History Slam Episode Sixty-Three: Metis and the Medicine Line

By Sean Graham

Metis It’s rare that a book is called the definitive book on the subject. But that’s exactly how one review summed up Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People. The book begins with the surveyors tracing the 49th parallel through the Prairies and tracks the Metis as they interact and adjust to the changing social, environmental, and political landscape that accompanied both American and Canadian expansion. In doing so, he situates the Metis as active participants in defining the borderland while also circumventing the official narrative surrounding the Canadian-American border when it proved beneficial.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Professor Hogue about the book. We chat about the construction of borders, the treatment of Metis people in Canada and the United States, and the challenges of researching without a paper archive.
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Coming Clean About Operation Soap: The 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids

By Forrest Picher

Implicitly, gay men are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and supposedly enjoy the same rights as heterosexual people.1 Yet, there remains a legal discrimination against homosexual sex: homosexuals cannot engage in group sex, while heterosexuals can. Writing in 2014, Thomas Hooper explains “section 159 of the Criminal Code codifies mononormativity and maintains the legacy of gross indecency, as anal sex is only legal in Canada if it is ‘engaged in, in private, between… any two persons.’”2 In this way, any group sex between homosexual men, for example, is technically illegal in the Canadian Criminal Code and police are legally justified to raid places in which such activity occurs. And they do. In Calgary in 2002, for example, the police raided Goliath’s bathhouse, an establishment that was used by gay men in the community as a meeting place for sex.3 This raid demonstrates that the legal ambiguities that led to the 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto, as I will discuss, continue to be problematic. In fact, one bartender in Calgary stated after the 2002 raid: “This is so reminiscent of 1981 in Toronto, it’s sickening.”4

On February 5, 1981, 200 plainclothes police officers raided four Toronto bathhouses leading to the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis ten years earlier. Continue reading

The Central Experimental Farm’s Inclusion on Endangered Heritage Place List is a Call to Action


Fields at the Central Experiment Farm. Author’s photo

By Pete Anderson

On May 26th, Heritage Canada The National Trust included an important Ottawa site in its annual list of Canada’s top ten endangered heritage places. Declaring that “the Feds play fast and loose with a national historic site,” the National Trust denounced the proposed severing of 60 acres of the Central Experimental Farm’s Field 1 for a future hospital campus without consultation. The Farm’s placement on the list is a call to arms for everyone who supports Canada’s history and federal scientific research programs. Continue reading

Podcast: Isn’t All History Public? Knowledge, Wisdom, and Utility in the Great Age of Storytelling

On June 1, 2015, Dean Oliver delivered the Keynote Address of the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting. His talk was entitled “Isn’t All History Public? Knowledge, Wisdom, and Utility in the Great Age of Storytelling.”

Oliver is the Director of Research at the Canadian Museum of History but his remarks are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the museum.

Activehistory.ca is pleased to present a recording of the address.

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Kenneth Dewar, Frank Underhill and the Politics of Ideas

By Ann Walton

MQUP, 2015.

MQUP, 2015

This April, historian and professor Kenneth C. Dewar arrived at Carleton University’s History Department to launch his new book, Frank Underhill and the Politics of Ideas. The room was bustling with students and professors all chatting as we waited for the talk to begin. The subject of Dewar’s book was of particular interest here. Not only did Frank H. Underhill (1889-1971) teach at Carleton, the historian’s donated collection of books and journals still line the walls of the reading room named in his honour, and the annual graduate and undergraduate colloquiums bear the Underhill name. But Dewar’s discussion ventured in directions beyond the biographical; he spoke of the intellectual and political climate of Underhill’s time. What was so truly remarkable about the afternoon’s discussion was that it also encouraged a conversation regarding present-day politics. Continue reading

A Father’s Grief: The Case of Captain Robert Bartholomew

By Matthew Barrett

On September 13th 1918, Captain Robert Bartholomew suffered a sudden nervous breakdown after reading his son’s name in a newspaper casualty list. His only child, nineteen-year old Private Verne Lyle Bartholomew, had been killed in action at Hangard Wood on August 8th 1918. Unable to carry on with his administrative duties in England, the elder Bartholomew fell into a malaise and was hospitalized with neurasthenia one month later. A medical board recorded, “He is suffering from severe depression following the mental shock of the news.”[1]

VerneLyleBartholomew (2)

Verne Bartholomew

Although many historical studies of the First World War have detailed the psychological stress and trauma endured by frontline soldiers, more research is also needed into the mental and emotional effect of the war on those on the home front in England and Canada. To what extent did deaths of sons shape the ways in which the older generation of fathers interpreted the conflict? How did these reactions affect notions of masculinity, duty and patriotism for men too old to see active service themselves? For fathers who had enthusiastically championed the war, the death of a son exposed an underlying tension between public rhetoric and private grief. Continue reading

The Role of Canada’s Museums and Archives in Reconciliation

Royal Ontario Museum's Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples

Royal Ontario Museum’s Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples

by Krista McCracken

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) held its closing events in Ottawa from May 31 – June 3, 2015. The event included the release of an executive summary of the TRC findings and Calls to Action made by the Commission.  The 388 pages of the summary highlight the work of the Commission and the material which will be included in the final six volume final report.

Though this post focuses on the TRC’s discussion of museums and archives I urge everyone to read the full executive summary as it provides crucial context and historical background. Chelsea Vowel’s call to read the entirety of the report highlights why it is so important to read the report before commenting on the work of the TRC.  For those looking for a more accessible version of the summary Zoe Todd, Erica Lee, and Joseph Murdoch-Flowers are crowd-sourcing readings of the report on Youtube and the summary has been converted into a Kindle format and epub formats.

