Let’s Not Underestimate the Victorians: Interpreting the Evolution of Animal Welfare and Rights

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts from contributors to Animal Metropolis: Histories of Human-Animal Relations in Urban Canada (University of Calgary Press, 2017). In each entry, the contributors use their own chapters as the basis for wider discussions about contemporary developments that highlight the complex interactions between humans and animals. The editors of ActiveHistory.ca are pleased to publish these pieces that originally appeared in late February in The Otter, the blog of the Network in Canadian History & the Environment.  In this first post, Darcy Ingram speaks to strategies in the animal rights movement.

Ottawa Ribfest BBQ menus, https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelnugent/740989558

Every year in June the Ottawa RibFest takes place along Sparks Street, a block from Parliament Hill. And every year that event gives animal rights protesters a perfect opportunity to express their views. A Huffington Post Québec article offers a good indication of the 2016 response from PETA: identity inverted, a fleshy female protester is transformed into a fleshy animal on the grill. A roast to roast the RibFest.[1]

This is the kind of powerful imagery charged with sexuality and violence for which PETA has become infamous. It is also part of what presumably separates the modern animal rights movement from that of its predecessor, the animal welfare movement, which traces its origins to the eighteenth century and which blossomed in the Victorian era. Continue reading

History Slam Episode Ninety-Four: Surprising Deaths of the 20th Century

By Sean Graham

“Let’s not forget why these babies are here…they’re here to replace us. That is what they are doing. They are cute, they are cuddly, they are sweet, and they want you out of the way. Next time you’re around a baby look in those sweet little baby eyes, you’ll see one thought: only a matter of time my friend.” -Jerry Seinfeld

There is very little in this world that is truly inevitable. Taxes have always been said to be one of those things, but I recently heard that self-described smart people can avoid paying them, so that clears that up. One thing that we have not been able to escape, however, is death. Despite howls of protest from Elvis fans and Andy Kaufman truthers, we all meet our end at some point, which as Jerry Seinfeld has taught us is met with joy by the baby community.

Even if we all have to die eventually, not all deaths are met equally by those left behind. Certain deaths capture the public’s attention more than others. Whether they be because of a person’s fame, the unexpectedness of the death, or the manner in which the person died. The wives of Henry VIII, for instance, have a mnemonic device that reminds us of their final acts. 2016 was, unfortunately, a seemingly never-ending reminder of how we can be caught off guard by news of someone’s passing.

In this episode of the History Slam, Aaron Boyes and I count down the 10 most shocking deaths from the 20th century. We give our rationale for what constitutes ‘shocking,’ describe the events that made the list, and round out the episode by pointing out some that could have qualified.

Continue reading

Fifty Years of French Protest Songs

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Alban Bargain-Villéger

George Brassens – Micetto

It all happened sometime in late March 2003, during the first days of the invasion of Iraq. My then-roommate and I were watching CNN’s coverage of the Battle of Nasiriyah in our Vancouver living-room, when my friend suddenly decided to break the silence that had been reigning for about fifteen minutes. “I’m telling you, dude, there’s going to be a slew of protest songs, like in the 1960s and 1970s. All of those Kitsilano hippies must be loving it!” This observation was prophetic, as this discussion took place about a year and a half before the release of Green Day’s seminal American Idiot.

However, my friend was overly dismissive when I suggested that there existed a certain continuity, as far as protest songs were concerned, between the 1960s and the present, whether in America or in Europe. In his opinion, Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” (1980) and “Born in the USA” (1984) did not really express a rejection of the established order – to which I replied that I begged to differ. Granted, he had never listened to the Ramones’ 1985 “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down),” which mocked Ronald Reagan’s visit to Kolmeshöhe cemetary, in Bitburg, Germany, where several Waffen-SS members were buried; however, examples are not exactly lacking. In addition, my roommate showed himself even more antagonistic when I stated that the Right also had a long tradition of protest songs. He was also mistaken in that regard, as the Left has never enjoyed a monopoly over that particular genre.

The history of protest songs in France provides a good example, both of the prominence of this musical genre from the 1960s onwards, and of its less publicized use by rightwing artists. Continue reading

Teaching the Legacy of the Sixties Scoop and Addressing Ongoing Child Welfare Inequality in the Classroom

Krista McCracken

Over the past six years, while working at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, I’ve seen a significant growth of awareness among students and community groups about the history residential schools.  Granted, this awareness can still be hit and miss and there are definitely still many misconceptions about residential schools, however an increasing number of visitors come to the Centre with at least some knowledge about residential schools.

The same cannot be said for the sixties scoop. While discussing residential schools and colonial relationships in Canada I often discuss other legislation which has negatively impacted Indigenous communities and this includes talking about the sixties scoop.

The phrase sixties scoop was first used in the 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System written by Patrick Johnston. The term refers to the mass removal of Indigenous children from their families into the child welfare system. This removal was often done without the consent of families or communities and children were frequently placed in white Euro-Canadian homes.

