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Michel Natal — August 17, 2017

Michel Natal


This photo is of Michel Natal, given to me by my grandfather. As you can see on the top of the picture, he has pointed out where each little town is located.

Michel Natal is a particularly interesting topic, simply because it’s quite unknown. At age nine, I prided myself on the fact that I had a Heritage Fair topic that was different than anyone else’s, and now I’ve decided to remember what I learned (and to research some more) in order to write this blog post.

Michel Natal was a coal mining town that was located near Nelson in British Columbia. To be exact, it was three small towns, but they were so close to each other that it was really only one town.

Though Michel Natal is what it is mostly called, the three towns were Michel, Middletown, and Natal, with Middletown obviously being located in the middle of the other two. Michel was not even a kilometre away from Natal, hence why they were commonly referred to as simply, Michel Natal.

In 1899, when Crow’s Nest Coal Company opened a mine, they established the small town of Michel. Michel had a small population to start off, and consisted of a small hospital and a few houses.

With the success of the mines (there were now three mines around Michel), the population became larger and larger, and in 1907, they established the town of Natal. Until 1910, this town was referred to as “Newtown” or “New Michel”. When Natal was founded, workers from the mines were finally given the chance to own their own property instead of staying in the homes provided for them from the company.

Natal was much more lively than Michel; it had three of the four hotels, an opera house, a cinema, and basketball courts.

Later, the small community of Middletown was established, right in the middle of Michel and Natal. Between Michel and Middletown were different mine buildings. Separating Middletown from Natal was a ball field, the school, and a few churches.

Michel Natal was a popular destination for many immigrants, and this particular town had a lot of Italian immigrants. It was there that my great-grandfather came, there where my grandfather grew up.


This photo given to me by my grandfather. This is my Nono and Nona (my grandfather’s parents), in front of their store (I believe it was located in Natal). Nona ran the store and Nono worked in the mines.

Seeing as it was a coal-mining town, the air was terrible (much like some of us are experiencing from the current forest fires).

As the years went on, the mine suffered from a few different disasters; in 1904, 1916, 1938, and the final straw, in 1967. These disasters were caused by multiple explosions and cost a few lives. Even without the disasters, there was usually a death per year due to the mines. The men went into the mines, not sure if they were ever going to come out again.

In the 1950s, the demand for coal had significantly decreased, so there wasn’t much need for the town of Michel Natal. Plus, tourism had gone up in BC, and unfortunately, Michel Natal was not an appealing sight, with all the houses and outhouses stained from coal dust. In 1964, the government decided it was a disaster for tourism, and had all the residents relocated to the nearby town of Sparwood, but many of them were uneager to leave. It makes sense why they would be so unwilling, as the government paid them terribly for their property; only a little of what they would have sold for. That is why so many people stayed in their homes, but were eventually forced out.

In 1967, a blast killed fifteen miners and injured ten (the largest amount of deaths in the mine). Prior to that, the most that had been killed in a disaster had been thirteen miners, in 1916.

After that tragedy, the government decided that keeping Michel Natal wasn’t worth it. They dealt first with the relocation and the protesting from some of the residents, but by 1978, they tore down every single building, except the Michel Hotel.

The Michel Hotel remained abandoned on the side of the highway, like some kind of marking to show what once was there. In 2010, they tore down the building. Now, the only thing standing is a sign; the only proof that there ever was something in this area.

Photo taken by my parents. This is the sign for Michel Natal (about ten years ago – featuring my brother and myself).


It seems like just another ghost town story, and for the longest time, that’s all it was to me. Until I came to realize that the people who lived there, they’re still alive today. My grandfather grew up there; all his childhood memories are from there.

It’s one thing to move out of your childhood home, but it’s another thing to stand on the side of the highway and remember what once was. To close your eyes and picture everything as if it was still there.

My grandfather still remembers where everything was. He can picture the whole town. Standing on the side of the road, he can point out exactly where he lived as a kid and where their family store was located. It’s somewhat heartbreaking.

