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Tranquille Sanatorium — June 14, 2018

Tranquille Sanatorium

In today’s post, Julia is here to tell us about the Tranquille Sanatorium and its fascinating history. 



The Tranquille Sanatorium is a piece of land and cluster of buildings located on the outskirts of Kamloops. Originally opened November 1907, it was called the King Edward VII Sanatorium and served to treat tuberculosis.

The disease was quickly spreading during this time, and Kamloops was the ideal place to host these patients. Anyone suffering from tuberculosis was advised to stay away from polluted or damp areas – and it being 1907, Kamloops had far fewer inhabitants than today. It was even said that Kamloops was the best spot in all of Canada, if not North America.

The inhabitants of Kamloops at the time were not pleased with the prospect of so many tuberculosis patients living near them. By creating an Anti-Sanatorium League, they began their protests. The solution to appease everyone was to purchase land over ten kilometers outside of town. This way, there would be less of a risk of outsiders contracting the illness.

They purchased the land in Tranquille – named after a First Nations Chief who was executed for his betrayal of the fur traders, and it was 191 acres. The sanatorium was established, eventually growing to forty buildings (four of which were hospitals). They were able to make these expansions due to various donations. Other buildings consisted of housing for doctors, a fire hall, kitchen, laundry area, farm buildings, nurses’ buildings, and more. It was practically its own city.

Another interesting addition to the Sanatorium were the tunnels. These tunnels were created to transport food and laundry, but also served as a barber shop and morgue. Needless to say, there are countless ghost stories about these tunnels.

Throughout the years, the Tranquille Sanatorium brought many curious tourists (the beautiful gardens were widely recognized), but the need for a sanatorium soon decreased. By 1957, a cure for tuberculosis had been discovered and the sanatorium met its end. The remaining patients were shipped off to Vancouver and the sanatorium was closed.

At the time of closure, the sanatorium had hosted over six hundred patients and staff. Many of the young men fell in love with their nurses and ended up married.

The old sanatorium briefly re-opened as a school, but the school didn’t last long. It was soon decided that the sanatorium would act as an extra facility for Essondale and Woodlands – to house patients with mental illness. The first patients would arrive in 1959.

The old sanatorium was then referred to as the Woodlands School until 1984, when it closed. Aside from the patients, they also found themselves with various abandoned children.

Though the care and food provided at Tranquille was good, the patients had little to no freedom; their days were planned out for them. There were limited activities provided and a few staff members were not polite – a few former employees had said there was room for improvement.

After the closure of 1984, the sanatorium had a few other purposes, including hosting a union for a few days. However, nothing was permanent, and the sanatorium was soon forgotten.

The Tranquille Sanatorium is somewhat of an interesting story due to the fact that it served many purposes over its years and the possibility that there are many things people don’t know about the sanatorium. Even the fact that they had underground tunnels is somewhat of a strange concept.

Long gone are the days of tuberculosis, but the story of the sanatorium lives on through the owners of the property, who try their best to preserve the history behind the buildings.

The land is now Tranquille Farm Fresh, and the buildings remained closed off. Being so old, the buildings are worse for wear, only adding to the theories that the property is haunted. Though it is private property, people have definitely gone to test the theories by sneaking into windows to give themselves their own tour of the sanatorium.

At Halloween, the tunnels open for a haunted tour – where actors hide to make the experience as terrifying as possible.

The sanatorium surrounding area has served as the site for a few movies and there are many ghost stories. There does not seem to be one prevalent ghost story, but rather, the acceptance of the building being haunted. One story tells of a nurse who caught tuberculosis after she fell in love with one of the patients.


For more photos, see:





Vancouver’s Chinatown – The Jack Chow Building — May 1, 2018

Vancouver’s Chinatown – The Jack Chow Building

Ever wanted to know more about that strangely shaped building in Chinatown? This week, Abrielle has you covered! 

One of the most iconic buildings in Vancouver’s Chinatown is the Jack Chow Building (previously known as the Sam Kee Building) located at 8 West Pender Street. The building is recognized for being the thinnest building in the world as featured in The Guinness Book of World Records and Believe It Or Not. The Jack Chow Building is not only a popular attraction, it is a part of the rich historical legacy of the first Chinese immigrants who settled in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

In the late 1800s Vancouver was a main point of entry for many Chinese immigrants who sought out jobs in the lumber industries and on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Chinese immigrants also found jobs as mining labourers, farmers, cannery workers, cooks, and servants in homes and hotels. To meet the growing demand of services like housing, food, laundry, and goods, Chinese immigrants began to establish businesses in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

In 1903, Chang Toy, who began as a labourer and eventually became a wealthy businessman, purchased the land at the corner of Carrall and Pender Streets. In 1912, the municipal government decided to widen Pender Street and as a result, expropriated 24 feet of Chang Toy’s land, leaving Toy with only a 6 foot wide plot of land. No one believed Toy would have any use for such a thin property and many assumed he would sell the remaining land to the neighbouring business. But in order to spite the city, and to win a $10,000 bet with a business associate, Toy decided to hire architects Bryan and Gillam to design a free-standing 6 feet wide building.


