Evidence of meeting #10 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 centennial.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

8:50 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

We'll get started.

Welcome to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and our study of Canada's 150th anniversary.

Committee members, we have a very distinguished panel with us today with a great deal of experience and expertise on the subject we are studying.

Welcome to all of our witnesses.

We have Mr. Peter Aykroyd with us today. He was the public relations director of the Canadian Centennial Commission from 1963 to 1967. He's held various positions within the federal public service, including Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet for the Privy Council and Associate Deputy Minister for Transport Canada. Also, in 1992, he published the book, The Anniversary Compulsion: Canada's Centennial Celebrations, A Model Mega-Anniversary.

Welcome to you, Mr. Aykroyd.

Some of you may know Mr. Aykroyd's son, Mr. Dan Aykroyd, who is here today. I offered him the opportunity to sit at the table, but that would probably only lead to questions that are completely off topic. But welcome to you as well, sir.

We also have Mr. Peter MacLeod, from MASS LBP. In March 2010, MASS LBP partnered with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada to hold the 150!Canada Conference. Public servants, business leaders, academics, and artists assembled at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to reflect on Canada's 150th anniversary, so it's very relevant to our study today.

We also have Colin Jackson, from imagiNation 150, which is a group of Albertans who are brainstorming ideas on how to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017.

Welcome to our three panellists. You each will be given 10 minutes for opening comments, and then we'll have an opportunity for committee members to ask questions of you.

We will start, then, with Mr. Peter Aykroyd. The floor is yours.

8:50 a.m.

Peter Aykroyd Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Is that 10 minutes each or 10 minutes for the three of us?

8:50 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

That's 10 minutes each, but we're not too strict on that.

8:50 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

My son Dan wears the Order of Canada insignia, you'll notice. He also has a doctorate from Carleton University. When you have Danny in a room, you've got a ghostbuster, a blues brother, and a conehead.

8:50 a.m.


Oh, oh!

8:50 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

I have just a few general remarks here that are matters of principle rather than detail, but I think they will probably be useful to you. I hope so.

First of all, there was no official history written about 1967, apart from The Anniversary Compulsion. I have copies of the book here for anybody who cares to take one. It's still in print. It was the only chronicle of the centennial in 1967 that was written, oddly enough. That's a clue perhaps to the new group who is going to take over the heritage aspect. You had better assign somebody to write the history, because it's assumed it will be lost, as it was in the case of 1967.

There are two basic kinds of circumstance that bring about the knee-jerk reaction to celebrate. A repetitive calendric date is one of them--think birthday when you think of that rubric. The second is a perceived milestone that has particular interest. If it is divisible by five, that makes it important: 2016 is ho-hum; 2018 is too late. It's odd--and I'll leave that mystery with you--why it is divisible by five and why that makes it important. I have not yet satisfied myself about that.

The issue is also not about nationalism now. There's a very fine distinction between nationalism and patriotism. I stand, or sit, challenged on that, but I believe that nationalism has a different connotation. It's really related to comparisons of countries and cultures and their particular attributes and history. Patriotism is something fine or more personal. Just think, “Breathes there the man with soul so dead/Who never to himself hath said/This is my own, my native land!”

So 2017 is the stuff of patriotism: my home, my native land. It's fundamental in planning and thinking about it to make that distinction between nationalism and patriotism. I give it to you as a philosophical matter to consider in your planning.

Following 1967 there was no quantitative or qualitative analysis of what went on. The programs just occurred and that was that. To this day, except for a few MA and PhD theses that exist, there is still no qualitative or quantitative analysis of what happened.

All of the archives of the Centennial Commission--and it was my responsibility to see that this took place--were deposited in the National Archives of Canada. There are eight stacks down the street at the National Archives, right down to the level of the Ottawa River. In those are 100 metres of files. Every scrap of paper we ever had is there.

So there's no dearth of material to really understand what happened in some of these programs and whether they succeeded or not. That's a great bonus to everybody who's planning for Canada 150. The material is all there to be used.

In my own analysis, in the book The Anniversary Compulsion, I tried to concentrate on the “how” of the compulsion, and the result is encapsulated in what I call the anniversary axiomatic. I looked at all the programs, refined them down to what they were all about, and then backed up and said, “Okay, now if we want to do this again, what are some rules to follow?” In the anniversary axiomatic are the ten precepts that I come up with for a successful anniversary. I commend them to you, because I believe they have some substance of value.

