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Let’s face it, our favourite classes are the ones with movies. If you’re around my age, you remember being excited by the sound of squeaky wheels and rattling, since it usually meant you were watching a movie in class. The same is still true in university, whether you are a student, a TA, or a professor. However, it can be hard to find good films to show in classrooms that are engaging for students, but also historically accurate. A couple of months ago, there was a fascinating discussion on Eryk Martin’s Facebook timeline about recommended films for teaching pre-Confederation Canadian history. So, inspired by that discussion, and with his permission, I have put together a list of recommended films for teaching Canadian history.
This list is broken down into two parts: my personal recommendations, and recommendations from fellow history professors. I would especially like to thank Stephanie Pettigrew, Donica Belisle, Carmen Nielson, Matthew Hayday, Ian Mosby, Adele Perry, Jenny Ellison, Janis Thiessen, Kesia Kvill, Sarah Dowling, and Liz Huntingford for their fantastic suggestions. Also, I have roughly organized the films and videos chronologically. In my recommendations, I have further divided the films and videos from each other, and included some additional ones I would like to show in class, but haven’t yet.
A couple of important notes or warnings: please make sure that when you are showing a feature film in a classroom that you have the appropriate license to do so. In other words, make sure the copy of the film you are screening has been approved for classroom or public screenings. If you are using the film through your institution’s library, you should be fine, but it’s always good to check. Second, as a recent discussion on Twitter initiated by Tina Adcock has shown, content/trigger warnings are important. I have listed the ones that I think are relevant below, but always use caution when screening films to avoid doing harm to your students.
Also, my husband wanted to name this blog post “Class-y” films, but my better sense vetoed. 😉
Thanks to Maddie Knickerbocker, Leah Wiener, Sean Carleton, Stephanie Pettrigew, and, especially, Melissa Shaw for their help with this post. And special thanks to Ariel Gordon at the University of Manitoba Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book!*
Several months ago, when the University of Manitoba Press asked me to review the most recent edition of John S. Milloy’s A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986, I was initially hesitant. Not only am I not a specialist in this field, but I kept wondering whether or not we needed another settler review of a book by a settler historian about Indigenous history in Canada. The jury is still out, but, after I finished reading the book, I do have some thoughts I’d like to share.
A quick caveat. This will not be a traditional book review. I may have literally written a guide to doing them, but since this book is nearly 20 years old and has already been reviewed numerous times, what follows is more of a meditation upon reading this book.
At the beginning of 2017, I came across a note on Twitter from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native studies about a new course they were offering, called “Indigenous Canada.” Curious, I clicked over to their website, and discovered that the course was designed to teach a non-specialized audience about Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective. Even better, it was being offered fully online, and it was free to audit. I had been looking for opportunities to learn more about Indigenous history in Canada, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I quickly signed up. Since I was one of the history nerds who actually looked forward to school (I really never understood the irony behind the Staples campaign, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” since I literally looked forward to returning to school all summer long), I was super excited to have the chance to be a student again. The prospect of finding some good resources that I could use in my own teaching seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up. But, to my pleasant surprize, the experience was far more enriching and transformative that I could have possibly imagined.
With the new session for the course beginning on July 10th, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to tell you about my experiences, and why I believe that everyone should take “Indigenous Canada.”
Growing up in Montreal, hockey was very much a part of my cultural landscape. I’m not really even sure that I ever made a conscious decision to be a Habs fan – it just came with the territory! The names of Maurice Richard, Jean Béliveau, Saku Koivu, and Patrick Roy were as familiar to me as the names of Sesame Street characters. I vividly remember the elation of the Habs winning the Stanley Cup in the 1992-1993 season, the sense of betrayal when Patrick Roy left the Habs for the Avalanche, and being annoyed when the team moved from the Forum to the Molson Centre (now the Bell Centre). I even own my very own copy of The Hockey Sweater, in both book and video formats.
So, several weeks ago, when I was offered the chance to sit down and speak with Dr. Jenny Ellison about the new exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History, “Hockey,” I of course jumped at the opportunity! The blog post that follows is the result of that conversation, a behind-the-scenes look at the new exhibition and about Ellison’s work on the project.
*Please note that all images, with the exception of Jim Logan’s “National Pastimes,” are courtesy of the Canadian Museum of History, and used with permission. The images of Jim Logan’s “National Pastimes” have been made available by the Canadian Museum of History, and are used with permission from Jim Logan. Please do not reproduce.
Jenny Ellison joined the Museum’s staff in 2015. Her research examines the representation and experience of sport, leisure, physical fitness and health. In keeping with the priorities identified in the Museum’s Research Strategy, Dr. Ellison will be looking at how sports and leisure shape Canadian experiences and help us understand the past. In terms of collections development, this includes research on sports and health activism, adaptive sports, representations of the body, games and government-supported physical fitness programs.
Dr. Ellison has published articles in the Journal of Canadian Studies, the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association and the award-winning Fat Studies Reader. She is also the co-editor of Obesity in Canada: Critical Perspectives.
Dr. Ellison holds an Honours BA in History from the University of Toronto, an MA in Canadian Studies from Carleton University and a PhD in History from York University. She completed her postdoctoral training at Mount Allison University’s Centre for Canadian Studies, and has worked as an assistant professor of Canadian Studies at Trent University and as a researcher at the Australian Museum.