I am glad I had the opportunity to learn about this little town. It may be forgotten to most, but it lives on in the pictures, the books that the inhabitants made, and the newspaper articles.




Author: Julia


Should Nazi war criminals still be prosecuted today? — August 2, 2017

Should Nazi war criminals still be prosecuted today?


By: Gita


Through research, I came to find the INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL OF NUREMBERG, the documents outlining the rulings of the Nuremberg Trials held to prosecute war criminals after WWII.  If the evidence had been available during this time, all war criminals would have been prosecuted during these trials.  However, this was often not the case.  Thus, today we must continue to seek the justice extended by these trials, as the elapsed time is no legal defence for the atrocities committed.  We owe it to all the victims of war crimes to prosecute those responsible for the tremendous suffering they caused.  Moreover, it is imperative to continue to prosecute war criminals to send a universal message to potential perpetrators that crime will never be tolerated or excused, and that with their actions will come severe repercussions.  Exceptions are few and far between, and no get-out-of-jail-free card will be offered simply as a result of old age.  Otherwise, individuals may continue to follow such policies, believing themselves safe from all retribution.  Finally, by continuing to prosecute war criminals, we are bringing these events back into the spectrum of the public eye, reasserting how the appalling crimes of WWII were not the product of extraordinarily cruel individuals, but rather sometimes the ordinary actions of ordinary people.  These war criminals may now be approaching 90 years old, but unlike the 11 million victims who were also confined to a cell for their last breaths, the trials of these war criminals are justified.




“I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization. I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it, and I apologize for my actions. I am very, very sorry.”  Reinhold Hanning, convicted war criminal of WWII.  Those condemned as war criminals, such as Hanning, were very young and of low rank during WWII, and often had no choice in committing war crimes.  Either resist and be killed, or perform these acts under duress.  Major figures responsible for the atrocities were sentenced in the Nuremberg Trials, thus justice today is nearly obsolete.  To this degree, shouldn’t the townspeople who lived near the Holocaust camps and knew of their existence also be convicted for committing the same crimes of inaction?  Little good will come from attempting to prosecute these individuals, almost equally entitled victims, after the great efforts they sought to move on and start anew.  Now with new identities and unknowing grandchildren, great lengths must be taken today to prove that one is guilty of war crimes, as much hard evidence from WWII has been destroyed, and it is thus often very difficult to prove these war criminals either guilty or innocent.  But these people are no longer of threat to our society; today there are higher priorities, greater perpetrator threats that our tax money should be spent on.  So why dwell and rally for sympathy when Remembrance Day exists?  One thing we have learned is that atrocities are driven by fanatical hatred, not common sense.  “I just want him to hear from me […] what the consequences were of what he did at a young age, and let him reflect on it.” – Irene Weiss, victim of WWII war crime testifying at Hanning’s trial.  It is time, at long last, to remember, lest we forget, and move on.



Where do you stand?






A Canadian Connection to 9/11 — July 22, 2017

A Canadian Connection to 9/11

“This is not a 9/11 story. It’s a 9/12 story.” – David Hein, co-songwriter

Ask anyone on the street, and they’ll definitely know what 9/11 was. But see if they know anything about the town of Gander and the surprisingly large role the people in that town had in the immediate aftermath, and you’ll be lucky to find even one person who has heard of this story. However, through the recent Broadway hit Come from Away, hopefully more recognition will be given to the unsung (Canadian) heroes of an event that changed the world forever. Welcome to the Rock!“It was the worst day we have ever seen…” ­– Sen. John Kerry

What Was 9/11?

The attacks of September 11, 2001, or 9/11, was a series of coordinated terrorist attacks by the extremist group al-Qaeda on various locations in the United States. 4 flights were hijacked, and diverted towards major buildings: two planes flew into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City, one crashed into the Pentagon, a major intelligence location for the U.S. government, and the final flight planned to crash into the U.S. Capitol buildings, but the hijackers were overcome by passengers on the plane and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people died, most of which were innocent businessmen and businesswomen, civilians, and firefighters. Immediately after the attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that all international flights were to be stopped, meaning that they would have to land in another country.


