Finding Louis Riel’s Voice

by Lauren Naus on May 9, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Max Hamon.

Image of Riel c. 1866. Library and Archives Canada

Honestly, it is thrilling to see one’s work appear in the Canadian Historical Review. In truth the process is never really finished, but at least there is now a flag marking something of a path through my travels in archives over the past few years. To find a new archival document that originated in Riel’s college experience and demonstrated his early engagement with the ideas of civilization was rewarding in itself. But, as I look at the essay now, I recognize how much this process has changed my own perspective on history and our relationship to our sources.

As I show in the article “Contesting Civilization” Riel had a preliminary experience of public life in Montreal when he presented his views at a college debate Sur l’Influences des Arts et Sciences. Such debates lie at the heart of “western civilization” (think Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and to see him deliberate and respond eloquently to these questions is a rare opportunity to watch an indigenous person speak back to imperialism. Mediated though he is by his peers, we hear Riel speaking publicly at the heart of the “civilized” British North America, Montreal. Riel’s is a rare voice that examined how imperialism, with its assumptions of superior civilization and culture, could be negotiated, even as he attempted to re-forge it.

The document also offers a chance to reflect on the relationship between historians and their sources, particularly those created by colonial institutions. Perhaps “deconstructing the colonial archive” seems a bit of old hat, but the discovery of this document reinforced for me some of the forces at play in the practice of history itself. We establish relationships with these sources—they become “ours”. These relationships define our work and what we “know”—we become them. Archives enable us even as they constrain us. Archives provide us with answers even as they deny them. So the puzzle emerges: What do we do with them? What do they do to us? (Or, to borrow from Jill Lepore, do we love them too much?)[1] As I argue, this document, for so long undisturbed and unnoticed in the Sulpician archives, affords a chance to scrutinize this relationship. I realized that, as is so often said about theory, sources are also “tools to think with”. This source allows us to think about other perspectives on “civilization” that have been marginalized by the overbearing power of a particular colonial system.

[1] Jill Lepore, “Historians Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography,” Journal of American History 88, no. 1 (2001): 129–44.

Max Hamon’s research note, “Contesting Civilization: Louis Riel’s Defence of Culture at the Collège de Montréal” appears in the latest edition of the Canadian Historical Review. Read it today at CHR Online – or on Project MUSE –

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National Gallery of Canada and University of Toronto Press launch an online open access Journal

Toronto, Canada, May 3, 2016 —Together with the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), University of Toronto Press Journals announced today the launch of the Web version of the National Gallery of Canada Review.

The National Gallery of Canada Review ( marks a new era in the National Gallery of Canada’s strong tradition of scholarly activity. Following in the footsteps of the Bulletin, produced from 1963 to 1985, and the original National Gallery of Canada Review, published from 2000 to 2008, the NGCR is a vibrant online, open access resource that features the investigations and scholarly engagements of prominent curators and art historians with the Gallery’s world class collections. The content featured in the NGCR is rich and varied, and is designed to include the work of a wide breadth of contributors with many areas of expertise.NGCR

The NGCR will be published annually in both French and English.

“In its content, the National Gallery of Canada Review reflects the identity of our institution and its six curatorial departments.  We are very proud to re-launch this important publication and to expand its reach through the web, making it available for free. With content devoted to the study of the national collection, it will be useful both to art history researchers and to anyone wishing to discover the Gallery’s treasures through the writing of our expert curators,” said NGC Chief Curator and Editor-in-Chief of the NGCR, Paul Lang. “And we are very pleased to make this possible thanks to the expertise and online platform of the University of Toronto Press Journals.”

“We are excited to partner with the National Gallery of Canada on the launch of the new National Gallery of Canada Review. The Review will be a fresh new addition to the University of Toronto Press’s long-standing tradition of scholarly publishing excellence. Readers of the NGCR will be delighted with the rich online experience and extensive functionality this new Web will resource offer.” – Antonia Pop, Senior Manager, University of Toronto Press Journals

The online issue (volume 7) of the National Gallery of Canada Review dated May 2016 is now available and features the following articles:

Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens: Paintings in the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada
Christopher Etheridge, Stephen Gritt

 Laurent Amiot’s Regency Teapot: A Moment of Perfection
René Villeneuve

 Michael Snow’s Authorization: Materials and Preservation
John P. McElhone

 Portrait of the Artist as a Reader: The Fritz Brandtner Library in the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives
Jonathan Franklin

 To find out more about the National Gallery of Canada Review, read the article In the Spotlight: Rebirth of the National Gallery of Canada Review, on

 About the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @gallerydotca.

For more information on the National Gallery of Canada Review please contact

Tamara Hawkins
University of Toronto Press, Journals

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada
613.990.6835 /
613.990.6835 /

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Written by guest bloggers, Allan Downey and Susan Neylan.

