BC Heritage Fairs Alumni

The Official Heritage Fairs Student Site

Heritage BC Conference — June 13, 2019

Heritage BC Conference

Hi everyone! I’m Lucas, a sixth-year member of the BCHFS alumni council. Last month, I was given the opportunity to represent BC Heritage Fairs as a student delegate at the annual Heritage BC Conference in Nanaimo, BC.

Being the first conference I had ever attended, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Would it be full of loquacious speakers and people in stuffy suits, or be more like an informal meeting with discussions like at school? In reality, it was somewhere in between, and I enjoyed myself immensely. One of my favourite presentations included a lecture about industrial heritage, followed by a trip to Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, where the last remaining coal tipple in BC stands. Conservation work meant that there were massive shipping containers inserted into the structure to brace it, so it made for an interesting combination of past/present technology! Another talk I enjoyed was Mark Thompson Brandt’s presentation about natural and cultural conservation, and the important role heritage conservation plays in our fight against climate change. The more informal discussion on the final day about getting young people involved in heritage was memorable as well.

Throughout the conference, I constantly found myself jotting down notes on topics that I would have to explore and research later. I learned about professions in the heritage field that I didn’t even know existed until that moment, and I had never known that heritage planners and architectural consultants play a crucial role in the way our communities are shaped. However, I could also see that new opportunities are being created, too, like the work that the people at On This Spot is doing. The app they’ve developed lets visitors and locals alike to go on self-guided tours, and matches current-day pictures of buildings and landscapes with historical images.

Most importantly, I learned that the heritage industry is far from dead, as some people would like to believe. The issues that confront heritage professionals are ones that have huge implications on society as a whole – multiculturalism and identity, conservation and environmental protection, how much of the past to keep when moving forward, and how to provide a future so that all young people (like me!) live in a world that remains firmly rooted in our rich and culturally abundant past.

I’d like to say thank-you to the following people, whose generous sponsorships made it possible for me to attend the conference: Julie Schueck of Julie Schueck Consulting, Paul Gravett, Nathan MacDonald, and Laura Saretsky of Heritage BC, and Britney Quail from the City of New Westminster. Britney deserves an extra thank-you for chauffeuring me to and from Nanaimo, and being such a great travel buddy!

Kamloops Heritage Fair Recap — June 1, 2019

Kamloops Heritage Fair Recap

Many of our alumni participated not only in the Provincial fair, but also at their own local fairs. Today we have a recap of the Kamloops fair, brought to you by Julia. 


Many of our regional Heritage Fairs took place earlier in the month, and we’d like to congratulate all the students that took part. Heritage Fair promotes hands-on education, and our hardworking participants got the amazing opportunity to explore some important history within their own cities. We are all incredibly impressed by the excellent projects, the extensive research, and each student’s enthusiasm.

Today Julia, our Kamloops-Thompson alumnus, will be highlighting some of the activities of the Kamloops Fair, which took place May 10.

Our day started with a lot of organization: there were T-Shirts to be handed out, sunscreen to be applied, and groups to be made. We immediately headed to Riverside Park in downtown Kamloops, where we met Lyle, a First Nations storyteller.

Kamloops students at Riverside Park

He told us some fascinating stories about how the beaver got its tail and the crow’s role in bringing us light. The kids were all incredibly interested in what he had to say, and we could not have asked for better weather or a better location!

After, we were all treated with bannock, and then the hard part of the day began. The Kamloops Committee organized a scavenger hunt all around downtown Kamloops with eleven different locations (and eleven different tasks).

Our first stop was the Old Courthouse, which now serves as an art gallery. We were able to go up into the old courtrooms. After jotting down some notes in their notebooks, the students even went on to do a mock trial.

Kamloops kids pose for a photo in the Old Courthouse courtrooms

We also headed down the stairs to where there was previously a dungeon. They had the warden’s office all set up like it would be. Many of the students had never seen the old Canadian flag, and were surprised to know something even existed before the maple leaf flag of today!


From there, we went to St. Andrew’s on the Square. It’s a church located in downtown Kamloops and happens to be the oldest public building still standing! We also went to the old bank, the special gardens in Riverside Park, and the flood markers.

At the Kamloops Museum, we had to build a puzzle to find the answer to our scavenger hunt question. From there, we went to the Kamloops Cenotaph, which was built to commemorate Kamloops men who participated in WWI. Since then, more names have been added for WWII, the Korean War, and the war in Afghanistan. The students received crayons to do rubbings of soldiers’ names.

Some of our other activities included a trip to City Hall, viewing a mural, and the old Kamloops Fire Hall. Needless to say, by the time we got back for lunch, we were extremely exhausted!

We were all very grateful to return to the air-conditioned building where all the projects were being held, and the students then got to participate in the second scavenger hunt of the day. These questions were based around all the projects in the room!

Participants also had the opportunity to show their projects to the public and some even got interviewed on TV.

We had Peter Milobar, an MLA, come speak to us, as well as one of the school trustees. To end the day, we handed out some prizes. That concluded Kamloops Heritage Fair 2019!

Jordyn and her project on Highland Dance in Canada

On behalf of the students, I would like to thank all teachers, committee members, and other volunteers who made Heritage Fair 2019 so successful. To those going to Provincials – congratulations! To the others – thank you so much for participating, and hope to see you next year!

Picking Your Topic: Advice for Students — March 19, 2019

Picking Your Topic: Advice for Students

 By: Julia and Vedanshi, in collaboration with the rest of the Alumni Council


Today, your Alumni Council is coming at you with a compilation of tips for students who are in the process of starting their Heritage Fair project! First of all, congratulations on taking the first steps towards what is bound to be a phenomenal research and fulfilling presentation experience over the next few months. This rollercoaster of an adventure is sure to bring you lots of successes, but an equal amount of challenges that will require you to think critically as you delve into archival records and official documents to construct a meaningful narrative about your topic of choice. This can feel quite overwhelming, but do not fret – us Alumni have got you covered!


