Making Private Property in Rural Britain and Canada

Photo by Thomas Hawk CC BY-NC 2.0

Robin Ganev

Recently the government of Saskatchewan strengthened existing trespassing law to the benefit of farmers and to the detriment of Indigenous people. The new laws took effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Under previous legislation, land owners had an obligation to put up posting if they wanted to limit access to their land. Now it is the responsibility of “trespassers” to ensure they are not on the wrong land, by obtaining permission from landowners to use their land for activities such as hunting, fishing, or hiking. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations has objected to the new laws, on the grounds that they violate treaty rights, which allow Indigenous people to live off the land. The fact that these laws were passed in the wake of the 2016 Colten Boushie shooting makes them all the more egregious and sends the message that the Saskatchewan government condones Gerald Stanley’s right to protect his private property.

Indigenous advocates have pointed out the irony of charging Indigenous hunters with trespassing upon land that was taken away from them. Converting previously accessible “public” land to strictly controlled private property has a parallel in the history of enclosure and resistance to it in England. Revisiting this history can help us rethink notions of “private property” and who the land belongs to. It also allows us to reflect on how private property rights became much stronger in Canada than in the United Kingdom, where rights of way (England) and right to roam (Scotland) customs and laws prevent rural landholders from restricting access for recreation.

The English Village Before Enclosure

The pre-enclosure English village comprised the lord of the manor, tenant farmers with different leases, cottagers or commoners – defined as small owners or occupiers with enough land and common rights to feed themselves – and squatters, who lived upon the land but had no ownership.[i] Continue reading

Two Dead White Men – A Review

      No Comments on Two Dead White Men – A Review

By Robin Benger

So many worlds to explore. So little time to do it.

James Cullingham may have bitten off more than its possible to chew with Two Dead White Men, the eye-catching but somewhat misleading title of his ambitious and fascinating book. Nevertheless, it is a great read, an adventurous journey and a brave exploration of two of the most interesting, and contradictory characters of  20th century colonial politics.

World class geniuses in their own fields.

Duncan Campbell Scott as a poet in Canada, Soustelle as an intellectual and ethnologist in France. They were both given unachievable tasks of central importance in the development of settler-indigenous relationships in two of the most interesting countries in the world. Continue reading

Stories from coast to coast to coast: An interview with Adam Bunch

A man in a suit jacket, jeans, and hat facing away from the camera. He is looking out over a grassy landscape.

Ashley Brook/Canadiana

Sara Wilmshurst

Author, documentarian, and educator Adam Bunch met with one of our editors to talk about his work bringing Canadian history to the masses. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

SW: One of the things that is notable about your Canadian history documentary series, Canadiana, is how much of the country you visit to make it all come together. Not only do you roam the country seeing cool places, but you must also meet fascinating people. Are there any characters from your experience?

AB: It is one of the big privileges of getting to do Canadiana, that we get to travel so much, all across the country. As a film crew from Toronto, we do a lot of research for each individual episode and learn everything we can, but then get to meet people who dedicate years of their lives, or their whole lives and careers, to exploring the history of that one place that they know so well. So much better than we ever can. Getting to meet people who are that passionate about their own local history, and excited to tell us about it because we’re showing interest and going to share it with a new audience, is one of the most fun parts of doing it.

There was one person we met very briefly when we were in Dawson City filming. Continue reading

The Canadian Flag was politicized long before the Freedom Convoy

A home in Ottawa’s Centretown Neighbourhood reclaims the Canadian Flag, February 2022 (Photo: Robert J. Talbot)

Forrest Pass

The first time a Canadian maple leaf appeared on a flag, it was flown in the final days of a violent protest. At the Battle of Saint-Eustache in 1837, Patriote fighters carried a white banner charged with a Maskinongé fish, pinecones, the initials “C” and “JB” (for “Canada” and “Jean-Baptiste” respectively), and a branch of green maple leaves. To its creators, this makeshift maple-leaf flag was a symbol of patriotic resistance to British colonial oppression.

I draw no equivalence, of course, between the anti-colonial cause of the Lower Canadian Patriotes and the various grievances of the so-called “Freedom Convoy”. But the use of maple leaf flags unites these two movements. Like many Canadians generally and Ottawans specifically, I have found the use of the Canadian flag during the recent anti-vaccination mandate demonstrations unsettling. Yet as an historian who studies past flag use in Canada, I also see historical echoes and continuities in the demonstrators’ use of the national emblem. Considering the history of Canadian “flag culture” – the circumstances in which societies display their flags and the rules and rituals that surround this use – helps us make sense of the demonstrators’ American-style deployment of the flag, and the evolving political resonance of our most familiar national symbol.

Continue reading

Digital History Tools: Making Timelines

      1 Comment on Digital History Tools: Making Timelines

Krista McCracken

My work at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centrecurrently includes a Canada History Fund funded project to create education modules connected to Residential Schools and colonialism. These modules are geared toward high school aged students and will be used as part of ongoing educational programming. When I wrote the grant proposal I included the idea that the modules would include interactive timelines. I thought they would be helpful educational tools. At the time I had no idea how I would make them come to life in practice. 

Fast forward to actually getting the grant funding and starting to work on this project. A lot of our team prep work happened in a Google Doc, with staff building out narrative content in a fairly traditional way. We had multiple timeline sections that were huge walls of text and dates. 

