Queering Social Studies Education in New Brunswick

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By Casey Burkholder

During a late fall afternoon of syllabus writing, and distracted Googling, I came across the activist archival work of Dusty Green, who has developed the New Brunswick Queer Heritage Initiative (NBQHI). The NBQHI emerged after Dusty came across pictures donated to the New Brunswick Provincial Archives of rural New Brunswick boyfriends, Leonard and Cub, photographed between 1905 and 1940. Dusty remembers,

“Len and Cub broke things open for me, and got me really excited about queer history. Most provinces have an organization that actively seeks out queer content, because it’s important. It’s been actively suppressed by institutions and society at large for a really long time, so special archives or community archives have had to really come in and pick up the slack…archives are meant to represent the whole of a place. Queer people have always been here, and trying to fill those gaps is tricky work” (Chong, 2018, p. 25).

The practice of erasing the experiences and contributions of queer people in Canadian Social Studies Curricula is not limited to New Brunswick (For example, see also: Burrows, 2013; Crocco, 2001; Graphic History Collective, 2017; Lee, 2007; Maroney, 2016; Temple, 2005). To address the gaps in New Brunswick Social Studies curricula relating to queer and female-identifying New Brunswickers, I have developed a youth-led research project, Where Are Our Histories? (2018-2020) in an effort to queer the New Brunswick Social Studies curriculum. The study builds from the absence of queer and female-identifying people in the narratives that are presented in Social Studies in New Brunswick, and is inspired by activist historians, including the Graphic History Collective (2017), the Calgary Gay History Project (2018), and Dusty Green’s work developing the New Brunswick Queer Heritage Initiative (2018).

In the project, I am looking to learn: Continue reading

Trans Mountain and the Trudeau Legacy

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By James Cullingham

In 1973 the Supreme Court of Canada sent a fundamental challenge to Canadian governments in its Calder decision. The case focused on the Aboriginal rights of Frank Calder as a representative of the Nisga’a people. The case was argued by Thomas Berger.

While the court was split and the decision did not represent an outright victory, the supremes sent a clear message to Ottawa and Victoria. Aboriginal rights exist in Canada and the crown has a duty to negotiate. Pierre Trudeau is reported to have told a group of chiefs, “perhaps you had more legal rights than we thought you had.” It was an extraordinary reversal for a prime minister who had argued at the outset of his tenure that Aboriginal rights could not be recognized because “no society can be built on historical might-have-beens.”

Last week Pierre Trudeau’s son Justin also experienced a massive set back on Indigenous policy. The Federal Court of Appeal denied approval of construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The court declared that the federal government had failed to meet a legal standard of consultation and consent in its dealing with Indigenous groups that will be affected by the project. This is a biting rebuke to a politician who built his brand on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and recognition of Canadian diversity in a “post national state.” Continue reading

A monument for the Maroons

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By Afua Cooper

One walks in vain through the public spaces of Halifax to see a plaque or any other sort of memorialization to the Black presence in the city. Take the waterfront, for example. This was a site to and from which different collectivities of African-descended people—including enslaved Africans, free and enslaved Black Loyalists, self-emancipated Blacks on the Underground Railroad, Caribbean seamen and their families—arrived and departed. Yet there is nothing on that seafront marking the presence of the Black experience. A presence that is at least 300 years old.

The Jamaican Maroons were one such African Diaspora group that arrived in Halifax on the waterfront. Continue reading

Reconciliation in the Classroom: The #150 Acts as a Pedagogical Tool

Les autrices de la liste, Crystal Fraser (droite) et Sara Komarnisky (gauche)

Crystal Gail Fraser and Sara Komarnisky. Photo credit: Sara Komarnisky.

This post originally appeared in French on Histoire Engagée on June 7, 2018.  Many thanks to Andrea Eidinger for her work translating this post.

