Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Less is more for 150th bash

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The Harper government's plan to commemorate a series of important historic anniversaries leading to the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 is intended to spur interest in the country's history and develop a stronger sense of national pride.

The goal is noble and will undoubtedly be appreciated by high school history teachers, but it is also flawed and more likely to encourage rancour and division than unity.

The details are to be announced in Wednesday's throne speech, but The Canadian Press has reported the series of milestones, which begins this year, is top heavy with wars and battles, some sports events, a few birthday anniversaries of important politicians and the 100th anniversary of a Canadian expedition to the Arctic.

The fields of science, literature, technology, political controversies, aboriginal history and other stories that make up the country's past are not included.

Even the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 2017 will be ignored, as was the 30th anniversary.

The iconic events that are to be commemorated in various ways are all worthy. The problem is not what's included, but what's left out.

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong in 2016, for example, is a compelling Canadian story, but is it more important than the Northwest Rebellion and the trial and execution of Louis Riel, which marks its 130th anniversary in 2015?

And what about the signing of Treaty 1 in 1871, the first aboriginal treaty after Confederation?

The 150th anniversary of the Fenian raids into Canada are also on the government's list, even though they are a relatively minor footnote in Canadian history.

The government could go back to the drawing board and come up with an expanded list that truly reflects the people and events that forged a nation. The best option, however, is to edit the list down to those anniversaries that Canadians have come to agree deserve special recognition.

The most important anniversary, of course, is Canada's 150th birthday, but there are others, such as the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War next year, that deserve recognition and thought.

There's no reason why Ottawa can't issue a stamp or coin for other milestones, as it does already, but it should seek broader input for other anniversaries, rather than issuing a single government-approved party list.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 A10

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