repost – Teaching Sexual Violence in History

The editors of 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 May 4, 2018.

Left, Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610. Right, Kathleen Gilje, Susanna and the Elders, Restored, 1998.

Left, Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610. Right, Kathleen Gilje, Susanna and the Elders, Restored, 1998.

Sanchia deSouza, Joel Dickau, Edward Dunsworth, William Fysh, Benjamin Lukas, Kari North, Maris Rowe-Mcculloch, Lindsay C. Sidders, Hana Suckstorff, Nathaniel Thomas, Erica Toffoli, and Spirit-Rose Waite

As movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp direct renewed and broadened attention to sexual violence and harassment, many sectors of society (especially workplaces) are being forced to reckon with and critically assess these forms of violence. This cultural shift has been most visible in the entertainment industry, politics, and the service sector, and has manifested in moments of both cacophony (the Women’s March) and whisper (“Sexual Harassment in the Academy” list). It has also illuminated the unequal ways that attention is paid to survivors (and alleged perpetrators) of different economic circumstances, racialized statuses, genders and sexualities, and abilities.

For a new generation of historians, this moment has prompted critical reflection beyond our contemporary workplaces to the object of our studies: the past. How should we, as historians and teachers, grapple with sexual violence in the past – in both our classrooms and our research projects – and how should we assess the intersection between historical inequities and sexual violence in the present?

To this end, a group of graduate students at the University of Toronto recently organized a five-day workshop entitled Teaching Sexual Violence in History. Over more than ten hours of discussion, debate, critique, and negotiation, grounded in secondary and primary historical sources, the group agreed that a radical transformation of how sexual violence is approached in the classroom is essential.[1]

Click here to continuing reading this post. repost – Settler Records, Indigenous Histories: Challenges in Indigenous Genealogical Research

The editors of 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 Stacey Devlin and Emily Cuggy was originally featured on December 7, 2017.

Census listing

1881 Census for Moose Factory

Genealogy is having a moment; from genealogy websites and DNA test kits to television series like Who Do You Think You Are and Genealogy Roadshow, it’s undeniable that genealogical research and the underlying desire to discover one’s personal and familial identity are more popular than ever before. There are countless resources available to both the professional and amateur genealogist making it seem easy to trace your family tree back to its roots; and in particular, many marketing campaigns for genealogy and DNA services put particular emphasis on Indigenous ancestry. But is identifying Indigenous ancestors really this simple? [1]

When done well, genealogy involves using primary documents to connect each generation in a family tree. Ideally, these documents will provide information such as full name, age, names of immediate relatives, location, religion, and occupation—details that together help prove an individual’s identity and their place within the tree.

However, genealogists and family historians can run into numerous obstacles when trying to obtain the necessary primary documents. These obstacles arise from two main sources: gaps in the historical record, and legal restrictions preventing access to documents that are more recent. These issues are amplified for researchers of Indigenous family history, further complicating what can already be a difficult process, and perpetuating colonial systems of administration and its definitions of ethnicity.

Click here to continuing reading this post. repost – No Truck or Trade with Trump? The Puzzling Absence of anti-NAFTA Sentiment in Canada

The editors of 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 Asa McKercher was originally featured on October 6, 2017.

Cartoon depicting two Canadian Men straddling a wall with a locked gate. "Uncle Sam" is handing them a bag of money over the fence.

“We can’t undo the Lock, Sir John is on guard. Hand it over the fence?” 1891 electoral cartoon. Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-33-1100.

There are many questions surrounding the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). To wit: will the treaty be renegotiated to meet the goals set out by the Mexican, Canadian, and U.S. governments? What provisions will be included in NAFTA 2.0? If the agreement is renegotiated, will it satiate public opinion in these countries? Will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal, quiet diplomacy ultimately appease President Donald Trump? Or will the whole thing collapse? Answers to these questions will have to wait, but as an historian with a passing interest in Canadian-American relations and Canada’s political history, a more interesting question is: where are NAFTA’s opponents? And where are the anti-American nationalists?

In the United States, certainly, there are plenty of people who oppose the agreement: the very nativists, protectionists, and anti-Globalists to whom Trump’s promise to renegotiate or “terminate” NAFTA is aimed. NAFTA is a target, too, of Americans on the left, who worry about a variety of issues including labour standards, environmental issues, and the loss of jobs. Yet in Canada, all three mainstream political parties currently support NAFTA and there seems to be little in the way of grassroots movements meant to change their standpoints.

Although there are differences among the parties on what new provisions should be included in any revamped deal, neither the ruling Liberals, nor the Conservatives of the Official Opposition, nor the New Democratic Party have advocated scrapping the agreement outright. Indeed, the NDP’s support for NAFTA – admittedly premised on a reformed deal being able “to protect Canadian sovereignty, especially in investment and energy security” – is surprising given that it seems to be a step backwards from the party’s outlook of the 1970s and 1980s, when it was more blatantly opposed to free trade with the United States. Moreover, given that much of the party’s platform clashes with NAFTA provisions, one wonders why the NDP has not chosen this moment to simply come out and oppose it.

