ActiveHistory.ca repost – Lillian Piché Shirt, John Lennon and a Cree Grandmother’s Inspiration for the Song “Imagine”

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca 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 December 5, 2016.

By Lillian Shirt, Corinne George and Sarah Carter

Lillian Piché Shirt speaking at the University of Alberta in Sept. 1969 for the Native Peoples Defense Fund. The Gateway 29 Sept., 1969: 1

Lillian Piché Shirt speaking at the University of Alberta in Sept. 1969 for the Native Peoples Defense Fund. The Gateway 29 Sept., 1969: 1

It was the summer of ’69. Lillian Piché Shirt, a twenty-six year old Cree woman from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, was living in a tipi with her four young children on Sir Winston Churchill Square outside Edmonton’s City Hall. She was protesting the lack of housing for Indigenous people in Edmonton. Lillian had been evicted from her apartment two months earlier when ownership changed hands, and had not found other accommodation since. Landlords refused to rent to her.

Interviewed in 2006 by Corinne George for her M.A. thesis on  Aboriginal women activists of Alberta in the 1950s – 1980s, Lillian explained: “I decided I was going to do something about it, it was in May, and I thought, well, how am I going to do this? I am not many in number, not too many people will risk anything, and I looked at it from all different directions… So I went and picked up my tipi at my grandma’s, cause I had decided what I was going to do. I was going to put up a tipi right smack dab in the middle of Churchill Square- right in front of city Hall, where the mayor could see me from his desk.” She declared “I won’t move until I’m forced out or I get a proper house to live in.”[1] Lillian said the protest was not just about housing, but about discrimination in education and welfare and a call to respect human rights. She was concerned that Indigenous children were not being taught their own history in school, that children were losing their identity, and she called for schools on reserves rather than young people having to go to the cities.[2] The tipi went up on May 30.

Edmonton’s police station, court house, and the public library also all looked out onto the square where Lillian was camped. City Hall would not give her a permit to live on the square.[3] But Mayor Ivor Dent was sympathetic, as was Joe Poss of the Edmonton Police who provided security. Lillian had friends and supporters who helped her raise the tipi, brought supplies and took the older children to and from school. By early July she was joined by others in three pup tents and one more tipi.[4] A Citizens Committee on Housing and Discrimination was formed. She intended to stay on the square until accommodation was found, and if the city forced her off she was going to move to the grounds of the legislative building.[5]

The protest received local, provincial and national attention, and Lillian’s protest was covered in newspapers, television and radio. On May 31 for example, an article was published in the Toronto Globe and Mail under the headline “Mother Confronts Edmonton Authority: Erects Teepee Outside City Hall.” That same day a photo of Lillian holding one of her children and one of her tipi appeared in the Toronto Daily Star with the headline “Crees Camp in Edmonton Square.”

Just at this time John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in Canada.

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Remember / Resist / Redraw #09: Ts’Peten 1995

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

Earlier this month (just after BC Day) we released Poster #09 by Gord Hill, which looks at when the RCMP attacked Secwepmec land defenders in the interior of British Columbia in the summer of 1995. It was the largest paramilitary operation in British Columbia and cost over $5 million.

We hope that Remember | Resist | Redraw encourages people to critically examine history in ways that can fuel our radical imaginations and support struggles for radical change in 2017 and beyond. 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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ActiveHistory.ca repost – Bob Kinnear, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the History of Canadian-American Labour Relations

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca 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 March 23, 2017.

by Christo Aivalis

In recent weeks, a major controversy has enflamed the Canadian labour movement, and how it relates to the international unions centred within the United States. Last month, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, which represents around 10,000 members working within the Toronto Transit Commission’s system, was placed under trusteeship by the union’s international headquarters. This decision was made after Local 113 President Bob Kinnear had approached the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to activate a clause (Article 4) that would partially suspend provisions that prevent ‘raiding’ (where unions take members from another union rather than organize un-unionized workers) actions between CLC member unions.

Kinnear justified his actions based on the assertion that his local lacked sufficient autonomy in its ability to operate and received insufficient support from the international office. Further, Kinnear and others—including officials within UNIFOR like President Jerry Dias—have deemed the trusteeship an act of American domination. Dias sold this event as a wider struggle in Canadian labour, suggesting that he was “sick and tired of the heavy handed arm of the United States determining our collective bargaining strategy and determining how we operate.” This direct intervention from UNIFOR—which has included paying Kinnear’s legal fees—has led some to suggest that Kinnear’s goal was to transfer Local 113 from the ATU into UNIFOR. Despite all this, Kinnear’s move was opposed by a majority of local 113’s leadership, as well as the heads of five of Canada’s biggest unions, which include unions headquartered on both sides of the border.

While the story has a multitude of further details, the result has been that the CLC has reinstated the article 4 clause that would prevent raiding between CLC member unions, and Bob Kinnear has officially resigned his position as 113 President. As it stands, then, the main issue is largely resolved, but the fact remains that this whole affair has reignited divisions within the labour movement based on this question of American influence into Canadian unions. A large part of this is due to a sustained historical context that has played out for more than a century.

