Sunday, 29 November 2015

Consultation on Design Only are Not Consultations

The 60 Acres at the Central Experimental Farm
On Thursday, the Ottawa Citizen reported that the Ottawa Hospital will, finally at long last, be holding consultations on the new Civic Campus early in the new year. This comes just less than 13 months after John Baird announced the gift of 60 acres of the Central Experimental Farm, an important scientific research station and a National Historic Site of Canada, to the Hospital to build a new campus.

The Hospital's consultations will be on the design of the new campus, not its location. Given the lack of transparency in selecting the site at the Farm as well as the Farm's important role in Canadian agricultural science and history, there can be no true consultation if the location is off the table.

Records obtained through federal access to information and provincial freedom of information requests reveal that the Ottawa Hospital has consistently fought, delayed, and cancelled attempts by local politicians to hold consultations on the transfer. Indeed, in the year before Baird's gift was announced, the Hospital worked to keep news of the pending transfer under wraps.

The Central Experimental Farm is governed by a long-term management plan that demands its integrity and continued use for agricultural research as the best way of respecting its rich history. The NCC's urban lands master plan supports keeping the Farm intact.

Since the announcement the Hospital has portrayed the gift as the only way to build a new Civic Hospital, which is reported to hold less beds than the current campus and be the hub of a distributed network of clinics despite requiring almost triple the land space, is on the Farm land across the street.

This is a false dichotomy. The question isn't Hospital or Farm. There is more than enough space in Ottawa for both institutions, even on federally owned land.

The 60 acres in question are part of the original 465-acre Farm and today represents approximately 15% of its research land. Field #1 in particular has been the site of important research since the Farm's inception in 1886. Notably, long-term international research underway on Field #1 feeds into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The loss of this land will end this important research and damage Canada's reputation with our global scientific partners.

This cavalier attitude towards science, history, and government transparency is characteristic of the previous Conservative government. The Liberal's promise of "real change" is being sorely tested by their silence.

The Farm-or-Hospital dichotomy relies on silencing stories of the Farm's past, present and future importance to Ottawa, Canada, and our international partners. Rather than seeing the experimental fields as rare and invaluable archives of past use and laboratories for future generations that they are, we're to empty them of meaning and render them worthless.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

CFP CHA2016: Invasions and Introductions

William Knight and I are seeking panelists for an environmental history panel on the history of plant and animal invasions and introductions (see draft panel abstract below) at the 2016 Canadian Historical Association annual meeting in Calgary, 30 May-1 June 2016. While our papers focus on plants and animals in late 19th and early 20th century Canada, we welcome contributions from different periods and geographic contexts.

If you are interested, send an email to with a 250 word abstract for your paper as well as a 50 word summary to fit into the panel abstract. Please note that the deadline to submit for the CHA is October 15.

Panel Abstract
This panel explores the deliberate and accidental movement of plants and animals into and across environments, and their varying reception as welcome naturalization or alien invasion. Examining three examples from the late 19th and early 20th century, the panel considers the cultural and environmental reaction to species movements across different scales--physical, temporal, and conceptual. Building on Catriona Sandiland’s work on “dog stranglers in the park” (2013), these papers address the tensions between ideas of invasion and introduction, as well as the agency of plants and non-human animals in environmental history. Peter Anderson examines botanical exchanges between Canada and Great Britain and the ways in which botanists disciplined knowledge across imperial boundaries in an attempt to effect large-scale botanical introductions essential to colonization projects. The multi-directional movement of plant material within the British Empire redefined the meaning of individual plants in diverse geographical contexts. William Knight uses the introduction of bass to British Columbia to discuss both the large-scale reshaping of global fish faunas and the intensely local scale of impacts and reactions. Bass, for example, were perceived as either a welcome product of naturalization or aggressive invader depending when and where they were found.

Sandilands, C. (2013) “Dog Stranglers in the Park?: National and Vegetal Politics in Ontario’s Rouge Valley.” Journal of Canadian Studies. 47.3, Fall 2013. 94-122.

Monday, 5 October 2015

My Articles on the 60 Acres Published Elsewhere

This list includes my writing on the transfer of 60 acres at the Central Experimental Farm published elsewhere, as of 6 October 2015. For a periodically updated summary of reactions to the 60 acres, please go to this page.

