activehistory.ca repost – John A. Macdonald’s Aryan Canada: Aboriginal Genocide and Chinese Exclusion

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on January 7, 2015.

By Timothy J. Stanley

Racisms are central to the creation of Canada through European dominance over the vast territories of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. A case in point is provided by John Alexander Macdonald and his enactment of Asian exclusion and the genocide of the people of the southern plains.[1]

Macdonald not only excluded the Chinese, he personally introduced biological racism as a defining characteristic of Canadianness. Biological racisms depart from older racisms by constructing allegedly natural, immutable and inescapable racial categories on the basis of supposed biological differences. Previous racisms had been based on alleged cultural characteristics that could change over time.[2] Macdonald’s fixing of difference was neither accidental nor simply the result of mere prejudice.

While debating the 1885 Electoral Franchise Act in the House of Commons, legislation he later called “my greatest triumph”,[3] Macdonald proposed that “Chinamen” should not have the right to vote on the grounds that they were “foreigners” and that “the Chinese has no British instincts or British feelings or aspirations.”[4]  When a member of the opposition asked whether naturalized Chinese ceased to be “Chinamen”, Macdonald amended his legislation to exclude “a person of Mongolian or Chinese race.”[5] The opposition object that the Chinese were “industrious people” who had “voted in the last election,” or had “as good a right [to] be allowed to vote as any other British subject of foreign extraction.”[6] This led Macdonald to make clear that Chinese exclusion was necessary to ensure European dominance.   He warned, “if [the Chinese] came in great numbers and settled on the Pacific coast they might control the vote of that whole Province, and they would send Chinese representative to sit here, who would represent Chinese eccentricities, Chinese immorality, Asiatic principles altogether opposite to our wishes; and, in the even balance of parties, they might enforce those Asiatic principles, those immoralities . . . , the eccentricities which are abhorrent to the Aryan race and Aryan principles, on this House.” He then claimed that the Chinese and Europeans were separate species: “the Aryan races will not wholesomely amalgamate with the Africans or the Asiatics” and that “the cross of those races, like the cross of the dog and the fox, is not successful; it cannot be, and never will be.” Chinese exclusion was necessary or, as he told the House, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed . . .”[7]

Macdonald’s comments shocked his contemporaries in Parliament. He was the only member of the Canadian Parliament to use the term “Aryan” during the 1870s and 1880s, as well as the only member to argue that Asians and Europeans were separate species.

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – ‘It’s history, like it or not’: the Significance of Sudbury’s Superstack

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on November 17, 2014.

By Mike Commito and Kaleigh Bradley

Standing at a height of 1,250 feet, the Sudbury Superstack is the second tallest chimney in the world and runner-up to the CN Tower for the tallest structure in Canada. Until 1987, Sudbury Ontario had the dubious honour of having the world’s tallest smokestack. Today, the Stack is seen by some as a marker for Sudbury’s rich mining heritage but for others, it is also part of a much larger history of health and environmental problems.

stack_clarke

“Sudbury and the Beast.” Courtesy of local photographer Greta Clarke.

Since the nineteenth century, Sudbury’s landscape was ravaged by the effects of the mining industry; over the years the vegetation disappeared with acid rain, and farmers found themselves unable to grow crops in the highly acidic soil. The International Nickel Company (INCO) built the Superstack in 1972 to disperse sulphur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants away from the area, thereby addressing health and environmental concerns. The Stack’s construction coincided with a community regreening movement, which has reversed some of the environmental damage. The Superstack reduced local emission rates in recent years, but one could argue that INCO simply passed the buck, and the dispersion of SO2 became somebody else’s problem. Moreover, the Sudbury area continues to have higher rates of asthma and lung cancer than other parts of Ontario. For better or for worse, the Superstack has been a landmark along the Sudbury skyline for over forty years. And when Vale (formerly INCO) recently proposed demolishing the Superstack in the local media, we watched as an interesting public debate about the significance, history, and future of the stack ensued.

