How Indigenous people are rebranding Canada 150

Not particularly surprising that Vancouver is taking the lead here. Remember the 2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony which started with Indigenous dances and drums:

Believe it or not, Indigenous people are responsible for salvaging Vancouver’s sesquicentennial bash. For a time, the city considered boycotting Canada 150. Two years ago, when Ottawa put the squeeze on the city to sign on to the grand jubilee, city staff registered serious discomfort. Exalting Canada’s colonial past two years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered its calls to action seemed regressive, and potentially harmful to the city’s new relationship with local First Nations. Vancouver had recently designated itself a “City of Reconciliation,” 70,000 had marched in support of rapprochement and Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer was learning Squamish. Staff came to her proposing the opt-out.

Reimer wasn’t opposed, but wanted input from the city’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee first, she says. The nine-member panel, which advises city council on how to better include Indigenous people and perspectives in city life, came back with a different idea—one council unanimously approved: Why not celebrate the city’s Indigenous history and culture instead?

So Vancouver, whose Indigenous population of 53,000 ranks third-highest among Canadian metropolises—after Winnipeg (78,000) and Edmonton (62,000)— [note: in percentage terms much less] is doing just that, with a $7-million event it’s calling Canada 150+. The plus symbol—another Advisory Committee suggestion—was added partly to counter the enduring myth that Canada prior to contact was empty and in need of civilization.

So, far from being another hurrah for Canada, the event is deliberately challenging our collective amnesia. And it’s receiving federal funding to do so (costs are being split between the municipal and federal governments, as in other cities). Canada 150+ launches in English Bay on July 19 with a traditional canoe welcome, followed by a nine-day arts festival in Vancouver’s downtown. Nightly headliners include acts like Cree icon Buffy Sainte-Marie, but the focus is the history and culture of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, the three Coast Salish nations on whose unceded territories Vancouver is built. They have been here longer than the English have been in England. Their culture was thriving when Dublin belonged to the Vikings and Sicily was ruled by Muslims.

“We are taking a huge risk—we don’t know how the public is going to react,” says Ginger Gosnell-Myers, the city’s first manager of Aboriginal relations. She is Nisga’a and Kwakwaka’wakw, a cousin of another Kwakwaka’wakw powerhouse, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Reimer, for her part, doesn’t seem to much care whether the event sparks controversy. Whether or not you have the compassion-based belief that Canada has a moral responsibility to change, she says, it’s clear the traumas of the past are crippling the present, financially and otherwise. “We need to start doing things differently.” And after all, Gosnell-Myers adds: “None of us is going anywhere. We have to learn to live together—in a respectful way, and in a truthful way.”

Underlying the work of the most expensive reconciliation project the city has ever undertaken is a multi-year attempt to re-root Vancouver in the culture of its earliest inhabitants. The next step, a process that could see key place names replaced with Indigenous ones, is potentially more controversial. “Bridges, streets and buildings” are all open to consideration, Reimer says. Emotions will run high, but many believe it’s time.

Vancouver sits near the heart of Canada’s pre-contact capital. By the 18th century, twice as many lived in thriving, well-fortified villages of fishers, tanners, potters and toy-makers surrounding the Georgia Strait as in the rest of Canada combined (more, even, than in New York). But while some 200 B.C. place names commemorate the voyages of Captains Cook and Vancouver, who arrived toward the end of that century, there isn’t even a plaque to commemorate a smallpox plague that wiped out all but 10 per cent of B.C.’s Indigenous inhabitants—arguably the most significant event in the province’s history.

No surprise, then, that Canada 150 is spurring a creative outpouring among Indigenous artists to shine light on some of these painful chapters. “Remember, Resist, Redraw,” a cross-country poster project led by the Graphic History Collective, is putting an Indigenous lens on key events in Canadian history. #Resist150, a multimedia project led by Metis artist Christi Belcourt, features poems, shared histories and other “acts of resistance,” like the 150 traditional tattoos Belcourt is aiming to ink over the coming year. And the year’s most talked-about art exhibit, Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, which opened last month in Toronto, uses the sesquicentennial to ridicule and expand Canada’s rigid, national narrative.

Monkman, a Winnipeg-raised Cree artist, reimagines the grand chronicle, sometimes by inserting his flamboyant, drag queen alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. You’ll find Miss Chief, lover of Louis Vuitton and pink heels, in, for example, a cheeky send-up of Robert Harris’s famed portrait of the Fathers of Confederation. She’s nude, seated facing them, her legs akimbo. The men look on in horror, and in lust. He called it The Daddies.

It’s not all fun and transgression, though. In The Scream, a visceral comment on residential schools, Mounties and Grey Nuns tear Indigenous children from their mothers’ arms. Five spectacularly large oil portraits depict all the ways Winnipeg’s colonial history is infecting its future—the racism, violence, alcohol, despair. To Monkman, apparently, the sesquicentennial is synonymous with all that has been lost.

