Trans-border Data Flow and the TPP: Haven’t we been here before?

By Scott Campbell


In the final weeks of the 2015 Canadian federal election, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) became a hot political issue. After seven years of virtually secret negotiations, the 12 Pacific Rim countries–including Canada–involved in the trade agreement announced on October 5 that a deal had been reached, but gave few details. The final document was not available publicly until November 5, several weeks after the Liberal government was elected.

Most of the election-related discussion in October spoke to the potential impact of the TPP on the dairy and automotive industries in Canada, but the effect on other aspects of Canadian life are worth considering. Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of RIM, apparently feels that the TPP “is the worst thing that the Harper government has done for Canada,” as it would impose structural disadvantages on Canadian innovators, limiting growth and opportunities.

The TPP also appears to remove restrictions on trans-border data flow. Consider Article 14.11 Paragraph 2 of the released document (link to PDF): Continue reading

Enlightening Technologies: Sunlamps, Medical Science and Popular Concepts of Health

By Dorotea Gucciardo


“Capture the vitality of sunny summer!”

General Electric Advertisement, c.1950

General Electric Advertisement, c.1950

So read the headline of a 1931 General Electric (GE) ad, which encouraged Canadians to bring into their homes “the health-giving rays of the sun any hour of the day […] every day of the year.” Appearing in the November edition of Chatelaine, the advertisement enticed readers facing the start of a long, cold winter to bring in the sunshine by purchasing a GE sunlamp. The company insisted that its product would provide “resistance to colds and other seasonal ills [while] children grow sturdier and adults feel the vitalizing effect of the ultra-violet rays.”[1] With the ad promising that the GE Sunlamp was “as safe as the sun,” Canadians today, well-versed in the relationship between exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin cancers, would be forgiven for viewing such a product with skepticism; but many in the 1930s embraced the gospel of sunshine, and sun-kissed skin was a hallmark of healthfulness. Continue reading

The People’s Telephone and the Internet Today

By Robert MacDougall


It may be the networks I belong to and the feeds I follow, but—as a guy whose main interests are 19th-century pseudoscience, the history of the telephone, and WKRP in Cincinnati—I am often surprised by how much of the social media in my streams is devoted to tech industry news and speculation. Will consumers embrace the iWatch? Will they give up cable for Netflix? Is Twitter dying? And what, pray tell, does Elon Musk have to say?

As a historian of communication, I often say that changes in media turn us all into historians of communication, if only briefly. Until the novelty of a new tool fades, we are all Marshall McLuhans, conscious of the media we use and curious about its impact. But despite all the tweets about Twitter, the blog posts about blogging, the books about the decline of books, there is something lacking in all this conversation, and it has to do with a refusal to see the real forces at work. We valorize consumer agency and ignore the extent to which our communications world is constructed by politics and regulation. Continue reading

Lorsque Madame Voyage: Women and Air Travel at Trans Canada Airlines

“LORSQUE MADAME VOYAGE” 1962 TCA travel brochure. Source: Air Canada Collection, CASM

“LORSQUE MADAME VOYAGE” 1962 TCA travel brochure. Source: Air Canada Collection, CASM

By Blair Stein


Upon his retirement, former Air Canada President Gordon McGregor wrote that “certainly no 20 years in the history of aviation, and probably no 20 years in the future, will show such a succession of basic changes…as did the period of 1948-1968.”[1] He was not exaggerating. During this time period, airlines moved from propeller-powered aircraft to jets, but the rapid changes encompassed more than just machines. There’s a reason, after all, that McGregor titled his memoirs The Adolescence of an Airline. Like all teenagers, TCA grew in fits and starts through the 1950s and 1960s, had draining conflicts with its guardians as a Crown Corporation, and, most importantly for this series, learned how to communicate with women. In the first two postwar decades, women navigated technological air travel networks through leisure and labour; in both roles, mid-century Canadian women appeared as savvy, technology-minded users of air travel.  Continue reading

X-Rays and the Discriminatory Science of Migration

By Laura Madokoro

The postwar era is often celebrated as a great time of liberalization in Canada, as far as immigration rules are concerned. What is often ignored is how hard people, including Chinese Canadians, fought to obtain equality of treatment, and how the federal government was incredibly reluctant to proceed with large-scale change until the 1960s. Indeed, under the guise of reforms, the government began to rely on science and technology to limit migration from China, even as it brought an end to the exclusion era.

