“The town’s gone wild”: Sounds of Victory in Toronto, 11 November 1918

By Sara Karn

Come along, be merry, join our Jubilee.
Mars has got the knock-out, Peace is in, you see.
Toot your little tooter, deck yourself with flags.
Grab your feather tickler, be among the wags.
Don’t forget the powder, sprinkle it around.
Laugh-it will not hurt you; make you strong and sound.
Show you are a human – be just as a child.
Everybody’s happy; the town’s gone wild.
Take your wife or sweetheart, stroll on Yonge or Queen.
Million flags are waving; oh what sights are seen!
Smiles, about ten million greet you everywhere.
Everybody’s busy – busy chasing care.
Climb into an auto, choose a truck or Ford;
Blow your little whistle; What a din, Oh, Lord!
Peace, we bid you welcome, woman, man, and child.
Everybody’s happy; the town’s gone wild.[1]

When the First World War came to an end at 11:00am on 11 November 1918, the battlefields fell silent but there was an explosion of sound around the world in celebration of victory and peace. In Toronto, people emerged from their beds in the early hours of the morning to join spontaneous gatherings in the streets. Later in the afternoon, many cheered-on the floats and marching bands in organized parades. As described by Toronto resident, Robert Todd, in the above poem, the streets of Canada’s largest city were filled with men, women, and children waving flags, tooting horns, and blowing whistles. Indeed, the town had gone wild.

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Disjunctures of Public Memory: Remembrance Day in Sackville NB

By Andrew Nurse

Last week I was taking an evening walk – the kind recommended by your doctor, as in “get some exercise” – and I strolled by the Sackville NB skate park my son used to frequent. That was a while ago. The park is different now. There is a graffiti wall and the ramps and jumps had been modernized. Hanging near it, affixed to a power pole, was a Remembrance Day banner. They actually fly all over town, or at least along a number of streets.

The banner in question

This juxtaposition of the skate park and the banners struck me as a remarkable and important disjuncture in cultural memory. How many of the kids frequenting the skate park, I wondered, thought about the memorial that flew next to them? The scene was made even more complex by construction in the next lot over where the town was repairing the local ball fields. The look was not surreal – a overused word – but it was odd.

Remembrance Day is politically and historically controversial. Continue reading

Western Media Coverage of Egypt’s Coptic Christians Must Stop Blaming the Victim

Funeral for victims of Bus Attack, November 3rd 2018 (www.rogeranis.photo)

Michael Akladios

On November 2, Islamist gunmen opened fire on a bus leaving the St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Monastery in Upper Egypt’s Minya governorate, killing at least seven Coptic Christians and injuring 16 others. The attack is similar to another one that took place in May 2017, when gunmen opened fire on buses transporting Coptic Christians to the same monastery for prayers and pilgrimage, killing 28 people.

Following Friday’s attack, international media largely situated the violence within a context of Coptic Christians’ presumed wholesale support for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime. Such narratives not only attempt to posit the attack as an isolated or exceptional incident, but also reduces Copts to homogeneous supporters of a regime that provides them with “special protection,” and yet perpetuates their continued exclusion, persecution, and death.

A New York Times article by Declan Walsh and Mohamed Ezz, written on the same day as the attack, is emblematic of coverage about Egypt’s Copts by Western media. The language deployed by such articles suggests that all Coptic Christians support Sisi’s regime, and hence are partially responsible for the atrocities committed against them.

This numerical and religious minority, numbering between eight to 10 percent of the total population in Egypt, are often painted as avid supporters of the regime. Despite government intransigence over discriminatory church-building laws — less than one percent of churches and religious buildings submitted for government approval in early 2017 have been accepted — Islamist groups use the erroneous claim that Copts support Sisi and the military regime in return for a degree of protection.

As the authors of the New York Times piece highlight, Sisi has consistently said he “has put security concerns at the heart of his autocratic style of rule,” which is pure rhetoric. Sectarian attitudes also have a long and deep history in the country and do not need “the Islamic State’s campaign to sow sectarian divisions,” as the writers state.

