Terry Fox Was a Rock Star

This is the third of four posts marking the 35th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.

By Jenny Ellison

Scrivener and Fox, 1980. Toronto Star

Journalist Leslie Scrivener and Fox, 1980. Toronto Star

Terry Fox had character, and Canadians picked up on this right away. He was courageous, perseverant, pure at heart and youthful. Fox’s decision to run across Canada was a sign, as MP Stanley Knowles said in a 1981 speech in the House of Commons, that “our land is in good hands” and that, far from being the “me generation…our young people really have got something.” During the Greatest Canadian television series in 2004 Fox was described as “the best of who we are, or at least who we hope we might become.” Newspaper editorialists also praised Fox as a “doer,” who was “in a very special class,” who set a “new pace for the human spirit” and showed “that there is in young Canadians the same grit that enabled their forebears to tackle and tame this land.”

For many of his admirers, Fox also seemed to embody a particularly attractive vision of Canada. Leslie Scrivener, a Toronto Star journalist who befriended Fox, described him as “better looking that most with a well-scrubbed, intelligent face, straight teeth, and an Adonis-like profile…” Scrivener observed that “young women were intensely attracted” to Terry. Scrivener alludes to some romances with women who “might join the Marathon of Hope for a day or two along the road,” but reports that Terry said “he never fell in love.” Perhaps contributing to his appeal – for some – was Fox’s Christianity. Fox began attending a Baptist church with his (former) girlfriend Rika Noda prior to the run. Apparently his family wasn’t thrilled with this path but he continued during the run, where Fox read the bible to reflect on the meaning of life. Whether it was his articulateness, his looks, his values, or a combination of the three, Fox achieved “rock star” status as he ran across Canada. Continue reading

A Useless Import? European Niqab Politics in Canada

By Aitana Guia

In 2012, the Canadian Government led by Conservative Stephen Harper approved a policy banning full veiling from citizenship ceremonies. Zunera Ishaq, who wears a niqab and was about to become Canadian citizen, decided to postpone her ceremony in order to ask the Federal Court whether the government policy was legal. In 2015, the Federal Court found the policy illegal and ordered the government to strike it down. Harper’s government has decided to appeal the decision instead.

Mr. Harper justified his position in a parliamentary debate on March 9, 2015: “We do not allow people to cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies. Why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open and frankly is rooted in a culture that is anti-women?” (You can watch it here)

While many women have made fun of the Prime Minister for telling them what they can or cannot wear in citizenship ceremonies (#DressCodePM) and arrogating for himself the power to decide what is anti-women, both the 2012 policy and the 2015 court challenge seem to be rather well thought out political positions.

John Ralston Saul articulately argued in A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada against dysfunctional and cowardly Canadian elites who continue to follow a broken European legacy and refuse to embrace the social and cultural complexity that colonial history and immigration have given Canada. Continue reading

Saskatchewan Farmland: A Bargain?

Summer.Fall 2013 221By Merle Massie

Last week, the Saskatchewan government (led by Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party) reset a course direction that had veered off target. That course redirection affects who – along with what – is allowed to purchase Saskatchewan farmland. A Canadian citizen? Come on down. A Canadian-owned corporation engaged in the business of farming? Saskatchewan agriculture is open for business.

A pension fund? A complicated company structure with significant offshore investors? Hmm, maybe not.

The new direction, which moves to once again restrict investment firms and pension funds from buying Saskatchewan farmland, has enormous effects on the agriculture industry. Saskatchewan land prices, by world standards, are extraordinarily cheap, yet production value remains high. When combined with future world population forecasts, large-scale investment firms and private investors are betting that farmland will remain a safe place to hold and grow their money. A cash crop, so to speak. And they want in.

Saskatchewan farmland prices roses astronomically between 2001 and 2014. In 2013 alone, Saskatchewan farmland value grew 28.5%. But under Saskatchewan’s farm land laws, foreign nationals can only own a maximum of 10 acres – unless they seek and obtain approval from the three-member Farm Land Security Board.

