Recently concerns have been raised about the recognition of Indigenous and racialized scholars and scholarship within the Canadian Historical Association/Société historique du Canada in general and in its prizes and awards in particular. As president of the CHA/SHC, I am grateful for this intervention and the important and necessary conversations it has prompted. Like many other disciplines and institutions, the historical profession in Canada is heir to longstanding histories and practices that have cumulatively centered and privileged certain scholars and modes of historical inquiry and exclude and marginalize others. In the past decades, the CHA/SHC has worked to address the representation of women, francaphones, and different regional locations in our profession and organization, with varying degrees of success. We have been less consistent, less direct, and even less successful at addressing how Indigenous and racialized scholars have been represented – or, too often – not welcomed, represented or acknowledged.
There are approximately 25 book juries for CHA/SHC awards and those of affiliated committees. These operate at an arms’ length from CHA Council and executive, and there are good reasons for that. Going forward, at its June 2019 meeting CHA/SHC Council will be asked to change the Terms of Reference of prize juries to include language reminding committees to be mindful of a robust definition of equity that includes considerations of Indigeneity, race, gender, language, and region We will also work toward making the composition of our prize juries better reflect these principles. We will also begin to develop a number of projects designed to promote the work of Indigenous and racialized scholars within the organization and profession, including funding for Indigenous and racialized graduate students.
There are no easy fixes to the way that history as a profession in Canada, and the CHA/SHC as an organization, has been shaped by, worked within, and contributed to patterns of racism and colonialism. But we must take these questions seriously and do the work necessary to addressing them in ongoing, meaningful ways. While calling for the decolonization of the American Historical Review, editor Alex Lichtenstein commented that it is easy “to comb through back issues” and illustrate “the appalling lack of diversity” and a handful of exceptions. It is more difficult and more important to embrace the “long-overdue transformation” of the historical profession, something that “promises to be beneficial for historical knowledge and serious scholarship.” We know that this work will be partial and uncertain, hindered by the circumstances that make it necessary in the first place, and partial. We are also well aware that the substantive and transformative work is already occurring, as anyone who has had the pleasure of reading the Canadian Historical Review’s 2017 “Historical Perspectives” featuring new work by Indigenous historians, or the remarkable website ShekonNeechie: An Indigenous History Site, or the establishment of the Black Canadian Studies Association in 2009.We are committed to finding new ways to help build a more equitable and diverse profession and organization.
A.C.L., “Decolonizing the AHR,”American Historical Review, 123:1 (February 2018) xiv-xvii.
 https://shekonneechie.ca/, accessed 14 May 2019; “Historical Perspectives: New Approaches to Indigenous History,” Canadian Historical Review, with essays by Brenda Macdougall, Lianne C. Leddy, Mary Jane Logan McCallum, and John Borrows, 98:1 (March 2017); Black Canadian Studies Association, https://bcsa.wordpress.com/, accessed 14 May 2019.
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