To contest the present, re-interpret the past and shape the future, in other words, to consciously make history, we need resources: ideas, organizations, and institutions dedicated to a world free of exploitation and oppression.
Peoples’ History Walking Tours promotes engagement with history and with key organizations, businesses and institutions that are part of the activist left in Ottawa-Gatineau (what Alan Sears calls the “social infrastructure of resistance” in his new book, the Next New Left).
Below are a few key resources you might want to consult to learn more about Ottawa-Gatineau and be active in making history. Over time, more will be added.
Workers History Museum: The WHM is a new virtual museum that will interest anyone excited by peoples’ history. Founded in 2011, and supported by the 150+ volunteers who are its members, the WHM has already mounted several travelling exhibits, collected valuable artefacts, sponsored a number of meetings and cultural events, and begun various projects to document and explain the history of workers in this region.
Octopus Books: Founded in 1969, Octopus Books is an important Ottawa institution that supports social justice groups, the labour movement and the left. More than just a bookstore, Octopus plays an active role in stimulating discussion on the Ottawa left with its book launches, ‘community classroom’ and other sponsored events. As a sign of its continuing success in the age of Amazon and Chapters, Octopus Books has added a downtown location (251 Bank St., second floor) to its home location (116 Third Ave. near Bank St.) in the Glebe. Note: Both locations can get you copies of books mentioned on this site because of their relevance to the tours offered by Peoples’ History Walking Tours.
Classic books in the tradition of Peoples’ History / History From Below include:
- The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson (many editions)
- A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (many editions)
- Working Class Experience: Rethinking the History of Canadian Labour, 1800-1991, Bryan D Palmer (second edition, 1992)
The Leveller: The Leveller is a free, Ottawa-based left newspaper that publishes about 6-8 times per year. Volunteer-run, it covers current events, especially at the two main universities in Ottawa. The Leveller provides provocative editorials and lively debates on local issues, and it can be counted on to challenge power and privilege.
Rank and File: R&F is a website that carries vital information about trade unions in Canada. Its perspective emphasizes the importance of radical democratic control over unions by members, and the role rank and file caucuses can play in building more democratic unions that fight more effectively. Partly inspired by Labor Notes in the United States, R&F’s take on trade unions struggles today is vital to activists. The folks at R&F also periodically delve into labour history with recommendations about books and videos.
Solidarity Ottawa: SO is a new anti-capitalist organization created by Ottawa activists to oppose government driven austerity, racism (including Islamaphobia) and defend and advance workers’ rights. Best known for its Mayday marches, many of SO’s activists can be found playing an important role in various social movements throughout the city.
Stop Windmill: Student and Labour Allies for Akikodjiwan: There is a growing Ottawa-Gatineau based movement of solidarity with Algonquin First Nations in opposition to the Windmill/Dream Corporation’s ‘Zibi’ condo project on the Chaudiere Islands. Stop Windmill, the newest group, is campaigning to pressure local Liberal Members of Parliament to halt the transfer of ‘crown land’ to the developers. Freeing Chaudiere Falls and its Islands is another important organization working on this issue.
A Place to Stay
Angela’s Bed and Breakfast: It takes more than ideas and organization to be an activist, especially when you’re on the road. If you’re visiting Ottawa and you want activist-friendly lodgings, stay with Angela. That way you’re guaranteed to get all the information a lefty activist might need while visiting.
Organizational and Institutional Affiliations
My current organizational and institutional affiliations include the following: