Turning Points: The Detroit Riot of 1967, a Canadian Perspective

Description

306 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
$26.95
ISBN 1-896219-81-0
DDC 977.4'34043

Year

2003

Contributor

Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of
Korea.

Review

Pierre Trudeau astutely observed that living beside the United States,
as Canadians do, resembles sleeping with an elephant. No matter how
friendly the elephant, the bedmate feels every twitch and grunt. The
Civil War in the United States hastened Confederation in Canada. The
Vietnam War sent draft dodgers northward. The events of September 11,
2001, in New York and Washington, D.C., grounded commercial aviation in
Canada as U.S.-bound airliners made unscheduled landings at Canadian
airports, and Canadians—from Whitehorse to Gander—accommodated
unexpected guests. Not surprisingly, then, Herb Colling notes a Canadian
dimension to the Detroit riots of 1967.

Colling says that prior to the riots of July 23–27, 1967, residents
of Windsor enjoyed the best of both worlds. They lived in a medium-sized
Ontario city, but had easy access to a metropolis and its amenities,
from professional sports to shopping. The riots proved a turning point,
after which Windsorites became more cautious about trips across the
Detroit River. While the riots lasted, scared people from Michigan
sought refuge in Windsor. Journalists had a story, and firefighters from
Windsor went to Detroit to cope with the emergency help their American
counterparts. (One bureaucratic official at the tunnel insisted on
collecting tolls from the Canadian firefighters as they tried to return
home. He said that he would relent only if they could provide receipts
to prove that they really had been extinguishing fires.) Residents of
Windsor collected food for riot victims in Detroit, and for two years,
authorities cancelled Emancipation Day (commemorating the end of
slavery) so as not to provoke a riot inside Canada.

To put the riot into context, the book provides a review of other news
from the summer of 1967, including the famous de Gaulle visit to
Montreal and speech on July 24 from the balcony at City Hall. It also
provides a succinct history of slavery in Canada, as well as a helpful
bibliography and an index. Surprisingly, it has taken almost four
decades for a book on this subject to appear.

Citation

Colling, Herb., “Turning Points: The Detroit Riot of 1967, a Canadian Perspective,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17938.