Catherine Larochelle

In the winter of 2018, I had the opportunity to teach HST2444, Autochtones, État et société au Canada at the Université de Montréal. Over the course of the entire semester, I relied extensively on media in both my classes and weekly discussions, including the poster series Remember/Resist/Redraw, and some of the short videos from Wapikoni mobile. Both proved to be extremely useful pedagogical tools that resulted in vigorous, and I would add, necessary, conversations about Canadian historical narratives. Towards the end of the semester, I had my students read the 150 Acts of Reconciliation, by Crystal Gail Fraser and Sara Komarnisky. Originally published on ActiveHistory (and later in French on HistoireEngagée.ca) in summer 2017, #150Acts listed out 150 acts of reconciliation that any Canadians could undertake in the last 150 days of the Canada150 celebrations. As Fraser and Komarnisky noted, the TRC’s Calls to Action were mostly aimed at institutions, and many Canadians did not feel that they applied to them personally. Instead, Fraser and Komarnisky wanted to illustrate that reconciliation can be practiced in different ways and at multiple levels.

Today I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on my experience using this list in a classroom setting, and in doing so explain why I believe that it is such a valuable and useful tool for talking about reconciliation with students, regardless of the subject matter of the course.

Two Exercises for Reflection on Reconciliation

Even though I had required that students read the list prior to coming to class, I began the day’s discussion by distributing hard copies of it, and asking students to reread it and identify which actions:

A – were accomplished within the course

B – had already been completed by reading the list

C – seemed impossible or difficult to complete

D – they did not understand

E – they hoped to complete in the short or medium term.

I had several goals in mind when designing this exercise. Namely, I wanted my students to think critically about the material I covered in class within a larger social and political perspective. My students were able to see how much of the historical knowledge that was covered in HST 244 (for example, in actions #57, #60, #81 or #83[1]) would be required for the decolonization of traditional narratives of Canadian and Quebec history, a decolonization that is essential for true reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America). My students were both shocked, and frustrated, to learn about the many aspects of Canadian history that they had never been exposed to in their previous educational experience. Continue reading

History and Interdisciplinarity

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By Adam Chapnick

I work in what must be one of the most interdisciplinary academic departments in the country.

For the last decade, the Royal Military College of Canada’s Department of Defence Studies has included eleven full-time faculty.  One has a PhD in chemistry; one is a defence economist; one is a psychologist; one is a military sociologist; two of us are historians; and there are five political scientists.  One of those political scientists has an MBA.  Another has a master’s degree in studies in law.  A third has an MA in War Studies.  A fourth has one in international affairs (as do I).  Two of the political scientists are francophones, as is our military sociologist.  The defence economist and psychologist are both military veterans.

In spite, or perhaps because, of this disciplinary diversity, we also publish together quite often.  Over the last decade, our collaborations have resulted in three textbooks, at least two peer-reviewed articles, and a number of opinion pieces in military and civilian outlets.

What we have in common, it seems, is a collective commitment to professional military education, and to academic collegiality.  When we think about “fit” here, our primary consideration is how potential colleagues’ scholarship might benefit our curriculum, practically and directly.

This past spring, we had the rare opportunity to add two new permanent faculty.  Our job ad stipulated that candidates had to have “a Ph.D. in military history, strategic studies/defence and security studies or war studies, or a relevant doctoral degree in the humanities or social sciences with a research/teaching focus on the conduct, consequences, complexity, and practices of conflict.”

Although I did not serve on the hiring committee, I attended all of the job talks.  I have also debriefed with the committee itself.  I share my observations here to support historians who are contemplating applications for interdisciplinary faculty positions now or in the future. Continue reading

“Tom’s Return” — or A Girl’s Heroic Adventure? Great War Fiction by a Canadian Schoolgirl

By Sarah Glassford

What did Canadian children think of the Great War? We know they played with war-themed toys and games, read adventure stories and acted out dramas with wartime plots, contributed money and labour to war-related causes, and in some cases lied about their ages in order to enlist[1]… but accessing their youthful thoughts, feelings, and imaginings about the war in their own words is difficult. Norah Lewis’s study of children’s wartime letters to the children’s pages of family-oriented Canadian periodicals offers a rare and valuable example,[2] but locating unpublished materials by children of the Great War period in the archives is a real challenge. Children create relatively few written records to begin with, and those that they do create rarely survive beyond childhood; traditionally, even fewer have passed the “historical significance” test and been preserved in publicly-accessible archives. Those that do often form a very small part of larger family fonds, and are more likely to be discovered by accident than by deliberate searching.