2015-10-06: "How Relocating a Hospital Could Compromise Canada's Agricultural Innovation." The Food Chain, TVO.
2015-07-17: "Experimental Farm Plan a Call to Action." The Ottawa Sun.
2015-06-22: "The Central Experimental Farm's Inclusion on Endangered Heritage Place List a Call to Action." ActiveHistory.
2014-11-20: "Vacating Science and Forgetting History at the Central Experimental Farm." ActiveHistory.
2014-11-13: "Protect the Central Experimental Farm." Ottawa Citizen.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Ottawa Hospital and Consultations: 60 Acres

Foreground: Tractors on display at the Central Experimental Farm. Background: The Civic Hospital
In July, Cameron Love, COO of the Ottawa Hospital, told the Carlington Community Association, the Civic Hospital Community Association, and City Councillors Riley Brockington and Jeff Lieper that the decision to severe 60 acres of the Central Experimental Farm from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for development is final. Consultation will only happen on the design of an as yet hypothetical, unfunded 2.5 million square foot mega-hospital campus.

Love is the main Hospital representative in the ongoing negotiations between AAFC, the National Capital Commission, and TOH. As late as last April, according to documents obtained through an access to information request, the Hospital has been working against any public consultation until after the ink dries on the severance agreement, set for this September. Any consultation that will have no impact on the decision is not actually consultation.

This raises important questions, not least: How can long-term planning documents and processes produced after years of study and public consultation, such as the CEF Management Plan and Advisory Council, be overturned and rendered toothless in secret? 

Mark Kristmanson, the CEO of the NCC, told Heritage Ottawa that "the NCC was asked essentially by the government act as the middle man" between AAFC, who has a long history of fighting encroachment, and the Ottawa Hospital, which has been coveting the Farm from across the street for years. 

The NCC received this direction, presumably from then-Minister John Baird or someone on his staff, sometime before the spring of 2014, the date of the earliest documents in my current ATIP release packages (though it is clear that the closed door talks were well underway at that point), and with the same spirit that has characterized its role in the Communism Monument fiasco, pushed ahead on laying the grounds works for a memorandum of understanding without, apparently, bothering look to either the public for its input, nor to the CEF Advisory Council and the management plan for guidance, nor to the Farm scientists who know well the value of the land and the ongoing, long-term research projects on Field 1.

As with the Communism Monument, long term plans for an important parcel of federal land in the capital were ignored. Where is the line in the sand that will cause the NCC and its board to say "Hey, wait a minute. Our mandate is to plan, so let's at least get planning right." That line is not at the Supreme Court, nor is it at the Farm. In both cases, we are long past due for a return to the respect, process, and democracy that characterise the existing, trampled, plans. 

It should be possible for our politicians or even the NCC board to slow this down, restart the process and do it properly. It's clear that's not what they intend to do. Indeed, despite the ongoing lack of consultation, transparency and process and despite that we're currently in the midst of an election campaign, AAFC, the NCC, and the Ottawa Hospital are working towards signing the next set of documents by the end of September.

Is this how we want our dwindling national scientific stations treated? Is this how we, as Canadians, want to treat our important national historic sites? These are important questions to bring into all candidate debates in the coming weeks and to the ballot box on October 19.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

#Envhist at CHA 2015

With less than a month to go before this year's meeting of the Canadian Historical Association at the University of Ottawa, and in the spirit of last year's list, I've trawled the CHA 2015 program for environmental history panels. The following list may be incomplete and environmental history is a broad and fluid subdiscipline so let me know if there's anything I missed.

Tuesday, June 2nd

  • Defining the Great Lakes-St Lawrence System: varying perspectives and scales
    • Facilitator /Commentator Alan MacEachern
    • Jamie Benidickson "From Boundary Waters to Water Boundaries: Legal dimensions of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence System."
    • Stephen Bocking "Invasive Species, Ecological Transformations, and the Formation of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence System." 
    • Stéphane Castonguay "Production cartographique, représentation scientifique et espace administratif: le system GL-SL comme imaginaire géographique.
    • Michèle Dagenais and Ken Cruikshank "Quelques pistes sur les études publiées sur les Grand Lacs-Saint-Laurent depuis 200 ans: un survol."
  • Roundtable: Is All History Now Environmental History? The anthropocene in historical perspective.
    • Facilitator: Tina Loo
    • Participants: Daniel Macfarlane, Sean Kheraj, Stephen Bocking, Jessica DeWitt.
  • History and Environment
    • Facilitator/Commentator Gregory M.W. Kennedy
    • Gregory M.W. Kennedy "Building Resilience to Environmental Change in New Brunswick Coastal Communities Through Historical and Interdisciplinary Research."
    • Kristine Kowalchuk "Thomas Tyron and Bioregionalism: Learning from Early Modern England's Alternative Agriculture."
    • Yves Tremblay "Le fédéral, le provincial et le DDT: l'Expo 67 comme moment décisif de l'histoire de la sensibilité écologique au Canada."
  • What Kind of Development? Maritime Environmentalism and Regional Development Policy in the 1970s
    • Facilitator/Commentator Alan MacEachern
    • Mark Leeming "Local Economic Independence as Environmentalism: Nova Scotia in the 1970s."
    • Mark J. McLaughlin "Greening the System: The Conservation Council of New Brunswick's Responses to State Resource Development, 1969-1983."
    • Henry Trim "An Alternative on Prince Edward Island: Environmentalism, Modernization, and Sustainable Development."
  • Canadian Energy Histories: Kerosene, Coal and Oil
    • Facilitator/Commentator Steve Penfold
    • Sean Kheraj "On-Shore Oil Spills in Canada: Trans-Mountain Pipeline and the Interprovincial Pipeline, 1949-2012."
    • Ruth W. Sandwell "Searching for Light: Canada's Early Petroleum Industry, 1859-1900."
    • Andrew Watson "'The Tail Cannot Wag the Dog': Canadian Dependence on American Coal Between the Wars."
Wednesday, June 3rd 

