Tag Archives: Canadian History

  • Culture, Identity, Community: An Excerpt on the Origins of Canada Day

    Whether you’re relaxing on a dock, sharing beer and barbecue with friends and family, or waiting for the familiar crack of the fireworks at your closest city centre, this long weekend is all about celebrating Canada! And what better way to nod to the anniversary of Confederation than by learning how Canada Day came to be? We’re sharing an essay from Matthew Hayday's and Raymond Blake’s collection Celebrating Canada: Holidays, National Days, and the Crafting of Identities and, as Hayday points out, the process of establishing an annual celebratory tradition on July 1st was far from straightforward...

    So turn up the "Patio Lanterns" and kick off your weekend festivities with some background on one of our favourite holidays. Learn more in “Canada’s Day: Inventing a Tradition, Defining a Culture.” Have a safe and happy long weekend!


    Excerpt from Celebrating Canada: Holidays, National Days, and the Crafting of Identities.

    Chapter 11: Canada's Day: Inventing a Tradition, Defining a Culture

    On 1 July 1977, ten million Canadians watched on television as gold lame–clad Acadian disco diva Patsy Gallant crooned “Besoin d’amour” from a stage on Parliament Hill. Two years later, Gallant sang her hit “Sugar Daddy” to recently elected Prime Minister Joe Clark before a crowd of tens of thousands of live spectators on Parliament Hill and an audience of millions on television. Many Canadians wondered, and several inquired of their government, what exactly Gallant’s performance had to do with the founding of Canada. Some opined that her act was better suited to a nightclub than to an event commemorating Confederation.

    The manner in which the anniversary of Confederation – 1 July 1867 – has been celebrated in an official capacity has varied widely over the years. Parliament Hill has hosted acts as disparate as Ukrainian Shumka dancers, world-renowned jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, a ballet pas-de-deux, the Calgary Safety Patrol Jamboree, and pop stars from René Simard to Anne Murray. In more recent years, the official celebrations have featured Canadian pop, country, and indie musical stars, including Metric, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench, Marie-Mai, and Serena Ryder. The format of the official celebrations has ranged from displays of military pageantry to ethnic folk festivals to variety shows featuring big-name stars. In some years, the government sponsored extravaganzas on Parliament Hill that were televised across the nation. In others, the Ottawa celebrations were downsized and downplayed in favour of funding community-based celebrations. Yet amid this diversity of form and content, what perhaps is most surprising is the fact that, prior to 1958, the federal government had organized only two celebrations of the anniversary of Canada’s founding – in 1917 and 1927, the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries of Confederation. Apart from these major events, July 1st passed practically unobserved at the national level. As the chapters in this volume by Forrest Pass, Gillian Leitch, Lianbi Zhu, and Timothy Baycroft demonstrate, there were a number of different ways that Dominion Day was observed in various communities across Canada in the decades following Confederation, but the federal government was absent from these events as either an organizer or funder.

    Government-sponsored annual celebrations of July 1st were instituted when Canada was passing through a period of national re-examination. By the mid-1950s, many Canadians no longer took for granted that Canada had a well-defined national culture, primarily rooted in British traditions. Changing immigration patterns and increased discontent from francophone Quebec led to a questioning of Canadian identity. A declining British Empire and changing trade relations prompted some to call for a rethinking of Canada’s role in international affairs and of its relations with the United States. In its 1951 report, the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences (the Massey Commission) called on the federal government to assume a role in the promotion of Canadian culture. Many wondered what Canadian culture and identity would look like by the 1967 centennial.