Page 23 of Johnston’s 1983 report and the first published usage of the term “Sixties Scoop”

The legacy of residential schools is directly connected to the sixties scoop. In 1960 the Government of Canada estimated that 50% of the students in the residential school system were there for ‘child welfare’ reasons. As the government began phasing out the residential school system the practice of removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in government care was drastically accelerated. Continue reading

Remember / Resist / Redraw #02: Chloe Cooley, Black History, and Slavery in Canada

Last month, the Graphic History Collective (GHC) launched Remember | Resist | Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project to intervene in the Canada 150 conversation.

In January, we released two posters. Poster #00 by Kara Sievewright and the GHC introduced and explained the goals of the project. Poster #01 by Lianne Charlie, which was showcased on ActiveHistory.ca and CBC, kicked off the series with a critical examination of 150 years of colonialism in the Yukon.

Earlier this month, in recognition of Black history month, we released Poster #02, which looks at Chloe Cooley and the history of slavery in Canada and features the amazing art of Naomi Moyer and the powerful words of historian Funké Aladejebi.

Continue reading

High Quality Marijuana Regulation

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By Jonathan McQuarrie

Prepare for an onset of advertisements asserting the cleanliness and quality of Canadian marijuana. As marijuana dispensaries emerge from informal networks towards formal supply chains shaped by storefronts and licensed growers, marijuana growers and retailers will increasingly have to sell their product on the basis of quality, cleanliness, and standardization. The process of formalizing the marijuana market has some intriguing parallels to the efforts of Canadian producers and manufacturers to create formal, standardized categories for tobacco at the turn of the 20th century. The tobacco precedent suggests that rigorous standards present a major threat to smaller producers who may see opportunity in the emerging legal marijuana market.

Canadian manufacturers and agricultural modernizers sought to form a tobacco industry from the precedents set by Indigenous peoples, as well as the strong tabac canadien that had been raised by French-Canadian farmers in small garden plots. Racist metrics of quality and expertise caused colonial Canadian farmers and manufacturers to largely reject Indigenous tobacco cultivation practices, beyond acknowledging them as a precedent to legitimize tobacco farming in Canada or using racist images of Indigenous peoples, such as the “Cigar store Indian,” to evoke a sense of timelessness for their products.[1]

In doing this, Canadian tobacco interests, combined with a federal interest in both regulating and promoting Canadian tobacco for tax and export purposes, gradually conformed to a rigorous classification for tobacco, based on leaf size, colouration, curing methods, and other factors. A tobacco farmer didn’t simply grow tobacco; they grew burley, flue-cured, or cigar tobacco, and even then, a wide range of varieties were selected based on flavour, germination period, resistance to pests, and so on. The tobacco farmer’s success was then judged by the manufacturer, or later, at tobacco auctions, which had complicated grading systems. By the 1960s, a farmer’s tobacco crop was adjudicated by over 60 government-regulated grades, based on colour, leaf location and damage, cure, and other factors.

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The Presence of the Past: The Possibilities of Virtual Reality for History

Sean Kheraj

For the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about virtual reality and its potential applications for historians. Can we use virtual reality to better understand the past? Can the experience of virtual reality alter historical thinking? Can we now build time machines, teleporters, and holodecks using virtual reality?

These questions may be overly optimistic or idealistic. I may look back on this article a year from now and shake my head and chuckle at my naive enthusiasm for this technology. But for now, VR has got me thinking about the future of history.

VR stands apart from other multimedia technologies primarily because of its ability to generate a sense of presence. Thomas B. Sheridan describes this as a “sense of being physically present with visual, auditory, or force displays generated by a computer.” He proposed three measurable physical variables to determine what he called “telepresence” and “virtual presence”: (1) extent of sensory information; (2) control of relation of sensors to environment; and (3) ability to modify physical environment. Does VR have the potential to generate a sense of the presence of the past?[i]

John Bonnett’s concluding remarks in his 2003 article on the 3D Virtual Buildings Project in Journal of the Association for History and Computing suggest that I’m not alone in my enthusiasm. He wrote, “3D environments are instruments, and if properly exploited they stand to provide historians with substantial gains in their capacity to teach, represent and analyze the past.” Remarkably, Bonnett’s outlook on the future of 3D environments predicted some of the most recent developments in virtual reality and augmented reality technologies:

In this vision of computing, users in near future will wear computers with the computational power of today’s desktops, and the size of today’s personal digital assistants. These computers, in turn, will be connected to wireless networks to access and post information, and to head mounted displays the size of glasses to display information. I mention this newly emerging field because it is already making a contribution to the way we represent the past, and the way we tell stories. In principle, it should be possible in the next 10 to 20 years to produce something akin to the holodeck from Star Trek. We will not be able to interact with objects without the mediation of glasses or gloves. But we should be able to generate representations of ancient Rome or 19th century Paris, and project them onto football fields.fields.[ii]

Smartphones with stereoscopic viewers (Google Cardboard, Daydream View, Gear VR) and tethered VR/AR headsets like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Microsoft HoloLens have brought us closer to that holodeck-like experience. Immersing yourself in a 3D representation of nineteenth-century Paris is not a fantasy. It can be done now.