The building was known at the time as the Sam Kee Building, named after Chang Toy’s business, The Sam Kee Company. The building housed up to 13 businesses. On the main level, each window was a storefront for various businesses such as a general store, food vendors, a barber shop, a silk shop, and an architects office. The upper level provided housing and the underground level housed public baths.

The current owner, Jack Chow, operates an insurance business inside the building, and has restored the building several times over the years. Rod Chow, son of Jack Chow, explained the transformation the building has undergone. The outside of the building has been restored to maintain its historical past, while the inside was renovated to take advantage of its unique size.  A glass staircase and the entire building has been designed and programmed to exhibit a symphonic light show.

The Jack Chow Building is recognized in the City of Vancouver Heritage Register and the Canadian Historic Places Registry thereby ensuring its rich history will be shared with future generations.


Podcasting, Context, and Why You Actually Don’t Know the Great War: an interview with Daniel Clark — April 24, 2018

Podcasting, Context, and Why You Actually Don’t Know the Great War: an interview with Daniel Clark

In this week’s post, Jolie interviews podcaster Daniel Clark, of The Great War Podcast. Podcasts are a great way to learn about history while you’re out and about, or while doing housework. Do you have a favourite podcast? Tell us in the comments!


As a boy, Daniel Clark would spend his time watching airshows and playing flight simulators with his friends. Still an aviation enthusiast, he attributes his love of history to those early years admiring the history of flight. Now, he’s the creator of The Great War Podcast, an ongoing show about the First World War that will delight history newcomers and weathered professors alike.

What makes someone jump into the world of podcasting? “I had no idea how to start,” Daniel admits. “I realized that it was a fast market and it didn’t seem that you needed a lot of experience in terms of technology or audio recording.” He had also been inspired by Mike Duncan’s History of Rome podcast, a now-complete behemoth of 179 episodes spanning thousands of years of history. Undoubtedly, his brief undergraduate experience in producing videos also helped him with technical work.

But what about the decidedly non-technical history analysis? “I had an honours diploma in history, so I used some of my training there to go through the archives and find really good sources.” He told me about how during his studies at McMaster University, he had discovered different ways of seeing WWI. Now, perspective is the name of the game for him – he describes the teaching of WWI as, “almost like a quick, dismissed event before going on to the Second World War.”

“I knew bits and pieces of the war beforehand, but what I know now about the war completely dwarfs what I knew before.” Daniel attributed most of his new knowledge to his better understanding of historical context. For many students, the context they receive is between the dusty covers of a textbook. “How did people think at the time? What was influencing their day-to-day lives? What were the governments like? Social life of the people?” Our conversation saw no shortage of Daniel’s advocacy for historical understanding. “The issues I have always seen with history, or poorly-written history, is that they tend to put modern perspectives on past events.” He raised the point that before 1914, the world was still ruled by empires and kingdoms, and that the idea of the nation is relatively modern. “Many studies pretend that it was not so different from, say, the 1950’s or 60’s…things change and they can change very quickly.”

One particular aspect of the war that surprised Daniel was the public’s opinion throughout the war. “The public supported the war one hundred percent. The soldiers that fought it didn’t view it the way we view it today.” After the Second World War, the Cold War, and numerous other conflicts around the world, modern society is much more jaded than the people of 1914 would have been. With our 21st-century eyes, we tend to view the actions of many historic military leaders as nearsighted, or even senseless at times. Daniel has an apt rebuttal: “They were grappling with developing technologies and they didn’t have twenty years of hindsight about what should or should not have happened. They were acting on the spot. That shattered the views that I had always been taught—that unless you’re Arthur Currie, you’re a stupid general.”

The exhaustive research required for The Great War Podcast also forced Daniel to explore non-Canadian perspectives to the war. “I saw the German perspective, the Austrian perspective…you realize that for any event, you need to give a well-rounded view.” Exploring other perspectives isn’t to diminish the Halifax Explosion or the Battle of Vimy Ridge, two notable Canadian examples Daniel raised, but rather to help students understand the other belligerents in the conflict.

Nearing the end of our interview, I asked Daniel how youth could get into history podcasting. “Cover the big events,” he said immediately, but changed his mind in moments: “More importantly, cover some of the big misconceptions.” As a prime example, he brought up popular conception of the war. “The main misconception is that [people] think the war was pointless, waste[ful], and ultimately futile, and that nothing bad has come out of the post-war belief that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair against Germany, leading to Hitler.” He himself had been a subscriber to the common belief, but after entering university, his research helped him overcome century-old pent-up myths. “It overlooks the twenty years in between the wars. What happened? The economics, populism…it glances over that.” He describes it as a convenient, but inaccurate, story to tell.

As a final question, I asked him for advice that he would give to young podcasters and historians. He implored rising historians to be unafraid of two things: writing something different, and using secondary sources. For podcasters? “Uh, I would ask them for their advice, actually.” It seems the secret to podcast success is to keep learning, even with four years and over 60 episodes under your belt.

Sports & Society in Canada — April 14, 2018

Sports & Society in Canada

Today, Veronica is here to share with us her love of the development of sports and culture in Canada.

We also have a favour to ask – would you share this post, or your favourite post from the past, with a friend or two? Or, let us know your favourite historical topic in the comments and maybe you’ll see a blog post about it!