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ActiveHistory.ca repost –Remembering the Voyage of the St. Louis

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca 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 February 7, 2016

By Laura Madokoro 

Museum Jewish Heritage Twitter feed, 1 Feb 2017

The past two weeks have witnessed a bewildering amount of activity in the United States with regards to the admission, and exclusion, of migrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations. On January 25 and 27, President Donald Trump issued two Executive Orders that immediately barred Syrian refugees from US resettlement, barred permanent and temporary migrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen for 90 days and slashed US refugee resettlement efforts in half, while suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days, except for a small number of Christian minorities fleeing religious persecution.[1]

The response we have seen has been mixed. Outrage and protests in the United States and around the world, with swift actions by lawyers and state authorities, but also a 49% approval rating for Trump’s actions. At the time of writing, a federal court in Washington had lifted the ban and the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals was hearing arguments from both sides about whether the ban could be legally re-imposed. All expectations are that a Supreme Court challenge is imminent. These are sobering, sobering times to say the least.

As someone who researches the history of refugees, I have been unmoored by the speed and viciousness with which the Trump Administration has acted against a select group of migrants. I am at the same time buoyed by the strength of popular protests and the efficacy of activists and legal experts in pushing back against actions that are seemingly unconstitutional and definitely unconscionable. Yet as a historian I remain disquieted by the ease with which the Administration has disregarded decades of work designed to shelter people fleeing dangerous circumstances from the very discriminatory policies that it is now advancing.

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – From Memorials to Instagram: Twenty-first Century Commemoration of the First World War

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca 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 November 10, 2016

Claire L. Halstead

Author's Photo

Author’s Photo

This summer, on August 26, 2016, a new First World War memorial was unveiled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Titled The Last Steps, the memorial takes the shape of an arch and stands on the city’s harbour front; a gangplank purposefully leads the observer’s eye up the pier, through the arch, and right out to sea. Footprints (cast from an authentic soldier’s boot) burnt into the wooden pier conjure up impressions of souls from long ago. In this, Nancy Keating, the Nova Scotia artist who designed the memorial, succeeds in imparting on the observer the haunting emotion the memorial is intended to convey. The memorial stands as a testament to the last steps soldiers took in Halifax before departing for the Great War.[1]

The Last Steps memorial is just one of thousands of local and national memorials and acts of remembrance happening around the world between 2014 and 2018 to mark the centenary of the First World War. Making a new addition to the Halifax boardwalk, the memorial provides an opportunity to ponder the creation of sites of memory and twenty-first century centenary commemoration of the First World War, as it happens. This is an opportunity to observe how centenary commemorations take place; not only their modes and the messages contained within them, but the spaces, both physical and virtual, where they are placed.

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – The Year of the Flood: Hurricane Matthew, Oral Narratives, and Climate History

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca 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 October 13, 2016.

cabotstreeta

Cabot Street, Sydney, N.S. – 10 October 2016. Photo by author

By Lachlan MacKinnon

The tail-end of Hurricane Matthew battered Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on Monday afternoon and through the evening. Although the damage does not approach the devastation wrought by the system in the Caribbean and other points south, for many in Cape Breton it will be remembered as the storm of a generation. As I drove around the streets of Sydney, scrambling to help check the basements of family and friends for flooding, it struck me that these sorts of extreme weather events promote an interesting form of collective storytelling. As common experiences, they provide the basis for casual small-talk but may also segue into meaningful discussions about climate change, politics, or environmental history. Surveying the flood-soaked South End, onlookers engaged each other with impromptu “oral histories” of past storms and personal experiences.

The October Gale of ’74 looms large in such discussions. While Hurricane Matthew is the worst storm that I remember experiencing, residents were quick to draw comparisons to another unpredicted weather system that pounded the island on October 20th, 1974. Ultimately, thirty-three families were left homeless and more than 1,500 homes were damaged in Sydney alone. According to many in the city, the ’74 Gale was far worse than the recent hurricane. One man – only a child at the time – described using his overcoat as a makeshift sail, jumping into the 145 km/h winds and being carried several feet – not realizing the apparent danger. A 2014 article in the local newspaper, published near the 40th anniversary of the Gale – includes fourteen comments describing local storm experiences. These contain descriptions of trailers being upended, roofs coming undone, and pedestrians narrowly escaping flying debris. Although I had not previously heard of the ’74 Gale, in the days since Hurricane Matthew, I have been confronted time and again by the memories of people who were directly affected.

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ActiveHistory.ca repost – The CIDA Photography Collections: A Visual Perspective on Canadian International Aid

The editors of ActiveHistory.ca 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 December 9, 2016.

