Quebec Tuition Fees: A Personal Reflection

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This article is cross-posted with Borealia: Early Canadian History, where it was published on 23 October 2023.

E.A. Heaman

I am very sorry to see Quebec raising the fees on students not from Quebec. A long time ago I was one of those out-of-province students. I grew up in British Columbia and had never been east when I transferred from UVic to McGill University in the fall of 1985, thanks to a Pierre-Trudeau-era program that gave money to Quebec students to study outside Quebec and to non-Quebec students to study in Quebec. I moved to Montreal and completed a BA in history, followed by an MA. Then I left Montreal, just as François Legault says such students do. I completed a PhD in history at the University of Toronto, focusing on nineteenth-century Canada and lending fairly equal attention to Anglophone and Francophone history and sources. That bilingual interest and capacity was a strength that opened many doors. I turned down offers of postdoctoral fellowships and spent the next four years at Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine in London, writing a commissioned history of an English teaching hospital. But I felt I had unfinished business in Canada: there were things I needed to better understand. So I refused permanency in England and returned to Canada on the tenure track, first at Queen’s University, and then McGill, where I was invited to take up a Canada Research Chair in early Canadian history. It’s worth taking a long view in assessing the return on education. Continue reading

Open Access Week and Publishing in the Open

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(Editor’s note: Today marks the start of International Open Access Week 2023. Four years ago we published this post by editor Krista McCracken, explaining why open access is a core value of their work as a historian, educator, and archivist. “Where we publish matters,” argues McCracken, particularly when we work with communities or for non-academic audiences. That commitment to access has been part of the Active History project since its inception, and no one has done more to put it into action than Krista. This fall, after a decade with the editorial collective, Krista is stepping down from their role as editor. We will miss you Krista!!!)

Krista McCracken

This week is International Open Access Week. This global, community-driven week is designed to promote discussions about open access and to inspire broader participation in open access publishing. It is celebrated by institutions, organizations, and individuals all around the world.

Open access to information – free, immediate, online to scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results – has the power to reshape scholarly conversations and create new communities of research.

Since its establishment, posts on Active History have been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License. In October 2018, we adopted a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, allowing for further use of Active History content in a range of settings. Our ebooks series has also been openly licensed with the goal of making them accessible as possible.

Both Tom Peace and Sean Kheraj have written Active History posts about the impacts of open pedagogy and open educational resources on historical practice and teaching Canadian History. If you’re unfamiliar with the philosophies behind open access and the potential benefits for teaching and research, Peace and Kheraj’s posts provide a good introduction.

What does open scholarly publishing look like in Canada? Continue reading

Whose History is Migrant Community History? An Essential Question for Heritage Preservation

Finnish settler family in British Columbia, circa 1900. Photo courtesy of the Varpu Lindström Collection at the Migration Institute of Finland Archives.

Samira Saramo

On March 2, 2023, Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan, announced that it was closing. Since its establishment in 1896 by Finnish migrant-settlers as Suomi College, Finlandia University has been a center of Finnish history and heritage in North America. It has been home to an active Finnish & Nordic Studies undergraduate program and unparalleled archival collections, programming, and a national Finnish-American newspaper through its Finnish American Heritage Center. The news of the closure immediately flooded Finnish communities in the United States, Canada, Finland, and elsewhere.

Finlandia University’s closure marks the latest major loss for the Finnish North American community. Continue reading

Yaroslav Hunka is the Tip of the Iceberg

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Examining new arrivals in Immigration Examination Hall, Pier 21. Chris Lund/National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque collection/Library and Archives Canada/PA-111579.

(Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts discussing the historical roots of the 2023 controversy over the warm welcome–subsequently retracted–given by the Canadian Parliament to Ukrainian-Canadian and former member of the 14th SS Division Yaroslav Hunka. You can read the first post, by Katelyn Arac, here.)