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Excitement, Suspicion, Protest: A Brief History of Military Science in Canada

By Matthew S. Wiseman

The bombings in Paris and Beirut this past week are a powerful illustration of how civilians are too often caught in the violent crossfire unleashed by global unrest. How does one prepare a civilian populace for such potential devastation? Is it even possible?

Between 1948 and 1954, officials in Ottawa attempted to design and implement a self-help civil defence (CD) model to prepare citizens for the escalating nuclear threat. Their plans altered quickly in 1952 when the United States successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, at which point the radioactive severity of a potential nuclear attack forced a major critique of Canada’s CD policy. Officials replaced the self-help model with a calculated evacuation policy, in which specific cities would receive food provisions, shelter, and care for nuclear refuges in the event of an attack. In 1959 CD plans were adjusted for a third time, when officials realized that nuclear fallout would not be geographically confined. Since it no longer made sense for CD planners to target select locations for potential aid, planning in Ottawa turned toward developing a comprehensive strategy of national survival. Continue reading

Technoscience in Canada: An Active History Theme Week

Edited by Beth A. Robertson with Dorotea Gucciardo


Telephone exchange, c.1950

Telephone exchange, c.1950

Climate scientist Simon Donner was recently quoted in Wired, lamenting the politicization of science under the recently felled Conservative government. Individuals like Donner hoped that the change in government would mean “a new beginning for science” in Canada. Important to this discussion is not only a conception of Canada’s future, but also its past. Embedded within such hopeful aspirations is the assumption that science in Canada, as well as the technological infrastructure accompanying it, was once largely unfettered by socio-political or philosophical bias, and therefore could be so once more. Yet, has science or technology ever been free from politics? This week’s theme week dedicated to “Technoscience in Canada” aims to probe just this question.

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Unrest, Violence, and the Search for Social Order in British North America and Canada, 1749-1876

As part of our partnership with the new early Canadian history blog Borealia, we’ll be posting highlights from that website here every Saturday in November.

By Elizabeth Mancke

Mancke 1

Benjamin Sulte, Histoire de Jos. Montferrand, L’athlète de Canadien (Montreal: Beauchemin et Fils), 73; detail (Public Domain).

From the mid-eighteenth century to the early Confederation era, British North Americans and then Canadians confronted a wide range of phenomena that could engender disorder: imperial wars, rebellions, the arrival of immigrants, epidemics, political unrest, and relations with First Nations. All, directly or indirectly, presented challenges to maintaining social and political order. In response, British North Americans and then Canadians engaged in protracted discussions about the definition of order and experimented with strategies to confront and limit disorder when it broke out. These discussions and processes reinforced the pervasive belief, held by both Canadians and outsiders, that Canada developed historically distinct relations shaped by notions of “peace, order, and good government,” or, in the terms of this project, themes such as unrest, violence, and the search for order. Processes of negotiating order and disorder, however, varied dramatically across British North America. But despite distinct political, social, and cultural dynamics, the colonies shared enough practices and temperaments that something recognizably Canadian emerged as part of the national identity. Yet very little inter-colonial analysis has been done to comprehend what British North Americans understood by “peace, order, and good government.” Rather, scholars who study incidents of unrest and violence in Canadian history more often employ comparisons to events in Europe or the United States, often with the effect of highlighting the distinctiveness of British North American developments.