    While a host of different ethno-cultural groups, artists, authors, and lobbyists advanced various prescriptions for how Canadian identity and culture would and should develop, the federal government was also seeking to exert some direction over an “official” Canadian culture that it would sanction and support through various programs and policies. The celebrations that it sponsored for July 1st are a fascinating case study of the type of national identity and culture that it wanted to support. As the following discussion will demonstrate, these celebrations varied substantially from year to year, as different government ministers, bureaucrats, and interest groups tried to shape a tradition of national, state-sponsored celebrations of Canadian identity and culture. This was a highly contested process, which extended not only to the content of these state-sponsored celebrations, but also to their structure and form. An examination of the celebrations of what was variously termed Dominion Day, Canada Week, Canada’s Birthday, and ultimately Canada Day provides a crucial window into the federal government’s emergent cultural policy and how it was wedded to the broader political objectives of the day. These objectives and policies shifted substantially from when these celebrations were initially instituted in 1958 to the forms that they would assume by the late-1980s and beyond. These shifts were shaped by four major forces: changing conceptions of the meaning of the Canadian nation and the place of individuals and communities within it; divergent opinions of what elements of Canadian culture should be included in official celebrations; political and economic factors that defined the desirable formats of the festivities; and an evolving conception of what role the mass media could and should play in fostering mass participation in these events.

    Imagined Communities and Invented Traditions: A Bit of Theory

    Canada was led by six prime ministers between 1958, when official federally sponsored Dominion Day celebrations were launched, and the early 1990s, by which point a standard structure for Canada Day celebrations had been settled upon. Each prime minister had different ideas about the direction of the country, and each government approached the celebration of July 1st with a clear aim of fostering a sense of national community by inventing a nation-wide tradition. In this respect, these governments were engaging in processes of creating linkages between Canadians and crafting the ideology and identity of the Canadian “imagined community,” to use political scientist Benedict Anderson’s useful concept. Anderson explored the processes by which individuals came to think of themselves as members of communities, and ultimately nations, even though they lived great distances from each other and would likely never meet most of their fellow citizens in person – a geographic challenge that is particularly significant in a state as vast as Canada. Anderson argued that a number of different elements fostered a sense of commonality among members of national communities. The development of a national mass media through print capitalism was crucial to this process. Anderson posited that a diverse group of people reading a given newspaper, for example, albeit in different locations, would feel a sense of community because all these individuals were reading the same news, at the same time, about the same people whom the publishers had decided were important for their readership to learn about. This was a way of creating a sense of shared national experience for people who did not necessarily live in immediate proximity to each other. As will become clear, organizers of Canadian celebrations sought to create similar shared experiences for citizens, whether in person or mediated by television, on their national day. This project relates to the argument of Maurice Charland, writing in a Canadian context, about how Canadian governments have attempted to deploy a form of “technological nationalism,” first by building railways and transportation networks, and then by constructing radio and television communication systems to bind together a geographically vast country through a web of shared telecommunications.

    Historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s concept of “invente traditions” is also directly pertinent to this analysis. Hobsbawm, Ranger, and their colleagues were among the first to seriously investigate the development of rituals and how they were tied into nation-building projects. Specifically, they argued that many so-called rituals and national traditions were in fact relatively recent inventions. These traditions – anthems, folk activities, and the like – were assumed to have ancient historic roots, yet many were in fact invented by governments and elites to provide cultural reinforcement for relatively new national political boundaries. Although Canada’s political boundaries were more or less well established by the 1950s, the nation’s identity and culture were clearly in flux, and the state took an active interest in shaping the direction in which they would evolve. As Stuart Ward discusses in chapter 13 in this volume, such a phenomenon was common to many settler countries throughout the British Commonwealth, and they engaged in similar processes of state-directed efforts to craft new or modified national identities using commemorative and celebratory events.

    The case of the celebration of July 1st appears to fit well into these theoretical models of nation building. In June 1868, Governor General Monck called for a celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the Dominion of Canada and “enjoin[ed] and call[ed] upon all Her Majesty’s loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the due and proper celebration of the said Anniversary on the said FIRST day of JULY next.” There was uncertainty, however, as to whether this proclamation meant that 1 July was a legal holiday. A bill put forth the following year by Thomas McConkey, Liberal member of Parliament for Simcoe North, to make Dominion Day a legal holiday ran into stiff opposition from both Liberal and Conservative MPs, largely because of lingering hostile feelings towards Confederation from Nova Scotia. Indeed, William Chipman, an anti-Confederate-turned-Liberal MP from that province, argued that it would be a “day of lamentation” and further evidence of the powerlessness of Nova Scotians should the bill succeed. McConkey opted to withdraw the bill after second reading.

