In Memoriam: Sheila Andrew reflects on W.A. “Bill” Spray, 1938-2017

by Sheila Andrew


W.A, “Bill” Spray made a significant contribution to Atlantic history, including his books on The Blacks in New Brunswick and New Brunswick: Its History and its People. He showed the significance of local events as in his work on the history of the Anglican Church in Chatham. His last book Church, Politics, and STU: the Relocation of St Thomas University from Chatham to Fredericton presents an intriguing insider’s viewpoint and he would have been grateful to Anthony Rhinelander for editing it to the standards Bill would have wanted before his memory problems began.


W.A. “Bill” Spray, 1938-2017

He was also a valuable member of the St. Thomas History Department as a colleague and a teacher. Although his own focus was on New Brunswick, he helped the department to shape a wider curriculum and was a positive and friendly contributor to discussions. His classes were popular and he played a fine game of croquet at the History Club’s celebration of Victorian Games. All of us in the department at that time remember departmental parties with him and his wife Carole at their house. It was a continuing pleasure to visit them for a cup of tea and a chat, even as Bill’s memory problems grew worse. Many of us have books that he was pleased to give us then from his impressive library.

Sheila Andrew was a colleague and friend of Bill Spray. She is Professor Emerita in the Department of History at St. Thomas University.

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150? Canada’s Sticky, Messy History

by Margaret Conrad

What is this place called Canada? The second largest country in the world geographically, it is difficult to grasp the whole. Some peoples and provinces are nations unto themselves and resentment against the dominant centre in outlying regions runs deep.

Even agreeing on a founding moment in Canada’s past can be a challenge. While 1867 works quite well for the four original provinces in Confederation (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec), it tends to obscure significant developments before that date and to discount other areas of northern North America that have been absorbed into this improbable experiment in empire building.

As a result of our different perspectives, not all Canadians feel moved to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial. Indigenous peoples have served notice that they find little to celebrate in 150 years of Ottawa’s rule and the Parti Québécois has made plans to counter Ottawa’s program of “comfort history” with a series of events showcasing “the Other 150” for Quebecers. Together, the books reviewed here, five of them aimed at a broad popular readership and three taking an academic perspective on Confederation, reflect the diverse points of view that lie at the heart of Canada’s complex identity.

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Tear Down the Statue?: The Edward Cornwallis Debate

By Martha Walls and Corey Slumkoski

In Halifax, the issue of naming parks, buildings and other public sites after British soldier and “city founder” Edward Cornwallis has been contentious and longstanding. A May 2016 decision of Halifax City Council to not debate the renaming of public landmarks bearing Cornwallis’ name did not silence the matter. In April 2017, at the urging City Councilor Shawn Cleary, the city endorsed a plan to establish an expert panel to further consider the Cornwallis issue, though with little momentum since. Recently, a Canada Day attempt by five men who claimed membership in a racist right-wing fraternity called the “Proud Boys” to interrupt a protest by Indigenous people in a ceremony at the foot of the symbolic Cornwallis statue in a downtown park has again thrust the issue into the public spotlight.

This coming Saturday, 15 July 2017, Mi’kmaq have organized another protest at the feet of Cornwallis. Having demanded assurances from the city that the Cornwallis statue will be removed by Natal Day, the day that commemorates Halifax’s “founding” by the British, organizers promise to “peacefully remove” the statue if such a guarantee is not made by Saturday. Promoted via social media and reported on by various news outlets, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, and the Executive Director of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre have all weighed in, calling for temperance in the protest. Still, as other Mi’kmaq and their supporters endorse the protest and have received no city assurances about the statue’s imminent removal, the protest is slated to go ahead. Cornwallis’s fate remains unknown.

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“Sesquicentennial Cerebrations”

With the July 1 sesquicentennial fading from view, the time is right to turn a critical eye to what the the last 150 years of the Canadian state has meant for Atlantic Canadians. With this in mind, the print journal has a series of “Past and Present” essays that look at the impact of Confederation on a number of groups. What follows is an excerpt from Donald Wright’s introduction to this important series.

by Donald Wright

cerebration, n. the working of the brain; thinking.

Reviewing six new books on the state of the nation put Ramsay Cook in a combative mood during Canada’s centennial year. And so he came out swinging in “Canada’s Centennial Cerebrations,” throwing the first punch in a carefully selected epigraph that in effect compared Canada’s “academic nationalists” and their “contemplations of the Canadian navel” to Chairman Mao and his teachings: “The unity of our country, the unity of our people, and the unity of our various nationalities,” Mao instructed, “are the basic guarantees of the sure triumph of our cause.”1 In Cook’s defence, Canada’s “National Liberation Frontists” could be insufferable and their appeals to national unity and the national cause, however defined, could be tiring. Besides, he had grown up on the Prairies and he understood that what was called nation-building in Ontario was really Ontario-building and that if the National Policy meant tariff protection for Ontario manufacturers it meant more expensive farm machinery for Prairie farmers. He also distrusted appeals to the unity of Canada’s nationalities. The Prairies were a mosaic, he said, not a melting pot, and to suggest otherwise was wishful thinking.2 Cook therefore urged historians to re-think their “frame of reference”: “Instead of constantly deploring our lack of identity, we should attempt to understand and explain the regional, ethnic, and class identities that we do have. It might just be that in these limited identities that ‘Canadianism’ is found.”3


