Letter of Concern to the Police Services Board

I wrote this letter of concern to the London Police Services board because of a long term frustration with these issues in London and, in the immediate, an announcement yesterday that London Police Service would do a safety blitz targeting pedestrians and cyclists (see here for coverage in the Free Press, Global News, CBC, Blackburn). I get that they will be targeting “all road users” – and intersections are certainly the most dangerous part of our city – but the language used by London Police in these reports demonstrates clearly that they see pedestrians and cyclists as the problem, rather than what many of us perceive as a dangerous driving culture in the city. Anyway, I wanted to share because the only way to affect change at both London Police Service and City of London is at the top and from a policy and planning level.

September 13 2019

Dear Mr. Salih, Mayor Holder, Chief Williams and members of the Police Services Board,

I am writing to express my perception that London Police Services inadequately addresses pedestrian and cyclist safety. I have developed this perception over the past five years living in London, interacting with members of the Traffic Management Unit, and using our city’s infrastructure as a driver, cyclist and pedestrian. This week’s announcement that London Police Services would crack down on these road users confirms many of my suspicions.

My concerns are mostly based on experiences as a cyclist who commutes daily from Ryerson Public School to Huron University College. If you think about this commute, you will realize that I only cross one arterial road (Richmond) before arriving at Western’s campus, riding mostly in a residential neighbourhood and on the university campus. And yet, on a near weekly basis I end up in altercations with drivers who either do not give me enough space or roll through stop signs inattentively. Most concerning is that about once a month vehicles cross through intersections while my children (5 and 8) and I are still crossing. To be clear, I am talking about instances where a vehicle moves through the intersection while we are standing in front of it, not when we are almost through crossing.

Because of these frequent incidents in my residential neighbourhood, I have tried to understand London Police Services’ strategies to protect cyclists and pedestrians. I have read through all the material available on the “Reports and Statistics” section of your website. Doing so suggests to me that London Police Services neither takes this aspect of public safety very seriously, nor see it as part of your core mandate. Continue reading “Letter of Concern to the Police Services Board”

What does Canadian history look like? Active History at the 2016 CHA

This post was originally written with Daniel Ross and posted on ActiveHistory.ca in May 2016.

Keywords from the 2016 CHA Program
Keywords from the 2016 CHA Program

This weekend, historians from across the country will gather in Calgary for the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA). It’s one of the few opportunities for Canadian historians and historians of Canada to connect in person, share their most recent research, and discuss larger issues facing the profession. Many attendees also take advantage of the chance to learn firsthand about the history of an unfamiliar city or region and its communities. 

Since 2013, we’ve been using a couple of metrics – mainly word counts and chronological markers in paper and panel titles – to provide an overview of what attendees are working on and talking about. There’s nothing particularly rigorous about our methods, but previous posts (201320142015) have provided a starting point for discussions about what Canadian history looks like today, and how that profile has changed over time. 

As always, this year’s line-up speaks to the breadth and creativity of historical work being done in Canada.  Continue reading “What does Canadian history look like? Active History at the 2016 CHA”

Dartmouth College and Canada: The Problem of National Historiographies

This post originally appeared on Borealia in March 2016.

James Peachey, A Primer for the Use of the Mohawk Children, 1786

When I first learned about Louis Vincent Sawatanen, about a decade ago, I thought that this Wendat man from Lorette was exceptional. Indeed, in many ways he was. Sawatanen was competent, if not fluent, in at least five different languages (Wendat, Mohawk, French, English, and Abenaki). At the end of the eighteenth-century, when the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, and the subsequent settler floods that followed these conflicts radically transformed his world, he deftly navigated linguistic and religious chasms, bridging French/English, Patriot/Loyalist, and Protestant/Catholic divides. Indeed, in the midst of turmoil, Sawatanen also attended school, becoming the first Indigenous person from what would become Canada to graduate from a colonial college. He then returned to Lorette in 1791 both to start a school and begin a series of petitions against over a century of settler encroachments.[1]

What I have since learned, however, is that Sawatanen was not alone. Indeed, there are at least a half-dozen similar late-eighteenth-century Indigenous people, whose life stories and interactions with Moor’s Indian Charity School, an institution from which Dartmouth College developed, bear much in common with those of Sawatanen. Continue reading “Dartmouth College and Canada: The Problem of National Historiographies”

Indigenous Peoples: A Starting Place for the History of Higher Education in Canada

Is it time to rewrite the history of higher education in Canada? (Middlesex College, UWO, Wikicommons)
Is it time to rewrite the history of higher education in Canada? (Middlesex College, UWO, Wikicommons)

This post originally appeared on ActiveHistory.ca in January 2016

“The Bishop of Huron… applied for a grant in aid of the fund being raised by him for the foundation of a university at London, to be called the Western University of London, and intended for the training of both Indian and white students for the ministry of the Church of England in Canada.”

