Walking History: Jane’s Walk in Toronto and Vancouver

68 cities recently took part in Jane’s Walk, an annual weekend of free walking tours honouring the vision of urbanist Jane Jacobs.  Ordinary people, Jacobs argued, can learn about and improve their surroundings by observing their daily environments at street level.  These walks also bring out the histories of place through members of the local community – walk leaders and participants.  Two members of ActiveHistory.ca partook in walks in different Canadian locales and have reflected on their experiences.  Jay Young followed a buried creek in one of Toronto’s vibrant neighbourhoods, while Ian Milligan walked through Vancouver’s Lower East Side.

Continue reading

Active History Announcements: May 9-15

      No Comments on Active History Announcements: May 9-15

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

1)  Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

2) Active History lunch at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association – Montreal, May 30

3) Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC): Afternoon of History and Heritage in Brantford – June 12th

4) Digest of this week’s blog posts

If you have something to announce to the Active History community please contact info (at) activehistory.ca.

Continue reading

A Glance at Cuba, April 2010

      1 Comment on A Glance at Cuba, April 2010

Just back from Cuba where the sun was shining and temperatures ranged from 25-30 degrees. Very nice, thanks.

More than two years following the retirement of Fidel Castro, some change is apparent in Cuba.

To begin with, Fidel’s successor, his brother Raoul Castro, has overseen a mild lessening of consumer constraints in the Cuban socialist system. Mobile phones are ubiquitous. Markets for crafts and garden produce are increasingly evident in the cities.

Darker aspects of Cuban life also appear more transparent than in earlier visits. Prostitution is much more visible.  Based on my non-scientific observation, it would seem that a certain class of European, often German, tourist now freely considers Communist Cuba a sex destination. This must gall survivors of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary generation which took aim at the infamous flesh trade of the 1950s as a primary target for social reform. Continue reading

How far have we come? From Yellow Peril to the “Colour of Canada”

by Laura Madokoro

CBC radio recently announced that “the face of Canada is changing colour.” With all the news about global warming and melting ice cap, such a headline might make you think that something horrific had happened to the Canadian environment. You would be mistaken. Au contraire, the news was about the latest Canadian census results that reveal a greater number of “inter-racial’ marriages in Canada than ever before; up by 33.1% since the 2001 census.

As a product of an inter-racial relationship (what a clinical term!) myself, I was disturbed that colour was the manner in which Canada’s national news network chose to describe the latest census results. I remember far too easily the painful playground taunts of “banana, banana” because I was “yellow” on the outside and “white” on the outside. Continue reading

Should We Embrace the Short URL?

      8 Comments on Should We Embrace the Short URL?

The increasing number of primary and secondary sources made available by various online archives and databases continue to aid researchers and enrich the historical community as a whole.

But they have also created challenges for more conventional forms of resource sharing in a community where print arguably remains the standard.

While websites have generally made a more concerted effort to reduce the length of their root URL (uniform resource locator) in recent years, things like course materials, references, and finding aides have all become bloated with long strings of seemingly random, run-on characters. Continue reading

Preserving Health and Maintaining Illness: Petition to Save the Wellcome Trust Center for the History of Medicine

By Jaipreet Virdi, IHPST University of Toronto

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine

On March 21, 2010, the United States Health Care Reform Bill passed in Capitol Hill, voting to provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. The New York Times article emphasized how Democrats hailed the votes as

“a historic advance in social justice, comparable to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security. They said the bill would also put pressure on rising health care costs and rein in federal budget deficits.”

The New York Times also captured various quotes from various Democrat Representatives, signifying the historical milestone of the bill:

“This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century” (Representative James E. Clybum of South Carolina)
“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform” (President Barack Obama)
The bill heralded “a new day in America” (Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio)

And so forth. The bottom line is this: it is clear that the Health Reform Bill was not only an important milestone in the history of the United States, but also raises significant political, social, economic, and cultural issues, and thus embodying these issues within the fabric of the nation. Continue reading

May Day in Hamilton, Ontario

      No Comments on May Day in Hamilton, Ontario

march 1The first of May, celebrated in many nations across the world as Labour Day or International Workers Day, has a long tradition of worker’s activism and protest.  This year was no different, as protestors around the world rallied to send various messages to governments.

May Day is not officially recognized as Labour Day in northern North America, despite its North American roots, which stretch back to the 1886 Haymarket affair, and the struggle for the eight-hour workday.  In 1958, to separate workers’ celebrations between the US and USSR, Congress officially designated May 1 as Loyalty Day in the US, while Labor Day was moved to the first Monday in September.  This also marks official Labour Day celebrations in Canada. Continue reading

Active History Announcements – May 2 to 8

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

1) Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC): Afternoon of History and Heritage in Brantford – June 12th

2) Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

Continue reading

Endangered Places: Lansdowne Park

      No Comments on Endangered Places: Lansdowne Park
Aberdeen Pavilion 1903

Aberdeen Pavilion 1903

In June 2010 Ottawa City Council will decide the fate of Lansdowne Park, a significant area of public space in Ottawa’s Glebe community, a portion of which is marked for proposed commercial redevelopment. Over the past year, public consultations have been a platform for concerned citizens in the Glebe, and in other areas of Ottawa, to express their concerns over the development of this space. Now, in a final effort to stop this action, the Glebe Community Association is lobbying to have Lansdowne Park added to an annual list “endangered places” put out by the Heritage Canada Foundation. While Heritage Canada’s list does not have the power to halt development, it is hoped that an addition to the list will bring further attention to the potential risks posed by inappropriate development. Continue reading

Remembering and Commemorating a Complicated Past

      5 Comments on Remembering and Commemorating a Complicated Past
Nellie McClung 1910

Nellie McClung 1910

In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, reporter Patrick White wrote a national story about how a Winnipeg human-rights lawyer, David Matas, is opposing plans to erect a statue of Nellie McClung – the well-known Canadian feminist and moral reformer, perhaps best known for being one of the ‘Famous Five‘ who fought the ‘Persons Case‘ – on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature:

“It’s misconceived,” he said. “It’s minimizing and putting aside some of the things she stood for.”

While Mr. Matas doesn’t deny Ms. McClung’s influential role in gaining the vote for Canadian women, he does take umbrage at her prominent support of the eugenics movement.

“It was the scientific basis of racism,” he said. “The whole eugenics movement is very problematic.”

White continues in his article to discuss some of the basic historic contours of eugenics in Canada, noting briefly that Tommy Douglas – the social democratic father of Medicare – was a proponent, and sterilization was made provincial policy in Alberta and British Columbia. There was a long and brutal history of eugenics in Canada, with patients being sterilized without their knowledge. For example, in Alberta, Leilani Muir received appendix surgery in 1959 and was sterilized without her knowledge, a fact that she discovered only years later when she was unable to conceive. It wasn’t until 1996 that she was able to achieve some justice, setting the path for many other victims to settle with the provincial government.

In my own teaching this year, I found eugenics a tricky subject to tackle. Continue reading