Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Geist 97 Out

July 6, 2015

A new issue of Geist magazine (#97) is at the newsstands, and in it a column by yours truly about a new book on the history of war resisters in Canada.

Worth Fighting For is a collection of essays that argue that resistance to war is very much a Canadian tradition. I am particularly interested in the piece by David Tough, an historian at Trent U, that suggests that during World War One it was the anti-war folks who were really fighting for democracy, not the warriors. "Canada emerged from the war a more democratic society not because of what occurred in Europe but because of what occurred at home."

The magazine has lots of other good stuff as well. Run out and pick up a copy.

June 19, 2015

According to news reports this week, the provincial government here in BC is going to insist that schoolchildren as young as ten years old be taught about the Indian residential schools, along with other examples of historical injustice, such as the Chinese head tax and the internment of Japanese-Canadians. This in response to the recent report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"There are many things that have happened in the province of British Columbia," said cabinet...

June 10, 2015

I am an admirer of the journalist/historian Richard Gwyn so I was disappointed to read his response to last week's Truth and Reconciliation report. Everyone knows, writes Gwyn, that Canadians are not the kind of people who engage in cultural genocide.

Really? That is exactly "the kind of people" we are, according to the TRC report and the evidence is overwhelming....

May 26, 2015

Last evening found me at the Book Warehouse on Main Street for a book launch by my pals at Harbour Publishing.

It was Harbour's 40th anniversary last year and as part of the celebrations they've issued a new edition of their famous "magazine" Raincoast Chronicles. Actually it was the Chronicles that launched Harbour, as owner Howie White explained last night. It was 1972 and the federal government was handing out LIP grants -- LIP stood for Local Initiative Projects...

May 23, 2015

If you live in Vancouver, your morning commute on the Skytrain (the city's light rail transit system if you don't) last Friday may have been interrupted by...the birds. Or to be more precise, a bird's nest. Apparently one was set alight by a spark and started a fire that burned out a major electrical cable, shutting down the trains for several hours.

Being an historian, my mind naturally wanders to precedents and believe it or not, there is one: the infamous "woodpecker election" of...

May 7, 2015

Today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania, torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915. The death toll was 1,198 passengers and crew, including almost one hundred children.

The sinking violated the unwritten rules of war that said that civilian ships were immune from attack. It quickly came to epitomize the perfidy of the German enemy and was exploited by propagandists in Allied countries to stir up fervid support for the war...