History Slam Episode 111: From Left to Right

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By Sean Graham

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Brian Thorn about his book From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women’s Political Activism in Postwar Canada. We talk about the book’s origins, the nature of women’s activism on both the left and right of the political spectrum, and the issues supported by those on both sides. We also talk about women’s participation in the political process and the book’s connection to the current events.

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“He Will Again Be Able to Make Himself Self-Sustaining”[1]: Canadian Ex-Officers’ Return to Civilian Life

Brittany Dunn 

With the end of the First World War in November 1918 and demobilization following soon after, hundreds of thousands of servicemen returned to Canada and civilian life. Veterans approached their relationships with the government as they applied for state assistance in various ways, but ex-officers typically wanted to avoid dependence on the state, feeling it compromised their status as self-sufficient providers.

Ex-officers were often in a better position than other veterans because of their pre-war social status and class backgrounds. Many officers were drawn from the middle and upper classes and thus usually returned home to more financially stable lives after the war.[2] Yet many of these men still applied for, and some received, pensions from the Canadian government. In their applications to the Board of Pension Commissioners – renamed the Canadian Pension Commission (CPC) in 1933 – they often presented themselves as breadwinners who reluctantly turned to the state for aid.

The image of the independent provider was an important ideal to many men, both before and after the war, and so they sought to prove that they could care for themselves without state aid.[3] This construction of the hard-working, self-reliant man was also endorsed by the government in its policies for veteran re-establishment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment distributed posters such as this one between 1917 and 1919. They were likely created to assure the public of the state’s benevolence towards its veterans. This poster in particular emphasizes regaining independence through retraining and eventual employment. Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. Victory Over Wounds, The Soldier’s Return. Library and Archives Canada. 1914-1918. MIKAN 3667233.

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Jury Selection and the Gerald Stanley decision

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By R. Blake Brown

A jury’s decision to acquit farmer Gerald Stanley for second-degree murder in the death Colten Boushie, a Cree man, has brought jury selection issues to public attention in Canada. Press reports note that the jury lacked any Indigenous members, a composition achieved at least in part by the defendant’s use of ‘peremptory’ challenges. The Criminal Code provides these challenges to defendants, who can challenge the inclusion of potential jurors without providing any reason.[1] Since the verdict, many, including Boushie’s family, have called for reforms to jury selection processes, including measures to ensure that defendants cannot use peremptory challenges to prevent Indigenous Peoples from serving on juries in criminal cases.[2]

W. S. Gilbert’s illustration for “Now, Jurymen, hear my advice” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury. (Wikimedia Commons)

Historians of the criminal justice system will not be surprised that jury selection became contentious in the Stanley trial, in part because of the long history of bias against First Nations people in the courts, and in part because jury selection has often been a heated issue when jurors deliver verdicts in cases steeped in racial, ethnic, political, and/or religious tensions. Allegations of ‘jury packing’ have been common in such cases. The lack of Indigenous jurors in many courtrooms in Canada is the most recent, and perhaps the most troubling, example of this historic problem.

Most complaints about jury selection have been animated by a concern for protecting the interests of defendants against the power of the state. Continue reading

Marijuana, Capitalism, and the Canadian Strategy

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By Stefano Tijerina

A commercial-scale medical licensing system involving a Canadian company with ties to Colombia is set to turn the image of widespread illicit pot growing in the Colombian countryside on its head. Canadians are well informed about the internal debates surrounding marijuana but they tend to be not as aware of the nation’s foreign policy and global strategy. The national media and the government propaganda systems have historically constructed a narrative that limits people’s understanding of Canada’s role around the world and particularly in the Global South. The case of Canadian marijuana oil production in Colombia tailored for the Canadian medical marijuana consumer illustrates this point.

By looking at the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana from a transnational perspective one is able see a more holistic picture of the government’s strategy as well as the dynamics of the Canadian government-business partnership. Canada’s strategy in Colombia debunks the idea that the legalization of marijuana is purely a local issue, questioning the essence of the policy as well as the long-term sustainability of the emerging industry.

