New Paper: Debating Canada’s Future: A Night at Montreal’s Sohmer Park, 1892

England_-_Scotland_border_-_geograph.org.uk_-_477405As the media has made clear over the past several weeks, what took place in Scotland yesterday resonates strongly with past independence movements in Canada. What has been less apparent in these discussions, which usually focus solely on the Quebec referendums in 1980 and 1995, are the deep roots in which Canada’s political future was debated. One of those lesser known moments in this history occurred at the tail end of the nineteenth century when Canadians debated whether to stay the course as a Dominion within the British empire, acquire greater independence from Britain, or amalgamate with the United States. In recognition of yesterday’s “no” victory, ActiveHistory.ca is proud to publish Aaron Boyes paper “Debating Canada’s Future: A Night at Montreal’s Sohmer Park, 1892.”

Sohmer Park Pavilion

Sohmer Park Pavilion

On July 1 2017, we, the people of Canada, will celebrate our country’s 150th birthday. Over the past several years federal, provincial, and municipal governments have been gearing up for this historic event by planning elaborate celebrations to mark the triumphs of our great nation. Yet this confidence and pride in Canada was not always evident. In fact, in the 1880s and 1890s, a mere twenty years after Confederation, there emerged serious discussions concerning the country’s political future. The country was stuck in a prolonged and seemingly unending economic depression despite numerous attempts to solve it.[1] Linguistic strife, which had been decreasing in the first two decades after Confederation, once again became a national issue, thanks in large part to the execution of Louis Riel in 1885. On top of these issues, a unique and distinct Canadian nationalism was struggling to develop, which enabled regionalism to dominate Canadian identity. At the same time, Canada was faced with several international dilemmas with the United States, based largely on the rights of fishermen in and around Canadian waters. These internal and external pressures led some people to determine that Confederation was a failure. This article explores one of the more forgotten episodes in Canadian history. On November 28 1892, a sizeable crowd attended a political conference at Sohmer Park in Montreal. The topic of this conference: Canada’s future. If Confederation was a failure, as many had come to believe, what was the best option for the young Dominion moving forward? [read more]

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History Slam Episode Nine: Prime Minister Fantasy Draft

By Sean Graham

When I was an MA student in Regina, I was talking to somebody about how great it would be if there could be a historical figures fantasy league. With the success of fantasy football and fantasy hockey, I figured that some sort of fantasy league could really boost the interest in history. The biggest problem was trying to figure out how points would be scored – where football and hockey players continue to score goals and touchdowns, a lot of historical figures suffer from the unfortunate medical condition of being deceased. As such, it would be hard to accumulate points. Given that one of the best parts of fantasy sports is the draft, however, we decided that we could do the draft and let the listeners decide who has the best team.

Canada has had twenty-two people serve as Prime Minister and in this podcast Aaron Boyes, Patrick Fournier, Mike Thompson, and I sit down and each draft teams of four. Our rationale for our picks is laid out in the podcast (and each of us provide a brief recap below) and now it’s up to you to determine whose team is best. You can vote in this poll or via email at historyslam@gmail.com or send your vote to me on Twitter @drseannysfever . We’ll be back in a few weeks to recap the draft and announce the winner.

Continue reading

Communities of Interest and Electoral Redistricting

By David Zylberberg

Following the census, Canada’s federal electoral districts are redrawn every decade. On Monday, Ontario’s proposed new ridings were announced, the last province to do so. You can look at the details of the proposed new ridings or the process of consultation, here. The proposed changes have led me to think about the origins and rationale for electoral districts. In particular, I will be discussing the importance of communities of interest for designing effective ridings in our particular system and how these priorities are reflected in proposed ridings for Saskatchewan and northeastern Ontario. Continue reading

Was the Past a Happy Place?

As an example, taking Stephen Harper's 2012 Throne Speech, cutting it into 20 pieces, and plotting several emotions. Bad news (i.e. austerity) bookended between joy, hope.

By Ian Milligan

Was the past a happy place? Could we take a large array of information and learn whether there was an emotional content to it? I’ve been increasingly curious about how we can apply a host of tools that data miners are using on contemporary information to large repositories of historical information: could we learn something new from a distant emotional reading of the past? In this post, let’s briefly chat about sentiment analysis, or the extraction of the overall emotional state of an author. It’s all very new and introductory, but I hope to pique your interest and explore some of these ideas myself. Continue reading

Charitable Tax Credits – Who Gives?

By Cate Prichard

“Ottawa looks at rewriting rules on charitable giving,” the Globe and Mail announced last Friday, kicking off a running series on the evolution of philanthropy in Canada and abroad. Federal charities policy is front page news. According to the Globe’s reporting, the federal government is proposing, among other reforms, to make changes to the tax rules governing charities in order to increase the personal tax credit for charitable giving. According to a follow-up article, the House of Commons finance committee has approved “a study of whether to change Canada’s charitable tax credits to encourage more giving […which is] expected to take a broad look at expanding the tax credit.” I believe that any discussion of changes to charitable tax policy in Canada would be the poorer for failing to consider the history of that policy. Continue reading