Evidence of meeting #12 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was history.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Brian Levine  Executive Director, Glenn Gould Foundation
  • William Thorsell  Consultant, As an Individual
  • Robynne Rogers Healey  Associate Professor of History, Department of History, Political and International Studies, Trinity Western University, As an Individual

9:40 a.m.

Associate Professor of History, Department of History, Political and International Studies, Trinity Western University, As an Individual

Dr. Robynne Rogers Healey

In terms of praxis I could see a number of different methods or mechanisms for putting something into play that would allow individual communities to tell their own stories and make them part of the national story.

I would be disappointed if we continued to focus on the bad things that have happened in Canada. We've made mistakes in terms of actions that have been part of our own history and also in the way that we've told them. However, I don't think we need to focus on that as much as look forward to see what we have accomplished.

So in that way we should get communities to tell their own stories—and by communities I don't necessarily mean local geographic communities, but communities that expand across the country—and make them part of the national narrative. I think that digital projects are a wonderful way of doing that. People from all parts of the country could be involved in a way they couldn't be 45 years ago.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Pierre Nantel

Mr. Thorsell.

9:40 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

William Thorsell

Thank you.

History is bound to be a major topic during a birthday party for a country. Certainly, some of the projects that would come forward under “Mix-Up and Move Around” would have to do with history. Of course, all of these new immigrants from different worlds—in very large proportions now—need to know some of the history that predates them in this country, although they're now making history themselves here.

The approach I'm taking is that you have to have a strategic heartbeat for something like 2017. It needs a brand, in the sense that this is what this year is about. It can't just be scattershot, where you have 500 good, worthy causes that come forward and you say, “Okay—these, these, these, these, these.” Then there's no overarching way to understand what we're doing or why we're doing this.

I'm proposing that there be an overarching idea to whatever you want to do, whether it's trying to revive history, or doing a national tour of kids from all around the country and traveling all around the country—which really is a Mix-Up and Move Around classic case—so that you don't have to decide all of these projects for yourself, but you know what you're looking for, and you tell everybody what they need to do if they want support. In a strategic vision where you say, “This is what this is about and not other things”, your worthy causes are subject to the sacred cause of knowing thyself, because this is the biggest challenge we have going forward. I'm more interested in the significance of going forward of what we can do this year than looking back so much, although history can be part of it.

How much can we strengthen the good road we're on, and not go into the ditch on multiculturalism, by framing the year and saying that whatever you have to do or want to do—whether it's in the arts, sport, conferences, or business—you've got to mix-up and move around if you are to get support for 2017. That's the core issue.

There's a wide variety of things that you would hear from across the country. Let's say you announce two years earlier what your approach will be, and you say that by 2017, all of you have a chance to come up with all these great projects. Some would be “crazy Canuck” projects and some would be serious projects, but they all have to go through the filter of mix-up and get out into the country and know thyself. That means you'd be off the hook of this risk of incoherent worthy causes, which are there every other year. History has a different value for different people in different times.

Thinking about the GTA, where I spend a lot of my time now, I am very concerned that they get to know the present—the country as it is, other parts of the country, other communities in the country—more than the past, because the parochialism that's developing among different groups with very different backgrounds is profound. When you look at the GTA, the residential distribution of populations in different parts is clearly such that it's quite common that many people—some say south Asian people in Brampton, or Asian people in Markham—may go downtown once a year in Toronto, and their children hardly ever do, maybe on a school trip or something.

We have many people in Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, or Winnipeg who have never been to another region. They've hardly been out of the cities they live in, and have no idea where they live or who else lives there. This is an opportunity to say to all of those people, "Be creative. You guys have all the ideas, but you have to mix yourself up, and you have to get out there if you want to be part of this particular season's agenda.”

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Thank you.

Am I over time?

9:45 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Pierre Nantel

A very short question.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Okay.

Just to address Mr. Levine, my colleague, Mr. Calandra, had asked a general question about the.... I'm interested in hearing a little more about the roll out of the 2017 project, in terms of how you expect to connect with communities, geographically as well as with peoples, in order to start putting this thing together?

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Glenn Gould Foundation

Brian Levine

That's a very good question.

First, of course, we'll need to communicate with the public to let them know that this is happening. That is going to have to start happening well in advance of 2017, possibly as early at the last half or quarter of 2015. By that time, of course, we'll know whether we're a go for this project or not. We will have finished evaluating the different models for selection, if it's something more like a sporting qualifying process to choose the young artists who will move on to be finalists, and be part of the selection. Obviously, the use of communication techniques, from social media and Internet to traditional media, will be part of the announcement.

