I wrote a brief post last week about the new Canadian Museum of History (or the rebranded Museum of Civilization, whichever you prefer).
An extended version of this is now an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen, online today, in print tomorrow. You can read it here.
I'd love to hear from anyone working at the museum who has a different story from that being presented by the executives. Is what we are hearing actually what will be in the museum? Looks, so far, pretty mild and innocuous.
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
A new website with an interesting premise promises to bring us some stories on former prime ministers and governor generals (or is that governors general, I always forget). Roderick Benns of Fireside Publishing has started the site and it is now up and running here.
There are several stories up there now including one on Paul Martin's aboriginal aboriginal youth entrepreneurship program, an interview with Michael Meighen, the Senator and grandson of former prime minister Arthur Meighen.
And then I have a slightly longer piece on Arthur Meighen that I titled 'The Unlucky Prime Minister'. If you're looking for a primer on the King-Byng dispute, and a fresh take to boot, in less than 1700 words, this is it. And hey, who doesn't want that?!
Thursday, 28 November 2013
The renaming and rejigging of the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa has managed to offend many in Canadian history circles over the last year. Many are sceptical about the reasons it is being changed to the Canadian Museum of History.
Even former director Victor Rabinovitch spoke out publicly about the change. He linked it to what he called "'the Harper-Kenney vision of Canada as a land of victorious armed forces, brawny resource extractors and compliant monarchists.”
Today the Ottawa Citizen has a story from Don Butler giving us a first sneak peak into the main hall of Canadian history. See the story here for all of the details.
According to David Morrison, head of the museum's team putting together the hall, the main themes to be addressed are aboriginals and their relations with European settlers, French-English relations, and immigration. He talks of how “There is a sort of a backbone to the hall of political history, but most of the real content is the consequences of political history...What did this mean to ordinary people?”
The story says that '[t]he history hall exhibit will include events that make most Canadians squirm today, such as residential schools, the imprisonment of Ukrainian Canadians during the First World War, anti-potlatch laws and the forced relocation of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.'
We won't know what it will actually look like for a while. I'm sure some will be critical no matter what. But honestly the framework, on the surface, seems ho-hum, as expected. No conspiracy. No massive exclusion. Just the kind of Canadian history you would teach in a general survey.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Source: Library and Archives Canada
After Meighen left the Senate and was defeated in a comeback bid to reenter the House of Commons as prime minister in 1942 (much to the relief of Mackenzie King who feared having a decent opposition leader, capable of tearing him apart in debate just as the conscription debated threatened to tear the country apart), Meighen went back to Toronto and became rather wealthy as the head of an investment business. He later set up the trust under his name to provide money for his descendants after he died.
Families don't always get along.
The CBC came onto this story as part of its own investigation into offshore tax havens - the far-sighted and generous way so many wealthy Canadians ensure that they don't have to support our country and our government any more than they absolutely have to. Patriotism for the wealthy - diluted because otherwise they would just be so overcome with devotion - financially verklempt.
Documents submitted to the courts as part of the lawsuit allege that some in the family funnelled money through complex offshore investments so as to avoid paying taxes. In the midst of all of this, some in the family felt that they were being left out. The case was settled out of court and none of this was ever settled in court.
Perhaps most strikingly, the documents allege that the scheme to get the funds out of the country was put together by a man named Jim Love. Alas, if the documents are true, Mr Love would seem to have been struck by a particularly hard case of patriotism for the wealthy. You see Mr Love is also the chair of the board of governors at the Canadian Mint. That's right: the man in charge of making Canadian money. He's also allegedly a strong Conservative and good friends with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
I don't know what to say. I'm overcome. I'm… verklempt.
Friday, 22 November 2013
The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that Tim Cook has been honoured with the Governor General's History Award for Popular Media, the Pierre Berton Award.
It is well deserved. Cook is a historian curator at the War Museum as well as the author of several well-known and nicely written and researched books on military history in Canada. He's a good writer, a great speaker, and the award couldn't have gone to a more decent, well-deserving historian.
If you haven't already, go and pick up one of his books.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Great news for political historians and political junkies. A few months ago I wrote about how the reconstructed parliamentary debates from the 19th century were now available online.
Now I see from the Canadian Historical Association's voxhistorica that all of Canada's parliamentary debates are now - finally - online. What a great resource. You can find them at the Library of Parliament's website here.
I'm in the midst of sorting out the King-Byng fiasco of 1926 so I immediately went to look up the place in 1927 when King was obliged to hand over the letter he had written submitting his resignation to Byng in 1926.
King went all across the country in 1926 campaigning against 'Downing Street' interference - that is interference from the British Government in Canadian affairs. He won the election and King-Byng became yet another gem in the glorious Liberal story of Canada's rise from colony to nation.
Only problem? In his letter of resignation, King wrote that he had urged Byng, and continued to urge him, to consult the British government before he made a decision. The letter only emerged after King won the election. It did little good. But it's a marvellous instance of a politician having to face his own dishonesty.
Of course, King was well used to this and to read him adroitly squirming out of any wrongdoing is both amazing and disgusting.
And now I can read this from my own house. Great resource.
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
I've been reading my way, very pleasurably, through Eleanor Catton's new book The Luminaries and now I see that she has just won the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. (see the details on all winners here). The book is wonderful so far, and Catton's interview on The Sunday Edition on the weekend, showed her to be thoughtful, with a graceful, inventive speaking style. But to call her Canadian is…well… a stretch. She was Canadian born and then moved to New Zealand at a very young age. Her accent is Kiwi, the book itself draws on Kiwi history. This is a trend in the literary awards if late - going off in search of make-believe Canadians.
It's also, of course, happening in Canadian academia as I wrote about earlier: who needs anything Canadian when we have The World??
There were a couple of historical links to the GGs:
The non-fiction award went to Sandra Djwa for her biography of the poet P K Page. I haven't yet read this book, but Djwa's biography of the lawyer, poet and intellectual F R Scott is fantastic.
And then the children's illustration award Matt James for his book Northwest Passage which illustrates the Stan Rogers song of the same name.
UPDATE 14 November
Writing the above spurred me on to write even more and the good folks at the Ottawa Citizen published the extended version of my critique of the GG Awards Committee's decision to give the fiction prize to Eleanor Catton this year. As I hinted at above, I think this about more than just this prize and this author.
You can see the full op-ed on the Citizen's page here. (and buy a paper if you are in Ottawa!)