“Crossroads of the world”

Where is Gander?

Gander is a small town in northeastern Newfoundland, home to roughly 10,000 residents. It is home to Gander International Airport, an important refuelling stop for longer transatlantic flights.



“…but it brought out the best in all of us.” – Sen. John Kerry

So, what does Gander have to do with anything?

Since American airspace was effectively closed, international flights bound for America had to land somewhere else.

Enter Gander.

The convenient location of the airspace, combined with the fact that it was already used to large, commercial jets landing to refuel made it the suitable choice for several diverted flights to land. However, this was no pit stop. A total of 42 flights (38 of them civilian), and more than 6,600 passengers and air crew members landed in Gander, combining to be more than 2/3rds of Gander’s population at the time! Passengers had to stay in the area for nearly a week, before being allowed to continue to their destination. Residents of Gander showed their extreme generosity, volunteering to house and feed the passengers and crew. More can be seen in the two videos below:



“Emotionally transcendent” – Jay Irwin

How did this story become a musical?

A Torontonian lawyer and theatre producer was inspired after learning about the story of Gander, and approached various people to try to turn it into a piece for theatre. After several rejections, the songwriter couple of Irene Sankoff and David Hein agreed to become a part of the team. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the two interviewed several residents of what occurred through their eyes, and several characters in the musical are real locals of Gander. In an interview with the two, here’s what they had to say about their experience:

What went into telling that story? You went to Gander, right? DH: Yes. We started researching it several years ago and found out there was going to be a commemoration ceremony happening, that all these people were going to be travelling back to Gander to reunite on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. So we applied for a Canada Council grant, went out there and ended up staying for quite a while. The people of Gander wouldn’t let us stay in hotels—they’d say, “Don’t be spendin’ money, stay with us, here are the keys, just remember to feed the cat.”

Were you thinking “musical” at the time? DH: We had originally been thinking of doing it as a documentary play like The Laramie Project[which is about the murder of a gay university student in Wyoming]. But then they had a benefit concert at the hockey arena, with this Newfoundland band, and everybody got up on the floor and started dancing. That’s when Irene realized it should be a musical. We weren’t trying to make a Broadway show, though. We were trying to be true to the story. What we really wanted was for the people we’d interviewed, when they sat in the audience, to be proud of what they were seeing and to say that we got it right.

(Source: http://torontolife.com/culture/stage/qa-irene-sankoff-david-hein-creators-toronto-born-broadway-hit-come-away/)

After they wrote a shorter version of Come from Away, the project was met with great success, and Sankoff and Hein wrote a full production, and the rest is history – so much so, that on March 15, 2017, on Broadway…


Justin Trudeau attended a show? And Ivanka Trump?

Yup. They did. And he loved it. The Broadway show was immensely popular, and is still playing to standing-room-only audiences. The show was nominated for seven Tony awards, winning Best Direction of a Musical, and also won several Drama Desk Awards among a boat-load (or, shall we say, plane-load) of awards.

OK, I’m sold. Can I listen to it now?

Sure, but don’t blame me if you get hooked on it!



Author: Lucas








Bill Reid — July 15, 2017

Bill Reid


Bill Reid carving Skidegate Pole 1976. Photo: Martine Reid.

Born on January 12, 1920 in Victoria, BC, Bill Reid was a renowned Haida artist. With Haida and German/Scottish roots, he started out studying classic European jewelry making at Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto. When his father, William Ronald Reid, Sr. died, he went with his mother, Sophie Gladstone Reid, to the Haida village where she was born. There he met his grandfather, Charles Gladstone, a Haida artist. Gladstone was making gold carved bracelets with tools that he inherited from Charles Edenshaw (Gladstone’s uncle) who is also a well-known Haida artist. Bill Reid said that moment “changed the way he saw the world.”


Wolf pendant, 1976

Bill had Haida art in his blood. Charles Gladstone then became Bill’s art and culture mentor. After that, Bill Reid dedicated himself to becoming a master carver, and to reclaim his Haida heritage. Perfecting the craft of Haida imagery and learning the stories and traditions of the Haida people, Bill Reid began to redefine the fine art gallery walls around the world.