We decided to use Omeka as our platform for this project. Omeka’s exhibition module is really user friendly and something that we were able to customize to our own needs. The Neatline Time plugin is the most common timeline plugin for Omeka. It worked, but wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for the type of timeline I was hoping to create. Neatline uses Omeka’s item library to build out its timeline, which is great if you’re preparing a timeline around archival items or artifacts. We were looking for something that wasn’t as tied to the item library – something that could contain dates that weren’t associated with objects, but were more standalone. Continue reading

History Slam 206: Fighting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace & “It Should be Easy to Fix”

By Sean Graham

On July 29, 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling in the case Robichaud v. Canada. In its decision, the court noted that the Canadian Human Rights Act places “responsibility for an organization on those who control it and are in a position to take effective remedial action to remove undesirable conditions.” For Robichaud, the case was part of an over decade-long effort for justice following her experience working at the Department of National Defense. Having started as a cleaner in 1977, she was sexually harassed by her supervisor, but the Department did not take action, instead trying to fire her. So through her union, she filed a grievance and fought for her right to a safe workplace. The case went through many levels of the legal system, but ultimately the Supreme Court’s precedent-setting decision was a significant step towards protecting people subjected to inappropriate behaviour at work.

Bonnie is sharing her story in a new memoir entitled It Should be Easy Fix. The title is the response she gave her union rep when he told her she was the first to make a complaint about harassment. In telling her story, it’s clear that it was not easy, but her passion and strength in face of at times intimidating odds have made workplaces safer. Certainly, reports of harassment are still far too common, but through this case there are greater protections for those subjected to harassment and more responsibilities on employers to take meaningful actions when those reports are made.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Bonnie Robichaud about her memoir. We discuss the timeline of her case and how the book came together (4:00), her reaction to the case taking so long (18:45), and having other women reach out to her throughout the process (21:50). We also chat about the decisions leading to the Supreme Court case (26:05), the problem with non-disclosure agreements (32:00), and her advice for anyone going through a similar circumstance (34:55).

Continue reading

A survey and the past that is still here

      No Comments on A survey and the past that is still here

Karen Dubinsky and Adele Perry

Surveys are a well-established research method. Twice in the last month or so, some (but certainly not all) academics in Canada received an email invitation to complete one such survey. For some, an email arrived on 9 February 2022, from “Leger au nom de l’Université Trent et de l’Université Concordia” (followed by English), with a subject line that read “Trent University and Concordia University want your opinion, (followed by French). The email opened with Trent, Concordia and Leger (the polling company) logos, and explains its contents in ten short lines. It’s a request for participation “in a survey on the role of university professors in Canada” and the purpose is “to understand how professors see the role of universities and university professors in Canada today.”

Continue reading

Will Sanctions Against Russia Work?

      No Comments on Will Sanctions Against Russia Work?
Russian-owned Sovcomflot oil tanker

SCF Baltica, an oil tanker owned by Russian company Sovcomflot Varandey.

Lorenz M. Lüthi

Europe and North America have reacted to Russia’s outright aggression against Ukraine with an unprecedented slate of economic and political sanctions. Municipal governments, private companies, sports associations, cultural institutions, and other entities are taking matters into their own hands, too, by reviewing or even terminating links with Russian counterparts.

States usually impose sanctions against an aggressor for external and internal reasons. They first want to ostracize the aggressor, but they also aim at creating a sense of unified purpose among themselves. Both reasons have been on display since February 24.

Making the sanctions stick in the long term, however, may turn out to be a tall order.

First, the sanctions are still not comprehensive. European countries continue to receive energy from Russia and pay for it.

Second, the sanctions are not global. A number of states in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America hesitate to join in; a few even openly support Russia. Whether the sanctions will work depends on how many states eventually join in.

Third, the goals of the sanctions are not clear. What are they supposed to achieve? Will they remain in the long term? Is there a way out for Russia so that sanctions may be lifted in the future?

Continue reading

Does a Single Building Matter? A Case for the Fugitive Slave Chapel

By Thomas Peace

There is a small house in downtown London, Ontario that looks ready for the wrecking ball. If you walk by, it would stand out only for its state of disrepair. A security fence surrounds it.

London’s First Black Church, c. 1848

About a year ago, the London and Middlesex Heritage Museum – of which I am currently the Board Chair – received a letter asking whether our museum would be willing to accept this building as a gift.

My heart leapt at the opportunity.

The London and Middlesex Heritage Museum operates Fanshawe Pioneer Village, a living history museum that interprets the city’s and surrounding county’s histories between 1820 and 1920. This building – despite its state of disrepair – represents histories that remain poorly known and yet were critical to weaving together the fabric of London’s civic life from the time it was built – in 1848 – right through to the present.

Known locally as the Fugitive Slave Chapel, this small building is one of the few tangible connections to London’s early Black community. Built seven years before the city incorporated, Continue reading

History Slam 205: Asiniskaw Ithiniwak Storytelling & The Gift of the Little People

By Sean Graham

As a child, William Dumas’ father told him the story of European fur traders arriving on what is now commonly referred to as Hudson Bay. The encounter between the Asiniskaw Ithiniwak (Rocky Cree) people and the Europeans resulted in an endemic, greatly reducing the local population. In telling the story, Dumas’ father explained how elder âhâsiw procured medicine from the little people, who are legendary beings in the Rocky Cree tradition.

This is one of several stories included in the Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Ithiniwak project, a collaborative effort to, among other things, share traditional stories and preserve the language. As part of the project, the story of the little people has been made into a graphic novel entitled The Gift of the Little People. Using his father’s voice as inspiration, Dumas, with over 25 years as an educator and storyteller, shares a story that is both timely and timeless in its significance.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with William Dumas and Warren Carriyou, who is part of the Six Seasons project. We discuss the contemporary significance of telling an endemic story in 2022 (5:29), how the project team has built trust (6:30), and the challenge of putting an oral story into text (9:11). We also chat about the book’s images (13:41), gearing stories towards younger audiences (15:55), and the power of traditional stories (23:10).

Continue reading