But his art—gratifyingly—is no longer truly subversive. A truer, less simplistic Canadian narrative is finally starting to emerge. It rejects the idea of 1867 as a starting point, acknowledges the country’s many sins and returns the Indigenous perspective to where it belongs: front and centre, as the best and most enduring part of the Canadian story—a tale that stretches back not 150 years, but 12,000. That’s the version Vancouver is hoping to tell.

Immigrants are most excited about Canada 150 celebrations; Quebecers — not so much

Not surprising that new Canadians, those who chose to come here, are more enthusiastic. Other polling on belonging and attachment to Canada generally shows comparable attachment to Canada between ‘old-stock’ and new Canadians:

The newest Canadians are the ones most pumped up to celebrate the country’s sesquicentennial in 2017 according to a survey on Canada 150 events and attitudes posted online this week by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Among people who weren’t born in Canada, 51.6 per cent said they strongly agreed with the statement they were looking forward to celebrating Canada 150 compared to 29.5 per cent of those who were born in Canada.

“This survey shows immigrants are very enthusiastic about Canada and they are looking to take leadership of the commemorations of our 150th,” said Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies in Montreal. “That’s paradoxical when you think about it, because that anniversary is not part of their heritage.”

The difference between native Canadians and immigrants is greatest in Quebec, where many of the Canadian-born respondents were francophones who have the lowest interest in the celebration. But even in Ontario, there was a 20 percentage point difference between native Canadians and immigrants.

“I was expecting some difference, but 20 points is surprising,” Jedwab said.

The Leger survey was commissioned by Canadian Heritage and surveyed 2,191 Canadians aged 18 and over from all regions of the country. The purpose was to find a baseline of Canadians’ attitudes toward their country and the 150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations in 2017.

A majority of Canadians are proud of their country, plan to take part in Canada 150 events and approve of the government spending money on the party, according to a survey, which was conducted last June.

The exception, unsurprisingly, are francophone Quebecers whose strongest affinity is to their home province and who are the least likely to approve spending money on the Canada 150 celebrations, as well as least likely to volunteer or take part in events. The Quebec factor, though not unexpected, poses a problem for the federal government in promoting Canada 150 events in the province, Jedwab said.

“One of the big stories in this is the level of interest among francophones. There’s a risk here that you’re going to have a different level of celebration in Ottawa than you do in Gatineau. The government has got a challenge. On the one hand, if it wants to maximize involvement among francophones, there will be a pushback to manage as well. That pushback in Quebec risks undercutting the degree of interest among non-francophones.”

The survey found 95 per cent of Canadians say they feel attached to the country and that they identify as Canadians first, over their individual provinces or communities. Two-thirds of the respondents said they intended to participate in Canada 150 events and about one-third said they had seen or heard advertising related to the 2017 celebrations.

Affinity for Canada and support for a Canada 150 party was strongest among women and those aged 65 and older.

Source: Immigrants are most excited about Canada 150 celebrations; Quebecers — not so much | Ottawa Citizen

Contrasting Liberal and Conservative Themes for 150th Anniversary of Confederation in 2017

Quite a change – close to 180 degrees –  from the previous government:

Canadians throughout the country, as well as those living abroad, will proudly take part in the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all that it means to be Canadian. The Government of Canada is proud to be part of this anniversary of national and historic importance. It plans to:

  • promote and celebrate our Canadian identity; our ethnic, linguistic, cultural and regional diversity; and our rich history and heritage;
  • encourage Canadians to invest in our country’s future by bringing about significant changes and leaving a lasting legacy for coming generations;
  • create opportunities for Canadians to participate and celebrate together our shared values, our Canadian identity, our achievements, our majestic environment and our place in the world; and
  • maximize government investments and generate economic benefits for the country’s communities.

The main themes of the Government of Canada’s vision for the 150th anniversary of Confederation are:

Diversity and inclusion – We want to continue building a welcoming Canada where there is a place for everyone, a Canada where everyone can reach his or her full potential.


Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples – We want to support the vital work of reconciliation ‎with Indigenous peoples as outlined in the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Reconciliation is a journey for all Canadians as we move forward into Canada’s next 150 years.


Youth – We want to continue to engage young people and give them the means to contribute to our society, because they are the ones who will shape tomorrow’s Canada.


Environment – We want to be the custodians of our environment, because it is a source of our country’s wealth and pride. We want to bring Canadians closer to nature in order to strengthen their environmental awareness.

The previous Conservative government’s theme and vision

The Government of Canada will bring Canadians together with a common purpose. The Canada 150 overarching theme is “Strong. Proud. Free.”—words that define and characterize present-day Canada. A Canada that is a strong leader in the world, with one of the most robust economies. A Canada that is proud of its identity and achievements, as well as its natural beauty and resources. A Canada that is free with an open, diverse and pluralistic society. This theme connects us with our past, embraces the present, and builds towards the future.