Downey and NeylanPhoto taken by Stuart Thomson, May 1917: “Cowichan Ball Club – Indian Sports – Brockton Point”. Courtesy of the Vancouver City Archives

This past February the All-Native Tournament, an annual basketball competition held in Prince Rupert, BC, received national press coverage (click here to view story from CBC News) (click here to view story from the Globe and Mail) over a controversy regarding the exclusion of a young basketball player. The issue concerned the participation of a 20 year-old point guard on the Heiltsuk Wolf Pack Team who was denied the opportunity to compete because he doesn’t have First Nations biological ancestry. The athlete was adopted as an infant in Haiti and raised as a member of a Heiltsuk First Nation. Although adoption is a long-standing tradition among Indigenous people in the region and he is a Status Indian under Canadian law, tournament organizers insist that bloodlines are the determining factor for eligibility (participants must have at least 1/8th First Nations blood), and banned him from play. This case raises questions about sport and the constructions of race and Indigenous identity within the colonial borders of Canada relevant to our recent article about nineteenth-century Indigenous sport in colonial-controlled spaces.

To understand the roots of these discussions of Indigenous identity that embrace both Indigenous and colonial frameworks, we need to consider the earlier history of how identities in sport have been defined, and by whom. Whether athletic competitions categorized by race at agricultural fairs, or seasonal matches between rival Indigenous teams, First Nations’ experiences playing western sports reveal “change in continuity, [and] the continuity in change”[1] for Indigenous physical culture.  In “Raven Plays Ball” we explore the uses of Western sports as mechanisms that reinforce colonial assimilationist agendas but that simultaneously acted as Indigenous-controlled spaces that upset those colonial agendas. Up and down BC’s coast throughout the first half of the 20th century, “Indian Sports Days” and sport organizations provided many examples of Indigenous communities adopting sports introduced by colonial agents —baseball, soccer, or even appropriated forms of lacrosse — and recasting them as Indigenous expressions based in their own worldviews, traditions, and sporting practices.


[1] This phrase is borrowed from Keith Thor Carlson’s The Power of Place, the Problem of Time (Toronto, 2010), 80.

Allan Downey and Susan Neylan’s article, “Raven Plays Ball: Situating “Indian Sports Days” within Indigenous and Colonial Spaces in Twentieth-Century Coastal British Columbia” appears in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire. Read it today on Project MUSE –

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The Brutality of the Sexual Assault Trial

by cmacmillan on March 30, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Elaine Craig, Dalhousie University

EBCThe media coverage and countless stories that have been told by survivors of sexualized violence in the lead up to, throughout, and following the Jian Ghomeshi trial have shone a spotlight on the brutality of the courtroom process for sexual assault survivors. The harm experienced by sexual assault complainants who participate in, or are forced to participate in, the criminal trial process is undeniable.  This is true regardless of the verdict or whether they are ‘believed’.

Approximately one in ten people who have been sexually assaulted turn to the legal system to respond to their experience of sexual harm.  Given how inhumane the trial process can be for sexual assault complainants, it is surprising that the number is that high.  Despite very progressive law reform to the rules of evidence and the definition of consent to sexual touching, fear of the criminal justice system remains one of the most common reasons given for not reporting a sexual assault to the police.

Sexual assault complainants who do testify find themselves forced to relive their experiences in a very particular way in front of a judge, lawyers, the media, and the general public.  They are forced to not only comply with, but to perform, particular rituals of the trial.  Failure to perform these rituals – to comport oneself with the appropriate degree of civility regardless of the degree of self-subjugation this demands, to follow the script of cross-examination, to recount the ‘right details’ while expressing the ‘correct emotions’ and the ‘correct amount of emotion’ – is to be disbelieved.  Courtroom tradition, formality, ceremony and the separation between ‘the professionals’ and ‘the laity’ instantiate profound power differentials that mirror the very gendered, racialized and class based hierarchies that produce sexual violence as a prolific social harm.  Even the structure and aesthetic of the courtroom itself can reflect a hierarchy which reifies the shame that is often experienced by those who are subjected to gendered and sexualized harms.

The new University of Toronto Law Journal article, The Inhospitable Court reflects an attempt to depict, through the use of trial transcripts, the brutality of the process faced by sexual assault complainants.  It exposes the institutionalized practices – the design, traditions, and script of the sexual assault trial – that contribute to the inhospitable conditions faced by those who testify against the men that have sexually assaulted them. Trial transcripts from three recent cases are used.  Arguably, the trauma of a sexual assault trial is much better evidenced by the transcript than by what is written about the case by a judge.  The power dynamics between the various parties, the humiliating exposure of the personal, and the overall cruelty of the process emerge clearly from the transcript’s account of the words spoken, the questions asked and answered, and the emotions recorded.

