Community Studies

The Association for Canadian Studies (ACS)

The Association for Canadian Studies has convened a series of biennial conferences (Montreal 1999; Winnipeg 2001; Halifax 2003; Edmonton 2005) focusing on Canadian history. Various members of the project team have participated in these conferences as organizers and presenters. As a partner, the ACS has incorporated the activities of the project team in conferences held in 2006 in Vancouver (focusing on First Nations), in 2008 in Quebec City (the anniversary of the founding of Quebec), and in Moncton in 2009 (225th anniversary of the founding of New Brunswick). In 2010 the ACS will host a conference in which the Canadians and Their Pasts survey and its related projects will be featured and in 2011 will collaborate with the team in hosting an international colloquium on public uses of the past. This regular opportunity to showcase our research keeps the project team on a tight timetable, ensures ongoing monitoring of the project by key stakeholders in the historical community, and provides, in the ACS journal, Canadian Issues/Thèmes canadiens, a bilingual outlet for papers generated by the project.

Benchmarks of Historical Thinking

Under the leadership of Peter Seixas, Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, the Benchmarks of Historical Thinking project began in 2006, with a partnership between the Historica Foundation (Canada’s leading national organization devoted to the promotion and improvement of history education) and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness (CSHC—which supports research on historical consciousness and history education). The project was designed to foster a new way to conduct history education—with the potential to shift how teachers teach and how students learn, in line with recent international research on history learning. Paradoxically, it does not involve a radical shift in the history or social studies curriculum. It revolves around the proposition—like scientific thinking in science instruction and mathematical thinking in math instruction—that historical thinking is central to history instruction and that students should become more competent as historical thinkers as they progress through their schooling. Historical thinking requires “knowing the facts,” but “knowing the facts” is not enough. Since 2006, the Benchmarks program has made progress around four components of educational change: a) curriculum revision (building explicit attention to historical thinking into provincial curricula); b) resource development (working with publishers and writers of textbooks and other materials, as well as creating lessons accessible through the website); c) professional development (running district-based workshops in five provinces and a week-long summer institute); and d) assessment (under development).

Engaging the Past in Museums

During 2006-07 the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) conducted focus groups across Canada on why and how people specifically engage the past in museums and related heritage centers. The participants were primarily heritage stakeholders i.e., people with some particular attachment to or investment in museums, such as volunteers, school teachers, students, representatives of multi-cultural organizations, and members of historical societies. Like the national survey, this investigation took into account linguistic, ethnic, and regional considerations. The focus group locations were: 1) Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, British Columbia; 2) New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick; 3) Musée de la civilisation, Quebec City, and Ecomusée du fier Monde, Montreal, Quebec; 4) Peel Heritage Complex, Brampton, Ontario, in concert with a Canadians and Their Pasts project exploring the particular pasts of recent newcomers to Canada; and 5) Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Findings were presented at various conferences, including three annual meetings of the Canadian Museums Association. A workshop on the focus group method applied to conducting research about museums was also held at the CMA's 2008 conference in Victoria, BC. More presentations and publications are forthcoming. This investigation is being undertaken by Lon Dubinsky, CMA Research Associate, and Co-Investigator Del Muise, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Carleton University.

Peel Heritage Complex Exhibition

In spring 2009, the "Connections" exhibition opened at the Peel Heritage Complex in Brampton, Ontario. It was the culmination of a research project begun in 2007-08 that explored how recent newcomers connect their diverse pasts with the traditions and history of their adopted country. Three families in the Peel region, one of the most culturally diverse in Canada, participated in the project. The project co-coordinators were Lon Dubinsky, Research Associate, CMA; Josie Premzell, Development Officer and Maureen Couse, Curatorial Assistant, Peel Heritage Complex, and Research Assistant Mayan Rajendran, a Fine Arts and Education student from York University. Pasts co-investigators Del Muise and Gerald Friesen acted as advisers.

Musée de la civilisation

Over 650,000 people visit the Musée de la civilisation every year, many of them school children, not only from Quebec but also from across Canada. In the past two years, the Musée has developed closer relations with Laval University, the University of Montreal, l'Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), and l'École du Louvre to advance its research base. The Musée's director general, Claire Simard, sees the Canadians and Their Pasts project as a further step in this direction and is interested in exploring the impact on students of the Musée's newly installed permanent exhibitions on Quebec First Nations and Quebec history. Jocelyn Létourneau has played a major role in conceptualizing the exhibition on the history of Quebec and will take the lead in working with the museum staff, in particular Research Director Andrée Gendreau and Senior Researcher Lucie Daignault, to develop questionnaires to administer to students both before and after visiting these exhibitions to measure the impact of their museum experience. The national survey instrument will provide the starting point for this initiative, which will address many of the issues to be elicited in the larger inquiry.

Identities in Newfoundland and Labrador

In recent years, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have made a concerted effort to develop culture and tourism as a pillar of their new economy. The rise in cultural activity in the province has been matched by a corresponding surge in Newfoundland and Labrador nationalist sentiment. According to an opinion survey conducted for the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada in April 2003, 72 percent of those polled considered themselves Newfoundlanders and Labradorians first, Canadians second ( Interestingly, they told pollsters that what they most valued about being Newfoundlanders and Labradorians was the culture, music, and arts that they shared. The Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador (AHI), represented by David Bradley and James K. Hiller, and the Newfoundland Historical Society, represented by Terry Bishop-Stirling and Jeff A. Webb, are working with the project team to explore how the province's cultural producers view the past. The methodology will be multifaceted, including literature reviews, focus groups, individual interviews, workshops, and conferences. In 2008-09 a project was launched to explore the role of community "memory keepers," most of them senior citizens, in documenting change over time in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Acadian Pasts

Acadian identity has been closely associated with a specific historical event: Le grand dérangement of 1755-62. To probe the extent to which this association operates in everyday life, the project team will survey a special sample of 100 francophones in New Brunswick. Le Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton, represented by Jeanne-Mance Cormier and Isabelle Cormier, and l'Institut d'études acadiennes, Université de Moncton, represented by Maurice Basque, worked with the project team to develop questions to add to the national survey for a special survey of Acadians that elicited responses to recent events commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Acadia and the 250th anniversary of the deportation of 1755. The Musée acadien will also collaborate with the Musée de la civilisation in developing a research tool to explore the perceptions of children who view the new exhibition "L'aventure acadienne/Acadian Adventure" installed in 2004, while the Institut d'études acadiennes is probing the historical consciousness of students in a sample of New Brunswick's francophone schools.

Our Homes Are Bleeding Digital Collection

Conflicting views of the historical record continue to figure prominently in Native land claims. Our Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs partner has built an online digital collection of records relating to cut-off lands in British Columbia. The online resources include 15 volumes of testimony provided to the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission, 1913-1916 (a major source for Aboriginal land rights research in BC), additional primary and secondary historical documents. Through the Canadians and Their Pasts alliance, the UBC Centre for Historical Consciousness partnered with the UBCIC to develop practical teaching tools. Using these tools, the team examined students' perceptions and understanding of the complex history of land alienation and Aboriginal Title and Rights in BC. The Canadians and Their Pasts team also supported the UBCIC in updating the website and developing assessment tools to evaluate the site's effectiveness and reception among First Nations and the public user groups. Through this partnership the Canadians and Their Pasts team explores the political, social and personal response and use of the past in the context of difficult Aboriginal-white relations and to participate in an on-going international debate on the theme "History, Memory, Reconciliation, and Healing" (Ricoeur 2003). As the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples notes: "Rendering accurately the history of a cross-cultural relationship is not simple or straightforward" (