History Slam 185: Ottawa’s LGBTQ2+ History & the Village Legacy Project

By Sean Graham

In 2011, a section of Bank Street in downtown Ottawa was designated The Village to commemorate the city’s LGBTQ2+ history. To denote The Village, there are street signs, pride flags, and a permanent rainbow intersection at the corner of Bank and Somerset. In addition to the designation, the Bank Street Business Improvement Association commissioned a project to collect and share the neighbourhood’s history. The result is the Village Legacy Project, a website and app that profiles the places, people, and events that have come to shape the LGBTQ2+ community in Ottawa.

In this episode of the History Slam, I explore the Village Legacy Project. Before heading out to downtown Ottawa, I chat with Glenn Crawford, who led the project. We talk about the project’s origins, the research process, and what people can expect when they use the app. I then head to Bank Street and explore what the project has to offer by visiting a few of the sites included in the app.

Original Bank St. Diversity Mural which was painted over in 2021. Photo credit Glenn Crawford

Current mural at the corner of Bank and Nepean

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Food First, Then Archives: Precarity and Community Memory

This post by Lilian Radovac and Simon Vickers is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

Alternative Toronto is a DIY digital archive and exhibition space that documents the history of alternative communities in the Greater Toronto Area from 1980 to 1999. As archive director and volunteer coordinator for Alternative Toronto, we are keenly aware of the precarious labour and care work that is represented in each item in the archive, from the creation of the original analog artefact to its contemporary digitization, contextualization and description. We also know this labour has costs that keep historical self-representation out of the hands of people and communities who most urgently need to engage in it. This essay surveys the past, present and potential future of community archives in Canada and challenges funding agencies to do more to support community-engaged memory work.

Past tense 

When viewed in retrospect, the 1970s was a comparatively good time for grassroots community archives in Toronto. Continue reading

The Real Estate State and Housing Insecurity: An Interview with Samuel Stein

Construction cranes at 34th and 9th Streets, Manhattan. Andrew McMillan/Wikimedia Commons.

Max Mishler’s interview with with Samuel Stein, author of the book Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso, 2019), is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series, including a post contextualizing this interview, here.

Max Mishler: Hi Sam. Thanks so much for taking the time to think with us about the connections between the Real Estate State, human vulnerability, the global Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s start off with a simple question: what is the real estate state and why do you think this is an important concept when trying to make sense of the relationship between financializing cities and gentrification?

SS: My addition of “the real estate state” to the lexicon is meant to be a contribution in the spirit of a number of such phrases meant to describe a fraction of the state that is aligned with a particular outcome, and thus also aligned with a fraction of capital and a fraction of labor. Think, for example, of “the carceral state” or “the welfare state” – two expressions of government that put the powers of the state toward a particular end, in alignment with a broader – and generally informal – political alliance.

In the case of the real estate state, I’m talking about the fraction of government that is aligned with real estate capital and the fragments of labor employed therein which seeks to use the tools of state power to increase land and property values. In other words, the real estate state is the part of the government that sees gentrification not as a problem, but as a sign of success. Continue reading

The Real Estate State and Housing Insecurity in the Time of Covid-19

Toronto skyline viewed from Trillium Park. Maxsim Sokolov/Wikimedia Commons.

This post by Max Mishler is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

Toronto, ON, is the beating heart of Canadian finance capitalism. Global investment banks, mining companies, and consultancy firms dominate the downtown corridor and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The city is also home to several professional sports teams, a robust restaurant scene spread out across dozens of unique neighborhoods, and numerous cultural venues that all make Toronto a cosmopolitan destination for knowledge workers as well as an ideal place to park transnational capital. It is truly, in the words of Saskia Sassen, a “global city.”[1] Like other global cities (New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or San Francisco), Toronto’s housing market experienced unprecedented growth over the past twenty years – weathering both the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020-21 Covid-19 pandemic. Continue reading

Thinking of Ourselves as Canadians

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Tyler Wentzell

Writing shortly after Canadian troops went ashore in Sicily alongside their American and British allies, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and William Lyon Mackenzie King met in Quebec City to discuss Allied strategy, an editorialist in Toronto’s Saturday Night called on Canadians to pursue an agenda of national unity. The writer reasoned that Canada deserved a leading place in the post-war world based on its industrial and military efforts, but that it could not attain such benefits if it remained disunited. At first glance, the writer’s English name – Edward Cecil-Smith – would lead the reader to cynically anticipate the article to either tie Canadian identity to concepts of Christian “British-ness,” or perhaps “non-American-ness,” or maybe even “white-ness.” But he goes down a different and unexpected path.