I'd like to pay tribute to Peter MacLeod and the institute's public administration for hosting the first conference on the subject in March 2010.

I guess that's all I want to say in terms of general remarks. I'll be happy, of course, to answer your questions later on.

I will just hold up a copy of The Anniversary Compulsion and say that I don't need to say any more; it's all in the book.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, sir.

We will now move on to Peter MacLeod.

8:55 a.m.

Peter MacLeod Principal, MASS LBP

It's my pleasure to be with you this morning to talk to you about Canada's 150th anniversary.

It's probably one of the more pleasant occasions to come before a parliamentary committee, to talk about something like Canada's sesquicentennial in 2017. It is, of course, a special pleasure to see Peter Aykroyd again, as well as Colin Jackson.

Peter spoke with almost 20 distinguished Canadians at this conference that we held at the National Arts Centre, and there are actually videos available. Everyone from Roch Carrier to Beverly McLachlin to Peter Aykroyd and more are there, reflecting on what they felt was the significance of 1967 and the import of marking our sesquicentennial in a suitable fashion. So I recommend that to you.

I'm here really today to try to relay to you a little bit about what happened at that conference, and to also talk about some of the history surrounding 1967, which is covered so ably in Peter's book, and also in Helen Davies' research. I understand the committee met with Helen last week. I brought along copies of her dissertation.

It was a funny thing. When we were preparing to do some research for our conference, we found her doctoral dissertation in the musty archives of the University of Winnipeg. I assure you, it's a very pleasant thing for any former PhD student to get a phone call out of the blue announcing not only interest in someone's dissertation but a desire to publish it as well. The reason we did that is exactly because, as Peter has explained, there really are too few materials concerning what happened in what was, I think everyone can agree, a landmark year for this country.

I'd like to talk a little bit about the history there, and then catch you up perhaps on some of the initiatives that have begun since the conference.

I'll start with some of the people who were involved. I suspect Helen has covered some of the details concerning the commission that was set up. My interest is really in the sesquicentennial as an exercise in public imagination. That's also what we titled the report that came out of the conference. Of course, thinking about 1967, I get all of this second-hand from my parents and from their friends and neighbours, and it's striking as well that you really have three generations sitting at the table today, each with their own relationship to the centennial and the sesquicentennial. It served as a kind of high-water mark for a lot of public and political energy in this country.

Just think back to the history of the 1960s, a history shared by both Conservative and Liberal governments, of course. We began in 1960 with Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights. In 1961 the wave of technological change was sweeping across the country. The Prime Minister placed the first transatlantic phone call to the Queen. Only a year later, we launched a satellite into space. We were the third country to do so. In 1964 social insurance cards were issued for the first time. In 1965 we had a new flag. Toronto built a new city hall. In 1966 the CBC flicked the switch on colour broadcasting. We got the Canada Pension Plan. We built the Bloor-Danforth line across Toronto. Montreal got the Metro and Canadians got medicare.

But we're not done yet, because in 1967, of course, the centennial year, we had a new anthem, we built a national library, we awarded the first Orders of Canada, we attended one of the world's great fairs, Expo 67 in Montreal, and only 1,000 people came to see the eight acts that made up the first Caribana festival in Toronto.

Of course, the political record continues from there, but it's important to note that it wasn't just a party, that there was, in my reading, a real sense of momentum about Canada becoming a modern, dynamic country that was starting to articulate for itself a different narrative. I'll just get into a little bit about that. As a country, we started and ended the decade in very different places. It was an era of metamorphosis and reinvention. A little of this was because of the centennial; of course, it's not a causal relationship, but what the centennial did was establish a milestone, a goalpost.

It was powerful, because it focused everyone's attention on three key questions: where are we, who are we, and just where are we going? In this way, I think the centennial was a useful device. It had a political effect. It was catalytic, because it gave us a public occasion on which to ask these questions in an open and free way outside of the sort of public crisis that normally spurs these debates about major change.

Instead, the spirit of the centennial allowed us to propose some new ideas about how as a society we could live together--or at least I think this is what two people, Roby Kidd and Freda Waldon, may have had in mind. So if you get the idea that you have to build any statues to people for our sesquicentennial, I think both Roby Kidd and Freda Waldon would be excellent candidates, because they probably did more to shape the spirit of the centennial than anyone else in Canada did, although I'm sure they'd refuse the credit.

