Fighting Racism Through Sport

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By Sean GrahamWe’re back with new episodes and this week I’m joined by Ian Kennedy, author of On Account of Darkness: Shining Light on Race and Sport, which explores how athletes from Chatham-Kent in southwestern Ontario fought racial discrimination through sports. We discuss Ian’s interest in sports, Chatham-Kent’s history as a terminus of the underground railroad, and why sports are a powerful tool for social change. We also talk about the Chatham Coloured All-Stars and Fergie Jenkins, the difference between amateur and professional sports, and the future of activism in sports.

You can keep up with Ian’s work on Twitter and at The Hockey News

Historical Headline of the Week

Richard McGahey, “The Super Bowl, Racism, and Segregation,” Forbes February 13, 2023.

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Deindustrialization as Failed Postindustrial Transition

by Steven High

We are living in polarized times. Brexit, Trump, and the rise of right-wing populism has led to a resurgence of popular and scholarly interest in working class history and the ways it gets entangled with race in the wider politics of economic change. There is much at stake given the looming global transition away from fossil fuels. We can therefore learn much from our failure to affect a socially “just transition” to our deindustrialized, “post-industrial” present in huge swathes of Europe and North America. In fact, it is urgent that we do.

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The Politics of Deindustrialization in the ‘Birthplace of New Scotland’

by Peter Thompson

Pictou is a sleepy town of about 3000 people on the north shore of Nova Scotia. Despite its small size and its place on Canada’s margins, Pictou has been featured twice in the pages of over the past decade. First in Lachlan MacKinnon’s 2014 piece, “The Power-Politics of Pulp and Paper: Health, Environment and Work in Pictou County,” and then in Colin Osmond’s “A’Se’k — Boat Harbour: A Site of Centuries’ Long Mi’kmaw Resistance” (2019). In addition to its outsized presence on, the Northern Pulp site at Pictou County’s Abercrombie Point has also been the subject of Elliot Page and Ian Daniel’s documentary There’s Something in the Water and the CBC documentary “The Mill.” Each of these reinforce a central fact about Pictou: visual representations of the town found in tourist advertisements and in the memorial complex found on the waterfront itself elide darker elements of its history, including environmental racism and Indigenous dispossession. (See also Ingrid Waldron’s 2018 book, There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities.) In this post, I will look at how two sites on the Pictou waterfront—a plaque memorializing the passage of the Ship Hector and the Northern Pulp site itself—communicate ideas about history, progress, settler colonialism, and deindustrialization on the north shore.

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“We feel left behind:” Ethnographic Perspectives on Just Transition, Re-Training, and Future of Energy Among Oil & Gas Communities in Alberta, Canada

by Anna Bettini

A Changing Energy Landscape

Driving along Highway 529, two hours south of Calgary, giant wind turbines tower over the fields of canola. Along the road, several signs indicate the local community opposition to wind energy projects [Picture 1]. As I approach the entrance of village of Carmangay, I notice a large wind turbine blade lying near it [Picture 2]. Not far from it, Mr. Ralph Allen greets me with a warm smile. He is a retired geologist, employed in the oil and gas sector for over 40 years. He agreed to be part of my project as I investigate and report the lived experiences of the energy transition for workers and communities in Alberta. As I introduce myself, Mr. Allen points to the large blade behind us. “Have you seen the turbine? It’s from the wind farm near us,” referring to the Blackspring Ridge Wind Project (in operation since 2014). Considered among the largest renewable energy infrastructures in Western Canada with 166 turbines, the project created over 350 short-term jobs during construction and an additional 20 long-term jobs for operations.

Picture 1: Sign opposing wind turbines in Vulcan County area. Photo by the author.

Picture 2: Blade of a wind turbine from BlackSpring Ridge Project, Carmangay (Alberta). Photo by the author.

Continuing toward Lomond, millions of solar photovoltaic panels spread over thousands of hectares of land surrounded by farming acreages as part of the Travers Solar Project [Picture 3]. One of the largest solar farms in North America, it will  produce 465 megawatts of power and generate more than 500 temporary full-time jobs. The project was still under construction when I began ethnographic fieldwork in June 2022.

Picture 3: Travers Solar Project, Travers (Alberta). July 19, 2022. Photo by the author.