The article describes the profound power differentials that occur and the threat to self that the trial process poses for complainants.  It also offers some suggestions for how lawyers, judges, and legislators could make that experience less traumatic for those who turn to the criminal justice system to respond to the sexual harms that they have endured.

Elaine Craig’s “The Inhospitable Court” is now available at University of Toronto Law Journal Ahead of Print  Click Here to Read


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Reading John Cage with my Mother

by cmacmillan on March 23, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Dani Spinosa, York University


daniTo be quite honest, I started writing on John Cage because it was easy. It was the first year of my doctoral studies and I was drowning in a sea of Foucault and my interest at the time in critical animal studies and I found much of the theoretical work to be obtuse and pretentious. I was having a hard time getting into these writings, even when I knew that I was sympathetic to the theoretical and political issues at stake. I was in a course with a professor who would become my PhD supervisor on the Black Mountain poets and we started with Charles Olson, who still has a pretty special place in my heart. But I found them to be difficult, too, in the same way that I was struggling with some of the more difficult concepts in my other classes. When we reached Cage, I felt like he was able to convey some similar concepts, but he spoke like a real human when he did it.

Even more than that, I could just look at a poem like Cage’s “62 Mesostics re Merce Cunningham” and I could start to understand it without having to decode it or interpret it. I was reading Cage alongside Robert Duncan, who was also difficult to understand, not quite because his work was jargon-laden or heady, but instead because he was so full of allusions I had to follow. Cage didn’t seem to be like that. His relationship to Black Mountain College was tenuous at best. His politics and his poetics fit, but he didn’t talk down to me in his work. It felt like he really wanted me to understand his writing on my own terms, like he wanted me to engage with and enjoy what he had written, or more properly in the case of the “62 Mesostics,” what he had assembled.

Of course, when it came time to put together a dissertation, I inflected my readings of Cage with a bunch of heavy theory: anarchism and later postanarchism, critiques of representation, and at the behest of my supervisor some Lyotard. While I’m still pleased with what my dissertation produced, I couldn’t help but feel throughout that I was muddying the water, clouding the clarity that Cage had brought me.

My article, “Cagean Silence and the Comunis of Communication” included in this most recent issue of the Canadian Review of American Studies is my making sense of the difficulties of a hard theory, and the difficulties of a hard poetics in a way that tries to render itself accessible. I fell in love with Cage’s idea of a writing that literally anybody could read, and I really enjoy (even still) the parts of my dissertation where I brought my mother into it, my mother with no formal training in poetic study. I would show her Cage’s work and gauge her opinions of it in a way that I couldn’t possibly show her, say, a page of Duncan and ask her how she felt.

I haven’t abandoned those more difficult texts, and my scholarship lately has really worked to include them, but I won’t forget the importance of a poet who really tries to take these difficult concepts—about the communal nature of poetry, the limitations of a representational/substitutive language, and the possibility of demilitarized language—and really try to reach and audience rather than teach them.

Dani Spinosa’s “Cagean Silence and the Comunis of Communication”, is now available at Canadian Review of American Studies Online. Click Here to Read.


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What does a Philippine university publisher look like?

March 22, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Karryl Kim Sagun Books and I go way back. Being born to a family of publishers’ representatives, I was fed and raised thanks to (sales of) books; choosing librarianship as a profession, I lived and breathed books; and doing my PhD thesis on book trade, I guess I could say I will […]

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Political Talk about Food Insecurity in Canada

February 24, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Laura Anderson How can it be that in a rich country like Canada,  food insecurity, and its most extreme form—hunger—are not rare? In fact,  1 in 8 households in Canada is food insecure.  Would an answer be apparent if we knew how the problem was talked about by our legislators? In […]

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Journal of Scholarly Publishing – Call for Submissions

January 27, 2016

Journal of Scholarly Publishing Special Issue: Digital Publishing for the Humanities and Social Sciences Deadline: July 15, 2016 Send all submissions to: Digital forms of scholarship present opportunities and challenges for scholarly publishers, who until recently have been used to defining their work as the production of books and journals in the material medium […]

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Cost burden of Quebec’s carbon market seen as modest

January 20, 2016

Cost burden of Quebec’s carbon market seen as modest Study by McGill researchers assesses short-run impacts on households, industries  The cost burden of Quebec’s carbon-pricing policy, is likely to be modest across income groups and industries, according to a McGill University research team. The policy, which began to be implemented in 2013, provides a model […]

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Confronting Canada’s Violent Colonial History and the Representation of Indigenous Women

January 12, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Carmen Nielson. Example of a caricature of Indigenous women in Canada’s late 19th cent. satirical magazine Grip. First Nations, Métis and Inuit women have been working for a very long time to decolonize their representation in the Canadian mainstream. The First Nations collective ReMatriate – founded in response to Canadian designer […]

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