Curious Canadian History

Wild, wacky, weird, wonderful and downright dark stories of Canadian history

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  • S9E7 Big Men Fear Me - The Life and Times of George McCullagh

    The Globe and Mail is an absolute fixture of the Canadian media landscape. One would be hard pressed to find a single Canadian who would not know what the Globe and Mail is, or could not name it if asked to name three Canadian newspapers. Yet so few Canadians know the man who founded it. This man was a figure of Gatsby-esque proportions. A media mogul, a sports enthusiast, a wealthy and connected Toronto elite who had immense influence over both the Canadian cultural and political landscape. He was also a man who harboured a dark secret, a secret that eventually killed him. The guest for today is Mark Bourrie, author of Big Men Fear Me: The Fast Life and Quick Death of Canada’s Most Powerful Media Mogul.Mark wrote as a freelance correspondent for the Globe and Mail from 1978 to 1989 and for the Toronto Star from 1989 to 2004 and was a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery from 1994 to 2018. Mark taught media history and journalism at Concordia University, history at Carleton, and Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa. He is the author of 13 books and his 2019 book Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre Radisson, was a Canadian best-seller and winner of the RBC Charles Taylor Prize for literary excellence. Mark has also been the recipient of several major media awards, including a National Magazine Award and has written extensively on topics for both history and law.Patreon –

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  • S9E6 The SS in Canada Part Two

    Back in episode 4 myself and historian Per Anders Rudling spoke in length about the history behind Ukrainian Waffen SS veterans settling in Canada in the aftermath of the Second World War. This discussion was a result of the embarrassing moment in Canada’s parliament where parliamentarians gave a former Waffen SS soldier a standing ovation. Our conversation was so good and there was so much covered we decided to turn it into a two parter. Thus, in this second part of our discussion we explore why the history of Waffen SS veterans in Canada took so long to come out, what this says about Canada, what it means for Canadian history and the history of Ukrainians in Canada, and finally the serious backlash that Per has received while uncovering this issue including serious efforts to silence him. Per Anders Rudling is a historian at Lund University in Sweden who focuses on the subject of nationalism, historical culture and historical memory in areas that today make up parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. He 2015 he published The Rise and Fall of Belarusian Nationalism which became an award winning work. Per is currently researching Ukrainian nationalism during the Cold War. Twitter – –
  • S9E5 - The Partition of Palestine

    The relationship between Israel and Palestine is a complex and chaotic situation which is not only fraught with acrimonious debate but continual violence. When we ask why this situation is so far from ever being solved, part of the answer, or the blame you might say, lies with the international community. That being the nations that proposed the partition of Palestine, the newly formed United Nations that backed it, and then the international community that stepped away from the ultimate objective of the plan: a two state solution, a Jewish and an Arab state. In this episode we look at how Canada was right there in the centre of the decision to partition Palestine and how it played a key role in supporting a solution that continues to be a trigger for both Jewish and Arab communities in the Middle East. BOOK RECO: Canada’s Foreign Policy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Kamaran K.M. Mondal, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2022.Twitter – –
  • S9E4 The SS in Canada Part One

    In September 2023 the Canadian parliament gave a standing ovation to 98 year old Yaroslav Hunka, who at the time was being applauded for his role in fighting the Soviets during WW2. This soon became a national and international embarrassment when it was realized that while Hunka did indeed fight the Soviets he did so as part of an SS regiment. In the aftermath of this scandal it came to light that Canada in fact opened its borders to Ukrainian veterans of the Waffen-SS in the post-war period. To dive into the complex history of this story I’ve brought on to the show one of the leading experts on this subject, historian Per Anders Rudling. In this part one of a two episode special Per takes us through the history of the First Ukrainian Division (also known as the 14th Waffen-SS Division Galician) and talks about how and why SS veterans were allowed into Canada and what this meant for our later understanding of their role in that war. Per Anders Rudling is a historian at Lund University in Sweden who focuses on the subject of nationalism, historical culture and historical memory in areas that today make up parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. He 2015 he published The Rise and Fall of Belarusian Nationalism which became an award winning work and he is currently researching Ukrainian nationalism during the Cold War. Twitter – –
  • S9E3 The Bombing of Air India Flight 182

    In recent weeks a diplomatic row between Canada and India erupted as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused India of being behind the assassination of Sikh separatist and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Nijjar’s involvement in the Khalistan Movement and the tensions within India over Sikh separatism have cast a spotlight on one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in North American history. On 23 June 1985 a plane was headed to Delhi from Toronto when it exploded killing all 329 persons on board, 280 of which were Canadian citizens. This bombing of Air India Flight 182 became the biggest mass murder in Canadian history, one of the most damning intelligence failures in Canadian history, and frankly, a near total travesty of justice. Book recommendation: Kim Bolan’s “Loss of Faith: How the Air India Bombers Got Away With Murder”  Twitter – –
  • S9E2 United the Salish! The Battle of Maple Bay

    Sometime in the early to mid-19th century, thousands of Coast Salish warriors, from dozens of tribes, united in an incredible moment of Salish solidarity. They did this to stop an enemy that had been terrorizing the Salish people for years. In doing so, the Salish inflicted a devastating defeat on that enemy. The event that occurred has become a cornerstone of Salish history and identity. A story that has been passed down for many generations amongst many different Salish elders. A battle that proved to be one of the most decisive victories ever inflicted on any enemy by any military force in the history of the Pacific North West. Documentary recommendation: Tzouhalem Twitter – –
  • S9E1 Henri Le Caron - The Victorian Super Spy

    Welcome everyone to the first episode of Season 9! In the late 1860s a man named Henri Le Caron was rising within the innermost circles of the Fenian Brotherhood. He had served alongside Fenian leader John O’Neill during the US Civil War and by the end of the 1860s found himself helping O’Neill organize and plan an invasion of Canada. Yet, what O’Neill and so many others didn’t know was that Henri Le Caron was really named Thomas Beach, and Beach wasn’t working for the Fenians, he was a spy working for the Canadian and British authorities. The work of Thomas beach would help foil a Fenian invasion of Canada and contribute to the collapse of that radical organization. BOOK RECO: Delusion: The True Story of Victorian Superspy Henri Le Caron by Peter Edwards published in 2008 by Key Porter BooksTwitter – –