Category Archives: Canadian history

A History of the Toronto Public Library in Four Buildings

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Emily Macrae As public buildings closed their doors in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public libraries across Canada pivoted to strengthen connections with communities online, offering virtual story times and lending out wi-fi hotspots in addition to adapting ongoing work ranging from providing reading recommendations to supporting Indigenous language revitalization. Toronto Public Library was no exception. In April,… Read more »

Miss Canadian History: An Archive Story

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Donald Wright Archive stories are stories about, well, archives, the things that we find in them, and the things that we know we will never find. They are also invitations to reflect on how and why archival evidence – from a routinely-generated source to a single photograph – was created and what it can and can’t tell us about the… Read more »

Building a white Canada: gender, sexuality, race, and medicine

By Allison Lynn Bennett Sexual control is inherent to empire. Colonial authorities and doctors understood sexuality as key to maintaining white superiority. Reproduction and health were the focus of eugenic measures that played on gender, sexual, and racial stereotypes. As a settler colony, Canada imagined itself as “British”, or “white”, and therefore regulated the sexual lives and behaviour of both… Read more »

Lay-offs at the Sulpician Archives – An Open Letter

For researchers, but especially for the broader public, how could we allow “a kilometre of textual documents, 75,000 iconographic items, more than 8,000 geographical maps and technical specifications, as well as sound and film recordings” to be put at risk?

The Canadian Mosaic, Archival Silences, and an Indigenous Presence in Banff

Daniel R. Meister Given that Canada is a settler colonial society, it is unsurprising that the lasting metaphor used to describe sociological diversity in the country – that of a mosaic – was popularized by a settler and child of empire: John Murray Gibbon (1875-1952). Gibbon was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to parents of Scottish descent. Prior to… Read more »

Race Relations, Psychological Testing, and Resistance to Change: The Toronto Police, 1970s-1980s

David M. K. Sheinin As a city changes, as tensions grow between the police and the communities they serve, how can we know if a candidate has what it takes to lead a major police force? Is it possible to predict success (or failure)? Those questions are at the core of a debate that has raged for decades on whether… Read more »

K’jipuktuk to Halifax and back: Decolonization in the Council Chamber

What the committee’s work does, the report suggests, is carefully and responsibly “harmonize commemoration with publicly-held values, and in particular to resolve situations in which sites of commemoration may have become actively offensive to those values.”

What’s the Beef with COVID-19?

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By Catherine Carstairs and Philip Rich As restaurants across the country closed in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, fast-food chains stayed open. In the first quarter of 2020, McDonald’s Corp global sales decreased by only 3.4%. This is remarkable given that McDonald’s had to close over 300 stores in China as well as restaurants in France, Italy, Spain and the… Read more »

From ME to WE to the CYC – Liberals and the Controversial History of Youth Volunteerism

Kevin Brushett On June 25, 2020 Justin Trudeau announced the creation of Canada Student Service Grant, a program that encouraged young Canadians to volunteer in their communities while paying them up to $5000 to do so. Within days however, Trudeau’s feel good announcement began to turn sour as questions arose over the program’s links to the ME to WE charity,… Read more »

That Other Time the Toronto Police Tried to Solve the Race Problem: The Ethnic Relations Unit, 1970s-1980s

David M. K. Sheinin In the early 1970s, to gain insights into the Italian immigrant community in Toronto, the police set up an Ethnic Relations Unit. In 1975 the unit created a “Black Section” followed by Jewish, Southeast Asian, and other sections. The experiment in building bridges to ethnic communities failed because this solution to growing police-community tensions reinforced rather… Read more »