  • Nationalism, Land, and Territory
    • Facilitator/Commentator Julien Labrosse
    • Cristina Ionita "Comment mettre la nation sur la carte: Nationalisme et cartographie dans l'Europe central avant la Première Gueere Mondiale."
    • Dinah Jansen "Size Matters: The Paris Peace Conference, Russian Liberals, and Russian Territorial Integrity, 1919"
    • Christopher Miller "Making Meaning in the Land: Remembering Expropriation through Oral History in Pickering, Ontario."
    • Xiaping Sun "Creating the Myth of the Wilderness: A Discursive Analysis of Maoist Land Reclamation in Northeast China." 
  • Exploration and Immigration in Canadian History
    • Facilitator/Commentator Katie Simanzik
    • Marilyn Braber and Murray Watson "Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945."
    • Geoffrey Little "'This very extensive and almost unknown portion of the Empire': The Montreal Natural History Society's Surveys of Rupert's Land."
    • Gustavo Velasco "The Post, the Railroad and the State: New Approaches to study Western Canada Settlement, 1870-1900."
  • Sensory Encounters and Embodied Histories in the Fur Trade and Nineteenth-Century Northwest
    • Facilitator/Commentator Mary-Ellen Kelm
    • Daniel Robert Laxer "Sensing New Peoples: Diet, Dress, and Dance in the Western Fur Trade, 1760-1821."
    • Stacy Nation-Knapper "Feeling It: Sensory Experience of the Nineteenth-Century Columbia River Plateau Fur Trade."
    • Carolyn Podrunchny "Embodying Denial: The Vanishing Life of the Metis Giant from Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan, 1881-1904."
  • Indigenous Peoples, Labour, and Industrial Development in Canada
    • Facilitator/Commentator John Lutz
    • Anne R Janhunen "'A Regular Curse': Indigenous Labour and the Paradox of Early Twentieth-Century Industry in British Columbia's Fraser Valley."
    • Brittany A Luby "The International Joint Commission and the Woes of 'Civilized' Men: An Examination of Flood Damage Assessments and Compensatory Systems on Lake of the Woods, 1893-1925."
    • Daniel Rück "Industrial Development and Indian Act Moernity in Kahnawake, 1880-1935." 
  • Man and His Environment
    • Facilitator/Commentator Merle Massie
    • Stacey Alexopoulos "Surveying a Problem: Statistics and Housing Policy Development, 1958-1962."
    • Jessica DeWitt "Park Formation as Catalyst for Restoration: A Pennsylvania River's Ecological Revivification."
    • Adrian Gamble "Documenting the Canadian Arts and Crafts Movement: An Exercise in Interdisciplinarity."
    • Merle Massie "Grounding Science with History: Place methodology from the field." 
  • History, Interdisciplinarity, and the Indian Ocean World
    • Facilitator/Commentator Emmanuel Hogg
    • J. Pablo Arroyo-Mora "The Indian Ocean World Database: An interdisciplinary approach for understanding human-environment interactions."
    • Rashed Chowdhury "Russian Explorers in the Indian Ocean World in the Late Nineteenth Century."
    • Chinnaiah Jangram "Rethinking History in Indian Subcontinent: Politics of Identity and Writing History." 
  • L'histoire environnementale et les savoirs interdisciplinaires du passé
    • Animateur/Commentateur Stéphane Castonguay
    • Maude Flammard-Hubert "Explorer, inventorier, classified: la séparation des terres comme lieu de négociation interdisciplinaire."
    • Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert "Embellir et aménager les abords routiers: du Club des Habitants aux ingénieurs de l'État québécois, 1945-1960."
    • Valérie Poirier "'Choice between Automobile and Survival': la pollution automobile comme enjeu de santé publique, 1960-1970."