Alvin Finkel

William Kelly, the RCMP officer in charge of security screening for prospective immigrants from Europe, provided in 1953 his view that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration was knowingly allowing war criminals into Canada. He wrote the officer-in-charge of Special Branch, the security-screening division of the Force, that members of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS), and its subsidiaries, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Waffen-SS along with members of the Abwehr should all be considered “major offenders” within the Nazi world and ineligible for immigration into Canada. Only those who joined the Waffen-SS after September, 1944 might have done so because of coercion.[i] He rejected Immigration’s view that individuals for whom no specific proof existed that they had joined these bodies of their free will might be considered “minor offenders” and therefore eligible for immigration to Canada. Continue reading

Residential Schools in Labrador & Newfoundland – What’s Old is News

By Sean Graham

I talk with Andrea Procter, author of A Long Journey: Residential Schools in Labrador and Newfoundland. We talk about how the residential schooling system there differed from Canada’s in the early 20th century, student experiences at the schools, and how communities responded. We also discuss reconciliation in Labrador, why the province wasn’t included in the initial national apology, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Healing and Commemoration Project. And be sure to check out the Them Days archives, where all the royalties for the book are being donated.

Historical Headline of the Week 

Healing and Commemoration Portal, The Rooms, St. John’s.

Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015

If you’re experiencing trauma, a National Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students. You can access information on the website or access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

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Uncovering the Sexual Assaults of Mervyn Brown: Part 2

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By Eloise Moss

Part 1 of this two part series appeared on Tuesday, October 3 2023. You can read it here.

In part one, last week, I discussed the criminal investigation following the sexual assault of five hotel chambermaids in London in 1926. Committed by a wealthy Canadian named Mervyn Brown, these events were sheltered from international scrutiny and mislabeled in the historical record by a carefully-orchestrated cover-up.

The cover-up was documented by frustrated officers of the Metropolitan Police writing in the pages of UK National Archives file MEPO 3/397, anticipating, one assumes, that Brown might commit further crimes, or perhaps more romantically, hoping that a historian of the future would come along to set the record straight.

Notably, there remain impediments to easy identification of the criminal in this case. The National Archives’ online catalogue record for this file fails to name Brown, although his name is written clearly on the front page of the file and the reports inside record his use of aliases. That said, officers still did not discover his full name. ‘Mervyn Brown’ was as far as they got. In addition, they ascertained that

‘The prisoner is a Canadian by birth, and has business interests in Toronto and Winnipeg. He is in this Country, among other things, in connection with the Imperial Scheme, for the sending out of 50,000 English families to Canada as Settlers. He is a broker by profession, and is apparently a man of substance, holding a high position in Canada.’

These notes offered helpful clues to begin my research. Further intrigue was presented by British newspapers, who referred to Brown as a ‘clerk,’ a lower-middle class profession, but with some confusion also described him as a wealthy man of independent means.[1]

Indeed, ironically, headlines celebrated the prosecution and fine of ‘Martin’ Brown as a victory for democracy. Quoting Judge Atherley Jones’ pronouncement that ‘no suspicion should go forth that persons of high social position are treated differently from persons in a lower station,’ journalists quietly minimised the absence of a sentence of imprisonment for a man who had committed a series of violent sexual assaults on two separate occasions.[2]

Reynolds Illustrated News, November 21 1926

A second, critical set of connections was provided by Brown’s network of friends, who not only came to his financial aid, but also acted as accomplices-after-the-fact, applying pressure on the Directors of the Regent Palace Hotel to drop the prosecution and (one logically assumes, given Walter Grant Morden’s position as newspaper proprietor) exerting their influence over the press reportage.

As such, not only the existence of their friendship, but the risks these high-profile men were willing to take to suppress the incident from wider public scrutiny, suggested a complex set of social, political, and possibly economic stakes attached to Brown’s reputation.

So who was Mervyn Brown? Continue reading

Nova Scotia and the Paradox of the Royal Proclamation

By Thomas Peace

Today marks the 260th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Over the course of Canadian history, there are few documents that carry more weight. With less than 2,000 words, the Crown laid out in this document a precedent in British Canadian law that normalized territorial treaty-making, and recognized Aboriginal Rights and Title. In 1982, the Proclamation was enshrined in section 25 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Designed to sort out jurisdictional issues in North America following the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), the Proclamation served four important purposes:

  1. It established the boundaries of four new British colonies: Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada; it also modified the boundaries of Nova Scotia and Georgia.
  2. It provided a schedule for assigning free land to veterans of the war.
  3. It established a protocol for British administrators to follow regarding colonial expansion onto Indigenous Lands.
  4. From the British perspective, it reserved for Indigenous nations the Land lying to the west of the Appalachian Mountains.

At its core, the Proclamation is the document that set out a process for British colonial settlement and jurisdiction that continues to define the world in which North Americans live today.