Marijuana. Poster, 1936. Pacific Show Print of Los Angeles

For those following the legalization of marijuana in Canada, the issue seems to be a local one. How is legalization going to contribute to economic development at the national level? Will the medical and recreational marijuana industry revitalize local urban economies and serve as a catalyst for new economic growth? Will it rejuvenate decaying local economies? Will it solve social and health problems? But the real question should be if marijuana would place Canada in an advantageous position, as a leader in the export and trade of this emerging global commodity?

Courtesy of Marijuanadoctor. “Healthcare issues new medical marijuana regulation.” Canada Press, 2014.

It is not commonly known that Canada’s oil-based economy was initially fueled by oil extracted by Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in Perú, Colombia, and Venezuela. A few scholars and policy makers know that Colombia’s oil and pipeline infrastructure was developed by Tropical Oil and Andian National Corporation, two Canadian subsidiaries that fell under the umbrella of the American oil corporation. Kruger Inc., the Montreal-based paper company, is a dominant player in Colombia’s paper industry operating under the name Papeles Nacionales. Canadian ship builders built the ships for the Colombian merchant fleet, Flota Mercante Grancolombia, back in the 1950s. Canadair was directly involved in the modernization of Colombia’s Air Force in the 1960s. Some Canadians are aware of current Canadian mining operations in Colombia and some might even know that Canada’s private sector has injected millions of dollars into the Colombian economy through Foreign Direct Investment, but very few know that Canada’s PharmaCielo is the biggest producer of marijuana oil in Colombia and the first company to obtain a production license overseas.

“Growing Cannabis on the Equator for Export Around the World.” Cannainsider.com, 2017.

If Harold Innis were alive he would probably incorporate marijuana into his staples thesis. Continue reading

On Being a Scholar-Ally in the Wake of the Gerald Stanley Verdict

By Erin Millions

On Friday, February 9th, a jury in Battleford, Saskatchewan found farmer Gerald Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of a twenty-two year old Cree man, Colten Boushie. Canadians across the country have expressed their outrage at the verdict and organized protests, while Colten Boushie’s family mourns the lack of justice for their loved one.

The verdict is not shocking when contextualized in the long history of systemic racism against Indigenous peoples on the prairies. But, even knowing that, I hoped for better. I have spent the last few days since the verdict combating racist trolls under the hashtag #SettlerCollector, started by allies to try and deflect attacks on Indigenous scholars, activists, family members, and others on social media. I’ve been having conversations with non-Indigenous Canadians about the verdict – some of whom are defensive and some of whom are genuinely shocked at the verdict and open to learning more. And I’ve also been thinking about how I am going to address the Stanley decision in my classroom this week.

I am a non-Indigenous scholar from rural Saskatchewan. My great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents were all Saskatchewan farmers. I grew up in a small, rural farming community. Gerald Stanley is my people. Continue reading

Teaching U.S. History Abroad during the Age of Trump

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By Frank Cogliano

On a recent trip to Sweden I encountered an elderly gentleman out walking his dog. We engaged in a brief conversation. Hearing my accent, he detected that I was an Anglophone and asked me if I’m English. “No,” I replied, “American.” He broke into a smile, laughed, and made a Nazi salute and said, “Trump!” We continued our conversation and he asked me, “Is Trump really as bad as the media here make him out to be?” He sought suggestions for newspapers and websites to find out “what’s really going on.” Although the dog-walker couldn’t have realized it, his combination of perplexity, curiosity, and mockery epitomises my experience as an American teaching the history of the United States during the Trump presidency.

Source: Creative Commons. Bridges Not Walls Banners Edinburgh, 20 January 2017. Credit: Colin Hattersley

I arrived in Britain in August of 1992. I was nearing completion of my Ph.D. at Boston University and my supervisor had advised me, “It’s easier to get a job if you have a job.” So I accepted what I thought would be a one-year visiting lectureship in American history at a small teacher-training college in Southampton, England. Little did I know then that one year would turn into a career in the UK. I spent five years in Southampton before moving to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1997. I had arrived in Britain just before the 1992 U.S. election when George H. W. Bush was still president. I’ve lived abroad and taught U.S. history during the two-term presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now during the first year of Donald Trump’s administration.

