The Sound of Deafening Silence: A Case for Electro-Motive Workers in London, Ontario

By Ryan Kelly

What we have witnessed over the past month in London, Ontario is largely unprecedented and very troubling. After announcing record profits, Caterpillar locked out employees on New Year’s Day. The reason an agreement with this corporation could not be reached is simple; workers were unwilling to accept a decrease in wages of over 50 per cent in some cases, along with unpalatable cuts to pensions and benefits. After receiving five million dollars in tax breaks from the federal government, and locking out employees for a month, Caterpillar has relocated their operations from London to Indiana, a state which has recently passed “right to work” legislation.

My purpose is not to point fingers, or explore in minute detail the reasons why each side has reacted to this situation as they have. Instead, I want to delve into what we can do now. What are the next steps for everyone involved? Sadly, the 450 or more London workers have been left in a precarious position; they will need to face limited choices in a declining manufacturing sector, while the question of severance pay has yet to be settled. This will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on the lives of many involved. Can we pay our mortgages, contribute to our children’s educations, or continue to put food on the table? These are questions most of us never want to have to ask. Continue reading

The People’s Citizenship Guide

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Tonight, at McNally Robinson [please click for event information] in Winnipeg, The People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada will be launched.  This short 80-page book is a direct response to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, which has been widely critiqued for its restrictive and overly-politicized definition of Canadian identity (for examples or critiques see the Globe and Mail, Andrew Smith’s blog, my summary of initial reactions on, Ian McKay’s podcast on the right-wing reconception of Canada). As in the official immigration guide, The People’s Citizenship Guide’s editors, historians Esyllt Jones and Adele Perry, have brought together a diverse group of scholars in order to succinctly reflect on the nature of Canadian citizenship and modern-day Canada. Continue reading

Ottawa Historical Association Announcement

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The Ottawa Historical Association is pleased to announce that its next regular lecture will be delivered by Janice Cavell and Jeff Noakes on “Taking Hold of the North: The International Quest for an Arctic Continent, 1900-1930.” The lecture will take place on Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm in Room 2017, Dunton Tower, Carleton University, 101 Colonel By Drive. Please join us for a discussion and refreshments after the talk. Continue reading

The Changing Place of Foxes on Prince Edward Island

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by Ryan O’Connor

I grew up on Prince Edward Island. As a youth I heard stories of the once-booming silver fox industry, which brought considerable wealth to the province in the early 1900s. While fox ranching has long since ceased, one need look no further than the provincial armorial bearings, adopted in 2002, for a reminder of its former significance. Continue reading


“Hunger calls out, my reason bids me to eat” – John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

It’s beginning to look a lot like Valentine’s Day. Campus cafes have featured cinnamon dolce lattes and seasonal cards clutter bookstore windows. Despite limited scientific support, Canadians on-and-off campuses prepare to rush candy shops to purchase (perhaps unintentionally) a popular aphrodisiac: chocolate. It seems that our desire to lead active sex lives trumps active research into the medicinal quality of aphrodisiacs. What follows is a cursory glance at how when we eat with the expectation of love, we can sometimes confuse our desires with results. Continue reading

The Race Is On in Canada and the United States: A Tale of Two Political Cultures

While watching the NDP and Republican leadership races unfold in Canada and the United States, I’ve been struck by the very different political cultures of these two countries. This can be partly attributed to the divergent political philosophies of the right-wing Republican Party and the centre-left NDP. But the roots of these political cultures also extend much deeper into the histories of these nations.

Some media observers in Canada have suggested that in terms of excitement value, Canadian politics come out on the losing side, referring to the NDP leadership race as boring, or comparing the NDP ‘snoozefest’ to the ‘slugfest’ of the Republican race. As boring as Canadian politics may be to many, I for one am grateful to be able to participate in the more diverse political culture that has been built in Canada. Continue reading

Revisiting Past Places: Google’s ‘Memories for the Future’ Project in Japan

Next month will mark one year since the people of Japan experienced a devastating series of natural disasters. The earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of Japan on March 11, 2011, resulted in tremendous loss for the Japanese people. Many Japanese lost their lives while survivors lost homes, a sense of stability, and sense of place. Personal items and familiar places tied to memories of home and loved ones were destroyed during the earthquake and tsunami. Places were erased and the ability to recall – to feel at home – disappeared under rubble and waves.

