Marking the 100th Anniversary of the Victoria Chinese Students’ Strike

First Graduate Class of the Victoria Chinese Public School, 1915. BC Archives, D-08821.

Timothy J. Stanley

On September 5, 2022, over 600 people in Victoria, BC, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Chinese Students Strike. Participants included a Chinese Canadian veteran of the Second World War, the Police Chief who helpfully stopped traffic, two BC Government ministers–one of whom, the Attorney General, read the Premier of British Columbia’s message of support–the mayor of Victoria who condemned the racism of past and present, and the President of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce who made a moving apology for its role in school segregation. The event concluded with the Chair of the Victoria School Board reading aloud the Board’s formal apology to the Chinese community and presenting a commemorative plaque to the President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the umbrella organization of Victoria’s Chinese community. This antiracist solidarity begins 100 years earlier.

On September 5, 1922, the principals of Victoria’s elementary schools began calling Chinese students out of their classes, lining them up, and marching them down the road. Continue reading

Carving out a Collective Identity

      No Comments on Carving out a Collective Identity

Henry Jacob

When artists exist outside of the canon, their names sometimes remain unknown. However, even if their personal identities fade, they may create objects that encourage future generations to better understand the time in which they lived. Occasionally, their artwork can also empower later viewers to reflect upon the collective identity of their own era.

The object of this essay compels me to consider not only the past and present violence we commit against the earth in the pursuit of luxury, but also how that environment responds to our devastating desires. In other words, this relic reminds me that a sense of self — to borrow the phrase from environmental historian, Linda Nash — is enmeshed within ‘inescapable ecologies’ that bind human and nonhuman actors. Moreover, current formulations of identity rely upon our acknowledging that we have harmed the environment; this process of reflection can begin with an examination of historical artifacts. Continue reading

A Historian’s Collection, or Understanding my obsession with royal commemoratives

Gillian Leitch

China cups and saucers with royal portraits on them.

Figure 1: Some pieces of the collection. Photo by the author,

I have always collected things.  I think it is a part of what has made me a good researcher, the desire to see and have many examples of something that interests me and from which I can create a larger narrative. Certainly, as a historian I have collected documents, information and knowledge about my research interests of immigration, ethnic identity and social networks in the nineteenth century, as well as my work in popular culture on time travel television, and have crafted them into narratives for publication.  This also applies in my work as a public historian.

My largest collection, and one which I continue to add to, is my royalty memorabilia collection.  And by large, I mean it currently has 2849 individual items, from the 17 mugs, 14 plates, 8 teacups and saucers, to the 95 books—the collection is massive. Continue reading

History and the Atrocity of Silence

      No Comments on History and the Atrocity of Silence

Kamloops Residential School, c. 1930s. BC Archives, B-01592.

Owen Griffiths

“Dear brothers and sisters! I have been waiting to come here and be with you!” With these words, Pope Francis began his long-awaited apology for the Catholic Church’s role in more than a century of abuse and marginalization of Indigenous Canadians, what the Truth and Reconciliation Report called “cultural genocide.” Reactions to the Pope’s July 2022 visit and to his words have been mixed at best, especially among Indigenous peoples. Of the many criticisms, silence stands out: silence on the institutional role of the church rather than just on some of its members; silence on the reams of as yet unexplored documentation; silence on the Doctrine of Discovery and even on the word genocide itself, which the Pope did not utter in front of those who needed to hear it most because, he later said, “it didn’t come to mind.”

To these silences we must add another. This is the silence of indifference, hostility, and denial that has accompanied acts of atrocity across decades to become a foundational component of intergenerational trauma. About this, the Pope also said nothing. Continue reading

150 Acts 5 Years Later: What Does Truth and Reconciliation Look Like in 2022?

150 Acts of Reconciliation tent at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference, hosted by Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning at the Wiliideh Site, Chief Drygeese Territory, June 2022. Photo by Crystal Gail Fraser.

If you are a Survivor of Indian Residential Schools and need support, please call the National Indian Residential School Crisis line at 1-866-925-4419 or text 686868. You can also call the Canadian Mental Health Association toll free at 1-833-456-4566 (in Quebec 1-866-277-3553) or visit Other self-care acts include taking a walk, calling or texting a friend, nourishing your body with a snack, and openly showing your emotions.

Crystal Gail Fraser & Sara Komarnisky

Five years ago, in August 2017, we created and published 150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150. We were writing from a place of discomfort with the uncritical nationalism leading up to and during Canada 150 celebrations of oppression, colonialism, and genocide. In this post, we offer our reflections on 150 Acts five years later, share how colonialism and reconciliation in the settler state of Canada[1] continue to be omnipresent, and think briefly but deeply about how to move forward in a way that advances truth and reconciliation. When we wrote the list, we were inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action but recognized that the Calls to Action were aimed at elected governments, church leaders, corporations and members of the business sector, and other national organizations. We wrote 150 Acts for a settler audience in a way that would speak to the humans within these organizations and perhaps grow reconciliation in quotidian spaces through widely accessible acts. It was to complement the work of the TRC and bring acts of reconciliation to the everyday level. Despite our best efforts to educate a wide and public audience, our work did not fully prepare Canadians for what was to come.

On May 27th, 2021, Tk’emlúps te Secwèpemc confirmed what Survivors and Indigenous communities had known for decades: that Indigenous children suffered untimely deaths and their bodies were sometimes buried in unmarked graves around Indian Residential Schools. Continue reading

Virtual authenticity: The potential risks of historical video games

Dale M. McCartney

In 2014, Jonathan MacQuarrie told Active History readers that video games were increasingly teaching people about history in exciting and sometimes worrisome ways. In the years since, there has been an explosion of games that not only depict the past, but trade on historical accuracy as part of their appeal. They promise an extraordinary verisimilitude, allowing players to explore landscapes developed with obsessive attention to historical detail. For game players, this detail can make the games feel profoundly accurate as if they were a sort of time machine that reveals the truths of the era depicted. However, these games are much less sophisticated in their depiction of historical social relations and systems. They often reproduce very limited notions of race, gender, class, and historical agency. The result is that games use the appearance of “accuracy” to deliver deeply ideological messages about the past.

