This section lists my current research projects. For my published research see the “Publications” and “Public & Digital History” sections.
Laborem Ex Machina: The History of Operating Engineers and Heavy Machinery in Canada’s Construction History
The objectives of this three-year research and public history project (2020-22) are to preserve, learn, and share the history of operating engineers, their labour organization and activism, occupational health and safety advocacy, apprenticeship programs and other skills training, inter-ethnic relations, and related topics. It will examine the impact of technological innovations and the use of dangerous heavy machinery in the workplace by a group of workers that have operated them for over a century in all sectors of the construction industry. Our project will also examine the role that operating engineers and their unions played in Canada’s colonialist nation-building project, in settler-Indigenous relations, and their environmental impact.
Another Path to Reconciliation? Labour-Management-Inuit Relations in Nunavut’s Mining Industry
In 2012, Baffinland received approval for an iron ore mine in Mary River, Nunavut. In 2018, after its workers approached the Ontario-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 in an effort to organize, Baffinland realized the union’s potential for helping it meet its commitment to achieving 25% Inuit employment at the Mary River site, as stated in its Inuit and Impact Benefit Agreement’s (IIBA). Since then, Baffinland has applied for approval of its mine expansion, which is currently being considered by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. This has generated protests from local hunters and trappers over its environmental impact on natural food sources and traditional economic practices. In turn, Local 793 has advocated for the expansion, speaking on behalf of its Inuit members from communities nearest to the mine, who claim not to have been consulted by their Inuit representative bodies. Hailed by Baffinland and Local 793 as a precedent-setting model for labour-management relations, their “Partnership Agreement” raises important questions: What role can unions play in building an Indigenous labour force? How does the Baffinland case compare to other IIBA-ruled projects in the Canadian Arctic? What barriers have been overcome and what lessons can be applied to future projects involving northern Indigenous peoples? Can craft unions support or do they ultimately interfere with Indigenous struggles for self-determination and reconciliation?and prominent Congressmen.
Toronto the Bad: a history of (un)civil disobedience in the city
This project emerged out of an assignment that I gave my HIST 4530 students in 2016-18. Altogether, we were able to find over ninety “riots ” in Toronto’s past. This number contradicts the peaceful and dull myths of “Toronto the Good” and of Canada as a land of peace, order, and good governance, where differences have been negotiated through compromise; unlike our southern neighbours. Race, religion, politics, labour-management relations, social inequality, youth rebelliousness, sports (especially soccer) have been the most common themes beyond these short outburst of violence. In all of them, Toronto’s police forces played a major role as “law and order” enforcers but also as instigators or enablers of violence. Toronto’s riot history is an important thread for weaving the story of its police forces, rulers, inter-ethnic/racial relations, religious communities, and other historical agents. I have created a digital map and timeline with a few of the riots researched by me and my students, which can be found here.
The Blood of the Fallen: War Memory, Ethnic Nationalism, and the Portuguese-American Veterans, 1930s-70s
War memory is an integral part of most national narratives, where military sacrifice is taken as indisputable proof of an individual’s devotion to his or her country. In a social, political, and economic culture that is heavily predicated on the pursuit of individual self-interest, war and the military occupy a pivotal place in American psyche, by allowing the cathartic expression of the otherwise unexpected communitarian values of fraternity and self-sacrifice. The celebration of dead combatants by the state is a process of secular canonization, one that is all the more powerful when the individuals are stripped of their specific identities and become ideological archetypes. Contrary to the national norm, ethnic leaders often tried to (re)claim the ethnic identities of these homogenized national warriors, hoping that the blood of their fallen ethnic peers could testify to their group’s full membership in the national community and put nativist fears of dual-loyalty to rest. This, however, was a departure from the official war memorialization sanctioned by the national state, as it separated the particular from the whole.