Who Counts? The Data We Use to Prove the Points We Make

by Carly Ciufo

Although I doubt the book will make it into my dissertation, the comps text that’s unexpectedly stayed with me is Bruce Curtis’ The Politics of Population: State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840-1875. With my last post, I talked about the local positionality of national museums. I cited some studies of surveyed data around museums and trust. Receiving some collegial feedback from a colleague on the post brought me back to an early comps session where Curtis was on the table and has got me thinking about why this book has stuck with me ever since.

Curtis’ book is about the ways census collection changed, sought scientific standardization, and was crucial to state formation in mid-nineteenth century Canada. But Curtis also talks a lot about the personalities at play and the incompleteness of data as well as the false categorization of census facts and figures. Sitting across my professor’s desk, I recall a particularly enlivened conversation around the pros and cons of quantitative and qualitative approaches that kept us both on our toes.

“Censuses are not ‘taken,’ they are made,” is the specific bit from Curtis that’s since stayed with me. (34) In thinking through how I work as a historian, this note’s been a crucial element to the question everything approach required when it comes to truth and trust at museums.

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History Slam 186: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ History at the ArQuives

By Sean Graham

The gaps and underrepresentation of certain voices within traditional archival collections is well established. To fill these gaps, community archives are essential as they collect, preserve, and share the stories of people, groups, and events that have helped shaped life in Canada. One of these community archives is the ArQuives, Canada’s LGBTQ2+ archive. Based in Toronto, the ArQuives works to preserve and share the history of Canada’s LGBTQ2+ community. While acknowledging that there are gaps in the collection, the team has done a fantastic job of both making the collection accessible while also creating physical and digital exhibits that engage visitors in these remarkable stories.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Lucie, one of the archivists from the ArQuives, Canada’s LGBTQ2+ archive. We talk about the history of the collection, the acquisition process for a community archive, and importance of preserving voices underrepresented in government archival collections. We also talk about the transitions the ArQuives had to make during the pandemic, ensuring access to digital collections, and what archival research may look like moving forward.

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Organizing for Abolition in Toronto: A Conversation with Dr. Beverly Bain

Tina Orlandini, Defund Police. Sourced from: Justseeds.org.

Khaleel Grant’s interview with Dr. Beverly Bain was conducted in March 2021. Bain is a professor of women and gender studies in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. As a Black queer anti-capitalist feminist, Bain has organized in Toronto since the mid-1970s around issues of racist police violence, violence against women, and Black and queer liberation. In this interview Bain discusses a range of topics including her reflections on her journey as an activist, the violent structures we are confronted with, the shifts in Black queer organizing over the years, and the urgency of abolition. This interview is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

Khaleel Grant (KG): Hello Beverly, thank you so much for being in conversation with us today. Can you start by telling us about the context in which you began organizing?

Beverly Bain (BB): I came to Canada from Trinidad to go to the University of Toronto. I started organizing in the mid-1970s just after coming to Canada, but I had already sort of had my awakening following the late 1960s early 1970s Caribbean Black Power movement. By the time I came to university here in Toronto, I already had a sense of what was happening in the larger global world around blackness. I was very focused on being part of a movement for liberation and revolution. I recognized that we were living in an unjust world, and I wanted to see something different for all of us. When I came to Toronto, I found my way to Bathurst and Bloor where Black people were located. I became very involved in anti-black racism protests and police violence protests. There were the police killings of Albert Johnson, Andrew “Buddy” Evans, and a number of people.

KG: What was the role of Black women in the kind of anti-police violence organizing you were involved in? Continue reading

Unions, Care Home Cartels and the Covid-19 Pandemic in Ontario

“People protest outside the Tendercare Living Centre long-term-care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. This LTC home was hit hard by the coronavirus during the second wave.” Nathan Denette, CP.