    It would be a further decade before a Senate bill introduced by Dr Robert Carrall of British Columbia led to Dominion Day being officially made a public holiday in 1879. In the Senate debates on the Dominion Day bill, it became clear that July 1st was being observed as a de facto holiday in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, but not necessarily in the other four provinces. Moreover, representatives from Nova Scotia noted the lingering bad blood over Confederation in their province, while Conservative Senator Clement Cornwall of British Columbia objected to the bill because the Terms of Union of that province’s admission to Confederation were as yet unfulfilled. The bill was, however, adopted by the Senate and swiftly passed through the House of Commons that year.

    Although Dominion Day was legally a public holiday from 1879 onwards, very little was done by the federal government to officially observe the day over the first ninety years following Confederation. The fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1917 were largely overshadowed by the First World War. The only major anniversary celebration was the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, an event that included a national radio broadcast from Parliament Hill. Robert Cupido has considered how the radio broadcast might have reached many Canadians with the means to afford radio receivers, but contends that many others would have been excluded from these celebrations because of a lack of access to this technology. Jane Nicholas has considered how the Diamond Jubilee celebrations served to reinforce particular conceptions of gender, shoring up a bourgeois masculinity threatened by the modern era. As Robert Talbot points out, the Mackenzie King government saw the Diamond Jubilee as an opportunity to advance a bicultural conception of Canada through the festivities.

    Apart from the jubilee, Dominion Day was primarily observed as a day off work, when Canadians would head to their cottages, host a barbecue, attend a sporting event, or otherwise enjoy the beginning of summer. As is evident from Forrest Pass’s chapter, for example, many towns and cities organized community-based celebrations, but nothing was done at the national level to try to make July 1st a celebration of Canadian nationhood. As the chapters by Marcel Martel, Joel Belliveau, Brittney Anne Bos, and Allison Marie Ward demonstrate, Empire Day was the site of similar municipally organized parades and school-based activities, while Victoria Day, after it was adopted as a national holiday in 1901 (discussed in Chris Tait’s chapter), was an occasion for picnics, leisure, and fireworks displays. One should be careful not to assume that these and other holidays that lacked federal state ceremonial events and pageantry were devoid of importance or meaning. The fact that they were holidays was itself of significance to Canadians, and indeed labour movement leaders could attest to the complicated nature of how individuals responded to holidays. While union organizers wanted workers to march in parades and attend formal picnics on Labour Day, many were happy to have the day off for rest and relaxation with family and friends.

    From 1958 onwards, each federal government attempted to develop or modify the tradition of celebrating July 1st. The manner in which this process unfolded was shaped by different conceptions of what sort of culture Canada should (or did) have, the extent to which organizers wanted to explicitly tie cultural celebrations to national unity, and varying conceptions of what form of celebration would best foster a sense of a common Canadian culture. In the first thirty years of these celebrations, various models were tested to foster new traditions. Yet, inconsistencies in approach and content appear to have delayed the implantation of a tradition of celebrating July 1st as a national holiday.

    Part of the delay in settling on a format for these celebrations and determining their content can be accounted for by the heated debates about Canadian identity that were ongoing in the immediate postwar period. Such debates have been the subject of an important and growing body of scholarship. As authors in a series of volumes edited by Phillip Buckner and R. Douglas Francis have observed, these were decades in which Canada was rethinking its relationship to the British world. It was also a period in which Canadians simultaneously embraced economic, defence, and cultural ties to the United States while also worrying that Canada would lose its distinctive identity. It was these fears, in part, that prompted the creation of the Massey Commission in 1949. This commission recommended steps to bolster Canadian culture, but its vision was clearly rooted in “high culture” institutions such as literature, dance, theatre, and universities – all elements that were closely tied to Canada’s British heritage. The Massey approach largely ignored, when it was not overtly disdainful of, the more “popular” forms of culture from the United States, including radio, popular music, popular fiction, and the emergence of television. It would not be until the 1960s that the Canadian government began to try more actively to champion a “Canadian” popular culture. This ambivalence about “high” versus “popular” culture would play out in significant ways in how July 1st was celebrated.