Boys’ high school 50-yard dash at Star Indoor Games in 1985


Something which I always notice and am interested in is how culture reflects society and vice versa. In this post, I want to look specifically at sports, looking at it from a societal perspective, and culture in light of sports trends.

Indigenous Sports

The obvious beginning would be with Indigenous sports, which were present before European contact. Many of these sports helped develop skills related to survival, such as wrestling, archery, spear throwing, and foot and canoe racing, while others had religious significance, such as dancing and lacrosse (which was known as baggataway).

Similarly, Inuit games, such as dogsledding, tug-of-war, and ball games, prepared one for survival. They also aimed to help develop a sense of one’s own tolerance level through games such as arm-pull, leg-wrestling and finger-pull. These sports are a clear example of how sports and society are connected, as they clearly reflect the need for survival, as well as their religious culture.

Early Settlers

As Europeans settled in Canada, they brought with them a different culture of sports. While the settlers were mainly occupied with survival, social activities did occur, where sports played a big role. Social gatherings in a pioneer settlement provided a chance for cooperative labour, while also offering opportunities for wrestling, horse racing, and weight-lifting. These sports reflected the need for cooperation and for survival, highlighting abilities such as strength and equestrian skill. Sports figures also began to emerge. For example, Louis Cyr became known for lifting incredible weights. In 1895, in Boston, he lifted on his back a platform with eighteen men, with a total weight of 1967 kg. These feats made Cyr a legend.

1750s to Early 1800s

During the Seven Years’ War (1755–63), an influx of British soldiers and settlers arrived in Canada, bringing with them cricket and equestrian sports, while Scots introduced golfing and curling. Golf did not become an established sport until Confederation, however curling quickly gained popularity. This clearly demonstrates the relationship between sports and society: the large amounts of land (which was also covered in snow and ice for a significant portion of the year) necessary made golfing unaffordable, but curling was easily accessible with Canada’s plentiful winter ice.

By the early 1800s, sports were mainly limited to those in the upper class, who had the time and money to participate. Their eagerness to establish traditional sports from their homelands, as well as adopt new ones, resulted in the establishment of many new sports in Canada.

Sporting events also played a role in society, both bringing together different people, and, at the same time, reinforcing the separate social classes. They provided a mixing ground for different people: city and country dwellers, Europeans and Indigenous, middle class and high class. However, the elite resisted this mixing, and tried to bar the lower classes from these events by erecting fences, charging admission, and creating events for “gentlemen amateurs.”

Pioneer women, meanwhile, were too busy to participate in sports, and when an opportunity presented itself, social conventions deterred women’s participation. However, in the 1850s, this began to change. Female participation in fox hunting, figure skating, snowshoeing, archery, and other sports increased, demonstrating a growing emancipation.


By about the mid-1800s, sports also provided a sense of nationalism and played a major role in developing Canada’s identity. Canadians were at the forefront of the development and popularization of lacrosse, baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. These sports all rapidly evolved, gaining popularity across Canada. By now, lower and middle classes had access to numerous sports, however, they were often still excluded.

In addition, with the rapid development of technology, sports were greatly changed. Improved modes of transportation also carried entire sporting teams to further places to compete. More widely representative associations could be formed and sports became more standardized. The steam-powered printing press and the telegraph brought sports to a wider audience than ever before. In this, one can see how technological trends in society affected an aspect of culture, sports.


With urbanization and industrialization, similar trends in sports continued in the 20th century. Professional sports became major attractions, as industrialization gave people more leisure time to participate in extracurricular activities. Sports spread across Canada with the establishment of leagues, and entire sports developed their own unique cultures. International competition gave Canada a chance to compete against other countries, and provided a sense of national pride. Meanwhile, more women began to participate in sports as they redefined gender roles.

Evidently, parallels can be found between sports and society. By looking at our world through different lens such as this, we can better understand it and the forces which affect us.


Source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sports-history/


Pointe Shoes and Perestroika: Ballet During the Cold War — March 28, 2018

Pointe Shoes and Perestroika: Ballet During the Cold War

Today Jolie is here to tell us about ballet, and its importance as part of the Cold War. So put on your pointe shoes and let’s get started!


Today, most people think of ballerinas as whip-thin willowy figures, dancing endless turns on glowing stages. Critics may decry dance as meaningless and dancers as vapid, but less than fifty years ago, ballerinas were centre stage of the rapidly heating politics of the Cold War.


A painting of a ballerina in the 1700’s. Source: Ballet Dot

Russia has long since prided itself on its national mastery of the ballet, so much so that one of the top-searched Google queries on ballet concerns whether the art was originally French or Russian. Spoiler alert: it’s French. But that didn’t stop Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich (1629-1676) from featuring it at his wedding, nor did it prevent Jean Baptiste Landé (d. 1748) from asking Empress Anna Ivanovna (1693-1740) for permission to found the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet School. From then on, it became de rigeur for the aristocracy to sponsor ballet academia.


