I am a writer, theatre artist, educator, and public historian.
I was born in Ottawa, where I attended Lisgar Collegiate, and now live in Toronto, Canada. I received my PhD in History from the University of Toronto in 2010. My dissertation, “‘Toronto Has No History!‘ Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism and Historical Memory in Canada’s Largest City,” was an attempt to challenge settler amnesia and dominant historical paradigms. For several years, I taught Indigenous history at York University and developed and taught a bilingual Canadian Studies course called Decolonizing Canada/Décoloniser le Canada, at Glendon College, York’s bilingual campus. I continue to contribute to historical research as an independent scholar, though my main focus is new creative work.
My first book, Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America, was shortlisted for the 2000 Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
My most recent book, A World without Martha: A Memoir of Sisters, Disability, and Difference, is about my experience as a sibling of a child with Down Syndrome who was institutionalized. It was released by UBC Press on October 1, 2019 and was shortlisted for the 2020 Lambda literary award for Bisexual Non-Fiction. My late sister Martha was a resident at the Rideau Regional Centre at Smiths Falls, Ontario, from 1960 to 1973.
I am the co-creator, with L’Arche Toronto Sol Express and Cheryl Zinyk, of Birds Make Me Think About Freedom, a play about the experiences of people institutionalized for intellectual disability, which won a Patron’s Pick award at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival. It has since been performed at Flying to Freedom, a March 2019 event marking the 10th anniversary of the closing of Ontario institutions, and in London, Ontario, on October 22, 2019.
With Ange Loft of Jumblies Theatre, I also cowrote The Talking Treaties Spectacle, a Jumblies Theatre community arts performance focused on Toronto area treaties and their contemporary significance, first performed at Fort York as part of the Indigenous Arts Festival in June 2017 and remounted October 4-7, 2018. An art and video installation, By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto, ran September 21 – December 1, 2019 as part of the first Toronto Biennial of Art. The video created for this installation has been screened at film festivals in Canada, the US, and Scotland.
I am currently co-creating an illustrated book, A Treaty Guide for Torontonians, with Ange Loft, Martha Stiegman, and Jill Carter It will be launched at the 2022 Toronto Biennial of Art. I am also conducting research on the history of Indigenous-settler interactions in the area north and west of Toronto for the Changing the Narrative project with Black Creek Pioneer Village, York University History Department, and four local First Nations.
I live with Mark Fawcett and have two adult children. I identify as queer and genderfluid.
10 thoughts on “Bio”
Victoria – I have often wondered where you were and what you were doing and am happy to have found you. We crossed paths in 1976-1977.
Warmly, Alison S.
We’re reading your works in class (Ryerson) and I’ve just finished your essay “The Royal Proclamation and Colonial Hocus-Pocus: a learned treatise”. I find your style very engaging, and it makes me look forward to reading more of your thoughts and opinions. Keep being freakin’ rad!
All the best, Brea
Hey, Brea — you made my day! I have printed “Keep being freakin’ rad!” and stuck the words to the top of my computer monitor so I’ll see them every day while I’m toiling away…
Hey you, sitting on the prairie watching the dog run miles away and listening to Shelagh. So delighted to hear that you found your place and an outlet for your most extraordinary intellect, intuition and empathy.
Just read your article on “Active History” entitled “Who Speaks? Who Tells? Who listens?”
Really enjoyed it and very much looking forward to reading the full book. Thank you for
sharing the story of your sister, I can only imagine how hard it was to delve into that part
of your family’s history.
Hi Victoria. I, too, am a sibling of a Down Syndrome sister who was institutionalized in the 1950’s/1960’s era. I wrote a book inspired by my mother and her journey with my sisters and me. We sound very similar. You might enjoy reading UNIQUELY STELLA by Deborah Menenberg. Many thanks.
My apologies for my very slow response. My partner had hip replacement surgery Nov. 9 and I have been his main caregiver since, so I’m still catching up on things. Thank you so much for getting in touch with me and letting me know about your book, which I do hope to read, once my life settles down a bit in mid-December!
I wanted to let you know about a recent podcast about the experience of siblings, which features an interview with two other siblings and myself,, just published today.
Also, I wanted to let you know that on December 1, I am co-hosting a sharing event for siblings. It is an opportunity for siblings to tell our stories and be heard by others who know the circumstances. Look here on my facebook page for the poster (with a beautiful image created by another sister of someone who was institutionalized) https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=2584888355141978&set=a.1397086467255512.
Here is more information about the event and a link to the registration form.
Hope you will join us,
I just replied to you on another site. Afterwards, I found your webpage that I hadn’t seen prior. We have a lot in common except that I live in the Pacific NW and probably a dozen other things. Both having a sibling who was institutionalized and the fact that we are theatre people surprised me. After I order your book and read it, I will be happy to leave a review. It was surprising to me when I was researching information for my book that there were little to no books on this topic in a fictional (based on fact) story format. Good luck to you and yes, I would love to be a part of the podcast.
A student in the Indigenous Cultural Safety course, your video amplified some of the realities I am wrestling with currently. Being an old white male settler who is fearful of what it all means I feel sad, sober, dismayed and shame as I study. Thank you for the work you provide and the resources you add.