Good morning and thank you for that thoughtful introduction. It's so nice to see the leadership of Winnipeg and engaged citizens all together. I am honoured to be here today to talk about ideas and inspiration for the 150th anniversary celebration of our great nation.
Je vous remercie pour cette invitation et je suis content de partager avec vous mes réflexions pour cet anniversaire.
Anniversaries are opportunities for a country to mark its collective progress and to pause and define its goals for the future. Anniversaries can also be celebrations that capture a nation's imagination and leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all its citizens. Whether it is Terry Fox's historic run, the Olympic Games that Canada has hosted, to Expo 1967, it is not always the date, theme, or ceremonies that we remember. It is how we felt.
I remember back to 1967 when Canada was celebrating its 100th anniversary. One of my strongest memories from that time is Bobby Gimby's iconic song, Canada ou la version en français "Une chanson du centenaire". That song embodied the pride and sense of accomplishment Canadians were feeling at the time; it became an anthem for our 100th anniversary. And when I hear that song now, I still feel nostalgic for the celebrations from 1967. Now, on the journey towards Canada's 150th anniversary, we have the opportunity to create new memories that Canadians will remember forever.
I have been directly involved with large‐scale celebrations in the past and those experiences give me hope for what this celebration could be and could mean to Canadians. Canadians aren't really known for patting ourselves on the back, or for unabashedly waving the flag, but I believe that this milestone is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity that makes Canada unique, strong and successful. This is Canada's time to celebrate our history and chart our course on the world stage.
In 1999, I served as the Chair of the organizing committee for the World Junior Hockey Championship being held in Manitoba. If you have been to a World Junior game or have watched one on television, you are well aware of the passion and excitement that accompany this tournament. In Manitoba, many of the games were held outside of the capital city and into smaller, rural markets like Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Brandon and Morden. Every single one of those games was packed to the rafters with people and emotion. They were able to share in this experience directly, as a community. How symbolic that we are having this discussion in a railway station today, as it is the rail lines that served to tie this country together from East to West. Today, technologyhas the ability to connect us over vast spaces. One of the points we must carefully consider is how to showcase and celebrate our vast geography, rather than have geography became a barrier to participation.
Now, I'm not finished talking about hockey yet! The experience with the World Junior Hockey Championships solidify for me that hockey is, without a doubt, Canada's game, it revealed to me the values that make Canada a great nation: hard work, perseverance, dedication, teamwork and integrity.
Hockey has a way of bringing out that flag waving Canadian spirit; of bringing a nation together to rally behind a cause. Our 150th anniversary celebrations have the opportunity to unite people in a similar way. Wouldn't it be something if the Winnipeg Jets were playing the Québec Nordiques in a Winter Classic or the Stanley Cup in 2017?
The 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games also serve as an example of the ways in which large‐scale celebrations can lead to a greater sense of pride and national character.
People came from around the world to participate in the events in Vancouver and Whistler and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. The sporting events, along with the celebrations of music, dance, theatre, and Manitoba House where the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was featured as part of Canada Place, made the experience unforgettable for visitors. The respect of the four nations that hosted the games created an even greater sense of togetherness and connectedness, honouring the place and people that graciously welcomed the world.
What really stuck out for me was the awakening of a national spirit and a sense of national pride in the hearts of Canadians. Watching the Gold Medal Hockey game outdoors on the big screens in Canada Place with thousands of people was a once‐in‐a‐lifetime experience I won't soon forget. I once found myself in the middle of a crowd when someone next to me spontaneously started singing O Canada, and was joined by everyone, including me, around him! But unabashed pride wasn't only true for those Canadians who were there in person, this pride extended well beyond Vancouver – it was evident in all corners of this country. The 106‐day Olympic torch run that passed through every province and territory in Canada represented the inclusivity and togetherness that we had all hoped that the Vancouver Olympics would be for Canada. Well planned, well executed celebrations can fundamentally change the way people see themselves, their country and their place in it.
Which brings me to my vision — as President and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights — for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
As Canadians, we take pride in our history and look forward to our future as the true north, strong and free. From our earliest days, we have always come together to advance our common purpose, each of us ready to do our part to move Canada forward, using our diversity to make Canada's social fabric stronger.