Nationalists, Islamists, and Church reform movements in the nineteenth century helped to lay the groundwork for an emergent national identity that increasingly drew distinctions between Christians and Muslims in Egypt. Continue reading

A new approach to debates over Macdonald and other monuments in Canada: Part 1

By Stéphane Lévesque

“One of the things we heard very clearly from the Indigenous family members” says recently re-elected Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps (2018), “is that coming to city hall… and walking past John A. Macdonald every time, feels contradictory. And if the city is serious about reconciliation, which I would say we are, then one important thing we do is temporarily remove the [statue] from the front steps of city hall.”[1]

The city of Victoria’s recent political decision to take down the statue of Macdonald is not trivial. It came at a strategic moment when local, provincial, and national governments face pressing demands to remove historic monuments or rename buildings and sites of memory, from Hector Langevin to Egerton Ryerson and John A. Macdonald. How should Canadian authorities respond? What role could historical consciousness play with respect to these pressing demands?

Given the various articles on the subject on Active History[2], my goal is not to replicate their important contributions but rather to discuss their implication for public education and historical consciousness using Canada as a context for analysis.

Why them? Why now?

Monuments are making news around the world: from South Africa to Argentina, from Australia to Canada. Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Cecil Rhodes, and John A. Macdonald never met one another but they all share something in common: they symbolize the new history war – a frontal public attack on powerful historical male figures who represent contested narratives of the collective past. Why is this happening now? Continue reading

A Short History of Treaty Nomenclature in Ontario

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By Daniel Laxer, Jean-Pierre Morin, Alison Norman

Treaties in Ontario

Have you ever wondered why the treaty for the territory you live on is named as it is? Why are some numbered and some named after people? Why is the Toronto Purchase also known as Treaty 13? Why are there two Treaty 3s in Ontario? No doubt that Ontario’s treaty history is the most complicated in the country, with the most treaties and the most varied naming conventions. This article is an attempt to clarify some of the messiness.Treaty making has a long and complicated history in Ontario. Continue reading

Remember/Resist/Redraw #17: Canada’s Internment of Ukrainians, 1914–1920

In the spring, the Graphic History Collective re-launched Remember / Resist / Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project as an ongoing series.

Last month we released RRR poster #17 by Orion Keresztesi and Kassandra Luciuk that looks at Canada’s internment of Ukrainians, 1914-1920. The poster makes connections between the past and present and grapples with timely issues such as immigration, law, and racism.

We hope that Remember | Resist | Redraw encourages people to critically examine history in ways that can fuel our radical imaginations and support struggles for social change. Learn more about how you can support the project on our website, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Grappling with Settler Self-Education in the Classroom: Rereading the History of Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed

By Rebekah Ludolph

“If the past 30 years have taught us anything, it is that there is a powerful, loud bunch of privileged white settlers who do not want to learn about us or from us…they are unaware and do not have to bother doing their research.” – Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Anishinaabe)

Akiwenzie-Damm calls for settlers to self-educate. To do their research and acknowledge the information that is available to them because of the hard work of Indigenous writers and scholars.

As a settler graduate student attending lectures and leading tutorials I have worked primarily in thematic courses featuring one or two Indigenous literary works framed as texts to promote settler-student education about settler-colonialism in Canada. From this experience, I notice that class discussions often verge on what Eve Tuck (Unangax) calls “damage-centered research.” Our curriculum “intends to document people’s pain and brokenness in order to hold those in power accountable for their oppression” but, in the process, often “reinforces and reinscribes a one-dimensional notion of [Indigenous] people as depleted, ruined, and hopeless” (409).

This often happens inadvertently when classes overlook the important work Indigenous texts perform outside of settler education or when class is conducted under the assumption that it is only composed of settler students (whether Indigenous students choose to publicly identify themselves or not). While there are already many resources teachers can use to address this situation, the politics of settlers using Indigenous literatures for self-education warrants deeper investigation.

The publishing and reception history of Métis writer and community worker Maria Campbell’s 1973 autobiography, Halfbreed, for example, points to the long-standing practice of positioning Indigenous texts as first-and-foremost tools for settler education. Maintaining this interpretive position, to the exclusion of other perspectives, continues to produce damage-centered readings of Indigenous texts.