The first question you want to be asking yourself, as per Leona, is whether the chosen topic is right for you, because if you do not “have a personal connection” to it, you will forfeit engaging with the subject matter. Leona understands that you have some tough choices ahead, since, “picking a topic is often the most difficult part of the project.” Jaia supports Leona’s perspective, saying that, “excellent Heritage Fair projects are ones that clearly display passion from the presenter.” Selecting a project that you find interesting will also allow you to connect better with your project, finding that your research truly impacts the way that you look at your life in the present. For instance, Vedanshi shared how her appreciation for the rapid transit system in Metro Vancouver, the SkyTrain and Canada Line network implemented by TransLink, exponentially increased having researched the topic for her Heritage Fair project.


Now that you’ve chosen a topic that you are passionate about, you also need to consider the practical side of doing this research. That is, if you CAN actually do research. In other words, do some preliminary research to establish whether you will be able to access a variety of sources for your topic, both primary and secondary. Judy advises students to “pick a project that can be thoroughly researched,” sharing that when she did her project on the Oka Crisis, she, “ was able to interview a survivor from the event,” allowing for the development of “a much deeper and more personal understanding of [the] topic.” In addition, Judy reiterates that, “a good project shines a new light on a past event and shows how lessons learned from that time can be applied to issues today,” meaning that to achieve this goal, “your Heritage Fair project must be formed through detailed research and understanding, so make sure you pick a topic where information is easily accessible.”


With your topic of choice and research plan outlined, you are sure to conquer any challenge that the process of developing a Heritage Fair project throws your way! And lastly, don’t forget to be organized. Lucas says that the key to success is having, “a plan of attack”; by setting deadlines for yourself and brainstorming ahead of time – don’t leave things for the last minute, procrastination is NOT your ally! Alumni also recommend checking out the following links – did you know there are pages filled with resources and content to help you successfully start on your project? Check them out! Good luck!


Project topic ideas:






Selecting the right topic:








General project and management tips:






Local Landmark Celebrates Canniversary — February 27, 2019

Local Landmark Celebrates Canniversary

Today, Vedanshi is here to tell us about a very special occasion, and the work the BCHFS Alumni are doing to add to the celebrations.

The Gulf of Georgia Cannery, one of Richmond’s well-known historical landmarks, is celebrating its 125th anniversary – a canniversary, to be specific – this year! The Cannery’s team and the BCHFS Alumni Council are collaborating to produce a video commemorating this momentous occasion.

Alumni leaders from across the province are hard at work to make this project idea into a reality.

Each Alumni leader has a role to play in this production. While some are in charge of the storyboard and script-writing, there are others who are focusing on the historical research, while others yet will be doing the cinematography – just to name a few roles. Given that British Columbia has such an incredible and vast history with each region being the key to many historical treasures, the Alumni are also investigating the impacts made by other heritage landmarks across the province on BC today. Exploring these heritage sites and landmarks will enable us to piece together a cohesive mural of BC’s industrial heritage over the past 125 years, and provide a contextual lens through which the story of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery will be presented.

If you’ve never had the chance to visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery before, it is an absolute must! The National Historic Site is located in Steveston, Richmond’s historic district, right by the Fraser River. I’ve been a tourist myself on several occasions, and have learned something new about the fishing and canning industry that put this community on the map each time.

As a visitor, you will get to immerse yourself into a very unique experience by touring the site as if you were a factory worker yourself. I remember from my very first visit many years back that perhaps the most exciting part of the tour was punching in and out of my “shift” in the time clocks. Features of the tour have also included seeing a can get processed from start to finish – it was such a memorable experience, and I’m pretty sure I still have the can!

As it is, our team of Alumni are very excited to be working on this project. We’ll be posting updates throughout the production process, so stay tuned over the next few months!

So You Want to Teach Heritage Fair? — February 6, 2019

So You Want to Teach Heritage Fair?

This month, our alumni are here with some advice for teachers who may want to teach heritage fair for the first time. 


So you’ve decided to teach Heritage Fair. You might be wondering, where do I start? How do I get my students interested? How can I support them? And most importantly, what valuable skills will Heritage Fair give my students? Well, our wonderful alumni have each put together their own tips, tricks, and need-to-knows when it comes to participating in this years’ BC Heritage fair!


Julia argues…

Heritage Fair allows students to develop crucial skills that will be needed later in life: researching, interviewing, presenting, and managing through stress. By introducing them to these skills through the historical topic of their choice, they are more likely to stay interested throughout the project and carry that knowledge onto other projects.

Julia’s helpful resources:

Heritage How-to: Presentations!

How to Get Ready and De-Stress


Vedanshi addresses teachers in her statement…

To teachers who have never had the opportunity to engage their students with our incredible Canadian heritage- now is the time! Heritage Fair is an opportunity to exercise plenty of skills that are fundamental to the new curriculum: critical thinking, communication, and reflection. Years after doing their project, the systematic method in which the students approach their research topic and collaborate with community sources and experts, truly allows the student to excel at advanced-level academic work.

Vendashi’s helpful resources:

Your students can learn to ace interviews

Teaching students to distinguish between primary and secondary sources


Lucas speaks on the opportunity…

Heritage Fairs gives students an opportunity to develop a passion for learning – and this passion is far more important than any knowledge they could learn. The components of the project, such as conducting research from accurate sources, interviewing members of the community, making a physical display, and preparing a speech are all skills that young leaders should learn.

Lucas’ helpful resources…

How to Pick Your Heritage Fair Topic

The Importance of Museums for Information


Leona speaks on her past experiences…

Heritage fair opens up new opportunities for students of all ages and skill levels. It helps students develop skills such as organization, independence, along with presentation skills. All much needed in their educational career. The most stressful part of Heritage Fair for many is choosing a topic. This initial decision can affect everything. But in all honesty, don’t stress over whether you’ve chosen the perfect topic, a good topic will come with opportunities for deep thinking. A good topic will keep you thinking and wondering, all the way throughout the researching process.