Of course no list is complete without some self promotion. My Ottawa (De)tour walking seminar "Finding Scientific Landscapes" will be running at 6pm from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden on June 3rd. (This is not part of Congress.) 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Parks Canada and the 60 Acres

A wintry view of the 60 Acres

Today I received my first package of documents from a series of access to information requests I submitted in December.

It turns out that Parks Canada learned about the transfer of the 60 acres of the Farm to build a hospital when Leslie Maitland, president of Heritage Ottawa, emailed them a day after John Baird's November 3rd press conference.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Domains of Literature - Introduction and Context

Every university, every department, has its own practices regarding comprehensive and qualifying examinations. Usually these include "fields" or "domains" of literature which are either standardized across the department or completely open. In my department the individual PhD committee has great leeway in deciding what goes into the domains and my committee challenged me to come up with a base list, which they then commented on and added to.

This is harder than it seems. Sure in being given latitude to decide I had the chance to stack the list, so to speak, with works I was already familiar with. But, as my supervisor said, I should pay attention to my committee and the journals they publish in, who they cite in their work and teach in their courses, who they would put on the list if they were creating it.

Beyond the literature I already knew, my committee's publications, and the every increasing fractal search cross referencing common citations brings, I found online syllabi and lists of departments and other individuals who've completed their exams extremely useful. In that spirit, I have reproduced my lists here for those who may be going down the same rabbit hole as me.

Domains of Literature - Public History and the Geography of Storytelling

 This is part of a series of posts related to the domains of literature I covered in my qualifying exam. I am sharing it in hopes that it helps other students creating their lists. Please see the introductory post in the series for more details.

The final domain, public history and the geography of storytelling, looks at both methodological questions in historical geography research and modes of presenting that research. Public historians are a diverse community of practitioners fundamentally interested in the ways historical knowledge is created and presented to broad and multifaceted publics in various locations such as archives and museums. Geographers of storytelling are concerned with the spatial dimensions of stories, how they’re told and how landscapes become inscribed with meaning and discourses. This domain finds natural linkages between these sub-fields, particularly in the recent work of a group of British geographers under the auspices of ‘anticipatory history’ (see: DeSilvey 2012 and DeSilvey, Naylor and Sackett 2011). As such it provides the basis for exploring the contingent nature of the documents, landscapes and material cultures that form the core of the proposed research as well as addressing concerns regarding the narrative form of this thesis project.  

This post has two main parts:
(1) The domain itself; and,
(2) A syllabus created as a thought experience while studying the list.

Domains of Literature - Geography of Science

This is part of a series of posts related to the domains of literature I covered in my qualifying exam. I am sharing it in hopes that it helps other students creating their lists. Please see the introductory post in the series for more details.

Geographies of science, the second domain, focuses on literature that, following David Livingstone (2003), puts science in its place. The Central Experimental Farm is one of those places, home to both experimental fields and laboratories. The places of science exist across a variety of scales, from small allotment gardens to international and imperial networks. Geographers of science have explored not only the sites of research, but also geographies of the more-than-human world including plants and non-human animals. Building on work in science and technology studies, this domain explores the sites, networks, agents, production, performance and distribution of scientific knowledge.

This post has two main parts:
(1) The domain itself; and,
(2) A syllabus created as a thought experience while studying the list.

Domains of Literature - Historical Geographies of Canada and Agricultural Colonialism

This is part of a series of posts related to the domains of literature I covered in my qualifying exam. I am sharing it in hopes that it helps other students creating their lists. Please see the introductory post in the series for more details.

The first domain, the historical geography of Canada and agricultural settler colonialism, provides the national and international contexts of the Farm. As stated above, the Farm played an important role in the Canadian colonial project within the wider British Empire and with the backdrop of the expansion of the United States to the south. This domain looks beyond historical geographies of Canada to include readings in the growing fields of settler colonial studies, environmental history, and envirotechnical history. Uncovering the connections between agriculture, the environment, science, technology, Aboriginal communities and settlers, these readings provide the basis for a critical understanding of the Farm’s place in Canada as well as Canada’s place in wider imperial and colonial narratives.

This post has two main parts:
(1) The domain itself; and,
(2) A syllabus created as a thought experience while studying the list.