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Welcome to Toronto: message from local arrangements committee

Welcome to Toronto! We are proud that the ASEH is returning to Canada. The name Toronto, a Mohawk word (tkaronto) for “where there are trees standing in the water,” originally was attached to a location some 125 kilometres to the north of the present city and likely referred to the fish weirs in that place. An engaging reference for Environmental Historians, this name migrated along long-standing trade routes to the site that developed around first a French and later a British fort. (The more commonly-held, if incorrect, belief holds that the name means “place of meetings,” and this suits our conference equally well.) Today, Toronto is the largest metropolitan area in Canada, the fourth largest in North America, and arguably the most ethnically diverse city in the world.  Capital of the province of Ontario, and the cultural hub for English-speaking Canada, Toronto may strike you most dramatically for the multicultural nature of its population. Over half of the population of the city was born outside of Canada.

The conference theme, “Confluences, Crossing, and Power”  invites us all to reflect on what it means to visit a city on the Great Lakes, crossing international borders (for most of the delegates) and exploring the differences that national boundaries may make for a wide variety of environmental issues.  In this city of many confluences, through continuous immigration, cultures merge and meld and occasionally conflict.

Although Toronto is affected greatly by urban sprawl, it has also maintained some features that distinguish it from other North American cities. Urbanist Jane Jacobs moved to Toronto in the 1960s, and was deeply involved in the attempt to stop the expansion of the Expressway system.  This civic battle succeeded. With streetcar, subway, bus and intercity train services, the city has the second highest rate of public transport usage on the continent.

The field trips explore the urban and ex-urban environments, including post-industrial and reclaimed sites in the Don Valley, Leslie Spit and Hamilton Harbour. You may choose to visit the renowned McMichael Collection with its stunning selection of Canadian art, or view the site of Canada’s newest national park on the Rouge River, the only park in close proximity to a major city. Other trips provide opportunities for reflecting on the layers of aboriginal history embedded in the city as well as looking at the queer environmental history of Toronto. You may wish to stay closer to the conference venue and walk around the financial centre of the city. A post-conference tour to iconic Niagara Falls and the Niagara wine growing district may entice you to linger an extra day in the region.

Please join us on Thursday for one of the highlights of the ASEH annual meeting, John McNeill’s presidential address on the topic of "Arnold Toynbee: World Environmental Historian?"  NiCHE (the Network in Canadian History & Environment - Nouvelle initiative canadienne en histoire de l’environnement) has generously offered to pay half the ticket price for graduate students at the President’s luncheon.
This conference will examine one of Canada’s most pressing and controversial environmental issues, the Alberta Oil Sands development. On Thursday evening, a plenary round table will explore these developments from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Moderated by Graeme Wynne, the panel calls upon sociologist Sara Dorow, cultural studies scholar Imre Szeman, and film-maker Warren Carriou.
This conference has been a collaboration of NiCHE and the universities in the Greater Toronto Area from the very beginning. McMaster University, York University, Trent University and the University of Toronto have all generously contributed to covering costs for the events, including the general reception on Wednesday and the graduate student reception on Friday.

Each delegate will receive a usb key containing an electronic version of this programme and the panel abstracts. In addition, the usb key will contain a specially prepared publication of chapters introducing the various field trips, including some themes beyond the ones available to you on the Friday afternoon. This publication is a contribution to the environmental history of the Toronto region, and we hope that you enjoy learning about the location of this year’s conference. Printed copies will be available for purchase.

The conference takes place in the historic Fairmont Royal York, one of the most splendid hotels in Toronto. Built in the 1920s as a railway hotel and extended in the 1950s, it is located opposite Union Station in the core of the city. We are sure that you will be impressed by the venue.

We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto in April!

2013 Local Arrangements Team:
Colin Coates, Canadian Studies and History, York University, Chair
Richard Hoffmann, History, York University
Anders Sandberg, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Andrew Watson, PhD student, History, York University
Ken Cruikshank, History, McMaster University
Michael Egan, History, McMaster University
H.V. Nelles, director, L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University
Stephen Bocking, Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University
Laurel MacDowell, History, University of Toronto

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