Tag Archives: Canadian history

The University of Toronto turns 190!

I (Said) have been part of the University of Toronto system since I began my undergraduate degree in 2009. It has been quite the ride considering I was born in Lebanon & immigrated to Canada in 2003! This year, the University of Toronto is celebrating turning 190 & one of its satellite campuses in Mississauga, Ontario, is turning 50. The history teacher/student in me became curious and wanted to learn a little more about the school I attend and the community I belong to.

It all began on March 15, 1827, when a royal charter was formally issued by King George IV, proclaiming “from this time one College, with the style and privileges of a University … for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature … to continue for ever, to be called King’s College [before it was renamed University of Toronto on Jan. 1, 1850].”

Established in 1878, the School of Practical Science (now the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering) offered students instruction in mining, engineering, mechanics and manufacturing. New faculties were soon added, among them home economics (1906), education (1907), forestry (1907), social work (1914), nursing (1920), graduate studies (1922), hygiene (1926) and the School of Architecture (1948). There is definitely a rich history to explore if you are interested in the social, political, and religious influences on the development of post-secondary institutions in Ontario/Toronto. Isn’t it amazing how a once denominational college is now a collegiate university with over 85,000 students from at least 160 countries, over 500,000 alumni, and 2 satellite campuses?

More interestingly, new courses and disciplines will certainly continue to emerge in response to developments in our globalized society and contemporary culture. I wondered if there were courses that weren’t as predictable as “Introduction to Eco/Chem/Math/Psych” and here are two that stood out to me:

Feminism, Zombies and Survivalism (WGS334H1S)

  • In this course, we interrogate the gender, racial, and generational politics of survivalist fantasies while, at the same time, re-reading them for the alternative ethical frameworks and possible futures that they suppress.

The Beatles (MUS321H1)

  • The class tackles two main questions: Why were The Beatles so popular, and how did they become the soundtrack to the 1960s (with a little help from their friends, of course). This class has no prerequisites.

I definitely wish I could have written an academic paper discussing the context and influence of the song lyric, “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” 

In any case, happy birthday UofT. Here are a few pictures, taken from Student Life @ UofT.

An intramural soccer game in 1951.
Nursing students in 1920/1921 on the steps of University College.
University College Tank
A tank on campus in 1950.


Fishers of Paradise: Canadian Novelist to be honoured

On June 9, Canadian author Rachael Preston will be unveiling a Project Bookmark Canada plaque for her novel The Fishers of Paradise, that depicts the struggling squatters that occupied Cootes Paradise in 1930. The plaque is to be installed along the Desjardins Waterfront Trail in Hamilton, under the second rail bridge. I’m proud to share Rachael was a member of my writing critique group, so I was lucky enough to see the book develop. It’s a fascinating novel and I highly recommend it. It sheds light on an aspect of Hamilton history that was truly buried until now.  Book clubs- take note!

Racheal and dog

Story Summary:

The boathouse community of Cootes Paradise is under siege. The squatters’ shacks that line the shores of Dundas Marsh stand in the way of an ambitious politician’s “City Beautiful” plans. When a handsome drifter settles there, Egypt Fisher and her mother both fall under his spell. No one expects Egypt’s gambling con-man father to return after a mysterious six-year absence. But he does and he’s furious. Unhinged by jealousy and a harrowing brush with the local mafia at a cockfight, he reveals a family secret that sets Egypt’s world off-kilter and poisons her relationship with her mother. When Egypt tries to turn the situation to her own advantage, her lies set in motion a series of events with devastating consequences.

Rachael Preston now  lives in Departure Bay, Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She moved to BC from Hamilton, Ontario, where we’d been for ten years. She has authored three novels, Tent of Blue, 2002, and The Wind Seller, 2006, both with Goose Lane Editions. In 2012, she self-published The Fishers of Paradise.After winning Arts Hamilton’sinaugural Kerry Schooley Award for the book most representative of Hamilton, Fishers, was picked up by Wolsak & Wynn and reissued in April 2016 under their new James Street North Books imprint.






Intrigued by “The Farmerettes”

I (Cathy) attended a very interesting book launch recently at the Different Drummer Book Store in Burlington, Ontario.   Author, Gisela Tobien Sherman, (top left in photo) released her new book The Farmerettes.  The book was inspired by storyteller, poet, Sonja Dunn (bottom right of photo) who was a Farmerette.  At the book launch, the story of the inspiration for the book was shared.  Gisela, Sonja and a few other members of the  Canadian Society for Childrens’ Authors, Illustrators, and Performers (CANSCAIP) were having lunch together.  Sonja, now 84, (yeah, doesn’t look it!) shared one of her experiences as a Canadian Farmerette during the Second World War. Apparently during the war, with all the young men away fighting, there was not enough labor to work the farms, so teenage girls were rounded up and sent off to live on farms throughout the province.   Sonja, was one of these young women, boarded in a barn with five others.  They were taught and expected to carry out all  the heavy farm work on a daily basis.  Sonja talked about how the experience changed them.  Sonja’s story struck a chord with Gisela and she began to research this fascinating part of our history.

sonja dunn

At the book launch were three other Farmerettes (all in their 80’s), who looked quite pleased to have their stories told.  Plus, a fascinating collection of photographs,  depicting their lives during this era of Canadian history were displayed.  I was intrigued by the stories shared at the launch and deeply touched by the pride of the Farmerettes.  I bought several copies of the book to give away, and of course, one copy for myself.  Today, I will lay on my chaise lounge and treat myself to reading The Farmerettes, Second Story Press, by Gisela Tobien Sherman.  Can’t wait.

Revisiting Mysteries in Canadian History

A project entitled Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, engages inquiry-based pedagogy to encourage students’ critical thinking and research skills. The project, based at the University of Victoria, the Université de Sherbrooke and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, has developed a collection of websites, which invite high school and university students to examine primary source documents, photographic evidence, archival material and historical interpretations, in an effort to solve a historical puzzle (e.g. the mystery of the doomed Franklin expedition; the mysterious death of artist Tom Thomson). John Lutz, University of Victoria history professor and one of the founders of the project noted, “history is too important to be boring, and these mysteries are too intriguing to be left to historians alone.”  All the materials and teachers’ guides are free. Link to project site: http://canadianmysteries.ca/en/index.php Link to the CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/how-franklin-expedition-mystery-could-be-solved-by-high-school-students-1.3086927

Must Read Author: Richard Wagamese

medicine walkI just finished reading a second book written by Canadian/Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. A friend in my book club suggested we read Wagamese’s book Medicine Walk. We were so captivated by the book we decided to read another, Indian Horse,  which was an official selection for CBC’s Canada Reads program in 2013. Wagamese describes a Canada I am not familiar with. He describes  the great Canadian outdoors so vividly that you feel like you’re  in rural Alberta. Wagamese writes so passionately about Canada’s  national sport, hockey, that you can smell the ice. He also writes about the painful history of Residential Schools.

My book club(myself included) believe Wagamese’s books would be a great addition indian horseto high school curriculums across the provinces. Wagamese sheds light on Canadian history in a very authentic way.

Interestingly, today the Huffington Post published a feature article on a recommendation made by a commissioner on the Truth an Reconciliation Commission that an education of Residential Schools be mandatory in high schools  across Canada. I strongly believe Wagamese’s books could be good start.

Read the article from the Huffington Post: