Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.
Sometimes I find news articles or stories that I think would be great to talk about on this blog—–except for the fact that they are pretty short and therefore wouldn’t make for much of a blog post by themselves. Solution? I decided to pull a few together. Here are three recent Canadian history-based stories that are worth nothing:
New Banknote to Feature Historic Canadian Woman
Back on March 8, 2016, which not-so-coincidentally was International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced that in late 2018 a new polymer bank note will be issued featuring an iconic Canadian woman. Up until April 15, 2016, the Bank of Canada invites the public to nominate women from Canadian history who they feel are deserving of this recognition. The only rules are:
- The nominees must be Canadian (by birth or naturalization).
- They must have “demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field, benefiting the people of Canada, or in the service of Canada.”
- They have been deceased for at least 25 years.
After the open call for nominations ends, a shortlist of 10-12 women will be made on the Bank of Canada’s website and then a survey for a representative sample of Canadians will be issued. Historians will then be consulted and the shortlist will be dropped down to 3-5 names, before Bill Morneau makes the final decision. Quite an elaborate process…no wonder it’s going to take 2+ years!
The success of this campaign largely lies with historian Merna Forster who had been trying to make this a reality for years; she even created a website where people could make their own banknote. Uploaded images were placed on the $100 bill. No word yet on which bill the historical woman will actually appear on. Laurier and Macdonald won’t be going anywhere. My hope is that the $20 bill will be picked, (it just seems like the obvious choice), and Prime Minister Robert Borden can keep his spot.
Have you submitted a nomination yet? Who would you like to see on the new bill and why?
Canadian History About to Get Another Rewrite
Justin Trudeau holds up a maple leaf shape cut out of a sheet of metal prior to speaking at a campaign stop in Brampton (2015). Source: Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press.
The thing about history is that while the past doesn’t change, how it’s told constantly does. You may remember a few years back that the Conservative government under Stephen Harper went on a military history kick. A lot more emphasis was placed on the War of 1812, especially when the bicentennial came around. The Museum of Civilization was re-branded as Museum of History and there was a fair bit of flack over the lost of the social and multicultural focus of the institution as well as the glossing over of negative aspects from Canadian history. Some historians spoke out against the changes, arguing that the Conservatives were trying to shape Canadian history into their own image, one of militarism and imperial nostalgia.
Fast forward to 2016 and you might as well take a big red marker and put a slash right through all of that. The Liberals are back and that means social history is back at the forefront.
Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star sums up this issue perfectly. “Every new government wants to do two things with history — make it and rewrite it.” Immigration Minister John McCallum recently announced that the citizenship guide, which was redrafted under the Conservatives, will be getting another rewrite. Basically he wants to tone down the militarism and the War of 1812 aspects. The new banknote is another example of the renewed focus on social history. The Museum will not be reverting back to its prior state, however the new Canadian History Hall within it is still under construction and will be opened on Canada’s 150th birthday. Likely, the hall (along with the birthday festivities) are going to look a bit different now that the Conservatives weren’t re-elected.
Some people feel that the constant rewriting of history is natural and normal, given that Canadian identity is often seen as more fluid rather than rigid. Others are annoyed because embracing fluidity and the many stories that make up a nation’s history detracts from a strong, national identity. How do you feel about it?
New Potential Viking Site Discovered in Newfoundland
Map of Newfoundland depicting the first Norse settlement, L’Anse aux Meadows, and the potential new one, Point Rosee. [Source]
New findings by a team of archaeologists suggest that Newfoundland may hold a second Viking settlement. According to The New York Times, the discovery occurred last summer and was the result of “infrared images from 400 miles [above] in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation.” The possible second viking site is located on the southwest coast of Newfoundland in an area known as Point Rosee or Point Rosie. Up at the the northern-most tip of Newfoundland lies the first Viking site, L’Anse aux Meadows, which is currently the only authentic Norse site in North America and was discovered back in 1960.
Fun Fact: Norse settlement in Canada predates European colonization by 500 years.
“Douglas Bolender, left, and Sarah H. Parcak, right, looking for evidence of a Viking presence at a remote site, called Point Rosee by researchers, in Newfoundland. If confirmed, the site would be the second known Viking settlement in North America.” Source: Greg Mumford.
The project has been spearheaded by Sarah H. Parcak, a space archaeologist (what a job title!) who worked alongside Canadian experts. The findings at Point Rosee are actually going to be part of a new NOVA two-hour special, “Vikings Unearthed,” which will be aired on PBS on April 6th.
So how did they find the site? Using powerful satellites, Parcak found a slew of hot spots before the Point Rosee markings were identified. Researchers then tested the soil in the area and found elevated iron readings. Next, trenches were dug and this revealed “viking-style turf walls” along with iron materials that radiocarbon testing dates back to the viking era. Evacuation was put on hold for the winter, but the project will resume this summer. Given what has been already found, a designation of authenticity will probably occur soon.
Are there any other recent Canadian history stories in the news that have caught your eye over the past month or so?
“A Bank NOTE-able Canadian Woman,” Bank of Canada. Government of Canada. Accessed from: http://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/banknoteable/
Blumenthal, Ralph, “View From Space Hints at a New Viking Site in North America,” The New York Times. March 31, 2016. Accessed from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/science/vikings-archaeology-north-america-newfoundland.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
Delacourt, Susan, “Canadian history about to get another rewrite: Delacourt,” Toronto Star. Mar 11 2016. Accessed from: http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2016/03/11/canadian-history-about-to-get-another-rewrite-delacourt.html
Geddes, John, “How Stephen Harper is rewriting history,” Maclean’s. July 29, 2013. Accessed from: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/written-by-the-victors/
Barry, Garrett, “New potential Viking site found in Newfoundland,” CBC News. April 01, 2016. Accessed from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/vikings-newfoundland-1.3515747