George Balanchine teaching in the American School of Ballet, 1959. Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Source: Pinterest

Ironically, ballet took root in America partially from Russia. Having left Russia for Paris in 1924, George Balanchine (born Giorgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze, 1904-1983) co-founded the New York City Ballet with Lincoln Edward Kirstein (1907-1996) in 1933. In 1934, Balanchine went on to found the School of American Ballet as schools and companies popped up across the United States. Other dance styles also found themselves infused into ballet; Twyla Tharp (b. 1941) is a notable performer and teacher who founded Twyla Tharp Dance, a ballet company using elements of jazz and contemporary music.

American ballet’s origins in the Russian school of ballet failed to buffer the cultural and political clash during the Cold War. Both nations’ ballet companies toured across the world, including in their rival countries. The Russians derided the American form as mediocre and undisciplined, while providing their own dancers with a luxurious life even in the day of socialism. The most successful performers were allowed to drive cars and own dachi (vacation homes in the countryside), not unlike prominent politicians.


Mikhail Baryshnikov and American ballet principal Lesley Collier. Source: Pointe Magazine

Russia prided itself on slim figures and a delicate aesthetic, often turning down talented dancers with muscular body types or short stature such as Mikhail Baryshnikov (b. 1948). When dancers like himself and Natalia Makarova (b. 1940) defected to the West during tours and received higher positions in American companies, it was a shame to the Soviet government. Dancers quickly took their spots. Yuri Grigorovich (b. 1927), Soviet choreographer, famously declared that “The Soviet Union is a ballet factory—we can replace anybody.” Citizens in the Soviet Union and the United States were not connected by the Internet or cell phones as we are now; ballet was their universal medium and a point of political tension.


Maria Khoreva, a current Vaganova Academy of Ballet student in St. Petersburg, Russia. Source: Instagram, @marachok

Today, tensions have defused and we no longer live in Cold War paranoia, but ballet remains. Today, ballerinas from both the East and West have social media accounts lined with dance photos and product promotions, bridging the divide that plagued nations and dancers from the 60’s to 80’s. When students learn about the conflicts now, the focus is on political tensions and the prominent powers—Dwight Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev, Joseph McCarthy, the like. The cultural and social aspects of the Cold War, and nationalism on both sides, is perhaps best illustrated with pliés, dégagés, and tutus.







Celebrating Our Heritage & Understanding Our Culture — March 27, 2018

Celebrating Our Heritage & Understanding Our Culture

This week, Gita brings us a personal post about her Mama Ji (maternal uncle), and how his story impacted her life and her understanding of culture and heritage. If you have time, we recommend watching this Tedx talk given by her Mama Ji.


My Mama Ji (maternal uncle) shared with me a part of his story when I was young.

My Mama Ji’s story has over the years impacted my sense of culture and belonging. Most recently, it has impacted my perception of racial stereotyping and discrimination.

My Mama Ji’s story altered my understanding of culture; what has culture become but another way to draw lines between us and apply labels to generalize groups of people whom we do not personally understand? In saying that I belong to a singular, particular culture, what I am saying is that I don’t belong to yours. What my Mama Ji’s story taught me is that culture cannot, and should not, be simply defined and assigned to a group of people.

From my Mama Ji’s story, I also learned that sometimes there is pain that comes from cultural and racial stereotyping, and that this pain is never forgotten. Therefore, I value acceptance and diversity.

Heritage defines part of who I am. I believe that it can have as great an impact on a community. In this, I have realized that celebrating heritage ensures that a community will always maintain a connection to its past, continue to celebrate diversity, find pleasure in the differences that define us, and overall contribute to the unity of our community.

Provincially, I have worked towards creating a strong social media platform for the BC Heritage Fairs Society (BCHFS), including a blog to keep teachers, students and parents updated with the BCHFS’s initiatives, and a video project to assist Heritage BC in promoting the importance of heritage sites across the province.

Regionally, I have presented in schools to spark a passion for history, encouraged students to participate in the Richmond Regional Heritage Fair (RRHF), acted as a spokesperson for the RRHF to dignitaries and politicians, and assisted with the planning and execution of the RRHF, including emceeing the opening and closing ceremonies.

I am dedicated to the work that I do because I believe that celebrating heritage leaves an invaluable impact on a community. My involvement with the BCHFS has been rewarding as I work to demonstrate the reasons to celebrate individuality and identity. Celebrating heritage allows community members to take time to reflect upon the hardships and sacrifices that were made for them by individuals from all walks of life, at times much different from today. This is essential in order for a community to be able to experience growth, and ensure that it takes steps forward to fulfill its potential, rather than recede in denial. Celebrating heritage encourages community members to embrace their diversity and appreciate exactly what makes individuals unique. I believe that every community member has something to offer to those around them. Through the celebration of heritage, we can encourage everyone to also realize this fact.

The connections that are built when people are brought together to celebrate heritage immensely benefits the community by fostering a long-term sense of pride and belonging in each of its members and overall crafting an ideal atmosphere in which people wish to raise a family and grow old.

Today, as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation, it seems that now, more than ever, we must remind ourselves that all these aspects of community must not be forgotten or dismissed. As generations grow, it will always remain beneficial to take time to celebrate heritage, a piece of us, handed down from our past.