That same board approved the sale of 115,000 acres to Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) in 2013. Immediately, their decision raised hackles. When Skyline Agriculture Financial Corp, a foreign-backed player allegedly looking to finance as much as $1 billion in farmland purchases over the next decade came knocking, the Farm Land Security Board obviously had second thoughts. Skyland’s bid was denied at the end of January 2015.

Not everyone lauds this move. National Post writer Jesse Kline asks: Whither fiscal conservatism? Is Premier Brad Wall a meek liberal sheep, hiding in conservative wolf clothing? This protectionist stance, Kline argues, is ridiculous. Unchecked investment in a truly open market is a fiscal conservative hallmark. Farmers need to “deal with the same market forces as any other business.”

But as a historian, I’m deeply concerned with Kline’s assessment. Continue reading

What’s in a Name? Place Names, History, and Colonialism

By Kaleigh Bradley

But remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen – to use an image you’ll understand – it can happen that a civilization can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape…of fact. Brian Friel, Translations 

Source: Ogimaa Mikana Project.

Mikana Anishinaabe replaces the Indian Rd street sign in Toronto. Source: Ogimaa Mikana Project.

Brian Friel’s play Translations takes place in 1833, in the Irish-speaking village of Baile Beag. Translations is set during the early nineteenth century, a time when the Great Famine loomed over Baile Beag. The British were starting to survey and map Ireland, a process that followed the amalgamation of Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1801. Part of Britain’s renaming and remapping of Ireland was the anglicization of Gaelic place names. The main characters in Translations struggle with the erasure of traditional place names. In the play, the arrival of British cartographers signals the disappearance of Gaelic place names from the landscape – but not from the memories of confused villagers, who dont’t speak a word of English. Suddenly, Baile Beag “small town” becomes Ballybeg, Druim Dubh “black shoulder” turns into Dromduff, and Poll na gCaorach “hole of the sheep” is changed to Pollkerry. The British close all the hedge schools in Baile Beag and replace them with “national schools” where students are taught English. Translations explores the historical relationship between place, language, and power. I couldn’t help but notice a connection between the themes of cultural identity, language, and colonialism in nineteenth-century Ireland, and my own research on place names and colonialism here in Canada.

For Indigenous peoples, place names act as mnemonic devices, embodying histories, spiritual and environmental knowledge, and traditional teachings. Place names also serve as boundary markers between home and the world of outsiders. As Dominique Tungilik recounts, for the Inuit, “the names of places, of camps, and lakes, are all important to us; for that is the way we travel – with names.” Knowing one’s way around the land and bodies of water could mean the difference between life and death. Place names convey an array of information to the Inuit, from local knowledge about topographical features, to the presence of seasonal resources; sometimes they record information about the history of the landscape itself. Continue reading

The king in a car park: Digging up Richard III

By Daniel Ross

“Bloody thou art; bloody will be thy end.” Duchess of York, Act IV, Scene IV, Richard III

Not such a bad guy after all? Olivier as Richard III, 1955.

Not such a bad guy after all? Olivier as Richard III, 1955.

Shakespeare’s Richard III is one of fiction’s classic villains, a schemer who knocks off one family member after another on his way to the crown. Even his mother the Duchess would rather he was dead, and she gets her wish by the end of the play. King of England for just two years, Richard died at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, making him one of the last victims of the War of the Roses.

Opinions differ as to how nasty the historical Richard was, but it’s safe to say that, until recently, he hasn’t had a very positive cultural legacy (although he did make 82 of 100 in a 2002 poll of greatest Britons). That might be changing. In 2013 archaeologists digging under a parking lot in the English Midlands made international news when they claimed to have found the king’s remains. In this post, I take a look at Richard III´s extraordinary return to the public eye over the past two years: it’s a story about much more than archaeology and historical inquiry, as it turns out. Continue reading

Who/What Really Is Charlie?