As for the Conservatives, they have largely backed the Liberal government’s position, to the point that former Tory ministers are serving on a panel advising the government on the negotiations (as is the NDP’s Brian Topp). Further, Conservative party officials have stated their willingness to keep criticism of the government on the file to a murmur at least while negotiations are ongoing.[1] It helps, no doubt, that a large majority of Canadians back NAFTA. The cross-partisanship on display in Ottawa is all the more astounding given that free trade with the United States has been such a divisive topic in Canada’s past, one linked to anti-American political rhetoric that has often played well with Canadian voters. It seems counterintuitive that Trump, a president so reviled by Canadians, is not at front and centre of any concerted campaign to woo voters on a nationalist plank.

Free trade itself was a leading and perhaps even decisive issue in three Canadian federal elections: 1891, 1911, and 1988. Concerns over economic ties with the Americans also influenced voters in 1972, with NDP successes in that vote prompting the minority Trudeau to adopt economic nationalist policies; in John Diefenbaker’s election wins in 1957 and 1958; and in the Progressive Conservatives’ collapse in 1993. The fact that Diefenbaker’s Tories could win on a vaguely anti-US platform and that Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell’s Tories would be seen as too close to the Americans serves as a reminder that the major parties have altered their positions on the issue.

Click here to continuing reading this post. repost – The Police Records of a Bath Raid Found-In: Excluded from Bill C-66

The editors of 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 Tom Hooper was originally featured on January 23, 2018.For more than 25 years, Ron Rosenes* has been an activist on issues related to HIV/AIDS. In 2007, he was given the Canadian AIDS Society Leadership Award. In 2012, Carleton University awarded him an honorary doctorate. He is a member of the Order of Canada.

Despite this impressive resume of advocacy, the Toronto Police Service has a file on him. In the late evening of February 5th, 1981, he was sitting alone in his room at the Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, one of the city’s gay bathhouses. 200 police raided the Romans and three other similar establishments, arresting 306 men, Rosenes included. He fought the charges in court, but was guilty of being found in a common bawdy house.

This is a historical injustice. In 2016, Toronto’s Chief of Police issued a statement of regret for the raids. In November 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology to the LGBTQ2+ community in the House of Commons. He stated that discrimination “was quickly codified in criminal offenses like ‘buggery,’ ‘gross indecency’, and bawdy house provisions. Bathhouses were raided, people were entrapped by police.” On the same day as Trudeau’s apology, the government introduced Bill C-66, which would create a legislative process to expunge the records of certain Criminal Code convictions that have been defined as “historically unjust.”

Click here to continuing reading this post. repost – We Regret To Inform You: The Emotional Labour of Academic Job Applications

The editors of 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 Andrea Eidinger was originally featured on February 8, 2018.

Book with folded pages to form a heart

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

I would like to acknowledge and thank the many academics who have reached out to me on this subject over the past few months. Once again, I am profoundly grateful and honoured by their strength and generosity. Special thanks to Ian Mosby for permission to include his story in this piece.

Everything in academia has its season: SSHRC applications, archival research, syllabus preparation, and all the other yearly routines that come with academic life. But for those of us who work as sessional instructors, the worst season, without a doubt, is job application season. These days, applications for even sessional positions can involve countless hours of work and upwards of fifty pages of written materials, much of which has to be customized for each individual application. The sheer amount of work is mind-boggling, particularly to those of us with friends and family who are not familiar with the academic world. I was personally shocked to find out that outside of academia, a job application usually only consists of a cover letter and a one or two page resumé. Can you even imagine?

These days, the components of a job application can vary significantly between institutions but generally include: a cover letter, a detailed c.v., letters of reference from referees, sample course outlines, teaching evaluations, a teaching dossier, and custom course outlines.. The intellectual labour involved in producing these kinds of applications is a major issue. But today I want to focus specifically on the emotional labour that goes into job applications. While most of the specific examples in this essay refer to the Canadian job market generally, and the field of history specifically, the issues raised in this essay are not discipline, or country,specific.

Understanding Emotional Labour in Academia

The term “emotional labour” is a relatively new one in academia circles, but it generally refers to the effort involved in caring. It is related to, but not the same as service. This often involves things like providing a sympathetic ear to a student struggling with homesickness during office hours, the expectation that requires female professors be “nice,” settling disputes between colleagues, having to swallow down anger following an insensitive remark from a senior colleague, and much more. Female, disabled, and LGTBQ+ professors, as well as professors who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour often bear the brunt of this labour, whether this involves handling unwelcoming and exclusionary environments and attitudes, the expectation that many of us feel to “represent” our “people,” as well as the expectation that we are supposed to be educating others. Sessional instructors also often perform a disproportionate amount of this labour.