Leona’s resources…




Jaia speaks on the value of passion…

Heritage Fairs provides students with the opportunity to research a topic of Canadian history but also promotes these students to discover what they are passionate about. One of the most important things that Heritage Fairs teaches is that we should never take for granted what life gives us, as the challenges we face ultimately allow us to develop as individuals and as societies. What makes Heritage Fairs extraordinary is that the process is valuable, but with the finished product and end result comes a true appreciation for the discovery accomplished during the process itself.

Here are two of the resources that I recommend –

What are the keys to an outstanding project?

How do I get ready for Heritage Fair day?


Veronica’s experience with BCHF…

In my experience, Heritage Fair is the most fun when students are given the opportunity to be creative and unique. At least for me, Heritage Fair was my first-ever “big” project, which by itself makes the experience exciting. As such, the freedom to share an interest through creative means made the project especially memorable.

Veronica’s helpful resources:

Enthusiasm: The Key to an Outstanding Project

What do the Judges Like to See


Kevin suggests…

Make sure to teach and discuss topics such as critical thinking, primary sources, and checking a source’s validity.  Also, make sure students start working on their project right away, as while presentation day might seem far in the future, time flies and all of a sudden, present day’s tomorrow, and you’ve only a little work.  Releasing even a rough timeline is a huge help to keep students on track.

Kelvin’s helpful resources…

How do I get all of that work done?!

How do I get ready for Heritage Fair day?


Judy shares her tips for an amazing project…

Thoughtful and detailed research is arguably the most important part of the Heritage Fair. It is important to teach your students how to analyze primary and secondary resources; plan out several classes where you have students practice analyzing images, make sure a source is trustworthy, and cite resources. Don’t forget to discuss topics such as historical perspective, biases in primary sources and historical significance. Students with well-researched topics are guaranteed to have a successful Heritage Fair project.

How do I research my project topic?

What is an example of a primary source?



Hopefully, this has helped you decide whether or not you’d like to participate in BC Heritage Fairs. It provides as a great opportunity. Any teachers who are interested may visit our website http://bcheritagefairs.ca/about/


The Oka Crisis — February 4, 2019

The Oka Crisis

This month, Lucas is here to tell us about one piece of the history of Indigenous resistance to development – the Oka Crisis of 1989.


National headlines were made a few weeks ago when the RCMP, in dramatic fashion, dismantled a barricade and arrested several Indigenous protesters on Wet’suwet’en land in BC. They were protesting the planned construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would span some 670 kilometres across Northern BC. After this video was posted on Facebook, many viewers were outraged at the police force’s response to the protests.

Although pipelines are a current issue, one does not have to reach far back in Canada’s past to find parallel incidents to the one we are facing now. One series of events, known as the Oka Crisis, escalated to the point of being a 78-day long standoff, with several casualties. In the small town of Oka, Quebec, municipal plans were made in 1989 to expand a golf course in an area that was claimed by the Mohawk people, and was historically a burial ground for the people. Despite several different parties, including the Quebec Minister of Native Affairs, speaking out against the town’s decision, construction still began as planned.

That was until a group of Mohawk warriors made a barricade in the summer of 1989, stopping any more progress from being made. Eventually, the provincial police force (SQ) was called in, and they used tear gas to try and dispel the warriors. Undeterred, the warriors stood their ground, and in the exchange of gunfire that followed, tragedy struck when SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay (of the provincial force) was shot in the face and killed. Due to the smoke created by the tear gas, it is still unknown who fired the first shot, or who killed Lemay.

Photo Credit

The quickly-escalating crisis continued to unfold as the SQ set up their own barricades as well. As the standoff continued into August, civic tensions (including that of non-Indigenous citizens who were angry at the SQ for not resolving the situation quickly) hit a boiling point, and the RCMP and the Royal 22e Regiment were brought in to end the crisis. After several rounds of negotiations, the protests ended on September 26, 1990. The federal government, for their part, purchased the section of undeveloped land and promised to stop construction on the golf course. More than 75 Mohawk people had been injured, and several armed forces members as well.

The Oka Crisis led to several important events in government/Indigenous relations, particularly the establishment of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. It has also been said that the event helped spark a heightened awareness among Indigenous peoples about their rights, and informed all Canadians that land disputes were still prevalent in the late-20th century.

As the recent pipeline protests return to their place in the news cycle and slowly become less prevalent for the time being, it is important to remember that our modern history, as recently as 1990, has contained conflicts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples that have nearly broke out into armed conflicts. The Oka Crisis showed all Canadians that these issues are still controversial and incendiary, and if not dealt with in a respectful and timely manner, all sides can stand to lose something in the resulting battle.




The Assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee — December 22, 2018

The Assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee

Editor’s note: As the year ends our Heritage Fair Alumni Council is just heating up, and our Regional Coordinators are hard at work helping teachers and students prepare for the 2019 regional fairs, culminating in our Provincial Fair. If you appreciate the work we’re doing and want to make a life-changing difference in a student’s journey to discovering a passion for history, please consider a one time or monthly donation. All donations go directly towards our volunteer society being able to put on the 2019 Provincial Fair, and donations over $20 are tax deductible. Thank you for your support. 

Thanks to Rhiannon for this fascinating post on Canada’s first and only political assassination. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season. As always, if you have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered here, leave them in the comments!

In 1868, one of our Fathers of Confederation met his end at the barrel of one politically adverse Canadian’s gun. This would be Canada’s first and only political assassination. How did it happen?