Rights and Realities Exhibit ID Number:730-2258 Slide Number: 730-487-04 Date: 1995 A woman repairs shoes in a tiny kiosk on the sidewalk in downtown Lima, Peru. (c)Global Affairs Canada/Stephanie Colvey

Rights and Realities Exhibit
Slide Number: 730-487-04
A woman repairs shoes in a tiny kiosk on the sidewalk in downtown Lima, Peru, 1995
(c)Global Affairs Canada/Stephanie Colvey

Sonya de Laat & Dominique Marshall

The ways in which the former Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has visually represented its projects and people to the general public have greatly informed public perceptions of aid and international affairs. From the end of the 1960s, CIDA’s photographs have been used in the communications products of the Agency and of partners (NGOs, schools, publishers, etc.), or in travelling exhibitions, publications and teaching materials. They also represent a resource for scholars and practitioners interested in exploring and sharing CIDA’s multifaceted histories. For forty-five years, CIDA administered the nation’s official development assistance (ODA). From large-scale mining and electricity projects to smaller scale education and health programs, CIDA was Canada’s main response to a global surge in international development initiatives that started in the 1960s. Simultaneously, CIDA was a vehicle for extending Canadian economic and political interests as well as its social values abroad. It became a key entity in defining Canada’s caring and helpful identity domestically and internationally.

In 1985, nearly twenty years after its inception, CIDA developed a library of photographs that continues to collect and distribute images today. It boasts around 150,000 photographs dating back to the early years of the Agency, and spans the globe. The Photo Library answers daily requests from the Department of Global Affairs to supply images for its social media; and from clients from abroad such as NGOs and embassies. While only a sample of the collection can be seen online[1], the entire collection has been digitized and is available for viewing at the International Development Photo Library. Having resided at Place du Portage in Gatineau since its inception, the Library has just moved to Global Affairs Canada’s 125 Sussex Dr. Ottawa office last month as a result of CIDA’s 2013 merger with the then Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

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Views of Canada: Canada has a Right to Party at 150, but we Waste the Sesquicentennial Moment by Fixating on Feel-Good Myths

By Jon Weier

This essay is the introduction to a special issue of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives MonitorViews of Canada: Active History.” You can download the PDF using this link.

There is an important difference between celebration and commemoration. In considering Canada 150, the government tagline for this year’s sesquicentennial festivities, the contributors to this special issue of the Monitor argue too little of what we are seeing can, or is even intended to, lead the country to a fuller understanding of its history.

To truly commemorate – whether it is Canada’s Confederation or any other moment – we need to address those things we find distasteful and disappointing says Afua Cooper, as well as those things that make us proud. If you can’t do that on your country’s 150th birthday, she asks when is the right time. Continue reading

150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150

By Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky

On August 4th, there are 150 days left in 2017 – the year of Canada’s 150th birthday. There have been robust discussions this year around reconciliation and we would like to contribute to the conversation. Together, we have written 150 Acts of Reconciliation for the last 150 days of 2017. Many of these are small, everyday acts that average Canadians can undertake, but others are more provocative that encourage people to think about Indigenous-settler relationships in new ways. We encourage you to use #150Acts to share your engagement with each item on the list. To download a printable .pdf version of this list, click here.

Poster #05 of the Graphic History Collective’s series Remember l Resists l Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project. Text: Erica Violet Lee. Artwork: Anonymous (by request).

  1. Learn the land acknowledgement in your region. Continue reading

The Ever Changing Nature of White Canada

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By Adam Coombs

“Canadians have learned how to be strong because of our differences,” states a new draft version of Discover Canada, the study guide for Canada’s citizenship exam. This vision of Canada as a diverse and multicultural society is one that most Canadians embrace. However, for many on Canada’s far-right this vision of Canadian society is simply one more attempt by the Liberals to undermine traditional Canadian and Western values in favour of moral relativism, cultural Marxism and Sharia Law. In response they forward their own distorted version of Canadian history that creates a false narrative of whiteness to justify their racist politics. This post will take a look at the claims of one of these groups, The Proud Boys, and demonstrate the profoundly ahistorical nature of their claims.

While previously relegated to the fringes of the internet, The Proud Boys, burst to national prominence this past Canada Day. By now the actions of five members of the Canadian Armed Forces in Halifax on Canada Day are well known. The men who disrupted an Indigenous mourning ceremony identified themselves as members of the Maritime Chapter of the Proud Boys, an all-male, right-wing group started in 2016 by Vice Media founder Gavin McInnis. While many commentators have rightly heaped ridicule on the group over the past three weeks for its violent induction rituals, rules regarding masturbation, and the fact that their name comes from a song in the Broadway adaption of Disney’s Aladdin, the most succinct description of the group comes from Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey, who describes them as “a group of guys possessed of a seriously shaky grasp of history.”

Southey’s characterization of these men is certainly correct. While many Canadians of all political stripes have a tenuous understanding of the country’s past, what is particularly concerning about the Alt-Right’s historical ignorance, as exemplified by the Proud Boys, is that their flawed historical narratives are used to justify their overt racism and intimidation of other Canadians seeking to raise awareness of injustice, both historical and contemporary. Continue reading