Canadian Studies professor launches new edited collection on Canadian environmental history

A talk by York University Canadian Studies Professor Colin Coates on Nov. 21 on the theme of agriculture and rural life as a framework in Canadian environmental history provided an opportunity to highlight the launch of a new edited collection on the topic.

Hosted by the Department of Multidisciplinary Studies (MDS) at Glendon College, in collaborations with the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, the talk “Going Back to the Land: The Nature of Canada” was presented as one of the MDS Research Talks that include short presentations from members of the department. These events are designed to support collegiality and potential research synergies in a department that hosts many academic programs.

“Our monthly departmental talks are a great way for colleagues, students and members of our community to stay up to date with the research projects of others in the department,” said Chair of the Department, Professor Betsey Price.

From left to right: Professor Colin Coates (Canadian Studies Program), Professor Jean Michel Montsion (deputy director, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies), and Professor Betsey Price (Chair, MDS Department)

The new edited collection titled The Nature of Canada (UBC Press) was co-edited by Coats and Professor Graeme Wynn from the University of British Columbia. Speaking of the book, Coates indicated that he and Wynn wanted to create an “accessible collection of articles that would give a taste of what environmental history offers to our understanding of Canada.”

The book covers topics ranging from the cod and beaver trades, mining, gender, environmentalism, to climate change.

The launch of the book, a key text in the growing field of Canadian environmental history, was supported by the Environmental Research Group of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies. A Robarts Centre research cluster, this group is composed of various students and faculty members of York University that research the multiple dimensions of the Canadian environment from a broad range of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields, including sciences, social sciences, humanities, fine arts and health. Representing the group at the event, Professor Jennifer Bonnell said they are always looking for members of the York community to join this growing network. Her group will host quarterly presentations of works-in-progress, beginning with the first meeting Dec. 10, 12:30 to 2 p.m. at the Robarts Centre, 7th floor of the Kaneff Tower. For more information, contact Bonnell at

During the Nov. 21 event, a second book was also highlighted. For this book titled La Confédération, 1864-1999: nouvelles perspectives (University of Calgary Press), Coates coordinated the translation of the original English-language collection of essays, edited by Daniel Heidt. The work of the translation and revision team was made possible by a Canada150@York grant. Also supported by the Robarts Centre through its groupe de recherche sur le Canada francophone, francophile et en français, the book launch was an opportunity to celebrate this important collection, especially useful for French-speaking academics working on and teaching Canadian politics and history.

“This book brings new analyses of Confederation by examining this process from a regional perspective and considering the impact on Indigenous Peoples,” said Professor Audrey Pyée. “We particularly welcome a new resource in French about the entire country. There are too few of them.”

Book Launch of The Nature of Canada and La Confédération 1864-1999: nouvelles perspectives, from left to right: Professor Audrey Pyée (Chair, History, Glendon), Professor Jennifer Bonnell (History, LA&PS), Professor Colin Coates (Canadian Studies Program, Glendon), Professor Jean Michel Montsion (deputy director, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies)

The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies is a research centre that facilitates and mobilizes research pertaining to various aspects of the study of Canada in the York community. Through various research clusters such as the Environmental Research Group and the Francophone Canada Research Group, the Robarts Centre promotes emerging inter-Faculty, collaborative and interdisciplinary fields in Canadian Studies. For more information about the Centre and its research clusters, visit its website.