Pulling Back the Curtains: Unveiling Untold Stories in Canada’s History

June 2, 2021
Valerie Leow, J.D. Candidate, University of Alberta 
Congress 2021 blog edition 

Hosted by the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE), the “On the Other Side(s) of 150 Book Launch” open event celebrated the launch of the book, On the Other Side(s) of 150: Untold Stories and Critical Approaches to History, Literature, and Identity in Canada

The co-editors of the book, Bishop’s University Professor Linda Morra and Simon Fraser University Assistant Professor Sarah Henzi, were both present at the panel. According to Morra, untold stories have the power to both nuance and complicate existing stories. “Our book is located in a research trajectory that reveals how there’s so much more work to be done in terms of what is yet hidden or covered up,” said Henzi. 

Morra and Henzi were joined by the following contributors to the book: Deanna Reder, Simon Fraser University; Alix Shield, Simon Fraser University; Benjamin Authers, Australian National University; Laura Moss, The University of British Columbia; Kit Dobson, Mount Royal University; Libe García Zarranz, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Erin Wunker, Dalhousie University; Kailin Wright, St. Francis Xavier University; Mary Ann Steggles, University of Manitoba; Martha Langford, Concordia University; Jennifer Andrews, University of New Brunswick; Krisztina Kodó, Kodolányi János University; Margery Fee, The University of British Columbia; and Linda Warley, University of Waterloo.  

This purpose of this book, as stated by Wilfrid Laurier Press, is to explore the different literary, historical, and cultural legacies of the celebrations surrounding Canada’s 150th anniversary, while simultaneously questioning the ways in which some histories and stories have been omitted or suppressed from the record of mainstream narratives. Andrews noted that many people are very uncomfortable or hesitant to hear counter-narratives to what they presume Canada is. “There’s been a real pushback and a real hesitation to think more negatively – about Canada’s history,” said Andrews. However, this body of untold stories deserves to be told and heard, even after the commemorative moment has passed. 

On the Other Side(s) of 150: Untold Stories and Critical Approaches to History, Literature, and Identity in Canada is divided into four sections. The first section, entitled “Contemporary Counter Memories and Narratives,” discusses the repression of memories and narratives, including the censorship of Indigenous voices, the lack of justice in public attention to violence against Indigenous women, and how government responses to past wrongs often inform legal processes and public apologies. The second section, “Unbecoming Narratives,” looks at the contemporary political climate and the real challenges for – and, sometimes, outright oppression of – immigrants to Canada, whose desire to belong is responded to with an imposed sense of otherness that underscores their undesirable or unbecoming statuses as ‘outsiders.’ It also looks at how dominant narratives have disallowed particular expressions or ways of being, with regard to Black slavery in Canada, gender, sustainability, feminist perspectives, and social justice issues. “Memories From Below and Beyond the Border,” the third section, includes chapters related to the portrayal of untold stories, of histories and counter-histories, in the visual and performance arts. The fourth and final section, “Rhetorical Renegotiations,” closes the book with Indigenous critiques or texts that call upon the public to continually address Canada’s untold literary, historical, and cultural legacies, rather than simply viewing Canada’s 150th anniversary as a celebratory moment that is punctual and finite, in order to move towards a better, healthier future. 

For a copy of the book, visit www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Books/O/On-the-Other-Side-s-of-150