Raven brooch, 1962


Much like Bill Reid’s own personal journey to rediscover his heritage and place importance on his Haida culture, language and art, the fine art world soon sought out the masterfully crafted sculptures and beautiful paintings that he created. From Paris to New York, Bill Reid was commissioned to create and represent Haida art. Bill Reid’s dream to bring his culturally significant art from Haida Gwaii into mainstream art became reality.


The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, The Jade Canoe at Vancouver International Airport

With his professional experience as a CBC reporter, he was instrumental in the re-envisioning of First Nations artistic products. Bringing trinkets from the basements of dusty museums to the fine art galleries of the world, Bill Reid redefined the art world to include art from Canada’s First Nations history.


The Raven and the First Men, Museum of Anthropology, UBC

To this day, Bill Reid’s Jade Canoe greets every international traveller arriving to the Vancouver International Airport. He has imprinted Haida culture and art into the minds of people around the world as well as the walls of fine art galleries. In this way, we can see the impact he had on redefining and contributing Haida art to the world. His impact is far reaching. From the Canadian 20 dollar bill and fine jewelry to paintings and sculptures, Bill Reid’s Haida art can be seen all over the world.




Friendship at the Fair — July 11, 2017

Friendship at the Fair

Friendship is support, friendship is bond that can’t be forced, and it can be made in just seconds and can last a life time. Today is our last day of the 2017 BC provincial heritage fair and on the ride over to the ferry I had a moment that made me simply smile. All the students on the bus were singing and it made me think about how in just matter of a couple short days delegates from all over the province where make new memories and creating bonds that could last a life time.

Friendship could mean different things to different people. It’s all about perspective, some people look for people to motivate them and others look for people to share stories with.  Veronica says “friendship to me is about being necessary to someone’s life and having someone to share ideas with.”  Lucas says “friendship is about inspiring each other.” I think that by having positive people around you, you will become more inspired and you can grow as an individual.

At heritage fair students are put in to a different environment and are mixed with people from all across the Province, they meet new people and are exposed to an array of different cultures and interests. I believe that when students are put in situation like these they develop better social skills. And when students meet new people with different experiences they learn how to respect others’ opinions and this allows students for become more open minded. When they develop these skills, it means that less problems will be created and more compromised will be made. This quality that heritage fair has, about bring delegates together, is so unique and is one of the key factors the sets us apart.

Everybody needs some sort of support system, and having a friend circle that you can share your thoughts with and that can respect your personality will be great individuals to be around. I had this thought as I was sitting in the bus with all of our delegates and I could hear so many different conversations. Some more serious and talked and past life experiences, and others we fun things that people wanted to try. This might not mean much to some people, but is goes to show how close these students became in less the 48 hours. Now we come together not just citizens form our regions, but as citizens of British Columbia and friends.


Author: Anisha

The 5th and Final Day of the BC Provincial Heritage Fair —

The 5th and Final Day of the BC Provincial Heritage Fair

Today was the last day of this year’s Provincial Heritage Fair; the day to say goodbye and travel home for most participants. After a wrap-up breakfast and chance to choose all their favourite foods, the delegates going home by plane departed at around 8:30 am, while the rest who were either going to catch the ferry, or get picked up by their parents, stayed and played a little longer. Final activities included cleaning up, reliving memories and a lively game of camouflage.

This year’s fair was, for the most part, a fun filled, hot, and sunny week, so it was quite poetic that the clouds started to roll in shortly after things wrapped up; as if they were curtains closing on the ‘final act’ of the 2017 BC Provincial Heritage Fair.

group shot.jpg

A heartful thank you was felt by all participants to the organizers, sponsors, volunteers, and dignitaries who made this such an amazing event.

Author: Benjamin

Interacting with People Around Me — July 9, 2017

Interacting with People Around Me

Today was presentation day for all of this year’s delegates. So for this post, we are going to talk about what is important to remember when you are around people that you respect and may be a little afraid of.