Click here to continuing reading this post. repost – White Supremacy, Political Violence, and Community: The Questions We Ask, from 1907 to 2017

The editors of 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 Laura Ishiguro and Laura Madokoro was originally featured on September 7, 2017.

Building damaged during Vancouver riot of 1907 – 130 Powell Street. UBC Archives, JCPC_ 36_017

In recent weeks, we have seen white supremacist rallies in cities across North America, from Charlottesville to Quebec City. On each occasion, anti-fascist and anti-racist activists, along with other community members, have confronted these rallies with large and diverse counter-demonstrations, largely shutting them down, overwhelming them, or rendering them caricatures of their original plans.  On 19 August, Vancouver was the site of one such confrontation. A planned anti-Islam rally at Vancouver’s City Hall mostly failed to materialize alongside a counter-protest of approximately 4000 people, organized by an ad hoc group, Stand Up To Racism Metro Vancouver.

As historians of migration and settler colonialism, we are reminded that these events – often represented as exceptional, new, or surprising – highlight much wider and older tensions in Canada. In particular, as we consider the recent events and their political stakes in Vancouver, we are struck by their resonance with something that happened in the city exactly 110 years ago today.

On Saturday 7 September 1907, Vancouver was gripped by one of the largest race riots in Canadian history. This event started with a large gathering of people who also marched on City Hall, in that case behind a banner that said: “Stand for a White Canada.”[1] After listening to fiery speeches against Asian immigration, a significant number then headed to Chinese and Japanese neighbourhoods in the city, where they wreaked extensive property damage, physical violence, and terror.

In thinking about the recent Stand Up To Racism event alongside the 1907 parade and riot, we could tell a story about how much has changed in a city now willing to turn out in numbers to drown out calls for a “White Canada.” But we could equally tell a story about how little has changed in a settler colonial city still organized around inequality and rage, including ongoing anti-Asian racism. Both of these arguments would be important and well supported with evidence, but here we want to reflect on a different issue. What questions does the 1907 event raise for us, and how do these relate to the questions we might ask – or more pointedly, often fail to ask – of the present?

Click here to continuing reading this post.

Remembering the Prague Spring Refugees

      1 Comment on Remembering the Prague Spring Refugees

By Jan Raska

The year 1968 is synonymous with protest and social change. This August, the world marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia and the suppression of the Prague Spring. As a result of this sudden crisis, Canada resettled close to 12,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia between September 1968 and January 1969. This movement of individuals and families in search of refuge serves as an important case study in Canada’s history of refugee resettlement. It also provides greater context for Canada’s recent refugee resettlement schemes. Between 2015 and 2017, the federal government welcomed over 40,000 refugees who fled civil war in Syria. As the public debate surrounding immigration continues to focus on annual intake, immigrant desirability, refugee resettlement, and the entry of asylum seekers, a discussion of evolving bureaucratic notions of who is a ‘desirable’ immigrant is also timely.

On the outskirts of Bratislava, a family prepares to cross the border into Berg, Austria, August 1968. (Credit: IOM)

The Soviet-led invasion spurred thousands of Czechs and Slovaks to leave their country and seek safe haven elsewhere. Many of the individuals who left due to the events of 1968 were similar to a preceding movement of Czechs and Slovaks who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in February 1948. As experienced professionals and skilled workers – including politicians, diplomats, clergy, business owners, professors, and doctors – they held pro-democratic values and refused to live under a totalitarian regime. Many resettled in the West in the hopes of liberating their homeland from communism. At the height of the Cold War, when Canadians  were overly vigilant against the arrival of undesirable individuals from the Eastern Bloc, federal officials were keen to admit anti-communist Czechs and Slovaks who had fled from the events of 1948. These newcomers were often celebrated by the Canadian public as ‘freedom fighters,’ but also mistrusted as potential communist sympathizers or spies.

Those who left Czechoslovakia in 1968 had fled communism as a lived reality. They too held anti-communist values, but were more concerned with their ability to continue their professions and careers outside of their homeland. While relations between the West and the Eastern Bloc improved, Canadian officials were focused on the economic potential of these newcomers rather than their personal ideologies.

But what about those Czechoslovak nationals who were travelling aboard on business or for leisure, and who decided not to return home at the time of the invasion? Since these individuals had not fled to a second country in which to claim asylum, they could not be considered refugees under 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Continue reading

What is Open? History and Open Education Resources

      2 Comments on What is Open? History and Open Education Resources

Sean Kheraj

For the past few months, Tom Peace and I have been writing an open education resource textbook with support from eCampus Ontario. This is a free, online textbook in Canadian history intended to complement John Belshaw’s two open textbooks, Canadian History: Pre-Confederation and Canadian History: Post-Confederation. We’ve called this textbook, Open History Seminar: Canadian History and it is a collection of primary and secondary sources for tutorials and seminars.

