Archive for February, 2018

“Two Foreigners Guilty of Attempted Murder,” Toronto Globe. February 28, 1919. Page 03.

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
Welland, Feb. 27. – …[AL: another story was cut out from this article]

Guilty of Attempted Murder.
Dan Hulsuk and Paul Pitrius also came up for trial for attempting to murder Nick Pitrius on May 17 last. Each was sentenced to fourteen years’ imprisonment. The three men are Austrians, and had had some misunderstanding. They left work at 6 o’clock that evening and a fight ensued on the Ontario road, Crowland. Dan Huisuk struck Nick Pitrius with a piece of iron piping four feet long and one and a half inches thick. He tried to defend himself by striking back with his lunch-box, but Paul Pitrius also struck him with another piece of pipe and broke his leg. The two men continued to strike him on the head and one arm was smashed to a pulp. He asked them not to kill him for the sake of his wife and children, but they would probably have done so had not Police Constable George Lee arrived, and then they ran away. Nothing was heard of them until Chief Geo. Wright of Crownland heard they were in Lethbridge, Alberta, and they were immediately brought here for trial.

[AL: These two men were marked for deportation by the penitentiary authorities, even though both of them had been resident in Canada for many years – neither appear to have been placed in an internment camp, either, during the Great War. Both worked in industries associated with the Welland Canal.  Both Hulsuk (more likely Hulchuk) and Pitrius were Ukrainian, but were citizens of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and so faced deportation back to a country which no longer existed. Deportation was  a frequent tool used against lawbreakers of all sorts in the xenophobic post-World War 1 period.]

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“Reflecting back on the past month and its association with St. Valentine’s Day, it seems February often confronts us with emotion a bit more overtly – even if it is only the retail version of romantic love. It has been hard to miss the flowers, the chocolates and the cards, the pink and red and sparkly silver which seems to appear every year for the convenience and consumption of those lucky in love – only to have vanished forebodingly on the morning of the fifteenth. But when did all this happen? I don’t mean, when is the date when store managers give the okay to their assistants to switch the Christmas tinsel and reindeer for dangling cupids against a backdrop of hearts, and then to replace these a few weeks later with florid posters proclaiming the imminence of Mother’s Day. Rather, when did these symbols start representing love? Why did it become accepted or important to celebrate certain kinds of affective relationships in such a public way? While these sentiments seem so obvious to us, would their meanings have been equally intelligible to people living a century or two ago? How has the way in which romantic or familial love is represented impacted the ways in which it is experienced, expressed or understood? These are just some of the kinds of questions which come up for the historian of emotions.

The historical study of human emotions such as fear, shame, disgust, anger, love and happiness is a relatively recent development, forming part of the rise of cultural history and a scholarly interest in subjectivity. Traditionally, emotions are regarded as the domain of psychology and neuroscience. These fields tend to view feelings as physiologically governed and therefore emphasise their universalism: that emotions are the same today as they were in the past and will be in the future, irrespective of the spatial or temporal context in which they function. But social constructionists have critiqued this perspective, showing that the experience, expression and interpretation of emotions take place within a specific social context, and therefore emotions must be culturally specific and embedded in cultural meaning. It follows that the experience, expression, evaluation and interpretation of emotion is intimately bound up with its cultural context and is subject to change over time. In short, emotions have a history.

This is skilfully demonstrated in Fear: a cultural history by the British historian Joanna Bourke. In this book Bourke studies two centuries of dread and panic in the Anglo-American world. From the Victorians’ fear of being buried alive to post-9/11 trepidations over terrorist attacks, she effectively shows how an emotion changes over time within the context of broader social stresses. Interest in studying change and continuity in human emotions has accelerated so rapidly that many universities now house centres and institutes specifically dedicated to the historical study of the emotions. Cambridge was one of the first universities to offer a course on the topic as part of the Themes and Sources history undergraduate paper. The course is taught by a host of acclaimed Cambridge historians and allows students to ponder the literature and evaluate different approaches and methodologies in the historical study of emotions.