When you are at a young age, you treat every person pretty much the same. You are mad at people when your mad, and happy with people when your happy.

As people get older, they tend to make pictures of other people in their mind, especially people in authority. This picture greatly changes how we act towards, or treat those people. Now sometimes this can be a good thing, but some people can get a bit carried away with the picture they paint of other people, and this can really effect how those people are treated. Also, another affect of painted grand pictures of people is being very awkward in front of them. This can be embarrassing and may leave you with a bad memory around that person.

So to some things up, it is important to act properly in whatever situation you are in and to never make false assumptions around people, but also remember that no one is perfect, and making mistake is alright. When you are talking to someone important or someone you respect, you must remember that most of the time they are on your side and want to see you do your best.

That’s all for now!

Delegate Lucas Hung speaking with Her Honnour Ms. Guichon

Author: Ben


Day 3: BC Legislature, Royal BC Museum, Government House, Ross Bay Cemetery — July 8, 2017

Day 3: BC Legislature, Royal BC Museum, Government House, Ross Bay Cemetery

We started the day with a quick stop at Mt. Tolmie, one of the highest points in Victoria, which featured a view of the city. From there, we went to the Legislative Assembly, a grand and imposing building.


Our tour guide, Giorgia, started off by acknowledging we were on traditional First Nations territory. She went on to tell us about the history of the Legislative. Next, we saw the chamber. Outside, there were plaques with the names of MLAs on it. Our tour guide recruited our help to find when Mary Ellen Smith, the first female MLA, had a seat using these plaques. As the delegates searched, someone behind us spoke, giving clues to where the name was. We turned, and behold, there was Mary Ellen! She transported us back in time, showing us how the movement for female rights happened.

After, we went to the museum which was amazing, and huge. The museum featured three exhibits, about Terry Fox, family bonds, and natural history.


For lunch, we visited the Government House, home of the Lieutenant Governor. Most of the delegates enjoyed an exciting game of Mafia, and a few of us went to the gardens, which were absolutely beautiful.

After, we walked to the cemetery which had three activities: storytelling, restoration, and recording.

During the storytelling activity, we were able to walk around the cemetery and hear stories about some of the people there. We visited the grave of Emily Carr, one of the most visited graves. Other notable graves include James Douglas, Barker, and Peter Leech. An item of interest to me personally was part of the inscription on Barker’s headstone, the rock of which apparently came from the place he found gold, that said “He died poor in wealth but forever rich in friends.”

Another activity was restoration, as mentioned before. Armed with rakes and brushes, we tried to “make a difference in the cemetery.” After about fifteen minutes of scrubbing, the headstones were rinsed with a hose, and wow, even a quarter of an hour made a huge difference.


Finally, we worked in pairs to record information about a gravestone. This was so that if one was damaged, it could be re-created with the information written. We took notes on the font, inscriptions, measurements, and even drew the stones from different angles.

We then walked down to the beach, where we had delicious hot dogs. We played on the beach, some swimming, others walking around on the logs.

Finally, to end off the day, we went swimming, which was refreshing and a lot of fun.

To conclude, today was not as jam-packed as yesterday, and the pool and beach provided a nice place to relax, but I trust the delegates had just as much fun and were able to experience Victoria in new ways.

Author: Veronica

Ross Bay Cemetery —

Ross Bay Cemetery

Perhaps the attraction I was most excited for on the third day of the Provincial Fair, the Ross Bay Cemetery, was just a short walk away from Government House in Victoria. Many students were apprehensive to participate in the tour around the graves, and I suddenly remembered when I visited the cemetery during my Provincial Fair back in 2013. Back then, I was pretty scared of all the dead bodies lying just a short drop below me, and it didn’t help that I had heard of the numerous ghost stories of the deceased. In speaking to some delegates (grade 5) before we started to learn about the cemetery, they agreed with me! However, I knew that something would change their opinion, just like it had for me: cleaning the gravestones.