    If Canada were to move away from its traditional, British-oriented cultural identity, there was active debate over what direction this move might take, to what extent it should occur, and whether all Canadians would embrace it. José Igartua and Bryan Palmer have both argued that, by the 1960s, the traditional model of Canadian identity had broken down. Palmer contends that no new culture had replaced it, while Igartua contends a bilingual, multicultural identity was emerging as its replacement. Chris Champion, on the other hand, sees a British influence even in the new symbols that were emerging, such as the new Maple Leaf flag, while Gary Miedema argues that public religion persisted in Canada’s public commemorations. Canada’s First Nations occupied an uncertain place in this evolving Canadian identity, although their presence and contributions were increasingly seen as important. How they were conceived as “fitting in” changed over time and fluctuated between assimilationist messages and ones that were more open to cultural preservation. Such challenges to traditional British cultural identity have been and continue to be present throughout post-Confederation history in both national and provincial celebrations, but a new discourse on multiculturalism was emerging, however tenuously, by the 1960s. That other ethno-cultural communities would seek to be included in a redefined Canadian identity is not surprising, given how extensively many ethnic communities had been excluded from full participation in Canadian society, as Lianbi Zhu and Timothy Baycroft’s chapter on Chinese-Canadian protest activity on Dominion Day shows. While many French-Canadian and Acadian minority communities welcomed this new openness, Québécois nationalists often failed to see themselves in these new models of Canada. Indeed, Marc-André Gagnon’s chapter clearly shows how Québécois leaders explicitly observed a celebration that was a rival to its English-Canadian counterpart. Also, as Eva Mackey points out, even if, by the time of Canada’s 125th birthday celebrations in 1992 the federal government were articulating a new model of a bilingual, multicultural Canada that showed increased openness to First Nations, there was still a mass of white, unmarked “Canadian-Canadians” who neither accepted this new identity nor saw themselves reflected in it. Even if many Canadians did accept this new national identity, some were more interested in how their local and regional identities were articulated and addressed. Certainly the process of defining, articulating, and promoting new conceptions of Canadian identity was hotly contested, which helps explain the tumultuous process of inventing a tradition of celebrating Canada’s national holiday, to which we now turn.

  • The Secret History of Pride

    Pride Month

    To celebrate Pride Month, we have developed a blog series with weekly posts, designed to allow UTP authors the opportunity to share with us what Pride means to them, and to discuss a whole manner of Pride-related topics.

    Our final contribution to our Pride Month series comes from Sex and the Weimar Republic author Laurie Marhoefer. Marhoefer shares what Pride means to her, explores the history of gay rights activism, and notes how Pride has changed over the past century.


    Pride, which in my neighborhood in Seattle rivals Christmas for importance (we already have our flags and signs out and the marches are two weeks away), came out of a historical event, the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. Stonewall wasn’t the beginning of gay rights, however. Gay rights has a much longer history. A lot of it isn’t nearly as sexy as Pride (at its best) can be.

    The fight for legal equality for “homosexuals,” as they came to be called towards the end of the nineteenth century, seems to have begun in a Swiss alpine village in the 1830s, if it did not begin with the French Revolution.

    Well before the Second World War, many people around the world (and a majority of Germans, I’ll bet) knew that there were same-sex loving individuals who claimed to be members of a “sexual minority” (rather than debauched sinners, as the Christian worldview had it) and argued for the repeal of laws against same-sex sex. Very few people agreed with the homosexual emancipationist view of things. But some did, particularly the homosexuals themselves.