Finally, when you are interacting with a group that you think is different than your own, or with a member of that group, get to know them as an individual. Get to know them uniquely. Try to find at least one thing in common with that person. As a doctor, my Mama Ji has also guaranteed me that you will have more in common with that person than you will have different.

History of the Vote — March 15, 2018

History of the Vote

As BC is facing the possibility of electoral reform, Lucas is here to tell us about the history of the vote in Canada (and possible alternate voting systems)! Yes, some of them are more complicated, but which one do you think is the most fair? Let us know in the comments! 


Citizens from all democratic nations often take the act of voting for granted; simply filling in a piece of paper and placing it in a cardboard box often seems like a necessity rather than a privilege. However, voting was not always so automatic a task, and even today, Canadians face the difficult problem of considering whether our way of voting is actually the most fair.


History of the Vote in Canada

The first elections held in Canada occurred before it even became a nation – residents of Quebec (then known as New-France) selected representatives, or syndics, to sit on a colonial council as early as the 17th century. The role of the syndic was to simply act as a messenger between the people and the council. Eventually, citizens were allowed to choose a few council members who could make decisions.

The section of Canada under British rule began to hold parliamentary elections in 1758. However, the elected assembly members weren’t very powerful, as various other councils and houses had veto power over them. Elections were usually held in a public area, where choices would be declared verbally. Interestingly, from 1791 until 1849 in Lower Canada, women were actually allowed to vote – if they met the property and income rules set out by the government.

After the Dominion of Canada was formed, various voting practices we use today were put into place. However, some ‘tactics’ used by parties to try and convince voters to choose them would be considered very questionable today. For example, since the party in power had the right to hold elections, they would visit different ridings on several different dates, starting with the ‘safest’ ridings (sections that they would easily win). This method would convince the more undecided ridings that the ruling party was stronger. In 1872, the Conservative party held an election for three months! Eventually, after the first Liberal government came into office, they passed more strict and transparent voting laws: elections would occur on a single day, and the votes would be through a secret, written ballot. Fraudulent voting was still prevalent, however, and candidates would try to ‘purchase’ votes through giving outlandish meals and resources to citizens. Companies were also incredibly partisan: one Montreal manufacturing business stated that “we feel it is only fair to notify employees that, in case of a change in government [to Conservative], we will be unable to guarantee the wages you are now being paid; neither will we be able to guarantee work of any kind to all the employees employed by us at this time.”

Rampant racism was also a systemic part of Canada’s voting system: Indigenous and Chinese people were banned from voting in British Columbia. It took until 1918 that women were allowed to vote in federal elections, and until 1929, after the famous Persons case, for them to be permitted to sit in the Canadian Senate. The last province that granted the right for women to vote was Quebec, in 1940.

In 1982, Pierre Trudeau maneuvered his way to creating one of the most important documents in Canadian history, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the document, Section 3 declares that “every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.”


The Current Voting System and Other Proposed Systems (see this set of videos for a more in-depth discussion)

Around 25 years ago, the idea of electoral reform was pitched to the government. By this point, the issue wasn’t about who could vote, but how Canadians could vote. Below is a breakdown of the current voting system, and other proposed plans:

First Past the Post: used in Canada, USA, France, and Britain.


  1. All representatives (or MP’s) are selected from geographically created ridings.
  2. The MP who receives the most votes from the residents of that riding wins the riding.
  3. Each riding won by an MP gives one ‘point’ to the party they belong to.
  4. All the total riding ‘points’ are added together, and the leading party becomes the governing party of Canada – with exceptions! If the leading party holds less than half the ridings in the country, and therefore less than half the seats in the House of Commons, it may be difficult for them to take power. In this case, a number of options could occur, similar to the 2017 BC Provincial Election and 2008 Federal Election.

This system has been in use for hundreds of years under British and French rule. Since a whole nation is condensed into a few hundred seats (338 for Canada), the whole voting process is much simpler, and the winner-takes-all fashion of the riding system helps more majority governments come into power. The largest issue with this system of government is that a party doesn’t need more than half of the votes overall to form a majority government. For example, in 2015, only 40% of Canadians voted for the Liberal Party, but since they won more individual ridings, Justin Trudeau took power with 54% of the seats. Also, the concept of ‘strategic voting’ is favoured under the FPTP system. If someone’s favourite party has very low support nationwide, they can give their vote to another party that has a higher chance of winning.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation, where a Green Party supporter named Steve was voting in the 2015 election. He knows that Elizabeth May has no chance of becoming Prime Minister, and also hates the Conservative Party. So, he gives his vote to the Liberal Party instead and helps Justin Trudeau win the election, because Trudeau’s ideas are more similar to the Green Party than the Conservative Party. This is the basis of strategic voting, and is commonplace under the FPTP system.

Alternative Voting: used in Australia


  1. Similar to FPTP, voters choose candidates in their riding, and the party with the most ridings won becomes the governing party.
  2. However, the majority of voters are better represented in this situation:
    1. Instead of choosing one candidate, voters rank the candidates.
    2. If one party receives more than 50% of the voters’ first choice, they win the riding.
    3. If not, then the candidate with the LOWEST amount of votes is eliminated. Then, the second choice of the voters who chose the lowest-ranking candidate is calculated, and added to the other competing parties.
    4. If one party now has more than 50% support, they win the riding. If not, the process is repeated again with the candidate with the next-lowest number of votes.