Continue reading Project Receives Grant from Canada History Fund is pleased to announce that its application to the Canada History Fund, made in partnership with McGill University (grantee), HistoireEngagé, and the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies Program at the University of British Columbia, was successful.

Our project, “Active History on Display,” has been granted $99,958 to create two digital exhibits: one on the lived experiences of Asian Canadian communities (curated by editor and Carleton University professor Dr. Laura Madokoro); and the other on death, injury, and illness among migrant farm workers in Canada (curated by editor and McGill University professor Edward Dunsworth).

Mexican and Guatemalan workers pick strawberries at a farm in Pont Rouge Que. on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Continue reading

Pandemic Lockup: Covid-19 and Colonial Histories in a Small Northern Jail

Thunder Bay District Jail, n.d. – Thunder Bay Museum

This article is reposted, in slightly edited form and with permission, from the fourth issue of Syndemic Magazine“The Colours of Covid-19.” Syndemic Magazine is a project of the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University.

Brandon J. Cordeiro

In Thunder Bay, Ontario, the city’s prison battled a Covid-19 outbreak through winter 2021. Overpopulated and faced with growing cases, the prison went into lockdown. By the outbreak’s end, 70 people had contracted the disease inside the jail. The pandemic reaffirmed many of the carceral system’s larger social and racial biases. The outbreak, however, was the inevitable result of larger institutional failures. Poor infrastructure and poor living conditions combined to create a nightmare situation for a mostly Indigenous inmate population. These failures, like in many other social institutions, were apparent long before the pandemic; Covid-19 simply intensified them with brutal force.

Indeed, the global pandemic undressed society’s far-encompassing disparities. Many racialized groups and other vulnerable communities — including the unhoused and the incarcerated — endured the pandemic’s harshest realities. Covid-19 exposed the carceral system’s larger social and health problems, as jails and prisons across the world faced viral outbreaks. The outbreak at Thunder Bay’s jail made this connection apparent.

Continue reading

Digital Access, Pandemic Responses, and the Future of Archives

Two people in wheelchairs speaking to someone crouched in front of them

Fran Humphrey (centre) strategizes with British Columbia teammates Avis Galbraith and Mil Mouw, in preparation for the inaugural tri-sport meet known as the Canadian Games for the Physically Disabled, held in Cambridge, Ontario (June 21, 1976).  Reference code: F45-0-2-0-0-439. Guelph Mercury fonds (F45). Courtesy of the Guelph Public Library Archives, on Archeion.

Jazmine Aldrich

Anyone who has been conducting historical research (or attempting to do so) over the past two years, has likely faced challenges ranging from closed facilities to limited hours due to COVID-19. Archives, museums, historical societies, libraries and all manner of cultural heritage institutions have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as the fog lifts and some semblance of the “before times” returns, many cultural heritage institutions are still struggling to recover and many are reevaluating their priorities. Not only in terms of resource allocation and services: Many institutions are also reevaluating their collections mandates, thinking about how to highlight marginalized voices, addressing deliberate silences within their collections, and considering whether some records would be better stewarded by the communities they represent. The past two years have been challenging and reflective, both within the archives and beyond.

One major theme in the archival world during the pandemic has been a push towards digital access. Many archives were already providing some kind of digital access prior to pandemic shutdowns, but health crisis closures transformed digital access, for many institutions, from a rosy future to a rushed present. Suddenly, in-person visits to heritage institutions were forbidden, and digital access to collections holdings became more important than ever. Continue reading

History Slam 10th Anniversary Special: Life as Historians

By Sean Graham

On July 11, 2012, we released the first episode of the History Slam Podcast. It featured my conversation with Ian Milligan, which we recorded at the 2012 CHA Annual Meeting at the University of Waterloo, where Ian is now a full professor. The idea behind the show was simple: what if I talked to interesting people doing interesting historical work? I always wondered how faculty keep up with trends in the field and figured this could be a good way for me to maintain a broad understanding of where history and historical research was going.

A lot has changed since that first episode. I was a PhD student at the time, but have since graduated, lived in different countries, worked in various public history settings, and have taught in very different environments. The one constant of my career has really been the podcast, which has been a wonderful, if at times stressful, part of my professional journey.

When I think about the early days of the show, though, I think about the journeys of the first few guests we had. Episode 2 featured a conversation with Victoria Lamb Drover, a PhD student who has since gone on to great success in with Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies. The mercifully unreleased pilot episode was a chat with Aaron Boyes, a fellow PhD student at the University of Ottawa, who has parlayed his education into a career with the federal government. The 4 of us have all taken divergent paths, so I wanted to look back to see how our studies in history influenced our careers and how we take stock of the discipline 10 years later.

In this 10th Anniversary Special, I catch up with Ian Milligan, Victoria Lamb Drover, and Aaron Boyes. I start by talking with Ian about his shift towards digital methodology, where he sees history going, and his advice for prospective graduate students. I then chat with Vickie about how she got into administration, the benefits of being challenged in history courses, and how her studies influence her current work. From there, Aaron joins the show to reflect on his journey to the government, his conflicted feelings about grad studies, and the skills historians develop. I finish by discussing my journey through history programs, the financial reality of historical study, and the podcast’s role in my career. I also thank everyone who has ever listened, all the guests over the years, and the folks behind the scenes who have helped the show reach the decade mark.

Continue reading