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The Breaking of the Borgia Area: Dismantling Sudbury’s Industrial City Centre

by Eliot Perrin

The Flour Mill neighbourhood in Sudbury serves as an almost mythical place in Franco-Ontarian identity. Much like St-Boniface further west, it survived for decades as a Francophone enclave, maintaining and nurturing the French language, its institutions, and artistic production. For individuals of Franco-Ontarian background such as myself, it remains a place of residual family memory and lore.

Sudbury is a city in Northern Ontario long associated with its massive mining infrastructure. Since the late 1800s, the Sudbury Basin has been mined for nickel that, in the 20th century, came to be in high demand thanks to its use in steel production. As the area’s mining operations expanded, the International Nickel Company (Inco) also built smelting, milling, and refining facilities, further increasing the number of workers in the area. Following successful unionization drives, Sudburians experienced a growing degree of prosperity throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Since its settlement, Sudbury has hosted both Franco-Ontarian institutions and industrial work. Sudbury was chosen as a townsite following the discovery of minerals along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) construction route in 1883. French Catholic priests were already in the vicinity, providing mass for French-Canadian railway workers. The French Ste-Anne-des-Pins parish (also formed in 1883) sat on the elevated northern half of what would become downtown Sudbury. Other French Catholic institutions soon followed the church itself, including the Hôpital St-Joseph and the St-Louis-de-Gonzague school. Further to the northeast in what later became the Flour Mill, the Jesuits opened the Collège Sacré-Coeur. Both institutions played roles in the protests against the Ontario government’s 1912 Regulation 17, which threatened to ban French-language instruction in private schools beyond the second grade. Meanwhile, the south of downtown was dominated by the CPR yards. These were joined by the Canadian National Railway (CN) whose eastern arm followed the eastern border of the Flour Mill, with a roundhouse located at the bend of Agnes Street.

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Where’s the beef (coming from)?

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by Nicholas Fast

For the public at any grocery store, the most shocking part of choosing any meat package is usually the price. It is no secret that the price of meat, especially beef, has skyrocketed during the pandemic. The sticker shock prevents many from looking beyond the plastic wrapping to really consider where the beef—or chicken or pork—comes from. As with most consumer products, the final cuts of meat we find in grocery stores are the result of a long commodity chain that intersects labour relations, the logic of capital, and deindustrialization politics.

Canadians had a brief glimpse into the world of the meat packing industry during the first spring of the pandemic when nearly half of the 2000 workers at the Cargill plant in High River, Alberta fell ill with COVID-19. This Cargill plant was responsible for nearly forty percent of Canada’s beef commodity chain. This fact was cited by industry experts to justify keeping the plant open for fear of disrupting the supply chain. As a result, three plant floor workers—all of them immigrant workers—died from their exposure to COVID-19 while the mainly white office staff were allowed to work from home. The brief surge in media exposure revealed how concentrated the packinghouse industry is in Canada and the effects that this concentration has on workers who toil in this commodity chain.

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Is the gay steel mill closed? Reflections on queer histories of deindustrializing Cape Breton

by Liam Devitt

In 1991, the AIDS Coalition of Cape Breton was founded. Cape Breton Island, a small industrial region, was a far cry from the perceived metropolitan hotspots of the AIDS epidemic. It did not have the cosmopolitan queer nightlife of these cities and little activism that could be called “gay liberation” manifested in any visible way. In short, Cape Breton is not the place a historian would ordinarily look if they wanted to say interesting things about the AIDS crisis or even queer life in general. Yet, there are histories here that can help us look at the legacy of deindustrialization and non-metropolitan queer communities differently.

Peter Steele, a Cape Bretoner long active in the LGBT community on the Island, recounted to me his story of the AIDS Coalition’s founding:

I became a founding member of the AIDS Coalition of Cape Breton. And through that, I came to know a lot of guys who lived elsewhere, who left here after high school, and contracted HIV wherever they lived, and when it developed to AIDS, they moved back here. Some moved back to be with their families, some moved back to be taken care of by their families, and a lot of them moved back here because it was cheaper to live here than where they lived. And it was at a time where you were paying for medication for yourself. So, it was more financially feasible for them to be living here, even if they weren’t living with their family. We had members on the board that had AIDS and have since passed away.

