Canada’s History Takes Centre Stage in Ottawa-Gatineau

I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Ottawa-Gatineau where I got to emcee the 10th annual Canada’s History Forum and gala. They were held at the Canadian Museum of History on the Quebec side, and it was a stimulating and inspiring series of events. At the heart of it all, I felt, were discussions about collaboration, respect and relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about the programme, speakers, projects and see recordings, please visit:

Thankful that Canada’s History purchased 15 copies of In This Together, the collection of essays I edited last year, to give to speakers as gifts. Also incredibly grateful to have met Elder Claudette Commanda of the Kitigan Zibi Nation, who welcomed us to the Algonquin territory.


The theme was “Making History Relevant”, and the practical applications in government departments, classrooms, and in broader society. Perhaps nowhere is history more relevant than reconciliation and social justice, so it should come as no surprise that many of the topics focused on community projects involving First Nations and Metis partners/leaders – as well as the troubling situation in Poland about the history of the Holocaust, and the chilling effect legislation is having on free speech and scholarly investigations.

The following day at Rideau Hall, the newish Governor General, Julie Payette gave a rousing talk in English, French, and a bit of Anishnaabewomin about the importance of evidence-based history. I think we were all ready to follow her into orbit (and yes, there were at least three witty ‘space jokes’ during acceptance speeches).











I was particularly pleased to learn about the Indigenous Arts and Stories winners, as well as the awards that went to Dr. Sarah Carter (whose book on captivity narratives blew me away in undergrad) and Daniel Francis, a popularizer of history whose book Imaginary Indians was seminal for my understanding of stereotyping and how we construct identity. These are two of the titles who helped push me toward cultural and social history!

I can’t wait to be a speaker at the National Council for Public History’s conference in Las Vegas in April, and keep connecting with folks who are digging deep into our past – and investigating how we remember. Maybe I’ll see you there!

GG02-2017-0417-065 November 22, 2017 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presented teachers and other outstanding Canadians with the 2017 Governor General’s History Awards for their efforts to further an interest in and understanding of Canadian history and heritage. The awards was presented at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG



Canada’s History Magazine Mention

It was really exciting (and flattering!) to see this write-up in the Feb-March 2012 issue of Canada’s History Magazine (formerly The Beaver). Thanks so much to the Canada’s History team, who have supported me and my projects, and consistently put out a high-quality publication about this country’s heritage.

The Trees in My Mind

It’s a funny feeling, being split between two worlds, but it also seems to be at the core of this writing thing.

The other day I was musing about how living here, in southwestern Wyoming, my physical world is high plains desert: sage brush, antelope, and very few lakes, rivers, and trees. Researching the setting for the first part of my novel, though, I’m transported to northeastern Ontario, a place of mixed forests where bodies of water abound.

Last year while writing For the Love of Flying here, I got to mentally hop from verdant river valleys to the Quebec sub-arctic to Newfoundland and Labrador. But when I stepped out my front door, I felt a weird double-focus where geographies collided.

From what I read of other authors, it seems like we hardly ever write about the place we currently inhabit. One piece I came across recently was by an author who moved to the States 20-odd years ago from the U.K. While her reality has been New York, she consistently makes her characters and settings British, even though it means constantly looking into new trends, slang, etc.

Yesterday while researching my novel, I came across two other such cases: Joseph Boyden, winner of the 2008 Giller for Through Black Spruce. A self-described split personality, Boyden now lives in New Orleans but writes about the James Bay region of Canada where he lived for several years and retains ties.

Giles Blunt grew up in North Bay, Ontario and moved to Manhattan to pursue his dream of being a screenwriter. But then a funny thing happened: he started writing detective novels set in northeastern Ontario. Beginning with Forty Words for Sorrow, Blunt has now penned a series of John Cardinal books with one appropriately called Black Fly Season.

Now Blunt has moved back to North Bay to be up close and personal with the black flies, moose, and winter storms. But I don’t think you need to live it daily to write it. Sometimes when you’re writing in the desert, all you need are the trees in your mind.

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.