These words about the founding of Western University were printed in an 1879 summary of New England Company activities in Canada and the West Indies (see this document also). They record the Bishop of Huron Isaac Hellmuth’s soliciting funds for a new non-denominational university in southwestern Ontario. The reason they attracted my attention – and should attract yours – was because of the school’s supposed mandate: “the training of both Indian and white students.” This mandate seldom appears in the popular narrative of Western’s founding story, nor those of many other Canadian universities.

In our present-day discussion about First Nations, schooling and education rarely do nineteenth-century mandates like this feature into the conversation. The history of colonial schooling and higher education in Canada hardly addresses Indigenous peoples directly. When the subject arises, Indigenous peoples in schools or colleges are often marginalized and treated as exceptions rather than symbols and signs of historical processes and contexts that can inform our understanding about Canada’s colonial and imperial past (and present). The assumption is that through the assimilationist and segregationist policies of the Canadian state during the mid-to-late nineteenth century, colonists and Indigenous students had fundamentally different and separate experiences. This assumption is certainly and overwhelmingly true and a point that I am not trying to overturn here or in my broader work. Yet this approach obscures as much as it reveals.

When we look at the subject of nineteenth-century higher education with a wider lens we see some important trends that should point us towards a more critical examination of this subject. Indigenous peoples are figuratively, if not physically, often present at the beginnings of many of Canada’s post-secondary institutions.  Continue reading “Indigenous Peoples: A Starting Place for the History of Higher Education in Canada”

Truth and Reconciliation while teaching Canadian History?

This essay was originally posted in November 2015 on ActiveHistory.ca.

TRC coverFollowing the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report six months ago, universities across the country are re-evaluating our practices. Both individually (as recently seen at the University of Winnipeg and Lakehead University) and collectively through Universities Canada’s broad response to the commission’s final report, campuses across the country seem to be making a more concerted effort to respond to this call for change. Perhaps most directly for readers of ActiveHistory.ca, it is the 62nd and 65th calls to action that most directly affect our work as historians and history teachers. Call to action 62 focuses on the importance of collaboration between survivors, Indigenous peoples, educators and governments to provide resources, research and funding to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to redevelop curriculum and integrate Indigenous knowledge and pedagogies into the classroom; while 65 calls on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in a similarly collaborative approach, to establish a national research program focused on reconciliation.

Alongside survivor and Elder testimony, history and its practice are central to this report. In a recent talk here at Western, J.R. Miller noted that both in the TRC’s final report and the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples, the revisionist work of academic historians feature prominently. He’s right. In addition to Miller himself, scholars like James Axtell, John Borrows, Sarah Carter, Denys Delâge, Robin Fisher, Cornelius Jaenen, Mary-Ellen Kelm, Maureen Lux, John Milloy, Toby Morantz, Daniel Paul, John Reid, Georges Sioui and Bruce Trigger among others reshaped Canadian historiography over the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Their work laid the groundwork that – in part – has caused us to rethink and revise how Canada’s history is understood.

And yet, despite this historiographical shift, its influence on the broader structure of Canadian history seems minimal. The place of Indigenous peoples and perspectives flushed out in greater detail, perhaps, but still relegated to a few key moments and periods in Canada’s past. A cursory look at a handful of textbooks in the field, for example, makes the point most clearly.[1] Though textbooks have certainly improved their overall coverage of Indigenous peoples, few have made a substantial revision to their overall structure, only featuring Indigenous peoples as a prominent part of the discussion in a handful of places: European discovery, missionaries and the fur trade, and then interspersed throughout the pre-Confederation period; discussion peters out for the most part in the post-Confederation textbooks until the 1960s/70s (some as late as the 1990s), when Indigenous resistance and political action re-emerged. In today’s post I would like to build on these observations, which are also made in the TRC’s report (pages 234-239 and 246-258), by posing a simple question: How do the TRC’s findings and calls to action shape our teaching of the Canadian history survey course?