In this post, I want to try to explore different ways in which Settlers can approach this literature, its literary history, and the broader concerns raised with regard to education by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I will use Campbell’s Halfbreed, a key work in Canadian and Indigenous literary history and thus a key point of interaction between settlers and Original Peoples, as a case study. Continue reading

History Slam Episode 124: Live at the Cellar

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By Sean Graham

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Marian Jago about her new book Live at the Cellar: Vancouver’s Iconic Jazz Scene in the 1950s and ’60sWe talk about Canada’s jazz scene, the co-operative structure of the Cellar, and the type of performers who played at the club. We also chat about clubs in other cities, the counterculture movement of the mid-20th century, and Marian’s use of oral history.

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Tanya Talaga, Thunder Bay, and all of our relations

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Alvin Fiddler, Grand Chief of the NIshnawbe Aski Nation, tweeted this the night of the Thunder Bay lecture. “Thunder Bay, you are beautiful. Chi Miigwetch for coming out to hear @TanyaTalaga deliver the first of her #MasseyLectures. What an incredible evening. #FullHouse”.

Karen Dubinsky

On October 16th I witnessed (and there is no better word for it) close to 1500 people come together in the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium to hear the first of Tanya Talaga’s CBC Massey Lecture series, “All Our Relations.” Based on the recently published book of the same name, a product of her year long Atkinson Foundation Fellowship “All Our Relations” explores the rising suicide rates of Indigenous youth in Canada, Brazil, Australia and Norway.

Why Tanya Talaga, why Thunder Bay, and why was I there?

Talaga introduced her lecture joking about the pantheon of Massey Lecturers she was joining – a formidable list indeed. “These illustrious people” she said, “have three degrees, they are people of letters; they probably don’t share their bathroom with their teenage kids. They probably have ensuites.”  Despite her modesty, and despite the fact that the list of Massey Lecture luminaries – since 1961- includes only one other Indigenous person (Thomas King), there’s no question this is a club in which Talaga belongs. Her work has had such a powerful impact, and nowhere more so than Thunder Bay.

Talaga is a Toronto Star journalist who was sent to Thunder Bay in 2011, in the midst of a Federal election, to do a story on Indigenous voting behaviour. She switched gears to the story of Indigenous student deaths at the insistence of the Indigenous leaders she was interviewing for the voting story. A good journalist follows where the story leads them, and Talaga is a good journalist. Talaga’s first book Seven Fallen Feathers, Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City rose to meteoric heights when it was published last year. It tells the stories of seven Indigenous youth who died while attending high school in Thunder Bay, far from their homes in various Northern communities, between 2000 and 2011. She puts the lives and deaths of Jordan Wabasse, Kyle Morrison, Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Paul Panacheese, Reggie Bushie and Jethro Anderson into clear historical context, covering the specifics of colonization and the education system especially in Northwestern Ontario.

It’s obvious that she was quicker than many to realize what was happening in Thunder Bay in 2011 because of her relationship to the place. Continue reading

Early Globalization: Exploring British Imports 1856-1906

By Jim Clifford

[The visualizations in this post do not render very well on a small screen.]

The British were at the centre of the globalizing economy in the second half of the nineteenth century. British cities and their industrial economies were growing fast and the country increasingly relied on trade to supply food and raw materials.

During the past few years I have worked with a group of students to develop a database that includes all of Britain’s imports. The main goal of the database is to allow me to write journal articles and a book on the links between industrialization in Greater London and global commodities, but I thought interactive visualizations of the data created using Tableau might be interesting for ActiveHistory.ca readers. The full database is also available for download.

Visualizations for this project help us understand this early period of globalization during decades of intensifying imperialism and a rush to bring much of the world’s arable land into cultivation and other natural resources into the global market place. A London family in the 1890s might have started their day by washing with soap produced with Egyptian cottonseeds and Australian tallow, dressing in wool and cotton clothing sourced from Australia, India, South Africa and the United States, drinking sweet tea from Ceylon and Jamaica, and eating marmalade toast made with wheat from the United States and oranges from Spain. Their home would have been built with local bricks and timber from Quebec, Norway, Sweden or Russia. Most of these global connections, aside perhaps from tea marketed by its place of origin, would have been hidden by the process of commodification and the industrial transformation of the global raw materials into British consumer goods. Continue reading