Thomas D’arcy Etienne Grace Hughes McGee, better known as Thomas D’arcy McGee, was born on April 13th 1825 in the Republic of Ireland. His father, employed by the Irish Coast Guard Service and his mother’s family were strongly tied to the Irish Revolution of 1798. McGee attended Catholic school like every other Irish child of that time. Although, unlike most children, he showed interest in works such as plans to dismantle the Irish-British union, and in the Dublin Penny Journal, a popular Irish paper at the time.

McGee came to North America by way of timbership at the age of seven. The trip from Wexford to Quebec would have taken an excruciatingly long time during the 1800s. Quebec was only a pitstop for McGee. He soon moved on to New England where he would be welcomed into his maternal aunt’s home in Providence. Eventually, he moved to Boston for work, where he would first speak out about his political beliefs. On Independence day of 1842, McGee addressed the Boston Friends of Ireland, a segment of his speech follows. “The sufferings which the people of that unhappy country have endured at the hands of a heartless, bigoted, despotic government, are well known to you… Her people are born slaves, and bred in slavery from the cradle; they know not what freedom is.”  His well constructed speech and manner of addressing controversial topics landed him a travelling agent’s position at the Boston Pilot, a newspaper at the time.

Over the course of his mid-life, McGee would never be afraid to share his opinions on current events. He continued to speak out for the good of Ireland and at one point stated “…Canada must be yielded by Great Britain to this Republic [USA].” He remained in journalism for a notably long time and eventually moved back to Ireland due to a job offer. During his time in his home country, McGee married, continued to support the repeal of the Ireland-Great Britain union, and participated in plans for the Irish Revolution. All this, only to move back to North America once faced with legal struggles.

Thomas D’arcy McGee, Late 1850s (Library Archives Canada)

Once he arrived in Montreal, McGee worked towards starting a newspaper in order to kickstart his political presence in Canada. He had an idea which he called “a new nationality,” in which he planned to promote economic development by encouraging the construction of a railway and immigration. Separately, he endorsed the development of Canada’s literature industry and Canadian sovereignty. He was elected to represent Montreal in the Legislative Assembly in 1857. At the time, McGee identified as a Reformer, the opposing side being Conservative.

All throughout his political career, McGee heavily supported the Irish. Keep in mind that they were a minority that was heavily discriminated against at the time. He also began to support education in Canada by pushing the relevant bills of his peers. Allegedly, he suggested that Canada’s education system should be based on that of Ireland. His support eventually lead to a school being named after him, Thomas D’arcy McGee Catholic School. He continued to support immigration and eventually shifted into the Conservative party. While his political career was extremely rocky and controversial, much like that of any politician, he continued to write. McGee wrote hundreds of poems, using the pseudonym “Amergin,” 309 of which were published after his death.

McGee’s outspokenness and opposition of Fenianism is what eventually lead to his death. On April 7th, 1868, outside of his Ottawa apartment complex, the Father of Confederation was fatally shot from behind. The culprit was located within the day.


Patrick James Whelan (Library Archives Canada)

Patrick James Whelan was an Irish tailor. Upon following a tip, the Ottawa police force found themselves in his hotel room. There, they found multiple pieces of evidence connecting Whelan to North American Irish organizations along with the murder weapon, one Smith & Wesson brand revolver. After he had been taken into custody, multiple individuals came forward as witnesses to Whelan’s crime, including a lumberjack that claimed he had seen Whelan pull the trigger. Although, this man evidently could not pick Whelan out of a line up, making the defence suggest that he lied about being a witness in order to receive the reward money. Many other individuals claimed to have overheard Whelan conspiring to assassinate McGee, or bragging about the crime after it had been committed.


In the end, Whelan was convicted and sentenced to capital punishment. It was believed that Whelan targeted McGee due to their differing opinions on Irish issues. For example, evidence suggest that Whelan supported Fenianism while McGee did not. Right up until his death, Whelan proclaimed his innocence. He claimed that he was at the scene but another man pulled the trigger,though he never stated who this man was. The evidence against him was strong albeit circumstantial. Additionally, there are reports that the trial was not run in a manner consistent with the procedure at the time. Was it Whelan, this mystery man, or someone entirely unheard of? We may never know.



Burns, Robin B. “Biography – McGEE, THOMAS D’ARCY – Volume IX (1861-1870) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 1976, www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcgee_thomas_d_arcy_9E.html.

“The Assasination of Thomas D’arcy McGee.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2001, www.cbc.ca/history/EPCONTENTSE1EP9CH1PA2LE.html.

Wilson, David A. “The Assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 18 Oct. 2013, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-assassination-of-thomas-darcy-mcgee-feature.


The Great Fossil Debate! — November 19, 2018

The Great Fossil Debate!

Welcome to another Heritage Fair Alumni year! Can you believe it’s November already? We’re so excited to introduce you to this year’s group of alumni – stay tuned to our bios page in the next couple of weeks for that to go live. At our first meeting, we talked about an election happening in BC. No, it’s not the one you’re thinking of; this one is to select a fossil symbol for the province.

Take a look at the Alumni’s thoughts below, and then go to the BC Government Website to have your say. Don’t delay – the voting ends this Friday, November 23. Do you agree or disagree with our alumni’s thoughts? Let us know in the comments. – Rachel, BCHFS Alumni Coordinator


Introduction – by Veronica

B.C.’s provincial symbols highlight unique and important elements of our province. These include our flag and coat of arms as well as the Pacific Dogwood, our floral emblem; the Stellar Jay, our official bird; and the Western Cedar as our official tree. The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is looking to add to that list by designating a Provincial Fossil. Fossils give us a rare glimpse of the biology and ecology from the past, thus, they provide significant educational and scientific value. Seven fossil candidates have been selected using the following criteria: the fossil should be easily recognized, unique to B.C. and its geography, and have a wide appeal. It should also be an effective educational tool and easily adapted to use in poster, logo, and display designs. The B.C. Provincial Alumni have chosen the fossil they think would be the best choice. Read on to learn more about these biological artifacts and why each would be an ideal choice! To take a look at the seven candidates and vote for your fossil of choice, visit the Government of B.C. website.


