Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Canada 150: What You Can Do to Mark Occasion

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, January 9 / 17

Zack Gross

Happy New Year!  And Happy Canada's Sesquicentennial! Nothing to do with Sasquatches!  It's our country's 150th Anniversary and there are things you can keep in mind and decide to do during 2017 to make sure you don't regret “missing it” afterwards.

First of all, Canada has been around as a country since Confederation, which took place in 1867.  But, let's face it: this land and its beautiful lakes, mountains, prairie skies and people didn't materialize on July 1st of that year.  “We've” been around a lot longer than that and we need to respect the history and cultures that predate our nationhood.

As a historian by nature, I am taken aback by how little history is taught in our schools and by how little our young people (and those older!) know not only about Canadian history but global history as well.  I think the world would be a better place if people knew more, even about the last one hundred years.  They say that people who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, and by “repeat it
,” they mean the bad stuff – wars, genocides, poverty and more.

Even on a micro scale, if people learned more about their own family's history, their own town's history, even their own workplace's history, they would be better prepared to understand and respond to what is going on around them.  My fellow columnist, David McConkey leads Brandon history tours, which I would say is a “must” for anyone wanting to better understand the Wheat City, and further afield, many Manitoba towns have interesting museums and historical records and programs.

There will be a lot of hype around our 150th Anniversary.  No question, some good things will come of 2017, such as new civic projects, opportunities for young people to apply for a variety of educational, cultural and sport programs, fun parties to bring communities together and so on.  But take some time and thought to sort out what is hype and what really makes a difference.  When Queen Marie Antoinette, at the outset of the French Revolution, responding to the complaints of the poor, said “Let them eat cake!
,” apparently she wasn't aware (or was she?) that they didn't have bread!

Speaking of making a difference, do something for other people as your sesquicentennial project.  If you aren't already volunteering or contributing in other ways to your community and the world, maybe 2017 is the year to get started.  Many non-profits and community associations are looking for people who have time, skill, experience and a little bit of cash to put forward.

I noticed that one of my Facebook friends has challenged Canadians to see more of their country this year.  She asks people to list the provinces and territories and check off those they've been to – and then visit another!  I'll be heading to Halifax in February for a national fair trade conference, my first time in Atlantic Canada, so I guess I'm covered!  Unfortunately, what I will see is the inside of a conference centre and likely a lot of snow on the outside.

Manitoba and Canada offer many opportunities to connect with First Nations and ethnic or immigrant groups and festivals.  A recent poll asked Canadians how they feel about our multicultural situation as opposed to the American “melting pot
.”  As we like to joke, our polite nature and “live and let live” attitude works well in a country with people from around the world and those who arrived well before my European ancestors did.

But, are we really engaging them, or do we give them a wide berth?  I've been “twinned” with a young man who has recently come to Manitoba from Syria and Egypt.  Can you imagine his shock at being a newcomer when Manitoba has its largest snowfall in December since 1909?  While he is grateful to be safe in Canada, part of him is still “back home” wanting to stay connected and offer support to those he left behind.  Is 2017 the year you will – if you aren't already – make these kinds of connections?

One final idea.  Resolve to stay around a few years longer than 2017.  You can do this by making an extra effort to get healthy – find the way most comfortable for you to improve your health this year – eat better, exercise, moderate your vices, get checked out by your doctor.  In the waning months of last year, I was shocked by how many of my peers had heart attacks or heart surgery.  2016 was a bad year for the loss of the talented and well-known, and our ordinary loved ones too.  Don't join the list if you can avoid it!

So, Happy Sesquicentennial!  May this be a year of positive actions and memories!

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s
The Marquis Project.

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