During my tenure in Britain U.S. history as a subject has remained very popular. Continue reading

Rounding Up the Confederation Debates

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By Daniel Heidt

In July 2016, when Canadians were beginning to think about Canada 150, I posted a brief article on ActiveHistory.ca about an emerging and largely crowdsourced project – The Confederation Debates – an initiative to digitize and popularize over 9,000 pages of Canada’s founding historical records.

I am pleased to say that Canadians were eager to contribute to this important legacy project. Thanks to the contributions of the Crabtree Foundation, SSHRC, St. Jerome’s University, the University of Waterloo, the York Canada 150 fund, several professors and additional post-secondary institutions, multiple archives, and hundreds of volunteers from across the country, these records have been brought together for the first time and posted in a variety of forms that are useful to Canadians of nearly all ages and walks of life. We produced:  Continue reading

We Regret To Inform You: The Emotional Labour of Academic Job Applications

Book with folded pages to form a heart

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Andrea Eidinger

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. Continue reading

History Slam 110: Blood, Sweat, and Fear

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By Sean Graham

As far as I can remember, I’ve only been punched in the face once. It was in elementary school on the playground in the midst of an argument over something that I did. I was in the wrong in the situation, but that was the only time that I feel as though as was the recipient of violence. For most people, the term violence is defined by these types of tangible things: fights, stabbings, shootings. While those are certainly violent acts, perhaps they don’t tell a complete story about the nature of violence, particularly as it relates to the workplace.

In his new book Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Violence at Work in the North American Auto Industry, 1960-1980,  Jeremy Milloy re-examines the term violence and how it played out in the post-war years. In pointing out that the industry has a violent history, Milloy notes that workplace violence goes beyond the strikes and riots that have been central to labour history and encourages readers to explore the structures and dynamics that have promoted violence in the workplace.

Throughout the book, Milloy challenges the reader to re-consider what constitutes violence. Whether this be the promotion of unsafe and hazardous working conditions to wage suppression to racial and gender tensions, he re-examines how we define violence and how that has compromised workers. And while the book focuses on the auto industry, the conditions and structures at place have wide ranging influence.

Blood, Sweat, and Fear tells this story in a detailed, yet succinct, manner. From its initial hook looking at the push in some states to allow guns in the workplace through the conclusion, Milloy explores the complicated world of the workplace in way that is both engaging and easy to follow. Where some labour histories can get a little too ‘inside baseball,’ Blood, Sweat, and Fear welcomes the reader and takes them through this intriguing story.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Jeremy Milloy about the book. We talk about what constitutes violence in the workplace, why he chose to study the auto industry, and the decline of collectivity. We also chat about violence’s role in productivity, how gender and race influence violence, and how universality of these issues.

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Living History Installation in Vancouver: MAD CITY, Legacies of MPA

By Megan J. Davies

MAD CITY: Legacies of MPA, a historical exhibit at Vancouver’s Gallery Gachet, is based on a radical idea: that people with a psychiatric diagnosis should create and run the support services they need. Using the lens of the past, MAD CITY invites visitors to imagine a mental health system conceived and directed by “experiential experts”: people with first-hand knowledge of the system, with a passionate commitment to the field, and whose self-worth is enhanced because they are building a better future for their community.

The MPA (Mental Patients Association) was founded in 1971 as a grassroots response to deinstitutionalization and tragic gaps in community mental health. The group put former patients and lay allies in charge of its many successful social, housing, and employment projects, and in the process challenged the power of psychiatry. In MAD CITY, visitors can explore a multi-media display of MPA’s initial contributions to mental health in Vancouver, view 30 black and white portraits of early MPA members, and time-travel back to the iconic 1970s MPA Drop-In, recreated in the heart of the exhibit. Continue reading