Alternative voting is seen as a major alternative to the FPTP system, because the party with the most support (usually the first or second choice) will win the election. However, a major deficiency about alternative voting is that smaller parties still aren’t well-represented, because the candidate with the lowest amount of votes automatically loses. Also, more neutral parties have a massive advantage, since having more second-place votes from parties that are eliminated can add up. In Canada, the Broadbent Institute calculated in 2015 that the Liberals would have won 217 seats under the alternative voting system compared to the 183 that they actually received.

Party List Proportional Representation: used in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, South Africa, Netherlands, and Switzerland.


  1. Rather than voting for candidates in their region, voters choose a party on a ballot.
  2. The party receives the number of seats completely proportional to their votes.
    1. In closed-vote party list PR, the members are ranked on a pre-determined list by the party, with the highest-ranking members receiving first priority for seats.

This kind of voting is more accurate to what the voters want, because votes will directly result in seats. However, this would make for more minority governments, which will make law-making incredibly difficult. Also, voters aren’t choosing candidates that are from their riding, which means that some regions might receive more attention than others.

Single Transferable Vote: used for Australia’s upper house, and Ireland. [Editor’s note: This is the system that BC had a referendum on in 2004.]


  1. MULTIPLE MP’s are elected in a riding.
    1. Parties can run more than one candidate in a riding.
  2. Voters rank local candidates on ballots, similar to FPTP.
  3. Candidates win seats by reaching a set-number of votes, or a quota
    1. If a candidate meets the quota outright, they win one spot.
    2. The extra votes (i.e. from the quota number and up) are divided among the other parties, through the second-choice ranking mechanism outlined in the Alternative Voting system.
    3. If no other candidate has won, the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated, and the ballots are spread again to the other candidates through second-place votes.
    4. The process is repeated (candidates above the quota passing votes down, and eliminated candidates passing votes up) until all the seats for that riding are filled.

Probably the most complex proposed voting system, the Single Transferable Vote allows for more fair representation, because votes are being distributed from the candidates receiving the most and the least votes. Additionally, parties can run multiple members, meaning that if a riding is dominated by supporters of a single party, they can win more seats. However, that also leads to possible infighting inside a party.

Mixed Member Proportional: used by Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and several other countries.


  1. Each candidate has two votes:
    1. The first is under the exact same system as FPTP.
    2. The second is for a specific party, which then distributes seats to its members based on an algorithm.

The Mixed Member Proportional system is seen as one of the best alternative to Canada’s current FPTP system. Not only are the results similar to the number of citizens that actually voted for a party, but voters can still choose members in their own ridings. Opponents state that the system can be difficult to understand.
Various proposals for electoral reform at the federal level have not come to fruition. In 2015, Justin Trudeau was elected on the promise that the Liberal Party was “committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first past the post.” The notion was supported by all parties. However, the specific kind of new system was hotly contested, as the Liberal Party supported the Alternative Vote, which would have possibly earned them 34 more seats in the 2015 election had the system been implemented. Other parties supported systems that favoured Proportional Representation. Ultimately, the issue was unceremoniously dumped from the Liberal government’s mandate in February 2017.

Canada has had a long and adventurous history with voting rights. A little more than 100 years ago, women and members of most minorities couldn’t vote, meaning that the voices of only a single demographic – rich, influential, white men – could have their voices heard. And although it’s a stretch to compare it to today’s situation, the fundamental and undemocratic issue of our voting system undermining the choices of citizens remains. In order for Canada to be able to tout the fact that we are the most democratic country in the world, we must first be able to ‘walk the walk,’ and overhaul its voting system.

And it probably won’t be very sunny.






All About Canada at the Olympics — March 8, 2018

All About Canada at the Olympics

The Olympics may be over, but what better time to reflect on Canada’s successes? That’s exactly what Vedanshi wants us to do in today’s post. And if you miss the Olympics already, never fear! The Paralympics start tomorrow, March 9 in the early hours of the morning PST. 

Canada has always sent athletes to compete at the Olympic Games (save for the Summer
Games in 1980). Our nation truly maintains an impressive streak in Olympic participation. Not just that – did you know that Canada has won at least one Olympic medal at every Olympic which was participated in? Quite a feat, and is representative of years of hard work, dedication, and determination on the part of athletes and their training teams. To date, Canada has won 472 medals, 125 of which are gold, 158 being silver, and the remaining 189 are bronze. In this article, I will be talking about some of the most memorable wins and notable athletes for Canada.

Clara Hughes is the record holder for being the first and only athlete internationally to have won multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Cindy Klassen is the record holder (along with Clara Hughes) for the most Olympic medals won ever by a Canadian athlete of any gender. The first Canadian male athlete to defend his Olympic Gold medal was Alexandre Bilodeau in his sport, freestyle skiing. Rosie MacLennan became the first Canadian female to defend her Olympic Gold, winning the Gold medal in trampoline gymnastics at both 2012 and 2016 Games.

Canada as host:
Canada has hosted the Olympic Games three times to date, being: the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The 1976 games brought in the most athletes out of all three games, with 6 028 participants. It is notable, however, that the 2010 games comprised of 86 official events – 40 more than the 1988 games.

