Thinking Historically About a Generation of Canadian Offshore Schools

Photo courtesy of the author who is shown teaching Geography 12, an accredited British Columbia curriculum course, to Chinese students in China on the Pacific coast.

Ian Alexander

This is the fourth entry in a monthly series on Thinking Historically. See the Introduction here.

In the 1990s a confluence of social, economic, and political conditions created a market for international education to expand in a multitude of ways around the globe. For those in communities across Canada, the internationalization of education has been most visible in the increase in international students in Canadian schools, colleges, and universities. Another, less visible form of internationalization was the spread of Canadian curriculum to other countries. Also on the move were textbooks, teachers, and administrators who set up offshore schools and programs abroad.The first few offshore schools opened in the mid-1990s as a novel form of transnational education, when curriculum and credentials were transported across borders to other countries. Unlike traditional international schools that taught children from expatriate families, Canadian offshore schools were mostly attended by local students seeking a foreign high school education to prepare for university abroad and sometimes to avoid aspects of their own national education system. Now that it is 2024, and offshore school students and teachers have been learning and teaching for nearly thirty years, the time is ripe to think historically about this era and gather stories of this cross-cultural education. These stories can inform the next generation of offshore schools and help identify continuity and change over time, especially when the presence and plight of international students has recently been thrust into the political spotlight.

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When the Press Had Bite: Thunder Bay’s The Black Fly

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Gary Genosko

As a cultural figure, the black fly is associated with Canadian folk singer and songwriter Wade Hemsworth who composed The Blackfly Song in 1949. Just as Hemsworth described the bloodthirsty fly’s ‘picking his bones’ while working on a survey crew in northern Ontario, the newspaper I discuss in this article promoted itself as having similar irritating attributes, but with a social and political focus.

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What is Good Citizenship? Perspectives from Former Air Cadets of Diverse Identities

These green doors mark the cadet entrance of 330 Danforth Tech Air Cadet Squadron, housed in Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, a secondary school in Toronto, Ontario. Originally an Army Cadet Corps, cadets have paraded at this location since 1940. Photo courtesy of author.

This is the fourth entry in a monthly series on Thinking Historically. See the Introduction here.

Rebecca Evans 

Our conceptions about good citizenship vary. Context, particularly space and time, matter. In citizenship education, young people participate and deepen their understanding of how to make change in their communities. They do so across various domains, inclusive of formal politics, political advocacy, civic society, and grassroots/community participation. Scholars Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne developed the What Kind of Citizen framework to capture different orientations to the concept of good citizenship.[1] Debates persist however and scholars agree that more education for supporting democratic citizenship is needed – and that knowledge, skills, and participation are significant elements of citizenship education.

In this blog post, I share the preliminary findings from my study on experiences in the Air Cadet program related to core concepts of citizenship education – agency, responsibility, and civic engagement. I focus in particular on the different ways participants make change in their communities today and how they relate these enactments as citizens to their experiences as youth in Air Cadets. This was a qualitative study. Over one hundred adult participants completed a survey. From the respondents, seventeen diverse participants were selected for in-depth study, with a view of building a deeper understanding of how the program functions as a civic educator for participants of diverse identities, including Indigeneity, race, gender, sexuality, religion, socio-economic status, and ability.

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No One Killed Canadian History. It is time to move on

By Thomas Peace

As we welcome 2024, it is time for Canadian historians to turn over a new leaf.

The end of 2023 brought echoes of 2003. As the year wound to a close, some of our colleagues – mostly working outside of the university – began to pile on as they celebrated 25 years since Jack Granatstein published Who Killed Canadian History, a divisive book that shaped the so-called History Wars of the late-1990s and 2000s.

It was no coincidence that this series was put together by The Hub, an online news site that promises an optimistic approach to news and analysis that will strengthen the Canadian nation. Core to The Hub are several of the same people behind the Dominion Institute, another key player that fueled historiographical tensions at the dawn of the new millennium.

Similar stakes from the late-1990s seem to be drawn out today.

The words of Hub editor-at-large Sean Speer summarized a subtext of the series. For Speer, over the course of the past two decades “radical” university professors (specifically at Carleton University) won the History Wars having “vanquished unfashionable scholars like Granatstein… in an exercise of ideological conformity imposed by a combination of peer pressure, hiring preferences, and growing university bureaucracy.”

In this same series, J.D.M. Stewart claims that “universities have eschewed political history and continue to dig down ever deeper into niche topics with limited value to helping Canadians understand each other.”