Jaia’s pitch: The Cretaceous Elasmosaur from Puntledge River, B.C.


One of B.C.’s late Cretaceous marine reptiles, the Elasmosaur, has the potential to be one of B.C.’s provincial fossils. Elasmosaurs were Plesiosaurs that lived across the world and were a species that survived until the end of the Cretaceous period, about 66 million years ago.

Pieces of these Elasmosaur specimens have been found at various places in B.C., but the first complete Elasmosaur found in Canada is on display at the Courtenay and District Museum, as well as the Palaeontology Centre on Vancouver Island.  

Palaeontologist Mike Trask and his daughter were looking for fossils along the Puntledge River, when they found this Elasmosaur specimen in 1988. Although they expected to find only clam fossils in these rocks, they instead discovered fragments of vertebrae sticking out of the rock alongside the river. Over many weekends, a number of teeth and bone fragments were discovered, which eventually made up an entire jaw and skull. Captivated by this new discovery, hundreds of volunteers turned up to help with the excavation. It is this that built the interest of many Canadians in the science of palaeontology and created B.C.’s first palaeontology society in Courtney, Vancouver Island. Without this discovery, palaeontology would not have been as profound in the history of B.C. and for this reason, the Elasmosaur would be a strong choice for B.C.’s provincial fossil.


Keilin’s Pitch: Ichthyosaur


For 220 million years, this immense aquatic reptile was embedded in the limestone of northeastern British Columbia. Excavated by the ambitious palaeontologist, Dr. Elizabeth Nicholls, these prehistoric Ichthyosaur remains were determined to be the largest of their kind at a length of nearly 75 feet. Resembling a dolphin or a shark, this fast-moving, highly specialized animal dominated the marine environment by ambushing its prey while effectively avoiding its predators. These survival abilities allowed the Ichthyosaur to escape extinction for over 100 million years and had it not been for Nicholls, this particular specimen could have been hidden for many more. Although the sheer sophistication of the Ichthyosaur makes it an ideal contender for the Provincial Fossil, Nicholls represents British Columbia’s curiosity and passion as well. In the male-dominated field of palaeontology, Elizabeth Nicholls demonstrated her genius and dedication as the curator of marine reptiles at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and by undertaking excavations such as that of British Columbia’s Ichthyosaur. Regrettably, she passed away in 2004 from breast cancer, but her work has greatly influenced today’s palaeontologists. In consideration of Dr. Nicholls’s excavation of the Ichthyosaur, it will absolutely reflect B.C. as the Provincial Fossil. Not only will it highlight a significant discovery in our province, but it will also honour the legacy of a respected female palaeontologist.


Judy & Vedanshi: First thoughts on the Salmon


Salmon have a long and rich history in British Columbia, starting from their presence in lower B.C. after the Ice Age, approximately 2.6 million years ago. This fish is an extremely important aspect of the culture of Coastal First Nations groups in B.C.. For thousands of years, salmon were not only their main source of food but also a symbol of gift-bearing relatives who were treated with great respect. They are often a part of totem poles as well, which symbolize peace, harmony, and family. Nowadays, salmon has become the main focus of fisheries, which has improved the economy and made it one of the primary exports of B.C. In 2015, it was reported by GSGislason and Associates Ltd, that B.C. was responsible for more than 80%, around 5000 out of 6000, of all new jobs provided by salmon fisheries in Canada. From the Chinook to the Sockeye, salmon has become a well-known and important aspect of B.C.’s society. However, after further consideration and because the salmon has already been selected as the provincial fish emblem, it would be better to recognize another fossil to represent British Columbia.


Abrielle, Kevin, and Rhiannon Pitch the Alumni’s Final Choice: Lace Crab


The Marrella splendens (Lace Crab) is the ideal fossil to represent British Columbia. Brought up through time from the deep ocean canyon around 508 million years ago, its fossils are now embedded in the Burgess Shale located on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in eastern B.C.. The formation of the Burgess Shale mirrors the diverse landscape of B.C., which starts at the west coast and ends in the high, rugged Rocky Mountains. First formed in mudslides in a deep ocean canyon, the fossils were pushed up on top of other rocks that forms B.C.’s famous mountains. In other words, the same tectonic forces that created B.C. lead to the discovery of the Lace Crab. The Marrella splendens was one of the first fossils ever found by Charles Doolittle Walcott and lead to his discovery of the Burgess Shale. It is one of the most prominent fossils found in this formation. The Burgess Shale is not only significant to British Columbia, but it is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it has advanced the world’s scientific knowledge into the evolution of animal life and formed “part of the national heritage of mankind.” The name Marrella splendens reminds us of the beauty and delicateness that has survived through time echoing British Columbia’s motto: Splendor Sine Occasu which means Beauty without Diminishment.

The lace crab is an animal that is unique to B.C. In fact, it has only been found in the Burgess shale which is an important fossil-finding area in our province. The lace crab was critical for palaeontological research, as it proved that fossils from the Burgess Shale were more diverse than previously expected.

B.C.’s provincial fossil should represent the essence of our province. It must be unique, game-changing, and intriguing. The lace crab is all of these. Found in 1910 by Wolcott, Marrella fossils were found extraordinarily well preserved. Over the years, 25,000 specimens have been discovered, all of which were found in the Burgess Shale. While every other fossil candidate has been found predominantly in other nations, the lace crab has only ever been found in British Columbia. This makes the fossil extremely unique, just like our province. The lace crab itself is interesting. They range from two centimetres to as small as twenty-five millimetres; yet, 62 moving segments fit into their tiny body. The animal had a head-guard made of two boney spikes, legs, feathery gills, antennae, a stomach inside its head, and two paddle-like limbs to allow for swimming. The lace crab would likely have been very colourful during its lifetime. Such an amazing creature is a perfect fit for such an amazing province.