The Canada 150 vision includes three elements:

Giving Back to Canada: Canadians will be challenged to dream about what the future holds for the next 150 years, and to give back to our country, providing meaningful change and lasting legacies for future generations.

Honouring the Exceptional: Exceptional Canadian people, places, achievements and events will be showcased to help shape Canada’s leaders of tomorrow.

Celebrating and Bringing Canadians Together: Canadians and their communities will have opportunities to celebrate together and build a deeper understanding of Canada, its people and what it means to be Canadian.

Canada 150 programming will support and promote activities that align with this vision.

Source: Backgrounder: The 150th Anniversary of Confederation in 2017 – Canada News Centre

Archived – Backgrounder – Strong. Proud. Free.: Get Ready to Celebrate Canada 150! – 2015

Harper govt poll for Canada’s 150th birthday cites Liberal, NDP icons

Not surprising, despite all the efforts by the Government to change this:

The list was topped by former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau, followed by marathon-of-hope runner Terry Fox; NDP leader Tommy Douglas; former Liberal prime minister Lester B. Pearson; astronaut Chris Hadfield; environmental activist David Suzuki; NDP leader Jack Layton; Sir. John A.; hockey legend Wayne Gretzky; and Romeo Dallaire, the soldier and Liberal senator who recently announced his resignation.

The consultation also asked which of Canada’s accomplishments of the last 150 years “make you most proud to be a Canadian?”

Medicare topped that list, followed by peacekeeping, then the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms at No. 3.

The Conservative government, which has recently been buffeted by a series of Charter-based losses at the Supreme Court of Canada, did not mark the 25th anniversary of the Charter in 2007, nor the 30th in 2012.

The rest of the accomplishments list, in order: contribution to the Second World War; the Canadarm; multiculturalism; contribution to the First World War; bilingualism; space exploration; and the Constitution Act of 1982.

Harper govt poll for Cdas 150th birthday cites Liberal, NDP icons.

Au Musée de l’histoire, une majorité d’événements célébreront la guerre

Have not seen anything recent in English media on the Museum of Canadian History programming. Liberals have raised over-emphasis on military ((26 out of 30 events), Conservatives have claimed, with straight face, that this was Museum’s decision:

«On est un pays qui a fait de grandes choses», juge le député Stéphane Dion, citant le Canada comme un «pionnier de la démocratie et des droits de la personne». «Il y a plein de choses que l’on peut célébrer et tout est orienté vers le militaire», déplore-t-il.

Il est d’accord que le «passé militaire glorieux» du Canada – l’armée n’étant intervenue à l’étranger que pour assurer la paix et la justice, selon lui – mérite d’être souligné, mais il estime avec cette vision réductrice des célébrations, les conservateurs «appauvrissent la richesse de notre histoire».

Selon lui, tout n’a pas été que conflits armés au Canada. Le député libéral de Saint-Laurent-Cartierville aurait aimé voir dans la liste des festivités une célébration de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés et du centenaire du droit de vote des femmes, entre autres exemples.

Questionnée en Chambre à ce sujet, jeudi, la ministre du Patrimoine canadien, Shelly Glover, a répliqué que le Musée canadien de l’histoire prend ses propres décisions en matière de programmation.

«Les musées font leur propres décisions opérationnelles», a-t-elle répondu, écartant toute forme d’ingérence de son gouvernement.

«Ce sera un succès partout au pays grâce aux consultations que nous avons faites auprès des Canadiens et Canadiennes, et des consultations se poursuivent», a-t-elle ajouté au sujet des célébrations du 150e.

Au Musée de l’histoire, une majorité d’événements célébreront la guerre | Stéphanie Marin | National.

Is the Conservatives’ Canada 150 roadmap out of step with the public? – Politics – CBC News

Not terribly surprising, as I have not seen focus group or polling results that indicate otherwise (if any of my readers have, please share):

According to TNS Canadian Facts, which conducted the research, when asked what “characteristics” should be front and centre in the design, the key adjectives put forward were celebration, pride, party, multiculturalism and immigration, diversity, history, youth and unity.

“From the words that people chose to describe this event, it is clear that the communications should focus on the celebration of Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism as a country, as well as appeal to the younger generation as much as possible” the report concluded.

The thematic mismatch may go deeper than logos or keywords, however. …

The Canada 150 website encourages Canadians to “celebrate and reflect on Canadian patriotism, sacrifice and commitment to service, the value of personal responsibility, hard work and family, national stability, the rights and duties of citizenship, and fairness and inclusiveness.”

Is the Conservatives’ Canada 150 roadmap out of step with the public? – Politics – CBC News.