This post by Justin Panos is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

From their office on Bay Street, the 2021 LTC Commission has released the latest report that condemns corporate nursing home operations and elected officials for their inaction and lack of leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. At its height, there were 218 active outbreaks spread across the 600+ homes in Ontario. By March 14, 2021, 14,984 residents and 6,740 staff were infected. Approximately 11 staff and 4000 residents lost their lives and despite being 0.5% of Ontario’s population, long-term care residents tallied half of Ontario’s COVID-19 deaths.

This short essay attempts to elucidate and historicize Ontario’s nursing homes in the age of COVID-19 by bringing organized labour back in. Continue reading

Want to Understand Egerton Ryerson? Two School Histories Provide the Context

By Thomas Peace

In 1842, at the Dawn settlement near Dresden, Ontario, Josiah Henson built the British American Institute (BAI), a school for peoples who had escaped their enslavement. Five years later, about 75 kilometers from the BAI, on the banks of the Deshkan Ziibiing near London, Methodist missionary Kahkewaquonaby (Peter Jones) – a Mississauga leader from Credit River (western Toronto) – built the Mount Elgin Institute, a manual labour school for Munsee-Delaware and Anishinaabeg children.

Both schools were short lived, failing to live up to the hopes of their founders (though Mount Elgin reopened in 1867 with less community involvement).

What is important here is the agency deployed by Black and Indigenous people like Josiah Henson and Kahkewaquonaby in seeking out, and controlling, robust systems of education for their communities.

Making their situation much more complex, however, is that the educational philosophies these men espoused have common roots with the development of the residential school system as well as two elite American colleges.

Understanding this historical context reveals an important turning point in the history of racism and exclusion in Canadian law and society. In this moment, some Black and Indigenous peoples hoped schooling might help navigate the developing settler colonial state while – at the same time – those efforts were thwarted and co-opted by government and churches to entrench racial hierarchies that privileged White English-speaking settlers. Egerton Ryerson falls right in the middle of these divergent interests. Continue reading

History Slam 185: Ottawa’s LGBTQ2+ History & the Village Legacy Project

By Sean Graham

In 2011, a section of Bank Street in downtown Ottawa was designated The Village to commemorate the city’s LGBTQ2+ history. To denote The Village, there are street signs, pride flags, and a permanent rainbow intersection at the corner of Bank and Somerset. In addition to the designation, the Bank Street Business Improvement Association commissioned a project to collect and share the neighbourhood’s history. The result is the Village Legacy Project, a website and app that profiles the places, people, and events that have come to shape the LGBTQ2+ community in Ottawa.

In this episode of the History Slam, I explore the Village Legacy Project. Before heading out to downtown Ottawa, I chat with Glenn Crawford, who led the project. We talk about the project’s origins, the research process, and what people can expect when they use the app. I then head to Bank Street and explore what the project has to offer by visiting a few of the sites included in the app.

Original Bank St. Diversity Mural which was painted over in 2021. Photo credit Glenn Crawford

Current mural at the corner of Bank and Nepean

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Food First, Then Archives: Precarity and Community Memory

This post by Lilian Radovac and Simon Vickers is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

Alternative Toronto is a DIY digital archive and exhibition space that documents the history of alternative communities in the Greater Toronto Area from 1980 to 1999. As archive director and volunteer coordinator for Alternative Toronto, we are keenly aware of the precarious labour and care work that is represented in each item in the archive, from the creation of the original analog artefact to its contemporary digitization, contextualization and description. We also know this labour has costs that keep historical self-representation out of the hands of people and communities who most urgently need to engage in it. This essay surveys the past, present and potential future of community archives in Canada and challenges funding agencies to do more to support community-engaged memory work.

Past tense 

When viewed in retrospect, the 1970s was a comparatively good time for grassroots community archives in Toronto. Continue reading

The Real Estate State and Housing Insecurity: An Interview with Samuel Stein

Construction cranes at 34th and 9th Streets, Manhattan. Andrew McMillan/Wikimedia Commons.

Max Mishler’s interview with with Samuel Stein, author of the book Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso, 2019), is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series, including a post contextualizing this interview, here.

