2017 marks 150 years of Canada’s confederation - on July 1, 1867 Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were unified under the Dominion of Canada
. All levels of government have earmarked funds for projects commemorating Canada’s sesquicentennial, such as the local Canada150 community projects. In addition to providing free access to Parks Canada throughout 2017, an online campaign, #OnThisDay
, highlighting significant events that have shaped Canadian society over the past 150 years has been launched as well. Canadian brands are also trying to capitalize on the 150th
anniversary by creating campaigns that play on familiar ‘Canadian’ values of multiculturalism and community (Loblaws #EatTogether and RBC’s #Make150Count
). Canada150 is not simply about marking Canada Day on July 1, as we have done in the past, it is about the defining, solidifying and (re)discovering of a cohesive national identity.
Over the past 150 years, Canada appears to have transitioned from a colonial outpost for competing empires into a model nation that promotes and celebrates multicultural and inclusion values, its social security programs, and progressive Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all. To many around the world, Canada is a successful model of the modern state whose national identity is built on the diversity of its people. This model and identity have become that much more potent and valuable against a backdrop of multiple global shifts in ideologies and values, particularly that of closed borders. However, as we celebrate our accomplishments as a nation, we must also critically examine our historical, current, and future narratives; Who is being celebrated and who is not? How is our history presented? Who is presenting it? Whose voices are silenced? Whose history is erased? and Who will have the opportunity to shape the future?
In reflecting on Canada’s milestone birthday, we must centre our relations with the Indigenous Communities. While Canada150 marks the formation of a sovereign state, it also marks the successful
colonization of indigenous people and land. We must always recognize that while ‘Canada’, a state with defined borders, was established 150 years ago, the history of Indigenous people and their connection to the land had been established long before the arrival of European settlers. So when we talk about Canada150 what are we talking about really? When does our history begin and which parts of it do we take ownership over? How can we mark Canada150 while also recognizing what had already existed before? How can we honour and follow through with the Truth and Reconciliation movement in the context of Canada150?
We also want to reflect on the role that various immigrant and minority communities have played in shaping and building Canada, interrogating how Canada’s past, current, and future is being presented. Particularly, whose contributions are recognized and who will have the opportunity
to shape the next 150 years. This requires us to acknowledge, as a nation, on the adverse lived experiences of marginalized communities and the way in which Canada’s history has shaped those experiences; we should not disregard or ignore the painful parts of our history. It also requires us to take action to institutionalize diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice values in all aspects of Canada, to ensure we are not having the same conversations around race, gender, immigration, and poverty in the next 150 years.
In thinking about these questions, RDR created a Canada150 project titled Peel150: Celebrating and Empowering Diverse Communities.
Our objective is to connect national and provincial celebrations of Canada150 to our local Peel community by exploring what Canada150 may mean to Peel’s diverse communities.
The first part of this project focuses on collecting and documenting the contribution of diverse communities to the growth and development of Peel Region over the past 150 years in the form of multimedia and written vignettes. RDR will seek stories from organizations and community members through a variety of methods, including multimedia, art, photographs, short essays and/or interviews. The second part of this project involves developing and launching a one-day symposium to provide the Peel community with space and opportunity to critically think about historical narratives and envision what kind of future they imagine for Peel over the next 150 years. The symposium will include dedicated time for dialogue across attendees and keynote speakers.
The project aims to highlight a diverse historical, current, and future narrative of Peel Region to inspire communities to work together to create a vibrant, healthy, and inclusive region. Moreover, to ensure that celebrations of Canada150 include stories from diverse communities.
We are pleased to announce that we have received funding to begin our project. The Community Foundation of Mississauga through their Canada150
stream has provided funding to collect and document stories in Mississauga while the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport through their Ontario150 Community Celebration
program has provided funding to develop and launch our symposium. For more information about this project and how to get involved please connect with RDR.
We are excited to being this work and hope to open up as well as diversify the dialogue around Canada150 with our project by working with community members and organizations across Peel Region.
-The Regional Diversity Roundtable