Fifty years ago my parents immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland with four boys under the age of 10, a couple of suitcases, and almost no money. We landed in Winnipeg, Manitoba on a bright February morning under a pale blue sky and surrounded by fresh new snow. It wasn’t until we cleared customs and immigration that we found out how bitterly cold it was outside and saw that the snow was piled so high on the sides of the roads they looked like strangely lit tunnels -- Winnipeg was digging out from one of its infamous blizzards.
Unfortunately, during the pre-immigration process we had only been shown movie clips of Winnipeg in the summer, so my parents had actually given away our heavier, warmer jackets to our relatives who had bid us farewell at Prestwick Airport in Scotland. I still remember watching my Dad from the hotel room window the morning after we landed in Winnipeg as he shiveringly skittered from doorway to doorway down Portage Avenue to get us all some long underwear and better outerwear with a money chit he’d gotten from a Canadian immigration officer (which my parents had to pay back).
But, that first winter (during which my Dad almost lost the tips of his ears and fingers to frostbite working an outside job) gave way to an incredible spring and summer of celebration and fun as Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary and Winnipeg hosted the nation’s premier multicultural festival. It was a fun introduction to the breadth and depth of Canada’s multi-ethnic make-up and its celebration of diversity. As brand new immigrants it gave us great comfort to realize that we were living in a nation of immigrants.
Of course, during that centennial celebration in 1967, Canada’s recognition of the foundational role First Nations played in our nation’s history was nominal at best. Over the subsequent 50 years we’ve made some progress on that front, but not the giant leap Canada needs to engage in true reconciliation. That’s why I was so heartened last week when Lhtako Dene Chief Clifford Lebrun said that the “healing can now begin” here in Quesnel after the Lhtako Band Council and City Council unveiled our new recognition symbols and signed a protocol agreement which recognizes that Quesnel is on the traditional territory of the Lhtako Dene.
As we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, let’s truly embrace this country’s full history by recognizing that Canada’s “founding peoples” are not of English and French origin, but are the diverse nations of aboriginal peoples who settled this land millennia before Western settlers discovered its bounty and settled here too.
The City’s Canada 150th celebration will take place in LeBourdais Park starting at 11 am. Opening ceremonies will take place at noon and there will be music through until about 3pm. There are plenty of activities planned for the park and a special Canada 150th event for youth aged 12-17 called the “Amazing Selfie Race” click here to download the registration form.