In this article, I’d like to show some examples of how VR can be used today to, in Bonnett’s words, “teach, represent and analyze the past.” Continue reading

Policing Gay Sex in Toronto Parks in the 1970s and Today

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Tom Hooper

In the foreground, Toronto’s Marie Curtis Park, site of the 2016 arrests. Toronto and Region Conservation.

From September to October 2016, members of the Toronto Police conducted a six-week undercover investigation in Marie Curtis Park, located in the city’s west end.  72 people were charged with engaging in sexual acts.  Police Constable Kevin Ward has argued “it is a multi-faceted issue,” linking park sex with sex offenders, drugs, and alcohol.  Although 95 percent of those charged are men, police contend that sexuality was not the primary factor.  The problem is that there is a history of police unapologetically targeting men having sex with men in Toronto’s parks.

In September 1968, as the government of Pierre Trudeau was contemplating changes to the regulation of homosexuality, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police held their annual meeting.  They were overwhelmingly opposed to reform, proclaiming “there is too great an erosion of our moral principles.”  Echoing the idea that this is a ‘multi-faceted issue,’ they argued “the search for homosexuals for partners often leads to assault, theft, male prostitution and murder.”  Despite these fears, one year later, Trudeau’s Omnibus Bill was in effect.

The change to the law regulating homosexuality in the Omnibus Bill was merely a partial decriminalization.  Gross indecency, the provision outlawing gay sex, was not removed from the Criminal Code.  Rather, the Omnibus Bill added an “exception clause,” which allowed adults over 21 years old to be grossly indecent, provided they did so in private, and that only two people were present.  Queer activist Tim McCaskell noted, “all that Criminal Code amendments had done was to recognize the obvious.  The state could scarcely effectively surveil all the bedrooms of the nation.”  Using the loophole created by the exception clause, the police mobilized to charge men with gross indecency in spaces outside of the bedroom, namely, bathhouses, washrooms, and parks.  The limitations of the 1969 reform were highlighted by a group of queer activists on Parliament Hill in August 1971.  This protest was dubbed “We Demand.”

In 1971, Philosopher’s Walk, a pathway behind the Royal Ontario Museum connecting Bloor Street and Queen’s Park, was known as a gay cruising spot.  Continue reading

Does the Crowd Matter? The Moral Economy in the Twenty-First Century

By Tom Peace

Women’s Marches Then and Now

Over the past couple of weeks people around the world have taken to the streets in order to call politicians, business leaders, and civil servants to account. Though similar, no one event was the same. The Women’s March was carefully planned over two months between the US election and Inauguration Day; its purpose was to give voice to the open misogyny expressed by Republicans during the campaign. A week later tens of thousands flooded US airports to support travelers detained due to the idiosyncratic and illegal presidential travel ban targeting Muslims.[1] Two days after that, here in Canada, we mourned the killing of Azzedine Soufiane, Mamaou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Ibrahima Barry and Abdelkrim Hassane as they left a Quebec City mosque following prayers. Again, thousands took to the streets across the country voicing concerns over the rise of hate speech and its enablers.

As I participated in, and continue to think about the meaning of, these movements, my attention often turns to the historiography of the crowd. Continue reading

ActiveHistory.ca 2.0

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Our new look

Today we’re re-launching ActiveHistory.ca with a new look and a more secure online presence. Over the past year or two we’ve been tinkering with the site in an effort to improve readability and make older content more accessible: we’re hoping that this modest makeover will help a bit with those goals. Among the new features–besides our trimmed-down logo–are better scaling on mobile and tablet devices, and more convenient access to the post archive, whether through the “Features” tab, a keyword search, or simply clicking on any of the tags or categories that appear below every post.

Behind the scenes, we’ve switched over to a more reliable and secure server, and connected with Rob Clifford at Calico Logic for tech support. You won’t see much difference on the front end; just a site that works the way it should.

As always, this new version of the site is a work in progress. Please don’t hesitate to leave comments or e-mail info@activehistory.ca if you have ideas, bug reports, or suggestions… actually, on that note, give us a few days to get the email accounts back up and running. In the meantime, email jim.clifford@usask.ca.

We’re taking donations!

While revamping the webpage, we’ve also created an opportunity for you to support Active History financially through a new donations tab. Over the past eight years, the site has survived primarily through the volunteer labour of the editors and our contributors, with support from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, York University, the University of Saskatchewan and Huron University College. As the project and website have grown larger, requiring more online resources and support, we have increasingly felt it important to have dedicated funds available for upkeep: to keep the servers running, to solve technical problems, to make sure that the more than 1,000 blog posts, papers, podcasts and exhibits on ActiveHistory.ca have a stable and secure home.

It has always been our goal to support projects that align with our goals. Over the coming months, we will also roll out programs that will use donated funds to help seed new Active History projects and recognize exemplary practices of Active History throughout Canada. Huron University College has agreed to support the donations system and account, which is subject to all of the college’s fiscal oversight mechanisms, with co-editor Thomas Peace acting as coordinator for this new initiative. Inquiries can be directed to him at tpeace@huron.uwo.ca.