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Canada 150 celebrations focus on country’s future

“Canada 150” will be a common term by the end of 2017, even if “sesquicentennial” remains a challenge to pronounce. A year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation was launched with special New Year’s Eve events in 19 cities. Community projects and events will engage people across the country all year. National celebrations will focus on Flag Day on February 15 and Canada Day on July 1. Love for Canada and tourism will get a boost from initiatives that focus on exploring the country, such as the “Students on Ice” going from Toronto to Victoria via the Northwest Passage on a 150-day ice-breaking voyage. (Anyone can apply to join for a 10-day period!) Canada’s future will receive as much attention as Canada’s past, which is appropriate for a young country. Will the way that we celebrate affect the direction of Canada’s development for the next 50 years, as some claim the Centennial did in 1967? Good question.

The official Canada 150 program, estimated to cost $500 million, was launched by the Harper government before the 2015 election but changed by the Liberals soon afterward. Harper’s focus on “strong, proud and free” has been changed to focus on diversity, youth, the environment and reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Other governments, associations and corporate sponsors are making their own contributions, linked to federal initiatives by the Canada 150 logo. This partnership approach gives the anniversary a healthy, Canadian flavour. Ottawa, for example, has a year-long plan to change its image as a staid (some say boring) capital city to an exciting destination city. Christian Courier, for its part, is hosting its own Heritage Project in 2017, connecting young people and seniors to tell stories about their personal history and faith.

Credit: Students On Ice

Long-term impact
Beyond fun, patriotism and the chance to learn history, moments such as this can alter the course of a country’s development. In a recent Globe and Mail article, journalist Doug Saunders shows that events surrounding Canada’s Centennial in 1967 shifted the direction of development from a bicultural English/French nation to a multicultural, pluralistic nation (“1967: The Birth of Modern Canada,” Jan. 2). It was also an early step in rethinking indigenous history.

The 150th anniversary is a good time to take major steps down the path of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, such as settling some of the land claims that have been in process for years. Vancouver is celebrating “Canada 150+” to symbolically recognize that indigenous people were part of Canada before Confederation. Beyond those relationships, the challenge of balancing pluralism and social cohesion could be positively or negatively affected by what happens during 2017.

The federal focus on young people and the environment could have a long-term impact on what is considered good development. Understanding our history and thinking about our future may help cure the short-term thinking that plagues politics by asking what kind of country we want Canada to be before we reach our 200th anniversary. Readers of Christian Courier, rooted in a passion for engaging Christian faith and culture, may also find Canada 150 helpful to renew and refocus for the future.    

Will the way we celebrate affect Canada's future?

 

Here’s a sample of the wide range of 150-related activities, designed to engage different interests and age groups:

  • Visit National Parks free all year and explore our natural heritage (apply for a pass at pc.gc.ca).
  • Hike or help complete the Great Trail, a project aiming to connect 432 individual trails in one giant 24,000 km trail by the end of the year, connecting Canada coast to coast “at human speed.”
  • Post a 30-second video capturing why you love Canada for “Here’s My Canada,” hosted by Historica Canada (#HERESMYCANADA).
  • Age 14 to 19? Discuss the biggest challenges facing Canada at “Experience Canada 150 and Me” forums for young people, and 4-H sponsored youth events across Canada.
  • Learn history day-by-day through virtual links at the National Library and Archives: Canada.ca/OnThisDay.
  • Reflect on the reconciliation process between settlers and indigenous peoples at gatherings hosted by Reconciliation Canada and other groups.
  • Share your faith story through Faith150’s Thread of 1000 Stories initiative (faithincanada150.ca) or CC’s Heritage Project (ac.reiruocnaitsirhc@tcejorpegatireh).
  • Cheer for our athletes at games to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the NHL and at other high profile national and international sports events.
  • Marvel at historic tall ships from Rendezvous Naval as they stop in 35 Canadian port cities this summer during a transatlantic race covering 7,000 nautical miles.
  • Laugh out loud along with comedian Mary Walsh of “This Hour has 22 Minutes” and author Thomas King, organizers of a cross-country comedy tour to profile Canadian comic talent in the fall.  

 

  • Kathy Vandergrift, a public policy analyst, brings experience in government, social justice work and a Master’s Degree in Public Ethics to her reflections.

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