The Olympics in Vancouver brought with them many new changes to the metropolitan area – in fact, one of the largest to have ever hosted an Olympics. The Vancouver Olympic Committee spent $16.6 Million on upgrading all facilities at Cypress Mountain, a location used frequently during the Olympics for events under the freestyle skiing and snowboarding categories. The Richmond Olympic Oval was one of the most notable facilities built for the Olympics, and remains a top-class sports, recreation, and health centre in Richmond. What piqued the interest of onlookers was the fact that the Oval was built at sea level, which is a rare occurrence for any Olympic facility internationally.

Speaking of few-seen sights, Vancouver became the first city to have hosted the official opening ceremonies indoors! In 2010, Canadian athletes won the first gold medal at an Olympic game hosted by Canada – something which was not accomplished in either 1976 or 1988. The winning streak continued through the games as Canada broke the record set by the Soviet Union in 2002 by winning 14 Olympic Gold medals, being the most won by a host nation. These games also comprised of moments of true pride for other nations as well. Did you know that athletes from Slovakia and Belarus won the first-ever Winter Olympic Gold medals for their nations?

Canadian Olympic performance:
At the moment, Canada is the leading nation with the most victories ever in three Winter
Olympic Sports, and one Summer Olympic Sport. In the Summer Olympics, Canada is the world leader for Lacrosse, with two Gold medals and one Bronze medal. Lacrosse is, in fact, the national sport of Canada! Did you know that Canada has never won an Olympic medal in any of the following sports: Archery, Badminton, Canoeing, Fencing, Field Hockey, or Table Tennis?

Perhaps YOU or an athlete in your community will bring a victory back home at the next
Summer Olympics. At the Winter Olympics, Canada is a world leader in not one, not two, but THREE Olympic sports. These are Ice Hockey (21 total medals), Freestyle Skiing (25 total medals), and Curling (11 total medals).

In doing my research, I discovered so much more about Canadian accomplishments on the international stage that I never even knew about before. Hopefully, you were able to learn lots about Canada’s wonderful performances! As we all continue to monitor the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, let us take a moment to talk about the legendary history our nation has woven at the Olympic Games. I am certain we are feeling proud as a nation collectively for our athletes’ performances, which they are able to do as a result of many years of dedication to their training and sport.


Writing Lives — March 6, 2018

Writing Lives

Today Sasha is here to share with us a bit about an important program taking place at Langara College – and her own family history. What are some other stories that are disappearing? How can you help save the stories from the past in your own life? Know of a similar program? Let us know in the comments!


The beginning of this academic year marked the second installment of Writing Lives:
The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project at Langara College. Headed by Dr. Rachel Mines,
my aunt, this class gives students the invaluable opportunity to hear the stories of Holocaust survivors first hand, an experience that is getting rarer and rarer. Students spend the first term of this course examining the historical context of the Holocaust through literary and historical texts and are then paired up with Holocaust survivors in order to interview them and write out their memoirs in the second term. In the midst of what seems like a rise of anti-Semitism in Canada, with a 24% increase in hate crimes against Canada’s Jewish population from 2015 to 2016 and a bomb threat to the Jewish Community Centre in Vancouver in March of 2017, opportunities like these to truly understand and connect with survivors of one of the most horrific crimes against humanity cannot be underestimated in importance.


Alex Buckman, a child survivor of the Holocaust speaks to the Writing Lives: The
Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project at Langara. (photo by Pamela Post)

Mines, a child of Holocaust survivors herself, says about this class: “I’ve known… my
whole life… that these are important stories and I’ve also known that they normally don’t get told.” These stories are obviously close to the hearts of descendants of Holocaust survivors, such as myself and my aunt, but the more Holocaust survivors age and there become fewer stories they can share, the more important this transgenerational transfer of information becomes. Projects like The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project that have an objective of telling the untold experiences of survivors are imperative to keeping the legacy of the Holocaust alive and ensuring that these crimes against humanity never repeat themselves. Through this class, the students’ written memoirs are archived at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and the Azrieli Foundation. By integrating this all too often overlooked part of our history into both her profession and the lives of dozens of students across the Lower Mainland, Mines is successfully combating anti-Semitism in the best way she knows how: keeping
the stories of Holocaust survivors relevant.

Buckman, sharing his story with two students from the Writing Lives: The Holocaust
Survivor Memoirs Project. (photo by Pamela Post)

Alex Buckman, the president of the Vancouver Child Survivors of the Holocaust and
one of storytellers participating in the program has shared his story with thousands of
students. Spending his childhood in Belgium, Buckman survived Nazi controlled Europe
hiding with non-Jewish families and in an orphanage from 4 to 6 and a half, when the war ended. Both of his parents were killed at Auschwitz and so he was raised by his aunt,
Rebecca Teitelbaum, who made it out of the concentration camp Ravensbrück. She had
clandestinely written a recipe book while slaving in the camp and recipes that she could
remember, such as an orange cake, populated Buckman’s childhood after liberation. The
family immigrated to Montreal and settled in the best they could, though experiences during the war complicated things when it came to living a “normal” life. Buckman has been an active member in the community of Holocaust survivors, sharing both his story and his aunt’s orange cake recipe, by now a symbol of the power of love over hate.

