History Matters: Beyond Orange and Green--Toronto's Irish, 1870-1914

January 29, 2013 | Miriam

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 History Matters is back for a third year with an exciting roster of talks planned over the next four months. Since 2010, the series has ranged widely over Toronto's history: the Don Valley as a repository for the city's "undesirables";  the story of booze in the Junction from Prohibition to the present day; Yorkville in the 1960s. Other talks centered on the battles of labour, from Jewish garment workers in the 1920s to strikes by Portuguese women cleaners in the towers at King and Bay.

The History Matters talks have shown Toronto as a diverse, polyglot city which became more vibrant as successive waves of immigrants came here. But it wasn't always that way, as the first talk in the new series makes clear. For a long time, Ontario was known as "Orange Ontario," and Toronto was "Toronto the Good." The Orange Order took root in Canada in the 19th century. So tight was the political grip of the Orange Order that as late as the first half of the 20th century, every mayor of Toronto was an Orangeman. Jenkins Figure 3.6

In the late 1840s the devastation of famine in Ireland drove close to 2 million people to flee, and many came to Canada. In Orange Ontario these mainly Irish Catholics got a far from friendly reception.This is the backdrop to the talk presented by Professor William Jenkins (Geography, York University) at the Parliament Street branch on Thursday, January 31 (6:30 pm).

In his talk, Beyond Orange and Green--Toronto's Irish, 1879-1914, Prof. Jenkins looks at the immigration patterns and political allegiances of Toronto's Irish between 1870 and World War I, and at how struggles at home and abroad impacted the Catholic and Protestant Irish communities in Toronto.

The other talks in the series are equally intersting. On February 28, the very well-known and distinguished labour historian Franca Iacovetta (University of Toronto) explores the International Institute Movement's use of public spectacle and pageantry to promote cultural pluralism in a pre-multicultural Toronto (Public Spectacles of Multiculturalism: Toronto Before Trudeau, Dufferin/St.Clair, 6:30 pm).

On March 27 Funké Aladejebi of the Harriet Tubman Institute, York University relates the compelling story of how black organizations in Toronto used education to combat racism, adapting the language of Black Power to the Canadian experience (Black Power in Toronto, 1950s-1970s, Maria A. Shchuka, 6:30 pm).

The series wraps up with a talk by Pamela Sugiman (Ryerson) on the aftermath of the World War II internment of Japanese Canadians, And Life Goes On: Japanese Canadians, Memory, and Life after Internment. Some 22,000 people were dispossessed, torn from their homes and shipped to internment sites. After the war, they were given a "choice" between deportation to war-devastated Japan or dispersal east of the Rockies. This talk explores how they rebuilt their lives. (Lillian H. Smith April 25, 6:30 pm).

The series has been organized with the assistance of Jay Young (ActiveHistory.ca) and Gil Fernandes at York University. The talks will be available later as podcasts on the activehistory.ca website.