On March 15, Minister of Heritage Mélanie Joly announced the Government of Canada’s vision for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. While promoting a chauvinist vision of “shared values” the government announced that it will pay a private organization to approve and disburse funds for official celebrations on this basis. None of it is conducive to a serious discussion on how to modernize Canada’s constitution and political system to bring them on par with the needs of the times.
A government news release says, “the 150th anniversary of Confederation gives the Government of Canada an opportunity to engage and inspire Canadians in their communities. It is also a time to come together to celebrate our shared values, our achievements, our majestic environment and our place in the world. The vision seeks to bring people together and inspire them.” Speaking specifically to the themes the Liberals will promote for Canada 150 Joly indicated that celebrations and events will focus on “diversity and inclusion, reconciliation from nation to nation with Indigenous people, youth and the environment.”
“The 150th anniversary of Confederation is an opportunity that communities throughout the country should seize. I invite all Canadians to dream about what the future holds for them, to contribute to our country’s growth, to bring about significant changes, and to leave a lasting legacy for coming generations. Join the celebration!”
Minister Joly also announced $10 million for the organization Community Foundations of Canada for its project, the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th. Community Foundations of Canada is a private organization, which its website says “focuses on building community.”
A press release from the organization indicates that it is playing a catalyst role in convening national organizations interested in Canada’s 150th and inviting Canadians to join them in the countdown to 2017. The Alliance was started by the Community Foundations of Canada and is currently inviting groups and individuals “to the table to build new networks and strengthen those that already exist.” It appears to be a web-based organization which any groups participating in Canada150 events can register and interact with in various ways.
The funding for the CFC “will be used for local activities and initiatives that will help bring Canadians together and encourage actions already put in place by communities across the country for the 150th anniversary of Confederation,” the website says.
During the announcement, former head of Research in Motion Jim Balsillie*, and hip-hop artist Kardinal Offishall were named as ambassadors to “encourage Canadians to get involved in the 150th anniversary celebrations.”
During the week Joly made a similar announcement in Montreal.
Renewal Update, March 21, 2016 • No. 9
Endnote by TS
*Balsillie is former director and co-chair of the Liberal think tank, Canadian International Council (CIC), begun in 1928 as the Canadian Institute of International Affairs. Its national secretary was Escott Reid, later chief aide to Prime Minister Lester Pearson during the creation of NATO and a leading diplomat in a variety of positions. In 2007 it was given its present name. The Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, another Liberal think tank, was absorbed into the CIC in 2008. Its Board of Directors includes Bill Graham, Chancellor of Trinity College and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence under the previous Liberal government; Janice Stein, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto; Jodi White, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa; Scott Burk, an investment management firm executive; and Gerald Wright, former president of the Atlantic Council of Canada, vice-chairman of the Atlantic Treaty Association, and vice-president of the Donner Canadian Foundation.