Leona & Lucas’ Rebuttal: We Still Recommend Salmon

Although the other options in the Provincial Fossil contest are intriguing choices, there are no species that have as large of an impact on British Columbians as the salmon. As the Pacific Salmon Foundation states, “The well-being of the salmon population is a direct reflection of how we are doing as a society and as stewards of the environment.”

Salmon are extremely relevant to both our history and economy, which will make it easier for British Columbians to identify with the fossil. Pacific Salmon have had a heavy impact on B.C. for years. They stood the test of time, as they were a major food source of various Indigenous groups for thousands of years. Salmon also held an important cultural role for the Indigenous peoples since they hold a rich history of legends and stories. In 2013, the Pacific Salmon was adopted as the official fish emblem. As reconciliation is a priority for the B.C. government and citizens alike, recognizing the importance of salmon is a natural step to helping bring communities together.

Economically, salmon provide us jobs like farming and marketing. It also supports tons of economies and communities. Pacific Salmon fuel a $3 billion dollar industry! Additionally, 137 marine species depend on the marine-rich nutrients that salmon supply. Recreational fishing is enjoyed by people around the province, and viewing of wild salmon is an integral part of B.C.’s tourism industry as well. Finally, we believe that it’s important for us to honour and remember the salmon because our society has helped to destroy their ecosystems.

In addition to polluting the ocean with microplastics and suffocating the salmon, fewer and fewer salmon are now being found on our coasts. The salmon are the biggest biological foundation of the river system, telling us whether our rivers are healthy or not. Therefore, in the interest of protecting salmon, making it the Provincial Fossil will help to increase awareness about the steps we need to take to protect our ecosystems.

The salmon not only provides enough ecological and geological value to be considered as B.C.’s Provincial Fossil but is also relevant in a vast number of issues that British Columbians now face. Declaring it as such will only prove to help all British Columbians – and all British Columbian salmon!


Conclusion – by Julia

The new provincial fossil, like the other provincial symbols, will emphasize our uniqueness and represent our province, making this decision an important one. Each of the seven fossils has different stories and reasons as to why they are provincially valuable. The first fossil is the Elasmosaur from Puntledge River, which inspired the first B.C. palaeontology society in Courtenay. Then the Ichthyosaur, reflecting the curiosity and passion of devoted palaeontologists, followed by the salmon; an integral part of British Columbia’s history and economy. Finally, the lace crab, our recommendation, which is unique to B.C.. Other fossils in the running include the Ammonite, Trilobite, and the one-celled animal. The provincial fossil should be recognizable, reflect the geography of B.C., and have the potential to be used educationally and on poster designs. Voting takes place on the Government of B.C. website and closes November 23. Each of the fossils ties into British Columbia in different ways, but only one will be awarded the title, so be sure to go cast your vote.



Discovering Friedl Dicker-Brandeis — October 3, 2018

Discovering Friedl Dicker-Brandeis

In our last post of the year, Abrielle is here to tell us about discovering artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Thank you for reading all of our posts this year, and we hope you’ll join us again here next year. 


Sometimes it is the seemingly trivial discoveries that lead to more significant and meaningful encounters. During my visit to the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, I had set out to view famous paintings such as The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. There among the hundreds of art pieces, the sight of a familiar diagram piqued my interest. A depiction of the Pythagorean theorem was painted in white, contrasting the darker earthy tones of the painting in which a brightly coloured man riding a horse was reaching down to a more shadowed man.

This particular piece would have been one I would have normally admired briefly and moved on to some other visually compelling art in the room. However, since I had studied this in math, I felt some connection to the artist and some curiosity. Hastily, I took a picture. Although it was not the most famous and world-renowned painting I had seen throughout Europe, it was that painting that left me intrigued. If it were not for the chance encounter with the black and white lined triangle, I would not have further researched and discovered the history of artist and teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and her students.

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis 1898 Vienna-1944 Auschwitz (concentration camp). Don Quixote and Lenin, c 1940. Oil on canvas.


Friedl Dicker-Brandeis


Frederika “Friedl” Dicker was born on July 30, 1898 in Vienna, Austria. When Friedl Dicker was four, her mother, Karolina died and from then she was raised by her father, Simon Dicker. Friedl Dicker spent a lot of time in her father’s stationery shop as a young girl.

Her art education began at the Austrian Federal Education and Research Institute for Graphics in Vienna where she studied under Johannes Beckmann, a master photographer. In 1919 Friedl Dicker studied at the art school of Johannes Itten (Bauhaus master). Johannes Itten closed his school and moved to the Bauhaus Weimar as a master. Several of his students, including Friedl Dicker, followed him to Bauhaus Weimar.

Friedl Dicker found like-minded people at the Bauhaus. She and her friends earned money on the side by making book bindings in Otto Dorfner’s workshop. In 1921, Friedl Dicker’s favourite painter, Paul Klee, arrived at the Bauhaus. She attended his lectures on the nature of art and the childlike imagination. Her study with Klee made a deep impression on her as it opened up her mind to educational concepts and motifs of the mind of children.

In the 1920s, Friedl Dicker and her friend Franz Singer founded a workshop that produced textiles, jewellery, graphic designs and theatre sets. They won awards for their innovative inventions of easily stacked chairs, folding sofas, and adjustable lamps. In 1930 they were commissioned to furnish the Montessori kindergarten in Vienna.

In 1931 Friedl Dicker ran courses for kindergarten teachers. She drew on the teachings of Johannes Itten. She taught the teachers how to recognise children’s personalities and artistic abilities. Her focus was to encourage children to concentrate on the creative process and to express their individual experiences and emotions onto paper.