By Alban Bargain-Villéger

je-suis-charlieIn the wake of the January 7-9 attacks in France, millions of tweets, millions of demonstrators, thousands of heads of state, intellectuals, and celebrities of all kinds not only condemned the murders of seventeen people (including four as a result of an anti-Semitic hostage taking linked to the other shootings), but also praised Charlie Hebdo’s courage in fighting for freedom of the press. Overnight, the slogan “Je suis Charlie” thus became a rallying cry for free speech and the refusal to concede defeat to intolerance and terrorism. Canada was no exception to the rule, with numerous messages of support on Twitter and several rallies in major Canadian cities.

As a Frenchman born and raised, I could not help but feel simultaneously touched by and surprised at the wave of support for an extremely politically incorrect satirical newspaper. Continue reading

“We Are the People:” Nativism in Germany?

By Aitana Guia

PEGIDA Rally in Dresden, Fall 2014

PEGIDA Rally in Dresden, Fall 2014

On Mondays for the past 13 weeks, thousands of Germans have marched on Dresden declaring “Wir sind das Volk,” we are the people. Were it 1989 on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, these same protestors might have been those who delivered the message to the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic that its days were numbered. Instead the new menace, as these ordinary Germans see it, is not the power structure, a physical dividing line, or even a political ideology; it’s immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants.

During a televised address to the nation on New Year’s Eve, Chancellor Angela Merkel took the opportunity to criticize the emerging movement Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, PEGIDA). She told Germans that a resounding feature about their country was that “children of the persecuted can grow up here without fear” and asked them to ignore the calls of those who have “prejudice, coldness, and even hatred” in their hearts.

After various terrorist attacks in France in January 2015 that targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a kosher supermarket, and French police, and despite repeated calls by German politicians not to join the Islamophobic movement, PEGIDA’s rally in Dresden reached a record number of 25,000 attendees on Monday, January 12, 2015. Continue reading

Let’s talk about something other than Ebola

Or, the perils of teaching the history of disease amid global health crises

Casey Hurrell

Wikipedia Commons

Wikipedia Commons

This semester, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a senior undergrad seminar, focusing on the history of disease from the time of Hippocrates to the present. Every week, in front of twenty-two energetic and curious undergrads, I wholeheartedly attempt to steer conversations away from the ongoing Ebola crisis. This is particularly challenging, as my newshound students are generally well-informed and frequently raise points of discussion that I would happily entertain in a different context.

When my students want to talk about Ebola, I resist the urge to turn our history seminar into a forum for debate about trendy health issues. I find myself thinking: let’s talk about something that matters, and let’s give it a historical context. Rather than focusing our attention on a scourge that is exceedingly unlikely to ever affect your daily lives, let’s talk about some equally harrowing disease that you all think is a relic of the past, but most certainly is not. Let’s talk about tuberculosis, and the place that diseases occupy in the historical record.

Continue reading

Birthing a Dominion

By Christa Zeller Thomas

“[Confederation …] will make us historical.”
John A. Macdonald

“History is not the province of the ladies.”
John Adams

Confederation: The Much-Fathered Youngster

Confederation: The Much-Fathered Youngster

Did Canada’s Confederation women give birth to the new dominion in 1867?

Sir John A. didn’t have women in mind when he made his statement (above) about entering history. He was mainly referring to himself.

And yet, when one thinks about the homeland (patria, female), it is often as a female figure – the mother country – and the nation itself (la nation in French and gendered female also in many other languages) is delivered by someone (also female?) capable of giving birth. So presumably women have a role to play.

And yet,…

Canada is counting down now to a big anniversary, the country’s 150th birthday, fast approaching on July 1, 2017.

Whom and what will we remember as we commemorate and celebrate this anniversary? Continue reading

John A. Macdonald’s Aryan Canada: Aboriginal Genocide and Chinese Exclusion

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. Continue reading