On November 3rd 2014, Kelly Strong of Vale announced that the company considered demolishing the Superstack. This news is not surprising and is in keeping with Vale’s ongoing $1 billion Clean AER Project, designed to reduce SO2 emissions. If the Superstack is removed it will be replaced by a smaller chimney, but this will mark a big departure not only in the company’s operational history, but for local history as well. Continue reading

ActiveHistory.ca repost – More than “Prisoners”: Discovering Welfare History in Holy Trinity Cemetery, Thornhill

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on February 3, 2015.

By Danielle Terbenche

Five grave markers

Five grave markers

In 2012, I began attending Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Thornhill, Ontario. After learning I was a historian, some church members invited me to join the cemetery board. During my first visit to the church’s historic cemetery, I was intrigued by five concrete crosses marking the graves of eight men, dating from 1928 to 1931. In a poor state of repair, and inscribed only with the names and death dates of the men, they looked nothing like the more elaborate marker that surrounded them, both historic and modern. At the time, I had no idea that over the next year, these crosses would lead me to an investigative journey of the history of early twentieth-century welfare institutions, social policy, homelessness, and unemployment. It was a project that demonstrated the hidden stories and social histories that may be represented through small, seemingly inconsequential artefacts. This article documents my search for answers about these mysterious gravestones.

Built c. 1829-30 on Yonge Street, Trinity Church (as it was formerly known) is the oldest church building still in use in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. In 1950, the church was moved to Brooke Street, southwest of the original location; however, the cemetery remains at the original site on Yonge. Still in active use, Holy Trinity Cemetery contains several graves of historical significance to the Thornhill and Richmond Hill areas, including the grave of Colonel Robert Moodie, killed on Yonge Street near Montgomery’s Tavern during the 1837 Rebellion.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church

This history made me wonder if the five “mystery” crosses occupying a small rectangular plot of land towards the rear of the cemetery were historically significant. Age, weathering, and inappropriate repairs over eighty years had left them in a deteriorated condition; the names and death dates on some were barely visible. I wondered: Why were these graves so different? Who were these men buried in these plots? What was significant about the period 1928-31? Who installed the markers? Why were they not as structurally sound as other markers in the cemetery?

I asked about the graves at a cemetery board meeting and was told the men were “prisoners” from the Langstaff Industrial Farm. The farm, which opened in 1913 as an adjunct facility to ease overcrowding at Toronto’s Don Jail, operated as a minimum-security men’s prison for inebriates and petty criminals until it closed in 1958.

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – The .tp country domain name, 1997-2015: In memoriam

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on March 16, 2015.

http://freedom.tp

http://freedom.tp

by David Webster

The internet deleted its first virtual country this month. It wasn’t that bad: Timor-Leste is now a real country, and doesn’t need its original internet domain name any longer. But the .tp top-level country domain name (ccTLD, in the lingo) has a story to tell as it ends its 18-year history.

In 1997, the former Portuguese colony of Timor-Leste (East Timor) was nearing the final years of its struggle for independence from a brutal Indonesian military occupation that had started in 1975. Using a hosting service in Ireland, a contact address for the most famous Timorese political prisoner, and a clever tactic to squat on an unclaimed county code, activists launched the top-level domain .tp and its first site, freedom.tp.

It was a period when all countries and territories had recently been assigned two-letter codes, alongside the .com and .org domain suffixes. Most of these are familiar – .ca for Canada, .id for Indonesia, .ie for Ireland, and so on. In 1997, many country domain names were unclaimed. Among them was .tp, reserved for Portuguese Timor (Timor Português).

Portuguese Timor had long ceased to be. The 1974 Carnation revolution in Portugal set the last European world empire’s colonies on the road to independence. That included Portuguese Timor, the eastern half of an island off the north coast of Australia, sharing its other half with an Indonesian province.

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Who Killed Canadian Studies?

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on February 19, 2015

By Colin Coates

The world of Canadian Studies, which according to the International Council for Canadian Studies includes some 7,000 scholars in 70 countries, is facing difficult times. Strangely enough, one of its chief opponents seems to be our own government. Since the 1970s successive Liberal and Progressive Conservative federal governments, along with various provincial governments, have supported the principle that targeted funding can enhance the profile of Canadian issues in academic institutions abroad. Most of the time, those governments respected the values of academic freedom, believing that scholars could research and teach about the country without attempting to control what they did. But recently, the current Canadian government has decided that it will no longer support such work.