To assist those affected by the disasters in Japan, Google is undertaking a really interesting project. Part of this project is the creation of a collaborative website called Mirai e no Kioku, which gives Japanese people and survivors the opportunity to post and share photographs, videos, and memories related to places as they were prior to the disasters of March 2011 (media and website only available in Japanese). Another interesting aspect that non-Japanese speaking people can participate in is a re-visualization project initiated by Google, which offers users a chance to re-experience places through archived street view footage of affected areas. The site uses Streetview data to populate an archived digital landscape for the user. The interactive map of Japan allows users to choose either a before or after street view of several locations across the country (note some areas are archived more thoroughly than others). In the About section of the website, places such as Ishinomaki, Onagawa, and and Soma are identified as areas that were significantly affected. Users can explore these regions while navigating virtually along roads and highways, slipping back and forth through time with before and after views.

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Boston IRA Tapes in the Courts

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Brendan Hughes

Northern Ireland experienced three decades of violent conflict until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Many of perpetrators never faced justice and some of these individuals have been brought into the political system as a part of the peace deal. This past creates multiple tensions in the present and leaves significant questions about how the judicial system should approach the numerous unsolved murders. Historians and those interested in truth and reconciliation have their own desires to better understand this past.  Why did so many otherwise normal individuals become involved in mass murder? Can a greater knowledge of the individual motivation of IRA members help us better understand these kinds of conflicts in the future? All this leads to significant tensions between the desires of victims’ families for justice  and the demands of a political settlement and power sharing agreement that might fall apart if too many reformed political leaders are brought up on charges. An academic project to record oral histories with living IRA members, which were then to be locked away at the archives in Boston College until the interviewee passed away, has brought these tensions between the demands of justice and a search for historical understanding into the news. The Belfast Project for Boston College preformed the interviews with republicans for five years beginning in 2001. Last year, after details from the late Brenden Hughes interviews were published, the Police Service of Northern Ireland began court proceedings in the United States requesting access to the remaining interviews. Continue reading

Prospects for the Profession

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Recently, the American Historical Association (AHA) wrapped up its annual meeting in Chicago. While I did not attend the conference, I followed a number of the posted videos, blogs and websites covering the annual event. Among the usual fare offered, this year’s conference also focused many of the discussions on the future of the history profession. A number of talks revealed the anxieties and concerns plaguing the newest crop of graduates, along with some of the profession’s old guard. Among the chief concerns were those centering on prospects for employment and the impact of the digital age on the practice of history.

Overall, what stood out from these talks was the need for recent graduates to expand their scope of what it means to be an historian. As most are well aware, tenure track positions are no longer as viable, but what must be made even clearer are that the opportunities that do exist should not be conceived as some sort of consolation prize. It was said that historians need to begin to think about where they fit in outside of the university and know that it is not simply enough to say that field is “public history,” if the expectation is that “public history” means a position in a museum. Budget cuts and a glut of applicants may mean that these opportunities are limited as well. Instead, historians need to begin to conceive as to how their skills and knowledge may fit into any other number of areas, including (but certainly not limited to) government, non-government organizations, journalism, and consulting. Continue reading

War Resisters Conference Report Back Looking Back, Moving Forward: War Resisters in North America

By: Luke Stewart

Conference Poster

The conference Looking Back, Moving Forward: War Resisters in North America took place at Steelworkers Hall in Toronto, Ontario, on Friday September 23 and Saturday September 24, 2011. The gathering addressed the plight of American war resisters who fled to Canada from 2004 to the present by providing a historical context for the roots of war resistance in North America. The conference also demanded action on the part of the Government of Canada to respect immigration and refugee law in Canada by rescinding Operational Bulletin 202 and to grant sanctuary to all American war resisters who fled to Canada during the “war on terror”. “This is of more than historical interest,” said Tom Riley, a Vietnam War resister and activist in the War Resisters Support Campaign. “It’s about learning from the past so we can support resistance today and in the future.”

The purpose of the conference was to offer public education about an aspect of North American history – cross-border migration during times of conflict and war – that is increasingly under attack in Canadian political circles in the early decades of the twenty-first century. The conference deconstructed the role of citizenship, civil disobedience, and conscientious objection during times of war. Moreover, we tried to illuminate the relationship between the Canadian and the United States governments during times of war and what this means for the twenty-first century. Continue reading