But why do feelings deserve so much attention? Proponents of the approach argue that emotions are on par with class or gender – indispensable categories of analysis which should be considered in any historical study in order to more fully comprehend the past. The study of emotions should therefore not simply form a peripheral or unique field of inquiry, but be integrated into all historical research. The American medievalist Barbara Rosenwein explains: “Thus, for example, a history of Germany between the two world wars should include a discussion of not only the economy, the relations between men and women, the ideologies of communism, fascism, and liberalism, and so on, but also the emotions that were privileged – and denigrated – during that period by various dominant and marginal groups.” To Rosenwein, this engagement with emotions in all areas of historical inquiry is “the ultimate goal” (2010).”


Danelle van Zyl-Hermann,“The emotional historian?Cambridge University research blog. February 28, 2012.

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is “tiredness that
trusts in
the world”
tiredness” is
worldless, world-destroying
tiredness ’opens’ the I and “makes room” for
the world. It re-establishes
the "duality” that solitary tiredness destroys utterly. One
sees, and one is seen. One touches, and one is touched: tiredness as
a becoming-accessible, as the
possibility of being touched and of being able to touch
in turn.
It makes lingering, abidance, possible in the first

– Byung-Chul Han, The Burnout Society. Translated by Erik Butler. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. p. 31-32

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I was thinking, as a historical researcher, about Black History Month and how best to commemorate it. I’m conflicted – not only because I’m very aware that these are not my stories to tell, and that there are better equipped people to tell them. What is the responsibility of someone who studies the history of criminality and incarceration in Canada – especially as that history risks becoming a parade of “suffering black bodies” (Marianne Noble). Writing something, relating something, seems better than keeping silent, especially when we consider the historic continuities of the penal system, and its ongoing expression of white supremacy in Canada.

There’s no question, even sticking to the period I’m most familiar with – 1895-1945 – that the criminal justice system, from police to courts to prisons, fell hard on Black folks in Canada. My familiarity with legal trials is…not as good as it should be, so I highly recommend Barrington Walker’s excellent monograph “Race on Trial” (which I discovered while helping the descendants of the Freemans – one of the cases studied closely by Walker – do research into their ancestors) for more information. Looking just at the Dominion penitentiaries, there are the raw statistics – discrimination is visible just in the higher percentage of Black prisoners compared to their total percentage of the Canadian population. Certain communities – Chatham, Halifax – specifically accounted for a high proportion of prisoners arriving at Dominion penitentiaries (and provincial prisons).

Beyond the use of numbers – why repeat the process by prisoners were already having their identities stripped to numbers? – it is clear that the disciplinary and coercive regime of the early 20th century penitentiary fell especially harshly on Black prisoners. To cite a specific example, William Smith, a British immigrant from Manchester, was sentenced in the summer of 1914 to two years at Kingston Penitentiary for stealing a watch from a pawnbroker in Toronto – and despite the newspaper claims that he had “a bad record,” his only previous experience with any sort of criminal sanction or incarceration was a few months in Toronto’s Central. Once inside the prison, Smith became a disciplinary problem to the authorities – his “violent temper,” “gross insubordination” and construction of improvised weapons – a lead pipe club especially – caused “a lot of trouble” to the police staff, who sentenced him first to the Prison of Isolation (long-term solitary) and then, after Smith destroyed his cell fixtures there, to be lashed in August 1915.

Always, according to the reports, the prisoner brings these punishments upon themselves, but the limited evidence of Smith’s record suggest that he was harassed by staff and white inmates – and it is evident, too, from the records of other inmates that Black prisoners understood they were being targeted excessively and acted accordingly. In 1901, as he was being dragged to the Dungeon, for yet another count of ‘insolence’, William Wallace accused – an analysis as accusation – the Chief Keeper, William St. Pierre Hughes, of “being down on all the Colored people” at Kingston Penitentiary. Hughes, brother of Sam Hughes and later the Superintendent of Penitentiaries, was barely exonerated, during a Royal Commission no less, of the shooting death of a Black convict named Hewell in 1896. At Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick between 1900 and 1920, a species of official neglect reigned instead – Black prisoners were not recommended for parole as often as other prisoners – the odd “unfortunate young boy” that could be removed from the prison notwithstanding – but very rarely do Black prisoners figure in the Warden’s reports on disciplinary problems, either.