Neither then, nor now, does this framing of university history departments resonate with my experiences over the past 25 years. Unfortunately, though, these ideas about those of us working in universities are not unique. Continue reading

11th Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

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By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We offer our two cents on the major events of 1923. Let us know what you think in the comments

We ask ourselves this question every year: how has another year passed and we get to write this 100 Years Later Year in Review? And, more importantly, why do the good people at continue to allow us to do it? This annual tradition is something that we look forward to completing every year, especially the consumption of Rainbow Chips Ahoy (brain food). Much like in past editions of this bracket (you can find links to the previous years at the bottom of this post) we have some intriguing events and inventions to discuss.

For those who are finding this bracket for the first time, we use historical hindsight to analyze what was the most important event of 1923 – without the passage of time how can we truly determine what was the most important? The events have been divided into four brackets: the Entertainment Bracket, the International Bracket, the Still Relevant Technology Bracket, and everyone’s favourite the Potpourri Bracket.

So be sure to have your Spotify or Apple Music Replay handy – which came out in November, something that causes Sean much anger – and we hope you enjoy this year’s bracket. As always, thank you for taking the time to read it.

Round 1

Entertainment Bracket

(2) The Walt Disney Company Founded


(3) Warner Bros. Founded

Aaron: In the early 1920s, as films continued to develop, a young animator named Walt Disney and his partner Ub Iwerks developed a short film called Alice’s Wonderland (no relation to the 1865 novel) produced by the Laugh-O-Gram Studio. Before the film could be released, however, Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt. In search of a studio to release his film, Disney moved to Los Angeles to join his brother Roy. It was in LA that Walt sold the film to Margaret J. Winkler, who also paid him $1,500 to create a series of Alice Comedies. In order to complete the contract, Walt and Roy founded the Disney Brothers Studio on October 16, 1923 (renamed the Walt Disney Studio in 1926). Since its founding, The Walt Disney Company has become synonymous with entertainment around the world, producing some of the most memorable, and popular, films and television series. It is likely that everyone reading this year’s installment has seen at least one film or tv series produced by Disney, or has visited one of the theme parks, or perhaps have sailed the seas on one of Disney’s cruise ships. What is evident is that 100 years later The Walt Disney company is ubiquitous.

In 1889, three brothers Harry, Albert, and Sam Warner (these are their Anglicized names) emigrated to the United States from Poland, which was then part of the Russian Empire. In 1892, they welcomed another brother, Jack, who was born in London, Ontario. As the twentieth century dawned, the four brothers started to show films in Pennsylvania and Ohio before founding an entertainment company in 1904. After moving to Los Angeles, the Warner Brothers established their first studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. On April 4, 1923, the brothers formally incorporated as Warner Bros. Pictures, Incorporated. After 100 years, Warner Bros. has also produced some of the most memorable movies, tv series, and characters. The reader, I’m sure, is having flashbacks to watching Looney Tunes – which was created in 1929 to compete against Walt Disney and the Mickey Mouse cartoons – or perhaps Animaniacs, depending on your age. Much like its competitor, Warner Bros. remains a powerful name in entertainment around the world.

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Thinking Historically about Sexuality, Gender, and the Implications of “Safety”

The title page of Woman and Her Secret Passions (MC 4516 James Waddell family fonds); photo taken at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB).

The title page of Woman and Her Secret Passions (MC 4516 James Waddell family fonds); photo taken at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB).

Gemma Marr

“The luxurious habits of civilized life lead to many excesses. Those of gluttony and hard drinking have been sufficiently commented upon. Tracts and newspapers showing the fatal results of intoxication, surround us on all hands. But an evil more destructive than any of these has received, comparatively, but little attention. It is time that the warning was given, and that the trumpet was blown within the hearing of every young person. For want of knowledge on this subject, the fairest daughters of the land have gone down to a premature grave, or lingered out existence in wretchedness, without knowing the cause of their misery, or without ever knowing that there was such a thing as enjoyment, in living according to the dictates of nature and virtue”[1]