In 1934 during the right wing coups in Vienna, Friedl Dicker was arrested for Communist activities. She was imprisoned for a short time and once released, she fled to Prague, which at the time was considered more democratic. During this time, Austria was becoming more pro-Anschluss which finally led to the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on March 12, 1938.

Friedl Dicker met her future husband, Pavel Brandeis in Prague and was married in 1936. In 1938 she became a Czech citizen. Her life in Prague was soon turned into turmoil when Hitler’s army invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. Dicker’s friends tried to persuade her to emigrate, but she did not want to leave her husband who by this point was no longer able to obtain a visa. In summer of 1938 they moved to the small town of Hronov. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis left her entire archive of works on a farm in Hronov during the mass deportation of Jews. Unfortunately the farmer destroyed all but two of her paintings.

On December 16, 1942 Friedl and Pavel Dicker-Brandeis were transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp. They were instructed to bring only 50 kilos. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis used her weight allowance to pack a few items of clothing and used the majority of her quota to pack art supplies.

Theresienstadt camp was used for propaganda in which communists, Jews, and other prisoners were portrayed as living normal lives. The “model” camp covered up the appalling reality at Theresienstadt. Upon arrival children were ripped away from their parents and forced to live in crowded dormitories. Terezin was formerly built as a fort to protect Prague and was designed to house about 5,000 soldiers during peacetime. When the Nazis took over the fort and converted it to the Theresienstadt ghetto, they held upwards of 150,000 people including tens of thousands of children. Brothers and sisters were even separated from one another.

The brutal environment took a physical and emotional toll especially on the children. Many intellectuals and artists among the prisoners found ways to help the children at the concentration camp. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis began teaching art classes at one of the girl’s dormitories. She taught children about colour theory, drawing, and painting, encouraging them to express their creativity. She wanted them to draw and paint what was in their imagination rather than the reality they were living. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis inspired and helped the children experience some normalcy. Using her Bauhaus training, she created simple ornaments and dyed bedclothes to create tiny spaces for the children within the dirty, bleak, and crowded surroundings. The art lessons and tiny spaces provided the children with brief moments of escape.

In the autumn of 1944, five thousand men, including Friedl’s husband, Pavel Brandeis, were sent away by rail transport to a new camp. On October 8, 1944 Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was transported to Auschwitz. Before she left, Friedl packed two suitcases with 4386 artworks of the children and gave them to Raja Englanderova, the chief tutor of the Girls’ Home L410.  Friedl was killed the day after she arrived at Auschwitz. Of the 660 children authors of the artworks, 550 children were killed in Auschwitz.

After the war, Willy Groag, the director of the Girls’ home brought the suitcases to the Jewish Community in Prague. Today, the art of the children are in the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collection. The art has been exhibited all over the world since 1945 and many books have been published featuring the children’s art.

Art of the Children at Theresienstadt

Underwater Fantasy:  Ruth Gutmannová (1930–1944), Undated (1943–44), Watercolour on paper, 22 x 30 cm, Signed on the verso: Gutmann Ruth, L 410, Heim 28, 13 Jahre. Jewish Museum in Prague’s collection since 1945.


Cream: Helena Mändlová (1930–44), Undated (1943), Paper collage of old printed forms, 20.5 x 27 cm, Signed on the verso UL: Helene Mändl N72, Jahrgang 1930, XV. Stunde / and LR: Helenka Mändl 28 B. Provenance: created during the drawing classes in the Terezín Ghetto organized between 1943 and 1944 by the painter and teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898–1944); in the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collection since 1945.


Flowers:  Ruth Ščerbak (1934-1944), Undated (1943-1944), Watercolor on paper, 15,7 x 21,6 cm, Signed UR: Ruth Ščerbak. Provenance: Created during the drawing classes in the Terezín Ghetto organized between 1943 and 1944 by the painter and teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898–1944); in the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collection since 1945.


Lowering the Voting Age — August 29, 2018

Lowering the Voting Age

A little while ago, Lucas told us about the History of the Vote in BC, and the proposed changes. Today Sasha is here with another proposed change – dropping the voting age to 16. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!


In the 2013 British Columbian provincial election, only 57.1% of eligible voters cast their ballots, 13.9% down from the 70% voter turnout in 1983. What is causing the political apathy that B.C. is witnessing? In order to vote in a British Columbian election, one must be a Canadian citizen, have resided in the province for at least 6 months and be at least 18 years of age on voting day; but it hasn’t always been this way. Historically, women, Indigenous people and those from other ethnic groups have had to fight for their right to vote. The voting age in B.C. was even dropped from 19 to 18 in 1992. Continuing this trend by lowering the voting age to 16 years old will help combat the declining voter turnout that B.C. is seeing and will strengthen the democracy in the province. Most importantly, lowering the voting age will empower youth to be more involved in politics and allow them to become comfortable with this important responsibility.


The voter turnout by age demographic for the 2013 BC provincial election (source: Elections BC and BC Stats)

Permitting 16 year olds to vote in British Columbia will increase the voter turnout. Countries like Austria and Scotland that have already lowered their voting ages have experienced considerable success in this aspect. In the Scottish referendum in 2014, 71% of voters aged 16-17 cast their ballots, which was the highest voter turnout among any age demographic. Elections in Austria have found that within the 16 to 20 age group, 16 year olds had the highest voter turnout. It also appears that there is a “trickle up effect in the whole family when youth are involved in politics,” according to Andrew Weaver, the leader of the BC Green Party, who is pushing for this change to be made. He continues by arguing that the whole family’s voting turnout is positively impacted by the conversations that lowering the voting age will foster. On top of all this, habits formed at a younger age are more likely to become lifelong, so the younger people start voting, the more probable it is that they become lifelong voters. Data for Elections Canada shows that voting consistently for the first few elections results in an 85% chance of creating habitual voters. Allowing teens to vote provincially will encourage them to become lifelong participants in politics, thereby increasing the voter turnout.