The report features 94 recommendations to facilitate reconciliation and address the legacy of residential schools, including a set of recommendations relating specifically to museums and archives. Given the challenging past relationship between the TRC and archival institutions these recommendations are perhaps not surprising.

The TRC went to court in 2012 and 2013 to gain access to archival records relating to residential schools held by Library and Archives Canada. The Commission’s recommendations go beyond the issue of access.  It also includes calls to action relating to best practices, commemorative projects, public education, and compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In terms of public education and commemorative projects the Commission urges the federal government to work with Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian Museums Association to establish funding for commemoration projects for the 150th anniversary of Canada relating to reconciliation. It also calls for Library and Archives Canada to commit additional resources to education and programming on residential schools.

The executive summary pointedly notes that museums and archives “have interpreted the past in ways that have excluded or marginalized Aboriginal peoples’ cultural perspectives and historical experience….as history that had formerly been silenced was revealed, it became evident that Canada’s museums had told only part of the story.” (p. 303) Continue reading

New Paper: The Social Democracy Question

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to announce the publication of Kenneth Dewar’s new paper: “The Social Democracy Question”


Over the past twenty years, the fate of social democracy has been the subject of numerous inquiries by intellectuals, academics, journalists, and politicians. These have frequently taken the form of questioning whether there is any life left in the movement at all, or alternatively, of asking what needs to be done to revive it. “What happened to the European left?” asked American political scientist Sheri Berman in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, when (counter-intuitively) support for the left declined rather than rose. At the same time, in the same magazine (Dissent) a journalist asked whether European social democracy had a future, while two years earlier in another venue two other writers had asked, like relatives at a bedside, “Is the left alright?” More recently, in 2013, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent delivered the Jack Layton Memorial Lecture at Ryerson University, choosing as his title, “Social democracy: dead as the dodo, or the only option?” It’s not giving too much away to say that he inclined toward the latter.1

Almost all of these discussions assume an identification of social democracy and particular political parties; they are really asking, in other words, why support for social democratic parties has declined in the states in which they operate. Broadbent’s lecture was an interesting exception to this, not because his party had made unprecedented gains in the federal election two years earlier, but because his view of social democracy was more expansive. [see more]

Editors Note: In addition to our group blog, ActiveHistory.ca strives to provide timely, well-written and thoroughly researched papers on a variety of history-related topics.  Expanded conference papers or short essays that introduce an upcoming book project are great starting points for the type of paper we publish. With a current readership of more than 20,000 visits per month we can assure that you will find an interested audience through our site. For more information visit our Papers Section or contact papers@activehistory.ca. All of our papers are peer reviewed to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date. 


History Slam Episode Sixty-Two: Congress Recap 2015

By Sean Graham

300px-UOttawa-Tabaret_Hall-2008-05-05Every year the Canadian Historical Association holds its Annual Meeting as part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences. This year the event was held at the University of Ottawa which, as an Ottawa denizen, was quite nice. I didn’t spend any time looking at maps, figuring out where the book fair was, or trying to find restaurants.

This year the CHA welcomed a record number of participants (605) to its annual meeting. That number was likely buoyed by the representatives of the national capital region’s numerous museums and historical research firms, but it does demonstrate that, despite the public hand-wringing, history is not dead.

Over the next couple of months, we will have a wide variety of podcasts from the CHA Annual Meeting. In addition to new episodes of the History Slam, there will be recordings of conference sessions and the keynote and presidential addresses.

For the first of these podcasts, I decided to continue what has become an annual tradition for the History Slam. As we did for Victoria and St. Catharines, we decided to use the opportunity presented by Congress to reflect on the week that was as well as address the utility of conferences.

In this episode of the History Slam, I chat with Michel Duquet, executive director of the Canadian Historical Association, about his experience at Congress. We also discuss the CHA’s role in promoting history as well as its efforts to address the linguistic imbalance at the annual meeting and the lack of papers looking at non-Canadian issues. I also talk to Benoit Longval, a graduate student at the University of Ottawa, about the graduate student experience at Congress, the pros and cons of roundtables, and the logistics of the CHA.
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Why Change Happens?

PHOTO: Sir Jonathon Porritt reflects on the day’s events

Friends of the Earth in the UK and History & Policy organized a conference last Wednesday at King’s College in London to bring together historians and campaigners to discuss what we can learn from the past. The format of the conference was fantastic. In each of the four panels, three historians presented short 15-minute papers and a campaigner or journalist then commented on the papers. Instead of a question and answer session, the audience, who were carefully distributed in tables with a mix of participants, discussed the lessons of each session (note takers collected ideas from each table). At lunch we switched tables and engaged in a conversation with a new group.

The questions addressed by the different panels were difficult and any hopes for simple answers from the past were dashed by the end of the first session, which focused on: Why do norms change? Historians discussed what can we learn from the history of abolitionism, nineteenth-century gender dynamics, or the development of industrial-scale animal husbandry. These diverse papers were tied together by the commentator, Sarah Wootton, from Dignity in Dying. Wootton made it clear that her organization wants to learn all that they can from successful past campaigns, such as the growing cultural acceptance of homosexuality and the expansion of LGBTQ legal rights. This panel led to an engaging conversation at my table about what we can and cannot learn from these kinds of historical examples. We also ran into a core question: what is a norm and how is it different from an ideology? This was not an easy question to answer with two minutes left in our allotted conversation time. Continue reading