I started using Belshaw’s textbooks in my undergraduate Canadian history survey course in 2016. I was thoroughly pleased with it. The book reflected recent scholarship in the field, it was fully online and available in multiple formats (PDF, EPUB, MOBI, etc.), it included numerous photos, videos and other resources, and it could be easily read on a smartphone. As an open textbook, the digital versions were free and low-cost print copies were available for order on demand. The only thing missing was a complementary document reader for my tutorials.

Like many other course instructors, I like to assign a primary source reader for tutorials in my Canadian history survey course. These textbooks introduce students to critical reading of historical documents by curating the documents and accompanying them with secondary analysis and interpretations. I just needed an open textbook version to add to Belshaw’s books. When eCampus Ontario reached out to Tom and I with support to develop open education resources to complement Belshaw’s textbooks, we jumped on the opportunity and launched Open History Seminar.

Readers can already take a look at what we’re called our “beta” version of Open History Seminar: Canadian History. Continue reading

Memory, History, Monuments, and Mennonites: Or, what Winkler, Manitoba might teach us about dealing with historical and moral complexity in public commemoration

By Matthew Neufeld

Lifestyle of Peace Monument, Winkler

I am against removing statues of controversial figures from our history.  I think removals are misguided because they amplify rather than diminish the moral charge of public commemoration. Instead of removing monuments that might provoke emotional pain among some members of historically marginalized groups or foster moral unease in the consciences of Canadians with European ancestry, I propose that historians, communities and governments cooperate to find creative ways both to commemorate and to acknowledge the moral complexity of the past.

The role of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald in developing and implementing the Indian residential school system, which until recently was not central to historical assessments of his career, has prompted civic leaders of Victoria, BC to remove a statute of Macdonald from outside the city hall.  There are strong moral and ritualistic components to removing Macdonald’s statue, as reported by the Vancouver Sun. Proponents feel that clearing away Macdonald’s image now will start to make amends for past wrongs, and so contribute to the city’s process toward reconciliation with First Nations. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, despite receiving graduate-level training in Canadian history, expressed shame not to have learned until recently about Macdonald’s role in the residential school system. Now that the statute has been removed, the mayor is promising that a ‘cleansing, blessing and healing ceremony’ will take place on the spot. In place of Macdonald, the city will put a piece of Indigenous art. Thus, the demon of Macdonald will have been exorcised from Victoria’s civic space.

The removal of Victoria’s Macdonald statute amplifies and simplifies the moral dimension of the complicated history of the Canadian state’s interaction with Indigenous peoples at the cost of the historical. Continue reading

What’s In a Monument? Part II: The Edward Cornwallis Monument and Reconciliation

“What’s in a Monument?” is based on a public lecture delivered on March 11 in the History Matters Series organized by the University of Calgary History Department and the Calgary Public Library. We recommend that you read yesterday’s post by Jewel Spangler about the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville before Part II because it provides the theoretical framework for this piece.

By Nancy Janovicek

This blog post builds on Jewel Spangler’s arguments about heritage stories and the crucial distinction between history and commemoration in Part I of “What’s in a Monument?”, which discussed the Charlottesville Riots that erupted after the attempted relocation of the Robert E. Lee Monument a year ago. Focusing on the January removal of the Edward Cornwallis monument in Halifax, I also begin from the premise that monuments “are artifacts of those who commemorate.”

Statue of Edward Cornwallis removed from Halifax Park, January 2018

The Canadian controversy echoed the US incident, but in Canada, the removal was resolved peacefully. I argue that the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) opened a space receptive to Indigenous critiques of imperialist heritage stories. But I want to be clear from the outset that it was never our intention to contrast a violent and racist US debate with a peaceful and tolerant Canadian response to contestations about interpretations of the past. We gave the public lectures on which these posts are based shortly after the verdicts were delivered in the Colten Bouchey and Tina Fontaine cases. Their violent deaths demonstrate that in our journey towards reconciliation, heeding Indigenous people’s criticisms of colonial narratives is only a first step in connecting past actions with current injustices.

The Cornwallis Monument Debate

Past Active History posts about the Cornwallis debate provide further context for this piece. Thomas Peace appealed to history educators to move beyond unproductive debates about teaching history that pit rote learning of facts against inquiry-based pedagogy. In order to use history to participate in civic debates and politics, people need to “think with history,”[1] a skill that requires both facts and process. Tom Fraser celebrated the success of the thirty-year Mi’kmaw campaign launched by Daniel Paul. These heritage projects, he argued, are remnants of an imperialist national project that insist that Canada is a British space. He called on educators and historians to take a leadership role in explaining what these commemorative projects represent to Indigenous peoples. Continue reading