The one very real model as a possibility for the process of selection throughout 2016 is a televised event, which could be presented as a series. Although we're certainly not committed to that model, it is at least one of the options; hence our discussions with the gentleman with the very distinguished television production background whom I mentioned. The trick, if it is done in a televised series, is to provide a tremendous vehicle for using that whole process as essentially a year-long advertisement for the 2017 event that will come. Once you have accessed the mass media, you're reaching a great many communities.

But we can do more. We can use the techniques of social media. We can actually use individual outreach to community organizations and centres. We can get right down to school boards, libraries, churches, and the cultural institutions representing the diverse communities, and conservatories, and university faculties to encourage the faculties to urge their best students to come forward. The initial processes might be to submit a tape or some sort of media audition online, or to send panels of auditioners around the country—which, again, could be very interesting and provide a viable method of helping to spread the word and enthusiasm.

My feeling, though, is that it is going to snowball. Once the announcement is made, and once you begin to think of this as akin to trying out to be part of the Canadian Olympic team—only, in this case, in music—I think that people are going to figure it out and reaching across the country isn't going to be hard to do.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Pierre Nantel

Thank you, Mr. Levine.

Mr. Scott Simms.

November 17th, 2011 / 9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

I'm going to pick up on some of the points that Mr. Thorsell made, but I would like everyone to weigh in on this as well.

Several years ago--and I won't say how many, because it gives away my age--I was an air cadet and went on a trip to Alberta. There were two kids from each province and we were on a survival course in the woods. I met someone there who became a dear friend of mine. He was from Quebec City. He barely spoke English and I barely spoke French. The relationship we struck was based on our similarities. First and foremost, we didn't like the Montreal Canadiens—but there you go. Beyond that, for our living spaces and our ancestors, the same narrative was there. The only thing that separated us was language. I bring that up only because of the points you make, Mr. Thorsell, about mixing up with others. I think we underestimate what a fantastic experience that is in nation-building.

We see the kids who come here with Encounters with Canada . It's an amazing program. I would like Encounters to happen in every province. If it has to be in a provincial capital, so be it.

The demand for national conventions in St. John's, Newfoundland is phenomenal. When I go there and I speak to people from far-flung areas of the country, I ask them whether this is their first convention in Newfoundland. They tell me that everybody wants to go there. The experience is so different from their own that they are just amazed it's their own country.

So I buy into what you're saying, and I think I probably had the same heart palpitations as Mr. Benskin. You're speaking to a narrative that we have to encapsulate. All the things that feed into this, like the social media, are going to enhance this as an extension of ourselves. Not to get too McLuhanistic with everybody, I suppose the medium is the message in a big way.

One of the things you mentioned and one of the things I seem to have a hard time wrapping my head around is the idea of the legacy. Personally I think the interpersonal relationships, the mix-up you talked about, is going to be that intangible legacy.

When it comes to the concept of having a pedestrian bridge, I think that's a fantastic idea, because the symbolism is rich and the experience is much richer. But giving $50 million to each province and territory would enable them to create some sort of a legacy project. Thank you for bringing that up.

I'd like to ask each of you, if you were to running this program and could tell each province you were going to give them $50 million, would you be asking them to show you what they've got, or would you be asking them how they can enhance the national narrative? I don't know if that question makes sense, but what I'm asking is, what do you see as the permanent legacies left over?

9:50 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

William Thorsell

That part comes out of my longer paper that you've obviously read. It's not in this one.

First of all, with respect to the legacy of relationships, there are these programs where you get people together. The Governor General has one and does something every year. Various groups get kids together and make them travel. Anyone who has ever been on one of those things says, “It changed my whole life and it changed my whole sense of the country”. They make friends and all of that kind of stuff. But for a year like this, it has to be an order of magnitude bigger.

In 1967, Expo actually lost less money than was budgeted for it, in terms of the costs to the taxpayer. It cost the taxpayer about $220 million in 1967 dollars to do Expo 67--not the whole centennial. If you took that amount of money in current dollars, you could have the biggest mosh pit in the history of the country—

9:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

9:50 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

William Thorsell

—by funding people and mixing them up and moving them around.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

No, that's the House of Commons you're talking about.

9:55 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

William Thorsell

Then instead of having islands with buildings that were built to be torn down six months later, as at Expo, where only a few buildings were saved.... Instead of that impermanence being built in, what you would see with the digital media is everybody who went out on their two-week mixed-up trip up to Prince Rupert, for example, and met all kinds of people there, going back and getting on the Internet and creating Facebook pages. There'd be a tremendous legacy of relationships and appreciation of the country. It's the most important thing you could do. It's invisible and critical. It's not testable, I suppose, but it's fundamental to the future of the country to get to know it.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Not to add to this—and I'll get others to weigh in as well—but just very simply, should we have an Encounters with Canada across the country? Should kids amalgamate in a place like Prince Rupert from across the country? Should they go to St. John's, Newfoundland?