    The thing was, this movement for gay rights may not have made you want to wave the rainbow flag around. It was kind of conservative. My UTP book, Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis, explores that movement, led by Magnus Hirschfeld and others. Those activists fought Germany’s law against sodomy. But they did so by vilifying sex workers, creating an implicitly white gay subject, and buying into eugenics. By the 1920s there was a robust independent trans rights movement, too, and it was also invested in making trans people “respectable.”

    Before the late 1960s, for most gay activists the goal wasn’t to be out and proud. It was to get the police to stop arresting people for having consensual sex in private. People wanted to quietly live out their otherwise conventional lives. A giant parade of homosexuals and gender-benders would have horrified them.

    Pride is different. It is from the 1970s, not the 1830s or the 1920s. Some of Pride’s roots are in radical, antiracist, anti-imperialist left-of-center gay and trans activism. Though it hasn’t always lived up to those beginnings – for more on that, see what I wrote here – it sometimes does. The pro-sex fabulousness of Pride, and the in-your-face claim on public space that Pride makes, that’s from the 1970s, baby.

    That’s what Pride means to me. Gay rights isn’t always left-of-center. It never exists outside of another, broader political vision, and those visions can be pretty darn right-of-center. But Pride can be a better moment in queer and trans politics, a leftist, antiracist moment, one that echos a time when queer and trans people set out to transform the world into a more just one, not just to quietly fit in to an unjust world.


    Laurie Marhoefer is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington.

  • Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

    June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

    To celebrate this day, we're providing an exclusive excerpt from the latest book by author John Borrows, winner of the 2019 Canada Council Molson Prize. Law’s Indigenous Ethics examines the revitalization of Indigenous peoples’ relationship to their own laws and, in so doing, attempts to enrich Canadian constitutional law more generally. Organized around the seven Anishinaabe grandmother and grandfather teachings of love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect, this book explores ethics in relation to Aboriginal issues including title, treaties, legal education, and residential schools.


    Excerpt from Law's Indigenous Ethics

    1. Zaagi’idiwin – Love
    2. Debwewin – Truth
    3. Zoongide’ewin – Bravery
    4. Dabaadendizowin – Humility
    5. Nibwaakaawin – Wisdom
    6. Gwayakwaadiziwin – Honesty
    7. Manaaji’idiwin – Respect

    The following chapters examine these gifts, each in their turn. As noted, these are the Seven Grandmother/Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabe, as made popular by Elder Eddie Benton Benai. This work discusses how these principles can apply to Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the Canadian state and those of the broader world. In so doing, this book advances an ongoing research agenda that explores the relevance of Indigenous law in contemporary legal affairs.

    The Seven Grandmother/Grandfather Teachings are found in constitutions, by-laws, teacher’s guides, school walls, books, blogs, posts, songs, stories, and other artist works across Anishinaabe-akiing (Anishinaabe territory). Reference to these teachings has greatly expanded through the last twenty-five years. I have been told that it is not really “traditional” to organize our laws in this manner; it has been said that they are “new” and therefore not really Anishinaabe. Some of these people believe that Indigenous authority can be rooted only in antiquity, thus rendering suspect any invention, interpretive reorganization, or expansion of Anishinaabe world views. Constitutional originalism has long been used to exclude or marginalize Indigenous peoples.

    I have not been able to determine the origin or longevity of the Seven Teachings. Their present arrangement may be a recent phenomenon, though I have no evidence one way or another. Fortunately, it might be advantageous to my thesis if the contemporary organization of the Seven Grandmother/Grandfather Teachings was of a recent vintage. Their use, expansion, and development across Anishinaabe-akiing might demonstrate that Indigenous law is being made, created, and invented in the present day. I have long argued that it is not necessary that every law be old to be standard-setting for present-day Anishinaabe communities. Indigenous law can be a living and dynamic force if not tethered to what is regarded as being integral to aboriginal communities prior to European contact or sovereignty. The Seven Grandmother/ Grandfather Teachings could broaden our legal imagination if they are regarded as current expressions of Indigenous authority in the modern world, regardless of whether their origin is old or new.