Max Mishler: Hi Sam. Thanks so much for taking the time to think with us about the connections between the Real Estate State, human vulnerability, the global Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s start off with a simple question: what is the real estate state and why do you think this is an important concept when trying to make sense of the relationship between financializing cities and gentrification?

SS: My addition of “the real estate state” to the lexicon is meant to be a contribution in the spirit of a number of such phrases meant to describe a fraction of the state that is aligned with a particular outcome, and thus also aligned with a fraction of capital and a fraction of labor. Think, for example, of “the carceral state” or “the welfare state” – two expressions of government that put the powers of the state toward a particular end, in alignment with a broader – and generally informal – political alliance.

In the case of the real estate state, I’m talking about the fraction of government that is aligned with real estate capital and the fragments of labor employed therein which seeks to use the tools of state power to increase land and property values. In other words, the real estate state is the part of the government that sees gentrification not as a problem, but as a sign of success. Continue reading

The Real Estate State and Housing Insecurity in the Time of Covid-19

Toronto skyline viewed from Trillium Park. Maxsim Sokolov/Wikimedia Commons.

This post by Max Mishler is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

Toronto, ON, is the beating heart of Canadian finance capitalism. Global investment banks, mining companies, and consultancy firms dominate the downtown corridor and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The city is also home to several professional sports teams, a robust restaurant scene spread out across dozens of unique neighborhoods, and numerous cultural venues that all make Toronto a cosmopolitan destination for knowledge workers as well as an ideal place to park transnational capital. It is truly, in the words of Saskia Sassen, a “global city.”[1] Like other global cities (New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or San Francisco), Toronto’s housing market experienced unprecedented growth over the past twenty years – weathering both the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020-21 Covid-19 pandemic. Continue reading

Thinking of Ourselves as Canadians

      No Comments on Thinking of Ourselves as Canadians

Tyler Wentzell

Writing shortly after Canadian troops went ashore in Sicily alongside their American and British allies, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and William Lyon Mackenzie King met in Quebec City to discuss Allied strategy, an editorialist in Toronto’s Saturday Night called on Canadians to pursue an agenda of national unity. The writer reasoned that Canada deserved a leading place in the post-war world based on its industrial and military efforts, but that it could not attain such benefits if it remained disunited. At first glance, the writer’s English name – Edward Cecil-Smith – would lead the reader to cynically anticipate the article to either tie Canadian identity to concepts of Christian “British-ness,” or perhaps “non-American-ness,” or maybe even “white-ness.” But he goes down a different and unexpected path.

Cecil-Smith noted, “There is too much ‘racial origin’ talk in Canada.” (For context, it is important to note that the term ‘race’ was used differently in those days, combining identities that today we would consider combinations of ethnicity, religion, and culture. The census, for instance, used ‘Ukrainian,’ ‘English,‘ ‘Jewish’ ‘Scotch,’ ‘Negro,’ ‘Chinese’ et cetera as categories of race.) He continued, “Even of the Ukrainian Canadians, who are among the latest arrivals, 57 per cent were born in this country. ‘New Canadians’ are not really much ‘newer’ than English Canadians, and the only really ‘old’ Canadians are the Indians.” Noting the importance of French Canada, as well, he concluded, “National unity campaigns must be based first and foremost on Canada—and all of Canada.”

Furthermore, he noted that the newspaper recently listed the names of 44 officers promoted in the Royal Canadian Navy. The officers were from every corner of the country, yet almost all had English, Scottish, and sometimes Irish names. Only two had names indicating possible French-Canadian heritage and none had names suggesting that they were ‘New Canadians.’ He concluded, “Without suggesting that these are not the best available men for promotion in the RCN, it can clearly be suggested that something is wrong when our navy – almost entirely of wartime enlistments – does not have representatives of nearly two-thirds of our population.” Cecil-Smith’s numbers were exaggerated – well over half of the Canadian population claimed British ancestry – but the point was no less valid. Today, of course, we know that the war-time RCN had an especially narrow view of what backgrounds made for the “best” naval officers.

The September 1943 editorial is thought-provoking and quaint to the contemporary reader. Continue reading