Historian Andrew Ross on Canada’s National Hockey Team

1 12 2009

Image Source: Library and Archives Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

The image above is of boys playing hockey in Sarnia, 29 December 1908. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Andrew Cohen, Ottawa-based public intellectual

Historica-Dominion Institute, the Canadian history think-tank, recently published the results of a survey on Canadians and hockey. The poll reveals that a third of Canadians believe that the Montreal Canadiens best represent Canada’s sport. Andrew Cohen, the representative of the institute, was interviewed about the results of the study. Interviewed by CBC Montreal, Cohen said he actually thought support for the Habs would be higher. “A third of Canadians — which is still higher than any other team — is still a substantial number of Canadians,” he said. “It may be because the Canadians haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993, and when you’re not winning, as it were, you’re not top of consciousness.” In an interview with Montreal’s La Presse, Cohen attributed the popularity of the Canadiens to “le populaire livre pour enfants «Le chandail de hockey» de Roch Carrier”.

Andrew Ross, Canadian Historian

Andrew Ross of the Department of History, University of Guelph has some thoughts about this poll on his blog. Dr Ross has written about the history of the NHL and is probably the leading academic historian of professional hockey in Canada. Ross is also an economic and business historian and is currently working on a business history of the NHL. His other publications include  “Arenas of Debate: The Continuance of Commercial Hockey in the Second World War,” in John Wong, ed., Coast to Coast: Hockey in Canada (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming);  “The Paradox of Conn Smythe: Hockey, Memory, and the Second World War,” Sport History Review 37 (May 2006), 19–35; “‘All this Fuss and Feathers’: Plutocrats, Politicians and Changing Canadian Attitudes to Titular Honours,” in Colin M. Coates, ed., Majesty in Canada (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006), 119–141; and “Hockey Capital: Approaches to the Study of Sports Industry,Business and Economic History On-Line 3.

Andrew Cohen on the New Citizenship Guide

27 11 2009

Andrew Cohen, Ottawa-based public intellectual

Andrew Cohen has published some thoughts on the new citizenship test in the Ottawa Citizen. He is much more positive in his assessment of the guide than I am, but he also points out its many curious omissions. He points out that there is no mention of Prime Ministers after Sir John A. Macdonald. As he puts it, “Jim Balsillie (Research In Motion co-founder) and Dr. John A. Hopps (inventor of the pacemaker) are in, but not Mackenzie King or Lester Pearson. Peacekeeping is a footnote. The Golden Age of Diplomacy is ignored.”

Cohen is right to comment on the guide’s silences on huge swathes of Canadian political and diplomatic history. Any guide that is supposed to cover the recent political history of Canada but which leaves out the Prime Ministers and the names of the political parties is clearly not doing its job!  It would be unfair to ask prospective citizens to memorize all of the Prime Ministers, given that some of them were in office for very short periods. I confess that when I am lecturing to university students, I go over the Prime Ministers between Macdonald and Laurier rather quickly. Joe Clark and John Turner also get rather cursory treatment in my course for first-year students. I have to prioritize.  But surely being an informed citizen means knowing a little bit about, say, those Prime Ministers important enough to have international airports named after them. Most immigrants enter Canada through Pearson airport. Shouldn’t they know a few key facts about Pearson?!?!?

Cohen also mentions that “The Constitutional Wars are largely unmentioned, as is the FLQ. This is uncomfortable, but, if we can speak of domestic violence, why not domestic discord?” This is another major omission from this guide. This guide isn’t even good political history (it gets a key date wrong), and it also avoids any discussion of social history. The really big trends of post-1867 Canadian history (i.e., urbanization, industrialization, de-industrialization, secularization, the Demographic Transition) all go unmentioned, which is especially problematic when we consider that most of our immigrants now come from countries that are only have half modernized themselves.   This guide is terrible. Since it will have to be reprinted anyway to deal with the factual errors pointed out by Christopher Moore and myself, it makes sense to start talking about what sort of omissions should be recitified.

After reviewing some of the faults of this guide, Andrew Cohen describes it as “splendid”. I respect Andrew Cohen, but I am at a complete loss to understand how he could use the adjective “splendid” to describe this piece of crap. The fact the old citizenship guide was even worse and essentially ahistorical does not justify praising the new guide to the skies.

Check out Christopher Moore’s list of factual errors in DC.

Merger of the Dominion Institute and Historica

9 11 2009

The National Post recently carried a story on the merger of the Dominion Institute and Historica, two rival charities devoted to increasing public knowledge of Canadian history. Historica is well-know for its Canadian history TV PSAs. Here is an example:

The NP story explains why the organizations were separate for so long and how they were recently able to overcome their differences. The article recounts how Historica’s establishment was sparked by the publication in 1999 of historian Jack Granatstein’s book Who Killed Canadian HistoryLynton “Red” Wilson, a prominent business leader, read Professor Granastein’s book and decided to fund an organization to promote awareness of Canada’s past, Within six months of Historica’s foundation, however,  Granatstein had left its board of directors. He had come to the conclusion that the organization had been taken over by social historians. Granastein: “Historica had been taken over by the people I thought were the killers of Canadian history”. Granastein then joined the Dominion Institute, which promoted a more conservative interpretation of Canadian history. The future direction of the merged organization remains to be seen.

Survey of Canadian Attitudes to the United States

4 11 2009

I used to make fun of Dominion Institute polls. The new Historica-Dominion Institute is, however, doing some useful polling work. The Historica-Dominion Institute, a Canadian non-profit also commissioned a poll about Canadian attitudes to the United States on the first anniversary of Obama’s election. The poll finds that while Obama is very popular in Canada, anti-Americanism is still widespread.