    As with my other books, this work examines Indigenous law through the lens of one specific group – the Anishinaabe. I consider Indigenous law from an Anishinaabe perspective because this is what I know best. I am Anishinaabe and a member of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation. I have worked with Anishinaabe law for over twenty-five years. My reserve is called Neyaashiinigmiing on the western shores of Georgian Bay, a four-hour drive north of Toronto. The Anishinaabe more generally live within the Great Lakes watershed, surrounding large parts of Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. We also occupy farmlands and woodlands north of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. We likewise have reservations/reserves in the forests and prairies of northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and southern Saskatchewan. There are even isolated Anishinaabe communities as far west as Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia. It is a big group. Anishinaabe people form part of the largest Indigenous nation in the United States and Canada, rivalling in size the Navajo, Cherokee, Cree, and Lakota nations.

    In taking this approach, I must stress that this book is not intended to be representative of all legal traditions in Canada, though I do hope it opens space for them to interact with Canadian law in their own unique ways. As I have tried to explain in my work, there are diverse viewpoints concerning law’s nature and scope within and beyond Indigenous legal orders. While I recognize the distinctiveness of each Indigenous legal regime, there is value in beginning our enquiry with a specific Indigenous lens. Ideas are presented from one group’s perspective in order to open  doors to alternative possibilities in Canadian law.

    Thus I do not write about Anishinaabe legal principles because I regard them as superior in any way; they are just as helpful and misleading as any other legal tradition across the world. I write from a particular perspective because law must flow from identifiable contexts.  At the same time, I draw more general lessons from Anishinaabe law, because Indigenous peoples’ laws (including Anishinaabe laws) must be relevant in international, national, and local settings. Other Indigenous legal orders will be just as valuable, if not more so, in facilitating resurgence and reconciliation across the land and beyond. Indigenous law grows from a place, but it cannot always be contained by that place, at least in some of its manifestations. This is the case with every legal tradition, including those indigenous to Canada. Therefore, while I use Anishinaabe ideas in this work, they must be viewed as signalling what is possible when Indigenous law interacts with Canadian law more generally.

    When analytical frames shift away from “Western” legal frames, this can help us to see law in new ways. As a result, in this book I apply Anishinaabe law – as much for what it can tell us about Western law – as for what it reveals about Anishinaabe reasoning. The constraints, biases, and preoccupations of the common law and civil law systems are somewhat diminished when relevance and justiciability do not rest on their terms. Thus, this is very much a book about “Western” law too. I have written from an Anishinaabe legal perspective to ask questions that may be less likely to occur in Canadian law without Indigenous input.

    These are questions like, How is love relevant to regulation and dispute resolution – particularly when considering treaties? What is the role of relative truth in the law – especially when considering law’s so called foundational sources and force? Is bravery a constitutional value, and can it be applied in an Aboriginal rights context? Does humility have a place in helping us understand Aboriginal title’s relationship with private property? Can wisdom be specifically invoked to require more holistic approaches to learning that take us outside the classroom and onto the land? Can honesty assist us in acknowledging Canadian law’s syncretic nature – and can this affect how we teach law? Can respect be activated to inculcate mutual responsibilities in Indigenous-settler relations – especially when residential schools and other assimilatory pressures are at issue?

    Each of the following chapters will examine these seven questions/gifts from an Anishinaabe legal perspective. Though my views of Anishinaabe law reflect the research and experience of one person (me), I have tried to analyse the tradition from many different angles. You should not regard my views as being representative of their field; many people will disagree with me or emphasize different parts of the tradition with varied intensities. This book exists as an exercise of “issue identification.” It can be considered an invitation to people who work with other legal traditions to compare their views with those expressed in this book. Perspicuous contrast and vocabularies of comparison have long motivated my Anishinaabe trickster-inflected methodologies. This book follows earlier work in this regard.

