An environmental 9/11

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by Jeff Slack

The oil slick as seen from space, June 22 2010 (

The oil slick as seen from space, June 22 2010 (

Public outrage mounts with every successive failure to mend the gaping wound in the Gulf of Mexico seabed. Struggling to affirm his leadership in the spill’s wake, President Obama recently described the disaster as “an environmental 9/11,” underscoring the need for a bold new energy-environment policy.

Through reference to the still-poignant memory of 9/11, the president seems to be cultivating an atmosphere conducive to a sweeping energy security agenda. “Beyond the risks inherent in drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth,” President Obama recently asserted, “… our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardise our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.” Continue reading

Remembering Oka

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July 11 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the Oka Crisis.  The Quebec crisis pitted the Mohawk community of Kanesatake against the Francophone community of Oka over the expansion of a municipal golf course onto Mohawk burial grounds.

After a year of unsuccessful attempts at reaching resolution through the courts, the Mohawk set up barricades and occupied the burial grounds.  The conflict that arose resulted in a 78 day stand-off between the Mohawk, the Sûreté du Québec and the Canadian military.  On July 11th riot police stormed the occupation, resulting in the death of police officer Marcel Lemay.

Remembering this event provides an important opportunity to reflect on how Canada, Canadians and Aboriginal people engage with each other and each other’s past. Continue reading

Active History Announcements: July 4-10

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The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click on ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1)  CFP: We Demand: History/Sex/Activism in Canada – deadline: 30 Sept 2010

2) is looking for a co-book review editor

3) Digest of this week’s blog posts

If you have an announcement that you would like included in this weekly dispatch, please e-mail Continue reading

Toronto Before the G20: A History of Violence

By Sean Kheraj

riot police

Many Canadians were shocked by the images of riot police chasing and beating citizens in the streets of Toronto this past weekend during the G20 summit. The police violence and the limited acts of vandalism were inexcusable, but not at all unprecedented in Toronto’s history. In all of the reporting over the weekend, I was most surprised by the common refrain from news commentators about how extraordinary it was to see this kind of protest and violence in a city like Toronto, Toronto the Good.

Read the full story here:

Waving the Flag in Distress

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hill after rain 1/2

Today is the one-hundred and forty-third anniversary of Canada’s Confederation and the formal birth of the country’s federal political system.

And instead of waving the flag in a perfunctory fashion (yes, I know the Queen is visiting), I’d like to wave it in distress over the present dysfunction in our federal politics by briefly singling out four serious issues in the form of a short reading list.

This is not a review or even a formal examination of the sources mentioned by any means; rather, it is an attempt to share ideas and provoke debate on a day reserved for national reflection that is seldom used to actively further a collective discourse. Continue reading

“When People Eat Chocolate, They Are Eating My Flesh”: Slavery and the Dark Side of Chocolate

656px-ChocolateWhether it’s a Mars, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle or Snickers chocolate bar, most of us relish biting into one of life’s most tasty, cheap indulgences: chocolate.

While the cocoa industry has profited from the use of forced labour in West Africa since the early nineteenth century, over the past decade more and more alarming reports of child slavery in the cocoa industry have come to the fore. Amadou, previously one of the over 200,000 estimated children to be enslaved in cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast alone, told Free the Slaves that “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.” Continue reading

Tuning into Canadian History

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This Canada Day, before the beers, the barbeque and the fireworks, make a little time to turn on the radio (or your computer) and learn something that you may not have known about Canadian history. Beginning 1 July 2010, CJSW 90.9 FM Radio in Calgary will begin airing its year long series “Today in Canadian History.” This daily program explores the uniqueness, diversity and often complicated history of Canada through interviews with professors, professional and non-professional historians and journalists speaking on events in Canadian history that may not have been covered in your high school history class. The program explores a wide range of subjects, from the disappearance of famed Group of Seven artist Tom Thomson, to the execution of Canadian soldiers in the First World War. The topics are diverse, and the interviewees are passionate about the stories that they have to tell.

For those in the Calgary listening area, the broadcasts can be heard each weekday morning on CJSW 90.9 FM, for everyone else each episode will be made available by online podcasts posted at For those interested in contributing, the series producers are still open to submissions for unfilled dates. Ideas can be submitted to Producer Joe Burima at

Active History Announcements: June 27 – July 3

AH_LOGO_WEBThe following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click on ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1)  Psychiatric Survivor Archives, Toronto (PSAT) Fourth Annual General Meeting – July 3

2) is looking for a co-book review editor

3) Digest of this week’s blog posts

If you have an announcement that you would like included in this weekly dispatch, please e-mail Continue reading

International Museum Day at the Canadian Museum of Civilization – May 18th, 2010

Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau QC (Photo by Tasha DiLoreto)

Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau QC (Photo by Tasha DiLoreto)

Since 1977, International Museum Day has taken place across the world on, or around, the 18th of May. This day is meant raise public awareness towards some of the daily challenges that museums face and allows members of the public a glimpse into the way a museum operates. Each year the International Council of Museums (ICOM) chooses a theme that it encourages participating museums to work with, and the theme for 2010 was Museums for Social Harmony. According to ICOM’s Theme Statement, museums “are in a position to address the urgent need for safeguarding cultural diversity and bio-diversity as the common heritage of humanity.”

As a student in the MA Public History program at the University of Western Ontario, I’m currently completing an internship in Gatineau, Quebec, at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC). I knew that the museum had some special plans for the day, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to see how the CMC planned to share some typical challenges faced by museums with the general public. Continue reading

Giving voice to history

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by Laura Madokoro

Last week, the first event by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools was held in Winnipeg. In the same week, British Prime Minister David Cameron issued an apology on behalf of the British government for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killings of thirteen people in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1972 – an event now famously known as Bloody Sunday. It was a monumental week as far as intended healing and reconciliation goes. Continue reading