In 2012, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), under the leadership of former Minister John Baird, entirely cancelled the “Understanding Canada” programme that cost $5 million a year, approximately 14 cents per Canadian. This programme funded academic activities abroad, helping to provide salaries for the administrators of some of the older and larger national associations (the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, the British Association for Canadian Studies and the Association française d’études canadiennes), subsidise scholarly conferences and publications, provide research grants, and in a few cases contribute to academic salaries of a few individuals appointed to teach about Canada.

Did such funds make a difference? To take an example I know fairly well, I can assure you that without external funding NOT A SINGLE academic in the United Kingdom would be hired to teach about Canada. Of course, many UK-based scholars may choose to teach and research about Canada – but NOT A SINGLE post throughout the entire sector would be attributed solely to the study of Canada.

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – Why Should We Care About the Erebus (or Terror)?

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on September 15, 2014.

by Tina Adcock

On the morning of Tuesday, September 9th, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced some unexpected and astounding news: that the wreckage of one of Sir John Franklin’s ships, either the Erebus or the Terror, had been located via sonar on the bottom of Queen Maud Gulf, which lies southwest of King William Island in Nunavut. In 1845, Franklin, a captain of the Royal Navy, led a crew of 128 in search of the Northwest Passage. All later died in circumstances that remain unclear to this day, despite many British, American, and Canadian searches over the last century and a half for evidence regarding the expedition’s fate. Locating one of the ships was a major triumph for the latest band of searchers, a coalition of public and private agencies led by Parks Canada that had travelled north on a near-yearly basis since 2008.

The Prime Minister declared this “a great historic event… a really important day in mapping together the history of our country.” So-called historic events provide good opportunities for historians to observe how our fellow citizens react to the history in question. I study northern exploration, and so I was more than a little interested in the reception of this particular news. Here I’d like to trace and explain one of the principal responses that emerged on conventional and social media websites that day.

My attention was caught by those who saw the announcement, and shrugged. “Who cares?” they said, in tweets and comments underneath articles. This sentiment was apparent even among groups who might be expected to care, for reasons of profession or location. Some historians and archaeologists, for example, were not particularly enthusiastic about the news:

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – Five Simple Rules for Saving the Maritimes: The Regional Stereotype in the 21st Century

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in mid-August. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  We will also be highlighting some of the special series and papers we’ve run this year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on March 24, 2015.

By Lachlan MacKinnon800px-Peggys_Cove_Harbour_01

The Maritimes are on the brink of catastrophic economic and demographic failure [1]. Our lack of entrepreneurial spirit, engrained sense of entitlement, conservatism, and folksy racism are major factors preventing us from joining in the prosperity enjoyed by our more enterprising cousins in the “have” provinces of Canada. Such are the problems enumerated in John Ibbitson’s recent Globe and Mail editorial. The “culture of defeatism,” proclaimed by Steven Harper in 2002, is apparently still alive and kicking on the east coast. Despite the popularity of this analytical framework, it is not borne out in the historical literature surrounding region and regionalism in the Maritimes. Nor are the commonly proposed solutions to the actual problems facing the region particularly novel or creative, including those enumerated within the much-lauded Ivany Report in Nova Scotia.

The regional stereotype of the staid and conservative Maritimes is not a recent phenomenon. Historian Ernie Forbes traces the lineage of this notion to 1893, when Frederick Jackson Turner described the “frontier thesis” of American westward development. According to Turner, a profound sense of nationalism and a progressive liberal spirit was the result of continued expansion and settler colonialism in the American west. This concept was readily applied to the Canadian national narrative.

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The Sugar Monster Feeds on the Navajo Nation

Former Active History editor, Brittany Luby, an assistant professor of history at Laurentian University, was unable to attend this week’s annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) in Washington, D.C. and asked if we could host a video of her presentation: “The Sugar Monster Feeds on the Navajo Nation: An Analysis of the Bodily and External Environment in Artistic and Medical Accounts of the Navajo (Diné) Diabetes Crisis”. Click here for more information about the conference. You can follow the proceedings on twitter through the #ASEH2015.