Category Archives: Urban History

Did you hear the One about the Cardinal, the Rabbi, and the Minister? Spiritual Leaders and Big Social Problems in 1970s Toronto

David M. K. Sheinin People sometimes do a double take when they learn that longtime Toronto city councilor Joe Mihevc holds a doctorate in theology. “How did you go from theology to politics?” they ask in mock opprobrium for the latter. Mihevc smiles: “It was easy to make the jump.” Though most active in post-1990 Toronto, Mihevc is a holdover… Read more »

A History of the Toronto Public Library in Four Buildings

      No Comments on A History of the Toronto Public Library in Four Buildings

Emily Macrae As public buildings closed their doors in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public libraries across Canada pivoted to strengthen connections with communities online, offering virtual story times and lending out wi-fi hotspots in addition to adapting ongoing work ranging from providing reading recommendations to supporting Indigenous language revitalization. Toronto Public Library was no exception. In April,… Read more »

Race Relations, Psychological Testing, and Resistance to Change: The Toronto Police, 1970s-1980s

David M. K. Sheinin As a city changes, as tensions grow between the police and the communities they serve, how can we know if a candidate has what it takes to lead a major police force? Is it possible to predict success (or failure)? Those questions are at the core of a debate that has raged for decades on whether… Read more »

That Other Time the Toronto Police Tried to Solve the Race Problem: The Ethnic Relations Unit, 1970s-1980s

David M. K. Sheinin In the early 1970s, to gain insights into the Italian immigrant community in Toronto, the police set up an Ethnic Relations Unit. In 1975 the unit created a “Black Section” followed by Jewish, Southeast Asian, and other sections. The experiment in building bridges to ethnic communities failed because this solution to growing police-community tensions reinforced rather… Read more »

The Missing History of Disappearance in Vancouver: The Rise and Fall of the Neighbourhood Safety Office

  James FitzGerald The Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver has been described as Canada’s Poorest Postal Code and one of the country’s densest populations of substance-using and low-income communities. Largely due to the disappearances and murders of so many of its women and girls, the DTES has also become known as ground zero for disproportionate violence against Indigenous women, as… Read more »

Staging History

      2 Comments on Staging History

By Craig Heron Historians have become increasingly attuned to the role of performance in history. Many of us have written about the pomp and pageantry of the powerful, the theatre of the high courts, the processions of urban respectability, the rituals of resistance among the poor and powerless. We have been much more reticent, however, about using theatre to present… Read more »

Reading Religious History in Parisian Guidebooks and Architecture

Erin Isaac In 2006 Leonard Pitt observed in his guidebook Walks Through Lost Paris that “one would have no idea that this was the spot where Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre was launched.”[1] The spot to which he referred, pictured above, is Paris’s l’Eglise Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, a gothic cathedral that has become a well known “dark tourist” destination for its role in… Read more »

Canada Docks and Quebec Pond

      2 Comments on Canada Docks and Quebec Pond

By Jim Clifford [This post was originally published on the Network in Canadian History & Environment site.] Canada Water is a small lake and wildlife refuge in the heart of Rotherhithe in South London. It is one of the few remaining parts of the once extensive Surrey Commercial Docks that covered much of the Rotherhithe Peninsula during the nineteenth century…. Read more »

Bob Kinnear, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the History of Canadian-American Labour Relations

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… Read more »

History and Historical Preservation

      3 Comments on History and Historical Preservation

Richard White Some ten or fifteen years ago a group of residents in my Toronto neighbourhood, a pre-WWI ‘streetcar suburb’ known locally as the Beaches, began the process of making parts of it a Heritage Conservation District (HCD), a designation that would impose controls on physical changes to buildings. My immediate response was to oppose them. I was not entirely… Read more »