Ramsay Cook

In a second and less well-known paper, presented to the Royal Society a few months later, Cook picked up where he had left off. Nationalism was a political and intellectual dead end, he said, and the nation, used as a “central focus,” had “distorted” Canadian historical writing in English and in French and “narrowed” our understanding of the past. Again, he urged historians to develop different categories of analysis, including region, ethnicity, and class in order to write “the social, intellectual, religious, economic, labour, and agricultural history of Canada.” He also reminded his audience that “were it not for the anthropologists we should know almost nothing of the North American Indian”: is it because, he asked, Indians “muddy the otherwise clear image we have of our nation, one and indivisible?”

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Acadiensis Board Chair Gregory Kealey named to the Order of Canada

Everyone here at Acadiensis would like to offer a hearty congratulations to Acadiensis Board Chair and labour historian Gregory S. Kealey on being named to the Order of Canada in recognition of “his sustained academic contributions to Canadian labour relations history and for his administrative leadership of several universities in Atlantic Canada.” This is an honour well-deserved. Congratulations, Greg!

For more information please see the following story on the CBC news website:

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Remember Where You Came From

The following post is the seventh in a series that features collaboration between the Acadiensis blog and the students in Jerry Bannister’s undergraduate and graduate Canadian Studies and History classes at Dalhousie University.

by Stefanie Mracic

When growing up Canadian born with an immigrant grandfather from the former Yugoslavia there has always been a push for knowing my heritage and background of Serbia and Croatia. At countless family gatherings my grandfather would arrive with some type of document or memory about his native country. I never fully understood his passion for a country he left until I became a Canadian studies double major and found myself eager to look back on the documents and read my family’s history.


Canadian and Croatian Flags

This past summer when I was home from university he came over with a binder full of pictures and maps about his village, his time in refugee camps and how he was involved in World War Two. Along with these he had more recent pieces, one of which was an article he wrote in The Markham Economist & Sun in December 2009 titled “Don’t forget your mother tongue”.  This was a response piece under letters to the editor from another article written called “Learn English, leave old country behind”.

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Patrick Mannion reviews Gerhard P. Bassler’s Escape Hatch: Newfoundland’s Quest for German Industry and Immigration, 1950-1970.

Gerhard P. Bassler. Escape Hatch: Newfoundland’s Quest for German Industry and Immigration, 1950-1970.  (St. John’s: Flanker Press, 2017)

 By Patrick Mannion

In Escape Hatch, Gerhard Bassler (Professor Emeritus of history, Memorial University of Newfoundland) provides a nuanced, transnational analysis of Newfoundland Premier Joseph R. Smallwood’s New Industries Program of the early-1950s. Following Confederation with Canada in 1949, the economy of rural Newfoundland remained almost entirely dependent on the cod fishery, where wages were far less than those available to labourers in mainland Canada. The new province was therefore faced with the threat of a mass rural exodus to the west. To combat this, Smallwood’s administration devised a policy of unprecedented economic diversification and industrialization which became known as the New Industries Program. Owing to circumstances on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the expertise and personal connections of Smallwood’s Director of Economic Development, former Latvian finance minister Alfred A. Valdmanis, much of the investment, leadership, equipment, and skilled labour involved in the New Industries Program came from Germany. Fifteen European-run, land-based manufacturing enterprises were established, producing a diverse range of goods – from rubber boots and fine leather purses to car batteries. Although there were some exceptions, the New Industries Program is generally considered a failure. Few of the companies ever turned a profit, and most had ceased to exist by the 1960s.


Gerhard P. Bassler. Escape Hatch: Newfoundland’s Quest for German Industry and Immigration, 1950-1970. (St. John’s: Flanker Press, 2017)

The product of decades of research, Bassler’s book provides a superbly-detailed examination of Smallwood’s New Industries Program. Ongoing economic problems in Central Europe, coupled with an intense fear of expanding communism, made North America an attractive option for German industrialists. Desperate for industry and investment, Newfoundland offered them generous terms before other provinces or states were willing to court German business; an “escape hatch” from the postwar situation. Contrary to the claims of some post-Confederation historians, the failure of the New Industries Program owed as much to an absence of infrastructure in rural Newfoundland (a lack of “usable roads, an efficient railway, a regular postal service, dial phones, and cheap, sufficient electrical power”) than to poor management and corruption (226-227). Furthermore, Bassler argues that the Program brought tangible, long-term benefits to Newfoundland. Close to a thousand immigrants arrived from Germany, Austria, and Latvia; mostly skilled workers. Many remained in the province and played a key role in improving and modernizing local infrastructure in the later 1950s and 1960s. Rather than a dismal, corrupt failure, the New Industries Program “marked an important watershed in Newfoundland’s transition from a pre-industrial, fishing-oriented, and monocultural former British dominion towards a modern, urbanized, and multicultural Canadian province” (229).