A group of approximately 25 historians is undertaking a SSHRC-funded project to re-examine “Unrest, Violence, and the Search for Social Order in British North America and Canada, 1749-1876.” Explicitly designed to encourage inter-colonial comparisons, this project attempts to analyze how unrest varied across colonial societies, and how provincial leaders sought accommodations to maintain or regain control when discord threatened. In this endeavour, we have set ourselves a challenge: to think critically about the ways in which political and social order were defined and refined in British North America and into the early years of Confederation. The provinces were not monolithic in ethnic, religious, or social composition, and British North Americans disagreed on what constituted political and social order. The current understanding of those processes has been overwhelmingly couched in evolutionist values of a positive and logical progression to achieve superior forms of political and social order. The positivist and nationalistic ideals that have dominated the historical scholarship of this period – often expressed as “colony-to-nation” – merit re-examination. [Continue Reading]

Monica, Bill, History, and Sex

By Marc Stein

Twenty years ago this month, U.S. Democratic President Bill Clinton began having sex with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. More than two years later, during testimony in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, Clinton denied that he was having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Several months later, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr reported to the U.S. Congress that Clinton had committed perjury and obstruction of justice in his testimony about Lewinsky and related actions in the Jones litigation. The U.S. House of Representatives, controlled by the Republican Party, impeached Clinton in December 1998. In January and February 1999, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate tried Clinton, but the president was acquitted when the Senate failed to meet the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds vote for conviction.

This essay was originally written in 2000 for “Historians and Their Audiences: Mobilizing History for the Millenium,” a conference sponsored by the York University History Department. My goal was to address the privileging of traditional political historians over historians of sexuality in mainstream public discussions about the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, but I also wanted to use my presentation to consider the place of humor, satire, and parody in the work of historians. If the opening parody of both The McLaughlin Group (a long-running public affairs television program) and historical scholarship in sexuality studies seems excessively reliant on inside jokes that only historians of sexuality of a certain generation might understand, my hope was (and is) that this, too, might contribute to new ways of thinking about historians and their audiences.

For the most part, I have avoided editing or revising the essay, wanting it to stand as a reflection of my thinking about these issues in 2000, but some of the parodied names have been changed to protect the innocent and prevent further litigation.


Welcome to this edition of the McLaughlinstein Group, hosted by me, Marc McLaughlinstein. Today’s topic: Monica, Bill, Sex, and History. Our regular guests, Doris Kearns Johnson, Michael Wilentz, and Sean Beschloss, were unable to join us today, so instead our program will feature widely acclaimed historians Mary Contrary Daly, Carroll Rosen-Smithberg, John-Boy Howard, George Chancy, Lilliana Faderwoman, and Steve Edgwick.

Question: Continue reading

History Slam Episode Seventy-Three: The League of Nations

By Sean Graham

God: Woodrow Wilson, what happened to your Fourteen Points? Wilson: Don't worry God, we didn't follow your Ten Commandments either.

God: Woodrow Wilson, what happened to your Fourteen Points?
Wilson: Don’t worry God, we didn’t follow your Ten Commandments either

I first saw this cartoon when I was in the eleventh grade and I still keep a copy of it with me. There was something about it that I really liked – I’m sure it had something to do with my fascination with the League of Nations. That fascination was born out of the cursory manner in which we studied the League in school. It was treated as a side note, something that existed but was ineffectual and, therefore, not worth studying over events like the Great Depression and the Second World War. In short, it was the William Henry Harrison of international organizations.

The principal reason for why the League is viewed in this way is because in its ultimate goal – that of preventing another war following the Great War – it did not succeed. The significance of this failure cannot be overlooked, particularly as we observed Remembrance Day yesterday, but it does not make the League unworthy of study nor does it diminish some of its important achievements. It was, after all, more than just a precursor to the United Nations.

As we live in an increasingly global environment, there is a renewed interest in the history of international organizations. As Columbia University professor Susan Pedersen, author of the new book The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, notes in today’s episode, the League of Nations archives have had to expand in recent years to accommodate the increased number of researchers consulting the files. She says that a majority of these researchers are graduate students, a clear sign that the League and other international organizations strike a chord and are considered important in providing context to modern concerns.
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