Montreal schoolgirl Kathleen Barry’s 1917 war story was precisely this sort of accidental discovery. Included in one of her schoolbooks, it is housed in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, as part of the MC3519 (Janet Toole) fonds. I came across it while processing a new accession to the fonds, during my summer 2017 co-op internship at the archives. MC3519 is a sprawling family collection, comprised of materials relating to Janet and Barry Toole, their ancestors, descendants, and other close relatives. Kathleen Barry was a relative of Barry Toole’s, and a few momentoes of her Montreal childhood and education were passed down to his family.

The cover of Barry’s notebook, part of the MC3519 (Janet Toole) fonds, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. All images by Sarah Glassford with archival permission.

Continue reading

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Series and Theme Weeks

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To conclude our summer hiatus of reposts we are showcasing the series which we have hosted over the past year.  Many thanks to all of our series editors and contributors.

We also have three ongoing series:

For more information on our past series check out our features page.  If you are interested in coordinating a series or pitching a theme week please get in touch via info@activehistory.ca.

This is Not the First Time Family Reunification has Relied on a Lottery

By Jennine Hurl-Eamon

The Liberal Government recently decided to scrap the much-maligned lottery system to decide whether or not Canadians could sponsor parents and grandparents to immigrate to Canada.  This is not the first time that government policy on family reunification has relied on a lottery. The practice has deep roots that go back more than two hundred years to Britain’s military and colonial policy.

In the eighteenth century, the wives of British soldiers ordered abroad (including to Canadian postings) would have to draw straws to determine which of them would be able to remain with the regiment. Those who drew the short straws pleaded desperately and tearfully for a reversal of the decision but were told that it was out of officers’ power; the lottery had spoken.

Image 1:  Thomas Rowlandson, Soldiers on a March, 1805.

One might think that the government denying a woman the chance to accompany her husband was humane, since she could then avoid the risks he faced on campaign.  However, army couples desperately wanted to win this lottery.  Wives who won were granted a position “on the strength” of the army.  (Image 1 is a caricature of the burden that wives imposed on campaigning troops.)  This entitled them to transportation, half-rations, and employment as a laundress for the officers.  Those who lost saw it as close to a death sentence, since there was little support for single mothers in eighteenth-century Britain.  The most poignant example is of Mary Stewart, who pleaded in vain to be taken with the 85th Light Infantry to the Peninsular War in 1813.  She died in childbirth shortly after.  Her husband never spoke again and died as soon as he could sacrifice himself to enemy fire.

Image 2:  Samuel Wale, Admission of Children to the Hospital by Ballot, 1749.

There are other examples of lotteries deciding the fates of desperate families in the eighteenth century.  Poor or unwed mothers had to draw marbles to see if their children would be cared for by the London foundling hospital.  The practice was adopted, Foundling Hospital officials stated in 1753, “to prevent any partiality” in a situation where demand greatly exceeded supply.  The scenes where mothers and nurses drew from a bag of marbles, desperately hoping the white one, were heavily attended and even illustrated (see Image 2).  Families who lost the draw were objects of great sympathy.

Though separated by more than two hundred years, the Canadian Immigration lottery program serves a similar purpose to these older British practices.  Continue reading

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Selling the Sixties Scoop: Saskatchewan’s Adopt Indian and Métis Project

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca are currently enjoying our annual end of summer hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on October 19, 2017

Newspaper advertisements for the Adopt Indian and Métis Program, late 1960s, Saskatchewan.