    When identifying issues, I am careful not to be overly prescriptive in linking Anishinaabe laws to the themes of each chapter (love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect). Again, I am not the authority in these matters; the practice of Anishinaabe law is a collective endeavour. I am merely offering one set of limited views on a field. Moreover, Anishinaabe legal tradition requires that I leave some space between Anishinaabe law and constitutional issues raised in each section. This might be frustrating for some readers who are looking for more specific connections between the Seven Grandmother/Grandfather laws and Canadian constitutional law. I believe these connections are strong and I have tried to weave them carefully throughout the text. Nevertheless, there are places where these connections may seem somewhat ambiguous. This methodology is nonetheless deployed because Anishinaabe approaches require readers to activate their own agency in answering the questions presented herein. It would be inappropriate at times for me to be more directive. This has been called precept ambiguity by scholars who observe Anishishaabe life. Nuance is often valued over highly specific delineations, as will be the case as issues are identified throughout this book.

    Furthermore, some of the “gaps” between Anishinaabe and Canadian law in this text illustrate the distance that still needs to be crossed in Canadian constitutional law. It is not always Indigenous law that is ambiguous. Canadian law is itself a cultural system that does not
    effectively relate to Indigenous legal approaches, and this also leads to ambiguity in how systems may be connected as they continue to develop. At the same time, I have worked to provide interpretive highlights through the text, and to identify connections and possibilities for readers to make use of the seven teachings in relation to the broader legal issues explored in each chapter.


    To read the full introduction, please click here.

    John Borrows is a world-renowned law professor at the University of Victoria. He's Anishinabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Borrows specializes in Indigenous legal rights and comparative constitutional law. He has written and spoken extensively on Indigenous legal rights and traditions, storytelling, treaties and land claims, and constitutional and environmental law. He is also widely recognized as an authority in the field of Indigenous law, and has received many honors and awards for his work with and for Indigenous peoples in many countries.

     

  • The Sound of History: A Chronicle of Captain Eddie McKay

    University of Toronto Press commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War by curating a selection of new and recent books that remind us of our nation’s history, courage, and sacrifice. Notable amongst these titles is One in a Thousand: The Life and Death of Captain Eddie McKay, Royal Flying Corps by Graham Broad.

    Broad’s lively chronicle of Eddie McKay, a varsity athlete at Western University, who flew with the Royal Flying Corps, doubles as an engaging meditation upon the historical process. The biography ends with four unsolved events in McKay’s life. These mysterious tales remind us that even the most detailed account of a person’s life is never complete.

    We’re proud to present a recording of Broad reading perhaps the most dramatic of these tales, “The Woman.” The short mystery has been divided into several instalments. Like the radio serials that were all the rage in McKay’s time, we will post a new audio track every day leading up to Remembrance Day – so you can enjoy the sound of history.

    Introduction

    Part One: The Woman

    Part Two: Who Was Maud Palmer?

    Part Three: An Unexpected Possibility

    Part Four: A Case of Mistaken Identity

    Part Five: The Mystery Returns

    Part Six: It's Not Impossible

    Coda

  • Talking Back to the Indian Act

    Talking Back to the Indian Act: Critical Readings in Settler Colonial Histories is a comprehensive "how-to" guide for engaging with primary source documents. But more than that, the book explores the Indian Act itself, and gives readers a much better understanding of this vital piece of legislation. We asked authors Mary-Ellen Kelm and Keith D. Smith to discuss their book, and why learning this information and history is important.

    You can read an exclusive excerpt from the book here.

    “We find the Indian Act of 1876 are [sic] not calculated to promote our welfare if we accept it because it empowers the Superintendent General of Indian affairs to manage, govern, and control our lands, moneys, and properties without first obtaining the consent of the chiefs…”

    Talking Back to the Indian Act: Critical Readings in Settler Colonial Histories is being published at a key moment in our history. Not only do we live in an age of twenty-four-hour news outlets broadcasting sharply divergent and politically motivated narratives, and where the nature of evidence is questioned in overtly public ways – we are also poised to begin a process of reconciling with Indigenous people in this country. Talking Back addresses both these critical issues.