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Jason Hall wins the Canadian Aboriginal History Prize for best article (2016)

Everyone at Acadiensis would like to congratulate Jason Hall for winning the Canadian Aboriginal History Prize for best article (2016) for his “Maliseet Cultivation and Climatic Resilience on the Wəlastəkw/St. John River During the Little Ice Age,” from the Autumn 2015 issue of Acadiensis. Says the adjudication committee, “Weaving together documentary sources and oral traditions, Hall’s reconstruction of the history of Maliseet plant cultivation on middle reaches of theWəlastəkw/St. John River over the last millennium offers a powerful challenge to received notions about Indigenous economies, the impact of European contact, and the significance of the Little Ice Age in the Northeast. At Meductic, thanks to a favourable microclimate and Maliseet ingenuity, techniques of maize cultivation persisted through climatic changes that doomed the practice elsewhere and prepared the ground, quite literally, for the later establishment of European agriculture there and elsewhere in the region.” Congratulations Jason on an honour well-deserved!

To read Jason Hall’s prize winning article click here.

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Acadiensis Winter/Spring 2017 Table of Contents

We’re back from hiatus with a new issue of the journal hot off the presses. Take a gander at the exciting research on offer in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Acadiensis.




Maroons and Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia, 1796-1800

Trans-Atlantic Sheep, Regional Development, and the Cape Breton Development Corporation, 1972-1982

“their unalienable right and privilege”: New Brunswick’s Challenge to the
Militarization of the British Empire, 1807-1814

Cricket, the Retired Feather Merchant, and Settler Colonialism: The Troubled Halifax Sojourn of A.H. Leighton, 1912


Greater New England as Cultural Borderland: A Critical Appraisal

Growth Fantasies: Setting the Urban Agenda in Saint John, New Brunswick, 1960-1976


Sesquicentennial Cerebrations

Canadian Historical Nonchalance and Newfoundland Exceptionalism

Women’s Suffrage and Confederation

“Damn TORYISM say I”: Dissent, Print Culture, and Anti-Confederation Thought in James Barry’s Diary


Times Have Changed: Recent Writings on the History of Christianity in Canada

Culture, Art, and the Sense of Place

Newfoundland Studies 2.0


The African Diaspora in Atlantic Canada: History, Historians, and Historiography


Preface to E.R. Forbes’s Bibliography

E.R. Forbes, 1940-2015: A Bibliography

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Peter Toner reviews Anna Kearney Guigné’s The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports: As Taken from Kenneth Peacock’s Newfoundland Field Collection, 1951-1961.

Anna Kearney Guigné. The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports: As Taken from Kenneth Peacock’s Newfoundland Field Collection, 1951-1961. Music re-edited and transcribed by Evelyn Osborne. Mercury Series, Cultural Studies Paper 87. (Ottawa: Canadian Museum of History and University of Ottawa Press, 2016)

By Peter G. Toner

Kenneth Peacock’s three-volume Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (1965) is well-known among Atlantic Canadian folklorists and ethnomusicologists as an important contribution to the collection of Newfoundland folksongs, following on the heels of academic collectors like Elizabeth Greenleaf and Grace Mansfield, Maud Karpeles, MacEdward Leach, and Margaret Sargent McTaggart, as well as local folksong promoters and popularizers like James Murphy, John Burke, and Gerald Doyle. Peacock, working on behalf of the National Museum of Canada, made six field trips to Newfoundland between 1951 and 1961 and collected a total of 766 songs and melodies from 118 singers in 38 communities, of which 546 were published in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports.


Anna Kearney Guigné. The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports: As Taken from Kenneth Peacock’s Newfoundland Field Collection, 1951-1961.

Much recent scholarship on folk music and other aspects of folk culture (for example, Neil Rosenberg, Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, 1993 and Ian McKay, The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia, 1994) quite correctly scrutinizes the curatorial and editorial choices that underlie field collecting, sound recording, musical transcription, festival organization, radio broadcast, album production, and the publication of folksong collections, each of which is an activity that engages a process of cultural selection on the part of the collector/recordist/impresario, both in “the field” and afterward. There always appears to be a gap between the total repertories of folk singers, the subset of those repertories chosen for collection in the field, and the even smaller subset of the latter chosen for publication, and at each stage certain songs are canonized as “authentic” and “traditional” while others may be quietly forgotten. Gaining a clear perspective on the nature of those curatorial and editorial choices is still a pressing challenge for contemporary folksong scholarship.

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