To put it in the direst terms, early 1990s Cape Breton was confronted with people coming home to die: coming home to often unwelcoming families, a medical system ill-equipped to treat them, and a place that—for one reason or another—these people had willingly left. Was it to escape the social conservatism deeply tied to religion? Was it to get a safe job free from discrimination? Was it to simply get a job? And then, when they came back, what’s there for them?

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The Politics of Deindustrialization in Canada

by Lauren Laframboise

In early February this year, Canopy Growth announced that it would close its cannabis flower production plant in Smiths Falls, Ontario. The facility was located at 1 Hershey Drive in the former Hershey chocolate factory that had once been a major employer in the small town. After Hershey’s closed in 2008, a subsidiary of Tweed Inc. (now Canopy Growth) purchased the plant in 2013 and invested $1.5 million to retrofit the chocolate factory to produce cannabis. After the Canadian government legalized the drug, Tweed Inc. raised $15 million in start-up capital, expanded their team, and filed for public listing on the TSX Venture Exchange. While the cannabis industry was on an initial high after legalization, the market hasn’t quite panned out as business executives had hoped.

When Canopy Growth announced the closure and 350 layoffs in the small town, a CTV news article reported that Smiths Falls residents had a feeling of déjà vu. “I think a lot of people are just confused,” said Ryan Bennett, who grew up in Smiths Falls. “Like why now after all the investments, the projects, that kind of things? Obviously it’s a business decision.” But it wasn’t just Hershey’s and Canopy that had left town. The former “chocolate capital” turned “pot capital” had seen several other major employers close up shop over the years. Continue reading

Dazhiikigaadeg Maanendamowin: Wanichigewin gaye Wiijiiwidiwin gii-ayaag COVID-19 / Transforming Grief: Loss & Togetherness in COVID-19: Part 2 – Student Responses to the Exhibit

Kennedy Colalillo, Geoff Crowther, Joanne Feng, Steven Fenn, Andrea Gonzalez Marroquin, Richard Griffin, Janis Angelica Hernandez Salazar, Jessica Hymers, Darrell Jose, Solaris Morenz, Susan Munn, Anya Nandkeolyar, Katia Oltmann, Laura Phillips, Faizan Rama, Kai Suzuki-Smith, Dani Wong

Part 1 of this Review is available here.

Student Responses

This is a selection of the class responses to the exhibit:

Student 1: It is a healing experience released from the people who left the pieces of their suffering on the exhibition. Each piece showed us the stages of the Pandemic Covid 19, and when I was watching this, I thought that I already forget this stage and that my son won’t remember when the world was shut down because I made this experience the best for him. We camped almost every day in the living room because it was only him and me in that one small-bedroom apartment; sometimes, we just ate popcorn because it was fun, and I did not have money to buy anything else. But he will only remember there was a time when he and his mom slept in the living room for a long time and played all video games and ate a lot of popcorn. We also heal with the exhibitions. Continue reading

Dazhiikigaadeg Maanendamowin: Wanichigewin gaye Wiijiiwidiwin gii-ayaag COVID-19 / Transforming Grief: Loss & Togetherness in COVID-19: Part 1 – Our Review and Exhibit Overview

Kennedy Colalillo, Geoff Crowther, Joanne Feng, Steven Fenn, Andrea Gonzalez Marroquin, Richard Griffin, Janis Angelica Hernandez Salazar, Jessica Hymers, Darrell Jose, Solaris Morenz, Susan Munn, Anya Nandkeolyar, Katia Oltmann, Laura Phillips, Faizan Rama, Kai Suzuki-Smith, Dani Wong

This article is a participatory review of the exhibit Dazhiikigaadeg Maanendamowin: Wanichigewin gaye Wiijiiwidiwin gii-ayaag COVID-19 / Transforming Grief: Loss & Togetherness in COVID-19, displayed at Fort York in Tkaronto/Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from March 2023 to January 2024. A graduate class from the University of Toronto visited the exhibit as part of the Winter 2023 ischool Information Management workshop series  ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Museums, Archives’,  taught by Dr. Laura Phillips.

In early May 2023, the World Health Organization declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. This declaration was made without any indication or directive of how we, the collective of individuals who survived this global health emergency, should process the emotional, physical, intellectual and financial toll of this 3 year event (which is arguably on-going, depending on where in the world you are located). Continue reading