    The book provides a set of lessons in reading documents through a historical and critical lens that takes into account Indigenous and intersectional perspectives. In so doing, it demonstrates the historians’ craft as it can be reconceived so that alongside context, contingency, causation, change over time, and complexity (the five “Cs” of historical thinking), we also consider relationship, responsibility, respect, and reciprocity (the four “Rs” of Indigenous methodologies). It shows the value of thinking deeply about the role in historical experience played by gender, sexuality, ability, and other ways of being. As such, it introduces readers to an expansive approach to critically engaging with the written word that addresses key questions about the nature of evidence, how it is made, and how it can be used. Readers of Talking Back to the Indian Act will never again feel that they lack the tools to truly interrogate historical or other documents.

    At the same time, Talking Back to the Indian Act introduces the reader to one of the most important pieces of legislation in Canadian history and – sadly – one that many Canadians know very little about. For nearly a century and a half, the Indian Act has dominated the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples living within its borders. As it sought to erase individual and collective identities, the Indian Act operated to extinguish Indigenous political structures, regulate familial relationships and gender roles, degrade kinship networks, circumscribe economic undertakings, reduce the land base available to Indigenous communities, and prohibit practices central to the maintenance of Indigenous cultures. Even those Indigenous people who Canada did not choose to classify as “Indian” have been impacted by the Act as they struggled to assert their own distinct identities and legal rights.

    The provisions of the Indian Act, the surveillance required for its maintenance, and Indigenous responses to its intentions and effects have created a massive archive. It is from this prodigious body of material that Talking Back to the Indian Act draws the documents it uses to teach critical historical reading methods. Included here are: the original 1876 Act and the many amendments made to it, queries and clarifications from Canadian officials, law enforcement documents, legal opinions, court records, and reports from various commissions and inquiries. Importantly, here too are Indigenous people’s letters of protest, oral testimony, meeting transcripts of Indigenous organizations and inquiries, radio addresses, and creative works all talking back to the Indian Act from Indigenous perspectives. Readers who may have heard very little about the Indian Act will come away from this text with a better understanding of how the Act worked to constrain Indigenous lives and how Indigenous people persistently worked to overcome those constraints.

    Talking Back to the Indian Act provides a set of lessons that shine light on several critical aspects of the Act and Indigenous responses to them in historical context. It encourages students to move beyond simply reading historical documents and to engage with them in more refined and effective ways. To that end, readers of this text are given an introduction to the interpretative tools traditionally available to historians and how these might be utilized in concert with Indigenous methodologies and intersectional analyses. Students will come away from this book with a much better understanding of this pivotal piece of legislation as well as the dynamics involved in its creation, its maintenance, and the resistance it engendered.

    Talking Back to the Indian Act is not a definitive study of the Indian Act but includes a range of important topics that resonate across time and into the present. Each of these topics has stimulated an intriguing array of voices and document types available to researchers. This range of material has allowed the documents provided in this collection to be selected with variety of source type and perspective in mind. Readers will have the opportunity to not only interrogate individual letters, transcripts of oral accounts and testimony, official reports, reminiscences, legislation, creative writing, and other materials but also to consider the relative value of different kinds of sources to different sorts of projects that a researcher might undertake. In addition to the focus on issues that are significant in their own right, there are also a number of overarching themes represented here. For example, Canada’s goals of acquiring land and resources and assimilating Indigenous people are evident throughout this text, as is Indigenous resistance in its many forms.

    Exploring the contours and development of the Indian Act through the documents provided in this text will help students in all disciplines – as well as popular audiences – navigate the headlines of today. It is our hope that Talking Back to the Indian Act makes a contribution to historical understanding while at the same time enhancing the skills necessary to analyse our present situation and the most appropriate paths to the future.

    Mary-Ellen Kelm is Canada Research Chair and Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University, and Keith D. Smith teaches in the Departments of Indigenous Studies and History at Vancouver Island University.

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