In the early 20th century penitentiary, the “endless, monotonous, unvarying, un-movingly eternal stretch” produced what novelist and former prisoner Chester Himes called a sort of “bare equality.” At times, the demands of the penal regime – for universal labor and “ceasless toil” – as well as the frugal, chaotic, capricious and incompetent administration – upended the expected racial hierarchy of the prison. Prisoners, whatever their background, were put to work where the prison needed them, manufacturing mail bags, cobbling shoes, cutting stone, carting coal and farming produce. In 1900, a white prisoner named Geo. Shipman was recommended against for parole due to “bad conduct” and constant insubordination – “his trouble arose from the fact that a colored convict was…a sort of Deputy Instructor” in the Mason department, and “was not well liked by Shipman”. The documentary record is silent as to who this inmate was, but the fact that he managed a work gang of 30 to 40 inmates was itself an unremarkable fact in the Warden’s report – the prison could not operate without the experience and skills of inmates at all levels of the administration, and indeed many inmates were far more knowledgeable about their trade than the staff instructors.

During the 1930s, the fraternity of agitators, rabble-rousers and “barracks room lawyers” included people of colour – both Charles Cross at Kingston Penitentiary and Chester Crossley at St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary were instrumental in the political riots that erupted at those prisons in late 1932. The latter’s rallying cry was ‘Hurrah for revolution!’ – and Crossley was considered so popular at the Laval penitentiary that he was eventually transferred to Kingston in 1934. While on trial in 1937 for the murder of a guard during a “psychotic” fit – a complicated and horrific example of the concatenation of race and racism, self-defence, staff harassment, madness, and systemic neglect – the prisoners at Collin’s Bay Penitentiary staged a sympathy strike for Crossley. Attempts to smuggle out a petition for clemency from a number of ‘incorrigible’ prisoners were thwarted at Kingston Penitentiary.

There’s much more to all these histories – especially with the great changes in Canadian prisons of more recent decades – and hopefully more histories will be brought to light and retold. I’m certainly not the best equipped to do so, nor should I be the only one. Finally, it’s always worth remembering that Black prisoners, like most other prisoners, could look forward to eventual release and returning to their families and communities – and putting prison behind them. These lives were not just prison, nor should they be reduced to just prison. Smith’s story was arrived at through genealogical research, and is presented with permission of the (some) of his descendants.  

Documents show, from top to bottom: mugshot of William Smith, Kingston Penitentiary, 1914; punishment entry for William Wallace, Kingston Penitentiary, 1901; one of a number of documents attributed to Chester Crossley, St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, 1932.

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85 years ago today, on 27 February 1933, a 24 year old Dutch council-communist (who according to some sources also considered himself an anarchist),
Marinus van der Lubbe set fire to
the German parliament building, the

He did this alone after having been profoundly disappointed by the lack of resistance to both capitalism and fascism, and hoped his act would spark a revolution.

Unfortunately this did not happen and the Nazis
instead started a campaign of mass arrests against communists who were placed in concentration camps. They also used the Reichstag fire to pass laws that gave them more power, another step towards dictatorship. Marinus was arrested and executed a few days before his 25th birthday.

It was long believed that the Nazi’s themselves started the fire as an excuse to gain this extra power and historians who pointed to evidence to the contract have had their careers ruined on the suspision that they were trying to cover up nazi crimes. By now, we now that the Reichstag fire was not a conspiracy but an isolated heroic act of resistance to capitalism and fascism.

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Japanese Internment in Canada during World War II.