In the case of Roby, many of you may be familiar with his son, Bruce Kidd, who was for many years dean of athletics at U of T and was an Olympic athlete. His father was the first Canadian to get a PhD in adult education. He was what you might call a proto-social entrepreneur.

Freda Waldon ran the Hamilton Public Library. She was also the head of the Canadian Library Association and saw first-hand the transformative power of literacy and education.

Kidd and Waldon each understood the value of what today we might call lifelong, self-directed learning. And this is the connection I'd really like to make for the committee today: the centennial as an opportunity for learning. As soon as you talk about learning or pedagogy, of course, immediately you start thinking, well, that doesn't sound like so much fun; that doesn't sound like a great party. But in fact it was the spark, I would argue, that made the centennial as memorable as in fact it was.

They shared the belief that a good society is one that encourages curiosity, self-discovery, and improvement, and together they were among the first people to recognize the opportunity that a Canadian centennial might contain. I believe that in doing so they helped to set the stage for what would follow.

Ten years before the centennial, in 1957, they organized a conference that drew together 32 different organizations, like the YMCAs and community foundations, teachers groups, and librarians. A year later they met again, and soon they would create the Canadian Centenary Council. It was a voluntary organization the purpose of which was to get people thinking about 1967 and to press the government to get moving. Because it wasn't government that led the way to 1967; it really was citizens like Roby and Freda. They managed to embed this idea that the centennial didn't belong to the government; it belonged to Canadians, and it would be up to Canadians to decide just how they intended to celebrate. Encouraging curiosity, self-discovery, and improvement was what they hoped the centennial would help to do. They envisioned a centennial that would be about the excitement of learning. It would be about learning about yourself, your neighbours, and your country, and you could do this without ever taking out a textbook.

What's so extraordinary is that when Canadians by the millions took up this invitation, exceeding the expectations of anyone in Ottawa, and they staged thousands of community events and initiatives, they began to see for themselves that despite their differences from one region to the next, what they shared was this desire to learn and to celebrate.

For Canadians in 1967, it didn't matter if your way of celebrating was to build a UFO pad in St. Paul, Alberta--just in case--or to stage a bathtub race in Nanaimo, B.C., to launch a Caribbean festival in Toronto, or to host a historic re-enactment in P.E.I. The point was the people were taking charge. They were spontaneously, joyously rip, mixing and burning their own centennials clear across the country. And the government encouraged them in some very interesting ways.

I've submitted to each of you colour copies that I direct your attention to. In the 1960s one of the more notorious publications was a book by Abbie Hoffman, provocatively called Steal This Book.

The federal government, I suspect with Mr. Aykroyd's assistance, placed an advertisement in major publications that looks like this. The top line of it reads:

Take this Centennial Symbol

Put it on a banner, use it on your products, and in your advertising, engrave it on your stationery, paint it on your vehicles, wear it on your lapel, display it on your cartons...stick it on your pay envelopes, stencil it on your coffee cups. Carry it. Fly it. But above all

Use it.

There was a coupon that you would send into Ottawa and they would send you back photo-ready artwork. I like to joke, just try that with the Olympic rings. This is before open source. This is a government trusting the citizenry to make use of a federal symbol that would visually create some constancy, some consistency, across all of these different initiatives.

We weren't particularly fussed about what you were doing. We were concerned that you were doing it, and we wanted to figure out a subtle but important way to create some connective tissue across these initiatives.

I talked a lot about the importance of Roby and Freda and the emphasis on learning. But when you think about it, what were some of the major events? It was the Canadian train that travelled from one end of the country to the other that launched a new museology, that created opportunities for another generation of curators and theatre directors to stage their own history of the country. If you went to Expo, it was called Man and His World, which may seem, for obvious reasons, a little dated, but it really was about learning. It was about man and technology, man and nature, man and society, and learning about the ways in which our world was changing. I put it to you that in the course of the past 40-odd years, society, of course, has changed dramatically, and we need to think as much again about where we are and who we are and where we want to go.

This advertisement here, “What is Centennial?”, is a fabulous government advertisement, I hope you'll agree. I won't read it all. It says at the end:

It's a time to reflect on past achievements; of our growth into a modern, dynamic country; and to look ahead to a future of prosperity and greatness.

You have to love the confidence of the 1960s, too. They did modernism well.

“What are you planning for Centennial?” It's not saying here's a schedule of events that you should come to, but what are you going to do to make this a major occasion?

