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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 18 December 2009
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • Canada 150
  • Merry Christmas

Scroll down this page to read the complete articles...

Canada 150

In the past several decades of this age of electronics, for the most part people have gotten out of the habit of keeping diaries, journals, letters, or other paper documents. With the advent of digital photography individuals may have thousands of photographs on their computers but likely have far fewer hard copy photographs than did our predecessors. Long distance telephone charges, comparatively speaking, are cheap and many find it easier to make a phone call than to write a letter. Hundreds of television channels, movies, video games and other distractions have all contributed to fewer people recording their stories and safely storing them for generations to come.

Canada 150 is a national project intended to encourage baby boomers and their children to record their stories and to join together with others to ensure they are safely stored forever in the vaults of Library and Archives Canada. It is felt that doing so will provide an invaluable legacy to our families, communities, and the entire country.

My thanks to Paul Jones, from the Toronto Branch, OGS for providing me with the following information (slightly edited) relating to the second organizational meeting of Canada 150 held in Ottawa on November 23. Canada's National History Society hosted the meeting. Canada 150 was the brainchild of Harry van Bommel, who for medical reasons, was unable to attend this meeting himself. Consequently the meeting was chaired by Paul Jones. The goal of Canada 150 is to persuade 150,000 Canadians to prepare and submit their personal or family histories in time for Canada's sesquicentennial in 2017. The end-product of the project will be a resource that will serve as a great asset to future generations of researchers, including local and family historians as well as academic researchers. In addition the execution of the project will do much to foster within Canadian society a widespread sense of excitement about our heritage.

The meeting attracted a smaller group than in Toronto earlier in the year - about 25 people in total - but power packed. We were pleased to see representation from two highly relevant government departments: Library and Archives Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage. Other attendees included family and local historians, the heads of both of Canada's national history societies, delegates from the Royal Canadian Legion, Scouts Canada, the Professional Writers' Association of Canada and the Ontario Heritage Fairs Association, as well as journalists from The Beaver and Moorshead Publications (Family Chronicle et al) and the president of Arcalife from Vancouver. Two prominent historians also participated: renowned author Charlotte Gray and Professor Margaret Conrad from the University of New Brunswick.

The first half of the meeting was given over to brainstorming the idea of Canada 150. Among others, the following themes were considered:
  • For credibility this must be a truly national organization operating seamlessly in both official languages.
  • In addition to those predisposed to valuing their heritage generally, Canada 150 should reach out to specific segments of the population, e.g. youth, new Canadians, First Nations, francophones outside Quebec, shut-ins.
  • For reasons of cost and engagement, program delivery and submissions must be primarily web-driven, perhaps via social-networking media, although with all necessary safeguards to ensure security and with provision for those who prefer to work on paper.
  • Submissions will range in scope, focus and professionalism and should therefore be categorized. The simplest category would have a low threshold in terms of amount of information, whereas the most advanced would be of near professional quality. It will be necessary to define submission standards.
  • Images, appropriately annotated, are as important as words in preserving our heritage. There may also be a role for audio and video.
  • There are important questions of accessibility, privacy and copyright that must be successfully balanced.
  • We need to have a clear view as to the end-game. What happens to the resource after 2017?
  • Marketing will be a multi-year, multi-phase undertaking. Not all submissions can occur in the last six months.
  • With the best planning in the world, Canada 150 will inevitably overlap with other programs, already existing or yet to be planned. Every effort should be made to ensure that Canada 150 is complementary to and supportive of these other programs.
The second half of the meeting was organizational in nature. What legal form should Canada 150 take in the short term and the long term? Who should govern it in the short term and long term? What tasks and goals should they have? While the attendees at the meeting felt they could not speak for others, there was a consensus that we should strike an interim council with a view to researching and proposing answers to the longer term questions.

Anyone interested in serving on this interim council is asked to contact Deborah Morrison, president & CEO, Canada's National History Society, which has agreed to provide interim secretariat support to the project. Among those who have volunteered to date are Tom Douglas (professional author), Deborah Morrison, Paul Taylor (president of Arcalife), Peter Taylor (author of A Passion for Canada), Harry van Bommel and Paul Jones.

For further information please access the Canada 150 website

Merry Christmas

This column will be the last I write for the year 2009. This year my daughter and I, and her two children, will be having Christmas dinner at my girlfriend's place, along with her family. It promises to be a festive crowd, with the possibility of about 22 of us there. I will miss being in Calgary with my son this year, but he will have his two girls, and his new family with him. I expect to travel there in February, when he and his bride of 1-1/2 years will make me a grandfather once again.

Whether you say 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Hanukkah', or whatever other greeting your tradition or faith might suggest for this time of year, I wish each and every one of you the very best. I wish for you, what you wish for me.

If you are traveling to be with family or friends for the Holidays, I urge you to do so safely. Take the time to arrive safely, and to return home the same way. A few minutes, or hours of difference in travel time is not worth the heartache and suffering that could result from being involved in an accident because you are in a hurry.

Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts

Your comments regarding this newsletter, and suggestions for future articles are welcome. Click here to send me a message with a subject line of "Gordon Watts Reports".

To view back issues of Gordon Watt's columns, visit Gordon's biography page where all of his archives articles are available.

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