Category Archives: History and Policy

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 »

Defund the police

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Tamara Gene Myers Amidst the call to “Defund the police,” it bears thinking about removing police from our schools as well. “Defund the police” has become the rallying cry of anti-Black racism protests following the public murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Relentless police violence has generated heated discussion about how decades of policies intended to “reform”… Read more »

“Symbol of the IGA”: The International Grenfell Association hospital ship Strathcona and the 1970 mass tuberculosis survey of northern Labrador

John R.H. Matchim Since the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen was reactivated in 2004 it has conducted multiple mass health surveys of Inuit communities across the Canadian Arctic. In 2004 and 2017 surveys organized by the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and Laval University’s Population Health Unit asked some 2,000 residents questions about housing, family violence, addictions,… Read more »

Who speaks? Who tells? Who listens? – Part 1

By Victoria Freeman In 1960, my twenty-month-old sister Martha was admitted to the Rideau Regional Centre, an institution for people with developmental disabilities located on the outskirts of Smiths Falls, Ontario. For the next thirteen years she would live in this isolated and overcrowded complex of 50 buildings that at its peak housed 2,600 inmates. I use the word ‘inmate’… Read more »

Making the Best of It, Then and Now

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Sarah Glassford and Amy Shaw A week or two into our respective COVID-19 isolations at home in Alberta and Ontario, we (colleagues Amy and Sarah) each received, by mail, fresh from the printer, our copies of our new edited collection about female Canadians’ and Newfoundlanders’ experiences of the Second World War. The title – a last minute substitution at the… Read more »

Congress 2020, Interrupted: Racism, Academic Freedom, and the Far Right, 1970s-1990s

Will Langford In 1989, psychology professor Philippe Rushton inflamed debates over discrimination at Western University (then known as the University of Western Ontario (UWO)) by outlining his racist theories at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For some, Rushton’s academic racism made him unfit to teach at UWO. For others, protecting academic freedom was… Read more »

Revisiting “Was Laurier Canada’s Obama?”

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Of course, the real interest in the piece, as in the book manuscript I had just completed, wasn’t what happened in 1911 but what happened at the next election in 1917, namely, the most racially polarizing campaign in Canadian history.

Plagues and Social Change: Putting Covid-19 in Historical Context

Alvin Finkel After the Black Death of 1347-52, which cut the population of Europe in half and accounted for some 75 million deaths globally, the feudal system faced challenges from peasant uprisings while labour shortages resulted in large wage increases for day workers. Orphanages and hospitals, run by churches and wealthy lay people, sprang up in towns across the continent…. Read more »

Congress 2020, Interrupted: A Brief History of University Codes of Conduct

Will Langford Congress 2020 is cancelled. But before the conference is forgotten, let’s ponder the anti-racism Congress that never was. At last year’s gathering, in a brazen act of racial profiling, a participant harassed political scientist Shelby McPhee and falsely accused the Black graduate student of theft. Following an investigation, the perpetrator was issued a ban for violating the Congress… Read more »

A Reluctant Steward: Alberta and Its Parks

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By Jessica DeWitt [We are publishing this in partnership with the Network in Canadian History & Environment.] This past week the Alberta Provincial Government announced it’s plan to ‘optimize’ its park system. This includes: The full or partial closure of twenty parks. Shortened operating seasons. Fewer groomed cross-country tracks Closures of a few visitor information centres Service fee increases A proposal to partner… Read more »