“The government seems to be, in essence, running some kind of secret or shadow archive,” Molinaro told CBC News

A May 25, 2017 CBC article is entitled: “Government accused of hoarding Canadian history in ‘secret’ archives: ‘You’re hiding the historical record from the Canadian people,’ historian says.”

The opening paragraphs read:

Some of Canada’s leading historians say the federal government is putting the country’s historical record at risk by hoarding piles of documents inside secret archives that together would make a stack taller than the CN Tower.

Historian Dennis Molinaro of Trent University discovered ministries and agencies are stockpiling millions of decades-old papers rather than handing them over to Library and Archives Canada for safekeeping and public access. He’s launched a petition to try to convince the government to set them free.

The Canadian Historical Association (CHA) has joined his campaign and is calling on the government to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary by overhauling the laws on access to government records.

“It’s very disturbing that there are caches of documents about which we know very little. We don’t even know the extent of this,” said CHA president Joan Sangster, a colleague of Molinaro’s at Trent in Peterborough, Ont., where she teaches labour and women’s history.



Some of the most interesting accounts of history, that I have read in recent years, have been based upon the close study, by professional historians, of archives that have been opened in recent decades in countries around the world.

Dennis Molinaro is author of An Exceptional Law : Section 98 and the Emergency State, 1919-1936 (2017).

A blurb (which I’ve broken into shorter paragraphs) at the Toronto Public Library website for the book, which is in the Not Holdable – Reference category, reads:

During periods of intense conflict, either at home or abroad, governments enact emergency powers in order to exercise greater control over the society that they govern. The expectation though is that once the conflict is over, these emergency powers will be lifted.

An Exceptional Law showcases how the emergency law used to repress labour activism during the First World War became normalized with the creation of Section 98 of the Criminal Code, following the Winnipeg General Strike. Dennis G. Molinaro argues that the institutionalization of emergency law became intricately tied to constructing a national identity.

Following a mass deportation campaign in the 1930s, Section 98 was repealed in 1936 and contributed to the formation of Canada’s first civil rights movement.

Portions of it were used during the October Crisis and recently in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015. Building on the theoretical framework of Agamben, Molinaro advances our understanding of security as ideology and reveals the intricate and codependent relationship between state-formation, the construction of liberal society, and exclusionary practices.


Joan Sangster is author of several studies listed at the Toronto Public Library website, including Through Feminist Eyes: Essays on Canadian Women’s History (2011).

A blurb at the Toronto Public Library reads:

In Through Feminist Eyes, historian Joan Sangster uses aselection of her writings, published over a period of three decades, as a gateway into reflections on the themes and theoretical concerns thathave shaped both the writing of women’s history in Canada and herown evolution as a feminist historian. As in the original essaysthemselves, she brings to these reflections her distinctive combinationof insight, honesty, and impeccable scholarship.


Michael Bliss

A May 20, 2017 Borealia article is entitled: “Remembering Michael Bliss.”

The article emphasizes the cognitive sharpness that serves as a required element of first-rate work in history.

The concluding paragraph reads:

I’d like to close this reminiscence that Borealia has solicited from me with a story that particularly reveals that equanimity and the mettle of the man. When Alison Li and Shelley McKellar approached me with the idea of a festschrift, I enthusiastically joined in. There were scholarly articles but there were also some very frank reflections on Michael himself as a scholar and as a teacher. The collection went to referees who worried that the reflections might be too frank. They worried about decorum in a way that anyone trained by Michael was unlikely to worry. So we showed it all to Michael and his response was generous and supportive as we expected it to be. “Tell UTP and its readers that Professor Bliss would not possibly take offence at the truths his students tell. This is simply not an issue.” Michael Bliss was absolutely fearless: where the life of the mind took him, there he would go, frankly and openly. He knew our weaknesses better than we knew them ourselves, and yet he still expected us to rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion was. This was true of “us” his students and “us” as Canadians. When I think of Michael, I think of the words that John A. Macdonald used to describe George-Étienne Cartier: “He was as bold as a lion.”


The above-noted paragraph refers to: Essays in Honour of Michael Bliss: Figuring the Social (2008).

A blurb reads:

A leading public intellectual, Michael Bliss has written prolifically for academic and popular audiences and taught at the University of Toronto from 1968 to 2006. Among his publications are a comprehensive history of the discovery of insulin, and major biographies of Frederick Banting, William Osler, and Harvey Cushing. The essays in this volume, each written by former doctoral students of Bliss, with a foreword by John Fraser and Elizabeth McCallum, do honour to his influence, and, at the same time, reflect upon the writing of history in Canada at the end of the twentieth century.

The opening essays discuss Bliss’s career, his impact on the study of history, and his academic record. Bliss himself contributes an autobiographical essay that strengthens our understanding of the business of scholarship, teaching, and writing. In the second section, the contributors interrogate public mythmaking in the relationship between politics and business in eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century Canada. Further sections investigate the relationship between fatherhood, religion, and historiography, as well as topics in health and public policy. A final section on ‘Medical Science and Practice’ deals with subjects ranging from early endocrinology, lobotomy, the mechanical heart, and medical biography as a genre. Going beyond a collection of dedicatory essays, this volume explores the wider subject of writing social and medical history in Canada in the late twentieth century.



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