Continue reading “Truth and Reconciliation while teaching Canadian History?”

Evaluating our Assumptions: Rethinking Literacies in Canadian History

This essay was originally posted on Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History in Sept 2015.

Sarah Ainse (Oneida), Kahgegagahbowh (Mississauga), Pahtahsega (Mississauga), Shahwahnegezhik (Ojibwe), Kezhegowinninne (Ojibwe), Kahkewaquonaby (Mississauga), Sawatanen (Wendat), Ferrier Vincent (Wendat), Francois Annance (Abenaki), Pierre Paul Ozhunkarine (Abenaki), Nicolas Vincent (Wendat), Thayendanega (Mohawk), Kanonraron (Mohawk), Sahonwagy (Mohawk), Shawundais (Mississauga), Eleazar Williams (Mohawk), Henry Pahtahquahong Chase (Mississauga), and William Apess (Pequot). These are just a handful of northeastern Indigenous peoples from the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries who engaged in, and sometimes embraced, a culture of alphabetic literacy.

None of these names will surprise folks familiar with this time and place. Recently a number of important works have illuminated their lives (Kahkewaquonaby, Pahtahsega, Shahwahnegezhik, Kahgegagahbowh, Maungwudaus, Nahnebahwequay, and Shawundais were profiled in Donald Smith’s book Mississauga Portraits, and Michael Oberg, Rick Monture, and Philip Gura have recently published books that touch on Williams, Thayendanega, and Apess, respectively).[1] Despite their well-known biographies and the length of this list, as my work in this area develops I am struck by the fact that many historians continue to treat them as exceptional individuals.

Now don’t mistake this post for an argument that alphabetic literacy was the norm in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century northeast. That’s not the (or even a) point. It’s clear that most of the population (both Settler and Indigenous) lived in a primarily oral culture and that Indigenous literacies and oral practices continued to define both local and regional relationships throughout the period. Nonetheless, the abundance of Indigenous peoples writing letters, petitions, and accounts of their peoples during this period should raise important questions about the place of alphabetic literacy in Northeastern Indigenous communities. How and why did cultures of reading and writing emerge, and why do they become more prominent in the region at the dawn of the nineteenth century? Continue reading “Evaluating our Assumptions: Rethinking Literacies in Canadian History”

Let’s Stand Up and Be Counted: Gender and the Need for a Better Understanding of the Profession

This essay was originally posted on ActiveHistory.ca in July 2015.

Since January I’ve developed a bad habit of becoming completely enveloped by the live concerts on the Apple TV Station Qello. I just can’t stop watching them. A couple of months ago my partner (who wisely goes to bed rather than getting sucked into hours of concert watching) decided to join me. After a few tunes she turned to me and asked if the channel ever played any women artists (they do, periodically). Then she said: “Come to think of it, the music industry is dominated by male artists. Can you think of a musical group where there is a gender balance?” I couldn’t and I still can’t.

Not long after that conversation, I found myself at this year’s annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association where Lori ChambersElise Chenier and Anne Toews released some of the preliminary results from their analysis of the sex distribution in publications and prizes. The details of that study are really for them to share (though Active History would be happy to serve as a forum for this discussion). Suffice it to say, that their study demonstrates that publishing history in Canada continues to be a highly gendered practice. Since then I’ve been part of a number of conversations (with significantly different groups of people and without me directing the topic of discussion) where similar trends have been suggested in recent hires into tenure track jobs. The argument being that currently men are more likely to get hired than women.

Those of you who read Active History regularly will know that I like to reflect on the nature of the profession. So all of this talk about the gendered nature of the historical discipline got me counting. Over the last few nights I’ve gone through 47 departmental websites counting male and female faculty members in order to get a better understanding of the gendered dynamics of the profession. Like most of my posts written in this vein, this one is not so much a rigorous study as it is an initial impression. I offer it more to spark discussion and further study than as conclusive evidence about our professional culture. Continue reading “Let’s Stand Up and Be Counted: Gender and the Need for a Better Understanding of the Profession”

What does Canadian History Look Like? The CHA in 2015

This essay originally appeared on ActiveHistory.ca in June 2015

For the past two years I’ve written blog posts for the opening day of the Canadian Historical Association’s annual meeting (click here for 2013 and here for 2014). In those posts I created word clouds from the relevant paper and session titles in order to get a sense of what the field of Canadian history actually looks like. As historians gather today in Ottawa for three days of meetings (join us today at 5 pm for the Active History CHA group’s annual meeting), we have an ideal opportunity to take the pulse of Canadian history in order to get a broad sense of where the field is headed.