This is the last advertisement I want to show you and then I'll start to wrap-up, mindful of the time. This was the final advertisement the government took out, which really commemorated what they had accomplished, so it's covered in memorabilia. Again, I'll only read out the last paragraph. It's very striking because I think any other country in the world would have put it a little differently. It doesn't say that in 1967 we celebrated ourselves as a nation; it says:

In 1967, we've learned a lot about ourselves as a nation. Let's not stop now! Let's enjoy this new knowledge of ourselves. And make every year to come one of excitement and discovery. We'll just call it 1968 “Centennial Plus One” and keep on going!

For me, this isn't an exercise in Canadian boosterism. It's not an exercise in nostalgia. I think the work that was done around the centennial is really instructive because I think the ethos of it is actually as relevant today as it was then.

How do we use 2017 as an opportunity to challenge Canadians to think a little bit more deeply about the kind of society we want to live in and about how this country has changed? Our first 100 years was defined by geography, but I think since 1967 geography has given way to demography. By the time we reach 2017, one-third of this country will have been born abroad. It's time we take this opportunity to have a good conversation about who we are and where we're going.

I'm mindful of the time.

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

It's been 12 minutes, but....

9:10 a.m.

Principal, MASS LBP

Peter MacLeod

That's very gracious. I'll leave it there and maybe in questions I can pick up about the conference and some of the things that are happening in the country already.

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. MacLeod.

Now, finally, Mr. Jackson.

9:10 a.m.

Colin Jackson Chair, imagiNation 150 (Calgary)

Thank you so very much.

We in Calgary wish to influence the spirit of 2017 by example, by giving gifts to Canada. What we are is a group of people who are completely unauthorized by anybody other than ourselves. A couple of us are retired and are able to give two or three days a week. There are others who are still in business and give less time but still significantly. We've raised some money. We have an office courtesy of the chamber of commerce. We have a part-time staff. We have glowing relationships and the beginning of what we think will be examples--both good and unsuccessful--for the rest of the country should people wish to build off them. We also, as I said, want to give gifts.

The framing we're proposing, at least for ourselves--and we hope it will be picked up in some version nationally for 2017--is that it's Canada's birthday. We will all be there. What gifts are we bringing? What does the nation need? It's our opportunity to offer leadership from wherever we are, whoever we are, to the nation. That means there will be all kinds of projects and all kinds of perspectives and points of view. But that's what we hope to influence, that spirit.

I think it's self-evident that we as human beings care about that which we help create. We had an unfortunate example of the reverse, to my mind, at least, in Alberta's centenary a few years ago. That anniversary was very much top down. The province, the provincial government, essentially threw a party and invited the citizens. It was flat. It was small. It was not generative. It's really not remembered.

I should just pause for a second and say that's the only example I know of Alberta ever getting it wrong in public policy. I thought I'd allow at least a moment of humility.

So having learned from being tangentially involved in that centenary, I and others are even more convinced that this needs to be something that activates citizens broadly and activates what might be unrealized leadership in the country. I can come back to that.

So we have this small organization. We have growing relationships, and I'll give you some examples of some of those relationships. We want to understand better as a city where we've come from since 1967, where we are now, and where we aspire to go. We intend to do that not simply by phone surveys but through conversation, through living research. The University of Calgary is working with us to undertake that. We have a website that really at the moment is very rudimentary. It allows people to post their wish for Canada, but it isn't iterative. It doesn't do what the website will eventually do, which is to be an aggregator, where people can post what they're doing, connect with somebody doing something similar elsewhere in the nation, be encouraged, and learn from each other.

To get to that next level of website, we're in close conversation with one of the major newspaper chains, the deal being that they're prepared--and they are so far--to do this as a gift, not as a proprietary project of their own but rather it's their gift to Canada. That's in the spirit of what we're speaking to.

There are all kinds of small projects being talked about. This one actually is not in Calgary, but I was in conversation two days ago with a high school teacher from Quebec, and he was observing that the students coming in now will be graduating in 2017. He is dead keen on how he can, with his colleagues, put together an ark for those students, so that when they graduate in 2017 there's something special about their connection to the sesquicentennial, to Canada, something particular about how they are engaged. Again, it's very early. It's unclear yet what that will be, but it's that thinking, that here's an opportunity.

I was speaking about other forms of leadership. Again, when I speak to these different organizations or individuals, I'm in no way committing them. We're in conversations and its very early days. But the Canadian chambers of commerce and the chambers of commerce in the various locales can step forward to offer a leadership role--ours in Calgary already is--in thinking through what kind of community, municipality, city, province, or country we wish to have. Do well for the chamber by doing good for others.