Allyson Stevenson

In 1962, at seven months of age, Robert Doucette, the former President of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, was removed from his home in the northern Saskatchewan community of Buffalo Narrows. He explained: “it was the priest that took me, the priest told social services my mother wasn’t fit, she was too young. She was 16 or 17, and they came and they took me, for no good reason. Because you know all about extended families in aboriginal communities, it’s not just one person.” Doucette learned later that his mushum (grandfather) swore at the social workers who removed him and threw rocks at the car. For the rest of his life, his mushum asked his daughters to find Robert, “his little man.” Doucette exclaimed: “When my grandfather came asking for me, why didn’t they tell him where I was? What were they afraid of for God’s sake? My cousin was living next door to me on 3rd St in East Flat (Prince Albert), the next house! Why? Why? Why is there such resistance to having those kinship ties?”[1]

Recently, the Sixties Scoop has been in the news. On October 6, 2017 Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Carolyn Bennett and Chief Marcia Brown Martel announced that an agreement-in-principle had been reached to settle the claims of Indigenous children removed from their families during the 1960s and 1970s. Status Indian and Inuit children from across Canada removed between the years 1951-1991 were eligible for compensation from the federal government for the loss of their culture during the time they spent in non-Indigenous foster and adoptive homes. One striking aspect of the agreement was the lack of recognition of Métis children who similarly experienced a loss of culture, family connection and sense of belonging. Ottawa asserts that during this period, it was the provinces that were responsible for the Métis, not the federal government.

The removal and subsequent adoption or fostering of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous homes was a result of increasing child welfare intervention into First Nations, Métis, Inuit families and communities. The “overrepresentation” of Indigenous children among those removed from their families reflected a complex mixture of historical factors: paternalistic professionalism of social welfare experts, provincial child welfare legislation that unfairly targeted Indigenous families, jurisdictional disputes between federal and provincial governments, gendered discrimination in the Indian Act, poverty and discrimination, the impact of residential schools, and Indigenous dispossession.

In 1969 Indian and Métis people made up 7.5 percent of the population of Saskatchewan, however 41.9 percent of all children in foster homes were Indian or Métis.[2]

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – The Hubris of Academe, or, “Students Suck”

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca are currently enjoying our annual end of summer hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.  Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post by Elise Chenier was originally featured on September 25, 2017.

There are few moments in life as self-defining as being awarded a PhD. I got mine in 2001 from Queen’s University, one of Canada’s “top” schools. The ceremony required me to kneel before the Chancellor who tapped me once on each shoulder with his mortarboard. It did its magic. When I stood up and crossed that stage, I felt I occupied more space—literally. For the next ten years or so (okay, fifteen) I would occasionally get agitated when people did not give way when I passed them. Such is the hubris of academe.

One of the most disappointing manifestations of such hubris is the lamentation about “students today,” a weed that re-seeds every fall when university professors decry the atrocious behaviour of the hordes of ignorant, lazy, impolite students they are burdened with the task of teaching.

Lynn Crosbie’s contribution to this genre in a 2015 issue of Macleans, which recently made the rounds again in celebration of September, is just one example. Written in the epistolary form, she exhorts her students to sit neither in the front nor the back of the classroom, to refrain from bringing “ham bones and pungent noodles” to lecture, and to “give a thought to arriving prepared, with the syllabus read, and the correct texts in hand.” Just in case students still don’t get just where they stand in relationship to the instructor, we are told:

During the student work, I sit in the back row, draw, mutter, and look irritated: How wonderfully frightened you all look from my place, at the head of a group of strangers I am pushing, slowly and cautiously, toward a unified, politicized and knowledgeable student body.

Her unconventional and erratic teaching style is defended on the grounds that she offers students “their first sweet taste of moving out of mom and dad’s orbit, and they are feeling all of the joy that being very young, poor and free entails.”

I get that the piece exaggerates to be provocative and strives to be funny, but I don’t find it to be either. Like every other “students suck” piece out there, it is mean, insulting, and arrogant, and it misrepresents the vast majority of professors and instructors I have encountered in my professional life.

I have spent most of my career in the History Department at Simon Fraser University. Students are largely from lower to middle-income families and attended a public school in the surrounding region. Many hold down one or more part-time jobs, and often are responsible for the care of family members, and sometimes have children of their own.

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