I had always known about Japanese internment in the United States, having studied World War II as a child and having taught lessons on it when I was a teacher. Today it’s a topic that’s becoming more and more common in the popular consciousness of America. However a topic I recently learned about is quite surprising, something I had never known before. Canada also interned people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

The road to Japanese internment in Canada began only one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 8th, 1941 the Canadian government ordered the impounding of 1200 Japanese Canadian owned fishing vessels, a move that was seen as a defense measure. From here a number of measures were passed which served as stepping stones to internment. On December 17th, 1941 all persons of Japanese descent were required to register with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. On the 29th of February, 1942 the Defense of Canada Regulations were amended to forbid Japanese Canadians from owning land or growing crops. On the 26th of February, curfews were instituted, and Japanese Canadians were forbidden from owning motor vehicles, cameras, radios, firearms, ammunition, and explosives. Finally, on March 4th, the War Measures Act was amended to evacuate Japanese Canadians from the Pacific Coast. 

Altogether around 27,000 people, 14,000 of which were native born Canadians and some of which were veterans of World War I, were forcibly removed from the Pacific Coast. Most were interred in hastily built camps in the interior of British Columbia. Around 2,000 were forced to work in road camps, basically mobile camps that performed maintenance on roads, railways, or other transportation infrastructure. Another 2,000 were forced to work on beet farms in the prairies. All property that couldn’t be carried was seized and sold off for pennies on the dollar. This included land, houses, businesses, boats, vehicles, various valuables and personal items. Financial items were also seized such as stocks and bonds, while bank accounts were frozen and seized. The money raised by liquidating seized property was used to fund the internment program. 

Living conditions in the camps were rough. Many of the camps consisted of hastily built shacks and shanties,some were tent cities, some were ghost towns left over from long abandoned logging operations, while some were nothing more than farm buildings and animal stalls. The only item the government provided for internees was a potbellied stove. Everything else, including food, clothing, and toiletries had to be bought from special government commissaries. Since the internees had all of their property and assets seized, they often had no choice but to take part in menial work projects in order to feed and clothe themselves and their families. The Red Cross even had to bring in food shipments so that those who couldn’t work, such as the elderly or infirm, wouldn’t starve.

The war ended with Japan’s official surrender on September 2nd, 1945. However, newly freed internees found that they couldn’t return home. In August of 1944 Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that Japanese Canadians who were to be repatriated after the war were forbidden from living west of the Rocky Mountains. This was actually a part of government policy to resettle Japanese Canadians, and drew popular support from Canadian voters. Parliamentarian Ian Mackenzie stated,

“It is the government’s plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.’”

 Newly freed internees found that they were legally forbidden from returning home but had to move east to new homes in eastern part of the country. Some refused to move east and were deported as a result. Most internees were unable to move east, having no money, means of transportation, or personal possessions, and likewise were forcibly deported. Altogether 


Japanese Canadians were deported after the war. Even the 200 Japanese Canadians who served in the Canadian Army during World War II returned to find that they had no rights, could not return home, and risked deportation. The policy of forbidding Japanese Canadians west of the Rockies remained in place until 1949.

In 1988 Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made an official apology for the internment program. All Japanese Canadians affect were awarded a $21,000 compensation package.

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“Two Years’ Sentence On Stratford Soldier,” Toronto Globe. February 26, 1916. Page 07.

He Attempted To Assault A Young Woodstock Girl – Says He Was Drunk.

(Special Despatch to The Globe).
Woodstock, Feb. 25. – Pte. Wm. Pepper, ‘B’ Company, 71st Battalion, of Stratford, now stationed here, was sentenced to two years in Kingston Penitentiary this afternoon for an attempted assault on a girl of eighteen on Monday night. Pepper met the girl on a side street, but the approach of two other soldiers prevented the assault. He is a married man, with a wife and family in Stratford. He has a record of seven years in Kingston for highway robbery at Berlin in 1896, and eighteen months in the Central Prison for assault on a girl in Stratford in June, 1908. Pepper claimed he was drunk when he attacked the girl Monday night.

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