There are various faith communities. I'm in conversation with Cardus and with some Ismaili associations, and there are many others, too, that have networks across the country that have a care for who will be coming from a faith perspective and could be offering greater leadership.

There are all the organizations that are perhaps renewing themselves, one example being 4-H, and their early conversation—again I'm not committing them but simply to note it—was that perhaps they could organize the nation's biggest student exchange: all the grade 9s in the country going and living somewhere else. Or perhaps we can actively be tourism commissions to mediate the biggest home exchange—not home invasion—in the country. For younger people, perhaps it could be a couch sort of thing. But it's to really put out in 2017 a plan to visit some part of the nation you've never been to before, and to do so according to your means. There are all kinds of possible alliances.

I believe the federal government can play a number of useful roles. One of them is as an information source, as an accumulator of ideas and opportunities. Another one is to facilitate the CRA regulations so that if chapters of imagiNation 150, or whatever their formation might be, pop up in different cities, they can get to a place where they offer tax receipts more quickly. That can be a very sticky process.

I'm sure there will be thousands of projects that are most appropriate for some kind of public money. In our case, we do not want it, and we don't want it for a couple of reasons. One of them is because we really believe in the notion that this is an opportunity to animate citizens outside of government, not in opposition but outside of government. Part of it is that we hope to reframe some of the political conversation we have now, not toward what is government going to do for me, and will you fix my pothole or repair my tax bill, but rather that we as citizens more frequently ask the question, what can we, Madam Mayor, Mr. MP, do to facilitate you being the best public policy maker that's possible for all of us? In other words, trying to turn that conversation from government as a service to government as ours. If we're going to be part of that advocacy, then we shouldn't be recipients of public money. But there are all kinds of projects, from war memorials to field houses, to concert halls, to student exchanges, that would be very appropriate for consideration in that regard.

Other networks that I think we might be able to activate are the Orders of Canada. We've had conversations with a number of Order of Canada recipients, and I think they will all tell you that of course they're deeply honoured to be recognized, but nothing is ever asked of them once they've been recognized. This may be a very appropriate way of engaging recipients of the Order of Canada.

I've had some conversations with past Governors General and with current Lieutenant Governors, and there are roles that could be played there in their unique position within our structures of government.

There's much more, but I thought that would be at least a beginning.

Thank you so much for inviting me here. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you to our panel, Mr. Aykroyd, Mr. MacLeod, and Mr. Jackson. They were very informative presentations.

At this point we move to our question and answer round. Each member who asks a question in the first round is allowed seven minutes, and that's seven minutes for the question and answer exchange. Then we move our way around the table.

We're starting off with Mr. Brown.

9:20 a.m.


Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

The more I hear about 2017, the more excited I get. I was a grade 2 student in Toronto in 1967 and I vaguely remember it as an exciting time. I was too young to really appreciate what was happening at the time, but I'm delighted that we have our witnesses here today, especially you, Mr. Aykroyd, who was so intimately involved in those 1967 celebrations. I'm looking forward to reading your book.

Mr. Aykroyd, I think we really want to take advantage of having you here today. Maybe you can give us a little snippet of some of the highlights that you remember, and hopefully all of us will read your book so that we committee members can benefit from your experience.

I'll turn it over to you, and maybe you can tell us a little bit about the highlights you remember that we will read about in your book.

9:20 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

You've opened up the whole field by opening the gate, and I can't swing back and forth on the gate; I have to get into the field, and it's too big a field. I don't know that I can answer your question that satisfactorily.

I had something, however, that I didn't say in my opening remarks that maybe you don't even touch.... Mr. Speaker, members of Parliament were not involved in the proceedings of the centennial very much, except that we had these little pins on cards, which we gave out to people. We printed them by the millions, and you heard about them in this ad.

Judy LaMarsh was the minister responsible for the Centennial Commission, and she said that the best conduit for giving things out to the public was via the members of Parliament. Imagine. We bureaucrats didn't even stop to think about that, to realize how fundamental that is, and of course that was the answer. So by the millions we brought the boxes up to the House of Commons here and they all disappeared. They ended up in constituencies all over Canada. Distributed by whom? By the members of Parliament.

That's just a little fact, I suppose you'd say, to encourage you to be involved from the beginning.