Cecil-Smith noted, “There is too much ‘racial origin’ talk in Canada.” (For context, it is important to note that the term ‘race’ was used differently in those days, combining identities that today we would consider combinations of ethnicity, religion, and culture. The census, for instance, used ‘Ukrainian,’ ‘English,‘ ‘Jewish’ ‘Scotch,’ ‘Negro,’ ‘Chinese’ et cetera as categories of race.) He continued, “Even of the Ukrainian Canadians, who are among the latest arrivals, 57 per cent were born in this country. ‘New Canadians’ are not really much ‘newer’ than English Canadians, and the only really ‘old’ Canadians are the Indians.” Noting the importance of French Canada, as well, he concluded, “National unity campaigns must be based first and foremost on Canada—and all of Canada.”

Furthermore, he noted that the newspaper recently listed the names of 44 officers promoted in the Royal Canadian Navy. The officers were from every corner of the country, yet almost all had English, Scottish, and sometimes Irish names. Only two had names indicating possible French-Canadian heritage and none had names suggesting that they were ‘New Canadians.’ He concluded, “Without suggesting that these are not the best available men for promotion in the RCN, it can clearly be suggested that something is wrong when our navy – almost entirely of wartime enlistments – does not have representatives of nearly two-thirds of our population.” Cecil-Smith’s numbers were exaggerated – well over half of the Canadian population claimed British ancestry – but the point was no less valid. Today, of course, we know that the war-time RCN had an especially narrow view of what backgrounds made for the “best” naval officers.

The September 1943 editorial is thought-provoking and quaint to the contemporary reader. Continue reading

Remember/Resist/Redraw #31: Justice for Grassy Narrows

In June, for Indigenous History Month, the Graphic History Collective released RRR #31 by Iruwa Da Silva and Judy Da Silva with Natalia Saavedra and Ryan Hayes. The poster celebrates the ongoing struggle of the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong, or Grassy Narrows First Nation. For the past 50 years, women and youth from the community have led a movement to address the industrial mercury poisoning of their people, to protect their land and water, and to assert their sovereignty.

We hope that Remember | Resist | Redraw encourages people to critically examine history in ways that can fuel our radical imaginations and support struggles for social change. 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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Canada Day Statement: The History of Violence Against Indigenous Peoples Fully Warrants The Use of the Word “Genocide”

Canadian Historical Association

The Canadian Historical Association, which represents 650 professional historians from across the country, including the main experts on the long history of violence and dispossession Indigenous peoples experienced in what is today Canada, recognizes that this history fully warrants our use of the word genocide.

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Calls to Action 71 to 76: Missing Children and Burial Information

Today, the editors of Active History have decided to paint the site orange to honour the thousands upon thousands of Indigenous children brutalized and killed in the Indian Residential School system—including those whose small bodies were recently located in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, the former Marieval Indian Residential School, the former St. Eugene’s Mission School, and other institutions in Brandon, Regina, and Lestock—and to pledge our solidarity with Indigenous peoples fighting for justice and an end to colonialism.

This morning, we have chosen to re-publish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s section on Missing Children and Burial Information. What follows are, verbatim, the TRC’s Calls to Action 71 to 76. We encourage readers to refer to the Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials, The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 4 to learn, listen, and act. This afternoon, we will publish a statement on genocide and the history of violence against Indigenous peoples from the Canadian Historical Association.

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Insecurity via Exclusion: Migrant Farm Workers in the Age of COVID-19

The three Mexican migrant farm workers who died in Canada from COVID-19 in 2020: Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, Rogelio Muñoz Santos, and Juan López Chaparro. CBC.ca.

This post by Edward Dunsworth is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here. The text is based on a talk given at Carleton University as part of the Shannon Lecture series, in September 2020. A video of that talk can be found here.

Like so many marginalized people the world over, migrant farm workers in Canada have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19. To date, over 2,500 migrant farm workers have contracted the virus across the country. In Ontario, migrant farm workers are ten times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than the rest of the population.

Last year, three migrant workers, all from Mexico, died from COVID-19. In 2021, migrant worker deaths have surged even further. In May, Mexican worker Fausto Ramirez Plazas became the fourth known participant in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) to succumb to COVID-19, after he contracted the illness during his two-week post-arrival quarantine. But a staggering eight more SAWP workers have died already this year, at least five of them also during their quarantines. Continue reading

“Unusual – Indeed Unprecedented”: U.S. Immigration Policies and Travel Restrictions During World War One

The registry room or “Great Hall” at Ellis Island, New York. Daniel Vorndran/Wikimedia Commons.

This post by Lauren Catterson is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here.

It’s been more than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In March and April 2020 many countries imposed strict border controls or closed their borders to non-essential travel and non-citizens in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and many travel restrictions remain in effect today.

Uncertain about how the pandemic would impact travel and immigration, some travelling, working, or studying abroad scrambled to return to their home countries before travel restrictions set in. Others, myself included, chose to stay put overseas. Still others found themselves stranded. Ongoing border closures, changing travel restrictions, and disruptions in the processing of visas threw wrenches in the plans of immigrants across the world. Continue reading