Today’s post is similar to those in the past. It is an overview (rather than a rigorous study) of the conference program (available here). Importantly, though, today’s post draws some slightly different conclusions than my earlier posts that are perhaps indicative of broader transitions in the field. This year’s program has some interesting things to say, I think, in terms of the place of Indigenous people, situating Canada in a global context, and the place of women in the past.[1] Continue reading “What does Canadian History Look Like? The CHA in 2015”

Lazy Historians, Disengaged Academics, and Over Paid Professors?

This essay was originally posted on ActiveHistory.ca in March 2015.

With thousands of Toronto-area teaching and research assistants out on strike as well as a very recent faculty strike at the University of Northern British Columbia, opinion-makers have begun to draw up proposed solutions for the ailments of higher education. Not surprisingly, given the frequent attention it draws, most have targeted tenured and tenure stream faculty members as the blight on the system that is making higher education unaffordable. Over the past few weeks all three of Canada’s major daily newspapers (click here for the Globehere for the Star, and here for the National Post) explained to their readers through ‘news’ reports or op-ed pieces that the underlying causes of the dramatic rise in itinerant labour is a result of the declining number of full-time over-paid tenured and tenure-track faculty willing to teach.

This type of editorializing – either through the guise of news or through the op-ed pages – is misguided and sets us back from actually achieving workable solutions and robust learning environments in our universities and colleges. Not only does the approach ignore research like CAUT’s, whose annual almanac this year suggests that in six of Canada’s ten provinces, universities spend more money on non-academic staff than academic teaching staff (suggesting that any discussion of costs needs to include the expenses associated with administration, student experience and student life in addition to classroom practices), but more importantly, for the purposes of this post, these attacks on tenured and tenure-track faculty mischaracterize the good work academics (and the students in our classes) are actually up to.[1] Continue reading “Lazy Historians, Disengaged Academics, and Over Paid Professors?”

What’s in a Place Name: Adelaide Hoodless and Mona Parsons

This essay was originally posted on ActiveHistory.ca in February 2015

Adelaide Hoodless with three of her children, circa 1887
Adelaide Hoodless with three of her children, circa 1887

Over the past week, ActiveHistory.ca has run a couple of posts about the politics of naming and local commemoration. These essays reminded me of a debate that Paul Bennett and I had a couple of years ago over the merits of renaming schools as the Halifax school board decided that the name Cornwallis was no longer an appropriate moniker for an educational institute (it isn’t BTW). These posts also coincided with a lecture I give every year in the Canadian history survey course on the social gospel, moral reform and suffrage. In this lecture, I spend a few minutes discussing the life and impact of Adelaide Hunter Hoodless, a conservative maternal feminist who played an important role in organizing a number of prominent women’s organizations and more generally in Canadian education at the end of the nineteenth century.

For me, lecturing on Adelaide Hoodless is deeply meaningful. Not only because Hoodless is a fascinating woman but – to be frank – mostly because this is the name of the elementary school I attended in Hamilton, Ontario. So when Kaleigh Bradley posted last Monday about the power of naming and renaming (and the importance of identifying, acknowledging and returning to Indigenous place names), I was reminded of my debate with Paul, where I made a similar argument: names can and should change, and that’s a good thing. In this context, though, and thinking about Adelaide Hoodless, it struck me just how important some settler place names are in determining how we situate ourselves in the world. And sometimes, as I hope to demonstrate at the end of this post, debates over renaming can lead to misguided government policies where naming practices are watered down for fear of controversy.

The impact of the public school’s name on my thinking was a long time coming. Although I spent eight years at Adelaide Hoodless Public School – even visiting her birthplace on a sick day with my Dad – it was not until I started teaching the Canadian history survey course that I came to learn about who Hoodless was and the important ways that she both shaped, and was shaped by, Canadian society. It is quite likely that I would have skipped over her biography in my teaching if it weren’t for the fact that I attended a school named in her honour. But – after digging a little deeper – I’ve increasingly come to believe that Hoodless’s life is worth remembering and teaching. Continue reading “What’s in a Place Name: Adelaide Hoodless and Mona Parsons”