There’s a problem, though: the principles outlined in the Proclamation were muddied by the on-the-ground realities of eighteenth-century life in ways that clearly resonate today. Nothing demonstrates this better than the colony of Nova Scotia’s origin story: there, the Proclamation’s provisions have never been fully adopted. Continue reading

Nazis in Canada?!

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Screenshot of the standing ovation for Yaroslave Hunka during the speech given by Anthony Roka, Speaker of the House. 1.10. Streamed live on 22 September 2023. CBC News Special coverage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to Canada’s Parliament.

Katelyn Arac

Over the last two weeks, we have seen a lot of news coverage about the scandal in the House of Commons. The Speaker of the House, Anthony Rota, invited 98-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian, Yaroslav Hunka, to sit as a guest in the parliamentary gallery. Rota stated that Hunka was “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero. And we thank him for all of his service,” which prompted a standing ovation.

In the hours and days following this speech, it was revealed that Hunka’s military service was as a member of the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, also known as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, or the Galicia Division. In the days following this revelation, various human rights and Jewish groups in Canada and abroad spoke out in condemnation against Hunka’s reception in Parliament, prompting Rota’s resignation as Speaker of the House and an apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Rota purportedly did not know about Hunka’s involvement with the Galicia Division when the invitation was granted.

There is a long history of Canada refusing to fully acknowledge the dark histories that are a part of its past, moments and decisions that both the state and many of its citizens would rather forget. One such dark moment was the arrival of Nazi war criminals in Canada in the post-Second World War era, and the failure, in subsequent decades, to fully address or make right this history.

In recent days we have seen statements of outrage and shock that Parliament honoured someone who voluntarily enlisted in a Nazi SS unit. And while this outrage is understandable and even laudable, it is also imperative that we understand the context in which alleged Nazi war criminals were able to gain access to Canada and why an event like this was able to occur. Continue reading

Who Cares About Thinking Historically?

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Graduate students working on the Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future project bring diverse perspectives that are shaped by the places they live. Rebecca is writing from Kingston, Ontario, situated on the territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples. Ian is writing from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver which is situated on Musqueam territory.

Rebecca Evans and Ian Alexander

The purposes of history are legion. In the context of Canadian schools, history and social studies were initially developed at the end of the nineteenth century to unite the nation and manage competing tensions among Francophones and Anglophones. History curricula concurrently omitted Indigenous perspectives as well as voices from other marginalized groups, from the national narrative, reaffirming the voices of the prominent group of white settlers. Much has changed, and history and social studies now offer much more than a unified national narrative. They hold the potential to play a significant role in developing young peoples’ capacity to think critically about crucial civic issues and engage in problem-solving –  both essential ingredients for building and sustaining a healthy democratic society. As students, our perspectives are shaped by the places we live, the people we interact with, and the histories passed down to us through intergenerational family conversations. Interactions with mass media and pop-culture also make their mark. Learning to identify and interact with these forces is a core component of thinking historically.

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Uncovering the Sexual Assaults of Mervyn Brown: Part 1

By Eloise Moss

Trigger Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and rape. To respect the dignity of historical victims of sexual violence, the names of the survivors in this article have been anonymised

As a historian of crime, I have spent years working with criminal investigation files created by London’s Metropolitan Police (‘MEPO’ files), held at the U.K. National Archives. They have a familiar pattern. Witness reports and material evidence are compiled, trial outcomes recorded. It would be a mistake to regard them as an unfiltered collection of facts and experiences; like all historical records, criminal case files offer a carefully curated narrative, in which the testimony and photographic evidence of police, as well as their comments and marginalia, frames the ‘story’ of the crime in a particular way — often, reinforcing the power, rigour, and authority of the police.

Last summer, however, when conducting research for my latest book (a history of hotels as spaces of modern slavery and inequality in Britain), I came across marginalia on the opening pages of one file, MEPO 3/397, that told a different story:

‘A.C.C. [Acting Chief Constable] It is a thousand pities that we cannot obtain evidence of these individuals attempts to defeat the ends of justice. Sincerely trust that the Counsel for the prosecution, will do all he can to put the seriousness of the crime forward. 27.4.26’

What was this cryptic note about?

As I investigated further, what I came across was a case of serial sexual assault by a prominent Canadian business man, covered up and hidden by his peers and associates. In this essay, and one to follow next week, I will lay out the case for you and why it is important that you know the deeds of Mervyn Brown, mayor of Medicine Hat during the First World War.

Mervyn Brown, c. 1914, Image Courtesy of the Esplanade Archives

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