Langara’s Writing Lives: The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project gives the opportunity to survivors like Buckman to speak freely of their experiences and play their important and well-earned role in writing history and shaping the way new generations view the Holocaust.
Anti-Semitism on the rise in Canada: Statistics Canada

Money in Canada — February 26, 2018

Money in Canada

Today, Anisha is here to tell us about the history of currency in Canada – from bartering to bitcoin. Where do you think currency is going next? Let us know in the comments!


Canadian currency has gone from being fur to being a unit that exists
partially online. To understand the shift we need to understand the history.

The Indigenous Peoples’ systems
Before European contact, Indigenous peoples in Canada had systems they relied on when trading and bartering goods. The Indigenous peoples traded goods such as copper, furs, and other resources. In particular, some eastern North American Indigenous peoples used belts called Wampum Belts as a medium for exchange. However, the Belt only became a currency after European contact; before then they were an important means of transmitting information and contracts. Shell-bead Wampum Belts were highly valued partly because of the hard-to-make shell beads. On average it took ninety days to make all the beads for one Wampum. Wampum quickly became a vital part of the fur trade as European settlers used them to trade for beaver pelts with people living inland. Wampum did not reign as currency very long after contact because it transitioned from a currency back to a ceremonial object by the early-nineteenth century. Today, some Indigenous peoples still use it in this manner. [Editor’s note: Wampum have a long and significant story of their own. If you’re interested in this topic, a good place to start is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy website.]

The rise of banks
In Canada, during the 1810’s more people started to trust banks because it became troublesome to carry large amounts of gold and silver. This resulted in a rapid rise of banks. Banks started to create their own currency out of gold and silver people had deposited into their vaults. One of the largest banks of that time was the Bank of Montréal (BMO); BMO imported its tokens from England and stamped most of them with their name. This, unfortunately, did not work well, because the lack of intricacy made the tokens easy to forge. To avoid more fraud three banks in Montréal and one in Quebec made a new version on the token. The improved token had an image of an habitant (early French settler) on one side and the Montréal coat of arms and the name of the bank on the other side. These tokens quickly became known as the Papineau. The coin was named after Louis Joseph Papineau because of his leadership role in the reformation of Lower Canada.

In the mid-1850’s Canada increased trade with the USA. At this time Canada chose to replace the sterling system that they had adapted from Britain in 1760 with the US decimal system. The colonies changed the system and issued new coins in 1, 5, 10, and 50 cent denominations. They made the transition in 1853-1857. After the adaptation it is important to acknowledge that US currency was also accepted in most parts of the  colonies.

In 1867 several provinces in Canada formed the Dominion of Canada – an event known as Confederation. For the first time the government took it upon themselves to make a currency of their own. This started with Ottawa creating 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent coins. These were all usable in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia under the Confederation Act. As Canada started to develop more it made the decision in 1868 to take US currency out of circulation, ensuring that only Canadian coins were used.

The First Coin
The first Canadian coin made its debut in 1908 at the opening ceremony of the Royal Mint in Ottawa. The first domestically produced coin in Canada was a silver 50 cent coin bearing an image of King Edward VII.

Since 1908 the look and the value of each coin has been continually changing. Now coins and bills are just one aspect of the way Canadians use money. In past years bills that have great worth have been taken out of circulation, for example the $1000 and $500 bills, because many opt to use their debit or credit cards instead. Today our money features a variety of security features that help prevent counterfeiting, and comes in different colours. Our coins are more creative now than ever and it is likely they will continue to evolve on that path.

Bitcoin was created in 2008 due to the need for a secure place to store money and execute payments. It was one of the first digital currencies but today there are over 900 forms of cryptocurrency. Now governments are banning this currency in their countries. Over the past 10 years Bitcoin has become the largest cryptocurrency and is worth well over 12,500 Canadian dollars as of January 30th, 2018. Many believe that Bitcoin is here to stay and say that governments are only rebelling against these cryptocurrencies
because not everyone deeply understands this concept. Recent advancements in this area suggest a bright future for the coin. Some think that Bitcoin will be successful because of its security. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are an extremely secure method of payment. One of the reasons it is so secure is because it is completely anonymous. It is extremely difficult to identify who is purchasing or selling the Bitcoin, and no personal information is ever released during any transaction. This idea of anonymity makes it almost impossible for hackers to trace back the money to anyone. Also, none of this
information is accessible by the government either. Bitcoin is a currency similar to our Canadian dollar except it is much more secure online. But despite all of this information, some people refuse to believe in Bitcoin.

Since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are so secure and have the ability to be completely anonymous, Bitcoin has been used by criminals to hide money. This can be deemed unethical since its anonymity makes it harder to track down these criminals. Even if Bitcoin does not become as successful as some hope, online currencies are still our future. If it is not Bitcoin, something else similar to it will be created because new
advancements and evolution are inescapable.

If you told someone in the early 20th century that your money is kept on a plastic card it would have been thought impossible. So it only makes sense that our cards are going to evolve into something that exists in the online atmosphere.

For more on bitcoin, check out this video.