As the various scrapers, brooms, and hoses were handed out, students set to work on clearing off lichen and moss from various gravestones. And, just like I had found four summers ago, it was actually pretty fun. Smiles slowly crept across their sweat-beaded faces, and seldom did someone take a rest break. The only thing that mattered was getting off as much dirt as possible, and as quickly as we could, and the sound of “scrape, scrape, scrape” filled the cemetery. Slowly but surely, graves were cleaned off. We could make out the letters previously covered by years of mistreatment; tiles that had become grey were suddenly marble-white.

How did the cleaning and restoring of the graves feel, exactly? Well, it’s best to hear it in the words of some delegates:

Ben (Victoria): “It was very rewarding to see the gravestones go from a darkish-grey to a very bright white (with a little bit of scrubbing!).”

Faaij (Richmond): “It was hard work, and there weren’t instant results. But it was actually fun, and satisfying.”

Cooper (Rivers to Sea): “It was definitely more fun than I thought, and I was able to contribute to the community!”

As for me, I felt an innate connection with the cemetery, and it really felt good to be able to contribute to the community.

I’d like to finish off with a little call to action: get a group of friends, along with some scrapers and brooms, and head to your local cemetery to help clean some graves (after making sure you’re allowed, of course!). Trust me – it’ll feel good. After all,  that’s what I told the delegates before they started cleaning!

Author: Lucas

Celebrating Canada 150: Alumni Style — July 7, 2017

Celebrating Canada 150: Alumni Style

Today we had an incredibly busy and fun day, which ended off on a great note. Our amazing alumni created a special activity for all of the kids. This year, we celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday, so the alumni wanted to recognize this in a special way.

The activity started out with the kids being sent back in time, all the way back to Confederation in 1867. In order to return to 2017, the kids had to go through some of Canada’s most important moments to make Canada what it is today. Obviously, there are a lot of incredibly important moments (both good and bad), but we only had six alumni, so we chose a few of these events.

At each of the six stations, the groups were presented with different challenges depending on the event. If they managed to complete the event, they would earn a puzzle piece, and the goal was to get all six puzzle pieces. Each group had a different puzzle that represented a special moment in history that we had not covered in the stations.

Confederation was covered by our alumni Lucas. He wore an artisan top hat, made by himself. He educated the kids about Confederation, then gave them a map of Canada from what it looked like in 1867. They then had to label the map. “It was fun,” -Lucas.

Next, was CPR by our alumni Veronica. She asked them to guess eight of the most important CPR stations, and the kids had lots of fun! It’s different than you would think!

Our alumni Anisha covered Komagata Maru and she gave them an example of a letter a  passenger might send home to their family. The kids had to fill in the blanks on the worksheet, and we had a few kids who were experts on the subject and filled in the sheet incredibly fast.

Julia was dressed up very fancy as a young lady from the 1910’s. She was talking to kids about women’s right to vote and gave them a few trivia questions before starting the activity. When asked to name a member of the Famous Five, the most common answer was (unsurprisingly) Nellie McClung, followed by Emily Murphy (Julia also had a few people guess Emily Carr, which was close…). She gave the students pictures of the Famous Five and pieces of paper with their names and asked them to match the names to the faces.

Ben covered the battle of Vimy Ridge and had a book which described all of the events that took place. He had a message in Morse Code and gave the kids a key so they could figure out what the message meant.

As we had six groups and only five official alumni, our lovely leader Britney stepped in to lead an activity of her own. As “The Spirit of Canada” from the future (Britney was from Canada’s 300th birthday), she encouraged a discussion amongst the kids about Canada, its history, and why it was important to learn all of these things.

Each group ended up earning all their puzzle pieces, and had enough time to put their puzzles together. They then had to send up one student to explain to everyone what their puzzle represented, and everyone got it right. Some examples were Residential schools, the Underground Railroad, our first gold medal in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (Alexandre Bilodeau in moguls), D-Day, Chris Hadfield, and the Quebec referendum.

Everyone had lots of fun and all the kids headed off to bed exhausted. What a great day, and very excited for all the special activities tomorrow!

Author: Julia