When I first read these lines, I (like you, dear reader) had very little context. I was in the research room at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, and had just been handed a folder. “You might find this interesting,” the archivist told me, and walked away. Indeed, I did; indeed, I do. The passage, which aims to strike a fearful curiosity in the reader, comes from a small book called Woman and Her Secret Passions: Containing an Exact Description of the Female Organs of Generation, Their Uses and Abuses, Together with a Detailed Account of the Causes and the Cure of the Solitary Vice. In it author Robert T. Wakely talks about the “secret vice”[2], and is worried about the vitality of young women lost to the evils of masturbation. When this book was first introduced to me, I wondered who read it and why (for titillation or information or instruction?). As I continued my research, a secondary thought emerged. I began to draw connections between the ideas of “safety” in relation to gender and sexuality as presented in Woman and Her Secret Passions and debates around “safety” in relation to gender and sexuality in contemporary conversations around sexual education and school policy. Continue reading

Digitizing the Dawn of Tomorrow

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By Nina Reid-Maroney

An August, 1925 article in the Dawn of Tomorrow (“Advent of League in Chatham, Windsor, Dresden Enthusiastic”) details James Jenkins’ experience at a founding meeting for a new branch of the Canadian League for the Advancement of Colored People (CLACP).

Jenkins, founding editor and publisher of the Dawn of Tomorrow and co-founder and Executive Secretary of the CLACP, arrived in the rural community of Chatham Township, on the outskirts of the town of Dresden, where he received “the surprise of his life” at the Union Baptist Church. He had “expected to be greeted with not more than 40-50 people” but was met with “an audience of nearly 700 enthusiastic citizens.” The Dresden/Chatham Township branch of the League was organized on the spot when the assembled crowd “voted to go into permanent organization.”

Jenkins’ account opens a window on the rich history of civil rights organizing in this small community, reaching back to Black abolitionist work in the 1840s and 1850s. Continue reading

Black Women’s Softball, the Dawn of Tomorrow, & the Canadian League for the Advancement of Colored People

By Zahra McDoom

Ball is never just ball, it tells the story of anti-black racism, defiance and community.

The Elite Women’s Baseball Team. Photo courtesy of Lena Ruehle (Ball/Decoursey).

The photograph above is significant. This 1920s image is the only known picture of a Black women’s softball team in Ontario.[1] Showing London’s Elite team, several of these women, played important roles in shaping Ontario’s Black histories over the course of the 1920s.

This digital photograph of the team was shared with me during my research into the late 19th Century Ontario-based Ball Family Jubilee Singers.[2] Using the Dawn of Tomorrow, a Black Canadian newspaper published in London (1923-1971), a pamphlet from The Canadian League of the Advancement of Colored People (CLACP, 1927), and interviews with older Black Londoners Barry Howson and Gerry Anderson, I was able to attach a name to the team, identify players, and begin to tell their story.

Much of Black history, and Black women’s history is erased, undocumented, or misconstrued through dominant white claims, but through these Black produced creations – the photo, the Dawn, CLACP, Black oral histories – we learn that the player’s ancestors self-emancipated, the women were politically active, their men worked as railway porters, and that Black people in Canada needed to possess a newspaper to stir up change. From the photograph we gather that Black women came together, sometimes in pearls, to play ball. Continue reading

The Dawn of Tomorrow was a “First” Almost Forgotten By History

By Cheryl Thompson

I am a first generation Canadian born of immigrant parents. I was the first person in my family to attend and graduate university. And I am the only person with a PhD in my extended family.

One of the joys I have experienced writing about Black Canada is the act of finding “firsts” in history. Discovering the stories of Black Canadians who broke colour barriers or crossed de facto lines of segregation, or better yet, learning about folks who did everyday things like getting married or performing at church. These discoveries were (and remain) life changing for me because they signified that folks who looked like me have not only lived in this country for centuries but that they have challenged unjust policies, resisted inequitable laws, and had fun and celebrated amid the worst of circumstances. While I might not know their names, somewhere in the archive, they are waiting to be discovered.

That’s how my path and the Dawn of Tomorrow collided. Continue reading

Exploiting a legacy: John Peters Humphrey and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This is the second of a two-part series to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. The first part appeared on this site previously.

Jennifer Tunnicliffe

On December 10, Canada will take part in celebrations of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). On its website, the federal government claims that “Canada has been a consistently strong voice for the protection of human rights”, starting with its “central role in the drafting” of the UDHR in 1948, and continuing with its work at the UN today. [1] Given the reality of Canada’s resistance to the UDHR, how has the Canadian government worked to reconcile this history with the image it promotes of Canada as an historic advocate for international human rights?

The answer comes largely through the experiences of one Canadian: John Peters Humphrey. Humphrey is remembered for his role in helping to draft the UDHR, yet in doing so he was working for the UN and not representing Canada, so the repurposing of his legacy to serve a national mythology around human rights is deeply problematic.

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