Creating a culture of engagement by allowing youth as young as 16 years old to vote will help ensure that democracy is truly being upheld. At 16, teens are expected to become functioning members of society and are able to work, pay taxes, drive, get married, and may be sentenced for crimes as adults under the law. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the part-time and full-time employment rate of those aged 16 to 17 in the U.S. in the past year has ranged from 80.2 to 84.7%, showing that youth do in fact actively participate in society. All of these activities are directly affected by the work of politicians and as Green Party leader Andrew Weaver stated, “the notion of taxation without representation is not one that is founded within our democracy.” Another fundamental pillar of democracy is having everyone’s voice heard, and voting is one of the most effective ways of expressing your values. The final important component of democracy is civil society, or the educated public, and lowering the voting age will encourage youth to become educated through both experience and the buzz created around politics. Currently, 17% of B.C.’s consistent non-voters cited lack of knowledge as the main cause for their apathy, but lowering the voting age will create conversation within peer groups and families and motivate citizens to get educated. It is critical to our democratic process that everyone feels that they have the tools to participate. Lowering the voting age will combat the disenfranchisement of youth and ensure that all voices are heard in dialogue, upholding our standard of democracy.

Finally, allowing 16 year olds to vote provincially in B.C. will empower teens and enable them to become accustomed to this aspect of adult life. Voting gives teens, an age group that is looking to assert itself, a voice, which is hugely important for their development. Efforts to involve youth politically like the Student Vote program have proven themselves to be widely successful, with over 170000 elementary and high school students in the province participating, reinforcing the fact that age doesn’t necessarily indicate political maturity. Enfranchising youth in the political world proves time and time again to be as important as it is beneficial to young people, and as ex B.C. Minister of Finance Mike de Jong said:

Instead of simply decrying the fact that fewer and fewer people are participating, we have to create a culture of engagement, and the only way to do that is to say to a student at a formative time in their lives, you are full members of society, and instead of leaving here and never voting or never voting until you’re 40 or 50, here’s your chance to make a difference. (qtd. in the Globe and Mail)

Keeping youth enfranchised so that they can become acclimated to the adult habit of voting is essential. Sixteen year olds are as capable of making well thought out, or cold cognitive decisions as their older counterparts. There is no reason that youth shouldn’t be able to familiarise themselves with the important responsibility of voting at the younger age of 16 as it will contribute to the enfranchisement and development of teens as well as their habitualization to this important aspect of adult life.

Sixteen year olds should be allowed to cast their ballots in British Columbian provincial elections. Doing so will give teens a voice and allow them to become familiarized with this adult responsibility, help guarantee that democracy is truly taking place by ensuring taxation with representation and will increase the overall voter turnout. With such crucial components of society on the line, enfranchising youth as young as 16 years old by letting them vote is a crucial step in B.C’s development that the provincial government must take.


Works Cited

“Age-Based Legal Rights.” Legal Rights for Youth, Justice Education Society, 2016, www.legalrightsforyouth.ca/age-based-legal-rights.


“Andrew Weaver Introduces Bill to Lower the Voting Age in B.C.” Greens of British Columbia, Green Party of B.C., 20 Feb. 2017, http://www.bcgreens.ca/andrew_weaver_introduces_bill_to_lower_the_voting_age_in_b_c.


Bailey, Ian, and Justine Hunter. “Mike De Jong Wants to Drop Voting Age to 16.” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, 16 Dec. 2010, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/mike-de-jong-wants-to-drop-voting-age-to-16/article1320093/.


Birch, Sarah, et al. “Votes at 16: What the UK Can Learn from Austria, Norway and the Crown Dependencies.” Democratic Audit UK, 5 Oct. 2013, http://www.democraticaudit.com/2013/09/28/votes-at-16-what-the-uk-can-learn-from-austria-norway-and-the-crown-dependencies/.


Bureau of Labour Statistics. “A-10. Unemployment Rates by Age, Sex, and Marital Status, Seasonally Adjusted.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.Department of Labor, 2017, http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea10.htm.


Burgar, Joanna, and Martin Monkman. Who Heads to the Polls?: Exploring the Demographics of Voters in British Columbia. March 2010. BCStats, 2010,


“Electoral History of B.C.” Elections BC, Elections BC, 2017,


“Fast Facts- Youth Voting in B.C.”


Jospeh, Chanté, and Andrew Mycock. “Argument: Should 16-Year-Olds Get the Vote?” New Internationalist, New Internationalist, 1 Sept. 2013, newint.org/sections/argument/2013/09/01/vote-argument/.


Malatest, R.A., and Associates. “National Youth Survey Report.” Elections Canada, Elections Canada, 20 Sept. 2011, www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rec%2Fpart%2Fnysr&document=p3&lang=e#a50.


Mangione, Kendra. “Lower Voting Age to 16 in B.C., Green Party Argues.” CTV News, CTV News, 12 May 2016, bc.ctvnews.ca/lower-voting-age-to-16-in-b-c-green-party-argues-1.2899791.


Plante, Thomas. “Health Habits Develop Early and Are Hard to Change.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 29 May 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201205/health-habits-develop-early-and-are-hard-change.


“The Results.” Student Vote British Columbia Election 2017, Student Vote, May 2017, studentvote.ca/bc2017/the-results/.


“Scottish Independence: Poll Reveals Who Voted, How and Why.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Sept. 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/20/scottish-independence-lord-ashcroft-poll.

Statistics BC “B.C. Voter Participation: 1983 to 2013.” http://www.elections.bc.ca/docs/stats/bc-voter-participation-1983-2013.pdf.


Steinberg, Laurence. “Let Science Decide the Voting Age.” New Scientist, New Scientist, 8 Oct. 2014, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429900-200-let-science-decide-the-voting-age/.


“Unemployment Rates by Age, Sex, and Marital Status, Seasonally Adjusted.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.Department of Labor, 2017, http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea10.htm.