Canada has a long history of striving to respect diversity and the rule of law; it is a place with high standards for itself and for others. At times we have failed, and at times we have triumphed. Our human rights history is a critical part of our character as a nation. I see the 150th anniversary celebration as an opportunity to honour our history – to cultivate respect and gratitude for our inheritance of the rights that others fought to protect and to have recognized. We must look at where we started as a nation — where we find ourselves today and where do we want to be tomorrow. Our human rights history is our common history; it is at the base of our identity as Canadians. We have many stories to tell – some well‐known, some less familiar – and these stories can unite us as a country and to ultimately inspire this generation, and the generations to follow, to affirm and protect these rights and freedoms.
Like the Passing of the Torch I mentioned earlier, the 150th anniversary celebrations have an opportunity to strengthen the fabric and serve as positive catalyst for the growth of our great nation for generations to come – but what if, instead of a torch, we passed on the stories of our nation; the stories of perseverance, of struggle, of community, of triumph?
Our human rights history is not blemish‐free; trail‐blazing is never without its misgivings or mistakes. For example, we should recognize that even these 150th anniversary celebrations will not be viewed in the same way by all people – for many Aboriginal communities, this is not necessarily an event that warrants celebration. But by looking honestly and openly at our past, by engaging a diversity of voices and perspectives, and by celebrating what has been accomplished to overcome these mistakes, we will serve to make our nation more united, more proud, and more just. We can use this anniversary to continue on a journey of reconciliation.
The Museum will look to create inspiring exhibits and programs to foster an appreciation for the importance of human rights, spur informed dialogue, and invite participants to identify the contemporary relevance of the human rights events of yesterday and today, of home and abroad.
Whether it is through the development of dynamic, bilingual online exhibits, traveling exhibits and activities at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the stories chosen for these exhibits would be wide‐ranging and would aim to engage many groups and communities, including Aboriginal communities, Francophones, Anglophones, Allophones, persons with disabilities, labour groups and ethno‐cultural communities, to name a few. State‐of‐the art technology as well as art, theatre and artefacts would make the traveling exhibits appealing to a large audience. Interactivity will provide Canadians the opportunity to learn more about their neighbours and themselves, strengthening the bonds of citizenship between us.
We could partner with the other local and national museums in Canada to deliver these exhibits, encouraging Canadians to visit the treasures that are our museums. These exhibits could also be used long after the 150th celebrations are over, travelling to other museums of conscience globally and demonstrating to the world the progress being made in Canada on human rights.
A social media campaign could accompany these exhibits, engaging a younger audience and encouraging them to learn more about their history and get involved in writing new chapters. Through YouTube, we can challenge Canadians to tell their own stories, the stories of their communities; tell us what their Canada is.
We can engage the vibrant arts and culture communities in Canada to celebrate our tremendous talent and creativity. Earlier I mentioned Bobby Gimby and his song 'Canada.' Who will the Bobby Gimby of 2017 be? Keith and Renée? Arcade Fire? K'naan? We have the opportunity to create a new anthem for our 150th celebrations – a song that represents where we have come as a nation. It is Canada's time.
While the vision for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights emanated from the vision of a private citizen, the late Israel Asper, it then evolved into a partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg, the Forks North Portage Partnership and the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. People from across Canada and around the world adopted the vision of the Museum as their own and thousands of individual donors, labour organizations, and the private sector contributed generously to a shared vision for what our project means and can accomplish for this country and the world. Partnerships between the federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government and the private sector are opportunities that must be considered in the development of plans on the journey to the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Many successful Canadian companies have stories to tell in the context of the development of our nation and should be invited as active partners to both have their stories be told and to invest financially in community, sporting, and arts and cultural activities.
On this journey to marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, I invite all Canadians to imagine ways to build a better, fairer society. I then challenge them to take action to make that society a reality. I believe that in order to achieve our vision, we must work together to learn from our past, reinforce learning and innovation and encourage philanthropy and volunteerism. We must build on our proud history and struggle always to be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today.
Je vous remercie de m'avoir offert le privilège de vous parler. Travaillons ensemble pour faire de cette grande année de l'histoire canadienne une année à ne pas 'z'oublier.
Each of us can answer the call to service in our own way and, together, continue this bold experiment that we call Canada.
Merci. Thank you. Meegwetch.