BC Heritage Fairs Alumni

The Official Heritage Fairs Student Site

Celebrating Our Heritage & Understanding Our Culture — March 27, 2018

Celebrating Our Heritage & Understanding Our Culture

This week, Gita brings us a personal post about her Mama Ji (maternal uncle), and how his story impacted her life and her understanding of culture and heritage. If you have time, we recommend watching this Tedx talk given by her Mama Ji.


My Mama Ji (maternal uncle) shared with me a part of his story when I was young.

My Mama Ji’s story has over the years impacted my sense of culture and belonging. Most recently, it has impacted my perception of racial stereotyping and discrimination.

My Mama Ji’s story altered my understanding of culture; what has culture become but another way to draw lines between us and apply labels to generalize groups of people whom we do not personally understand? In saying that I belong to a singular, particular culture, what I am saying is that I don’t belong to yours. What my Mama Ji’s story taught me is that culture cannot, and should not, be simply defined and assigned to a group of people.

From my Mama Ji’s story, I also learned that sometimes there is pain that comes from cultural and racial stereotyping, and that this pain is never forgotten. Therefore, I value acceptance and diversity.

Heritage defines part of who I am. I believe that it can have as great an impact on a community. In this, I have realized that celebrating heritage ensures that a community will always maintain a connection to its past, continue to celebrate diversity, find pleasure in the differences that define us, and overall contribute to the unity of our community.

Provincially, I have worked towards creating a strong social media platform for the BC Heritage Fairs Society (BCHFS), including a blog to keep teachers, students and parents updated with the BCHFS’s initiatives, and a video project to assist Heritage BC in promoting the importance of heritage sites across the province.

Regionally, I have presented in schools to spark a passion for history, encouraged students to participate in the Richmond Regional Heritage Fair (RRHF), acted as a spokesperson for the RRHF to dignitaries and politicians, and assisted with the planning and execution of the RRHF, including emceeing the opening and closing ceremonies.

I am dedicated to the work that I do because I believe that celebrating heritage leaves an invaluable impact on a community. My involvement with the BCHFS has been rewarding as I work to demonstrate the reasons to celebrate individuality and identity. Celebrating heritage allows community members to take time to reflect upon the hardships and sacrifices that were made for them by individuals from all walks of life, at times much different from today. This is essential in order for a community to be able to experience growth, and ensure that it takes steps forward to fulfill its potential, rather than recede in denial. Celebrating heritage encourages community members to embrace their diversity and appreciate exactly what makes individuals unique. I believe that every community member has something to offer to those around them. Through the celebration of heritage, we can encourage everyone to also realize this fact.

The connections that are built when people are brought together to celebrate heritage immensely benefits the community by fostering a long-term sense of pride and belonging in each of its members and overall crafting an ideal atmosphere in which people wish to raise a family and grow old.

Today, as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation, it seems that now, more than ever, we must remind ourselves that all these aspects of community must not be forgotten or dismissed. As generations grow, it will always remain beneficial to take time to celebrate heritage, a piece of us, handed down from our past.

Finally, when you are interacting with a group that you think is different than your own, or with a member of that group, get to know them as an individual. Get to know them uniquely. Try to find at least one thing in common with that person. As a doctor, my Mama Ji has also guaranteed me that you will have more in common with that person than you will have different.

History of the Vote — March 15, 2018

History of the Vote

As BC is facing the possibility of electoral reform, Lucas is here to tell us about the history of the vote in Canada (and possible alternate voting systems)! Yes, some of them are more complicated, but which one do you think is the most fair? Let us know in the comments! 


Citizens from all democratic nations often take the act of voting for granted; simply filling in a piece of paper and placing it in a cardboard box often seems like a necessity rather than a privilege. However, voting was not always so automatic a task, and even today, Canadians face the difficult problem of considering whether our way of voting is actually the most fair.


History of the Vote in Canada

The first elections held in Canada occurred before it even became a nation – residents of Quebec (then known as New-France) selected representatives, or syndics, to sit on a colonial council as early as the 17th century. The role of the syndic was to simply act as a messenger between the people and the council. Eventually, citizens were allowed to choose a few council members who could make decisions.

The section of Canada under British rule began to hold parliamentary elections in 1758. However, the elected assembly members weren’t very powerful, as various other councils and houses had veto power over them. Elections were usually held in a public area, where choices would be declared verbally. Interestingly, from 1791 until 1849 in Lower Canada, women were actually allowed to vote – if they met the property and income rules set out by the government.

After the Dominion of Canada was formed, various voting practices we use today were put into place. However, some ‘tactics’ used by parties to try and convince voters to choose them would be considered very questionable today. For example, since the party in power had the right to hold elections, they would visit different ridings on several different dates, starting with the ‘safest’ ridings (sections that they would easily win). This method would convince the more undecided ridings that the ruling party was stronger. In 1872, the Conservative party held an election for three months! Eventually, after the first Liberal government came into office, they passed more strict and transparent voting laws: elections would occur on a single day, and the votes would be through a secret, written ballot. Fraudulent voting was still prevalent, however, and candidates would try to ‘purchase’ votes through giving outlandish meals and resources to citizens. Companies were also incredibly partisan: one Montreal manufacturing business stated that “we feel it is only fair to notify employees that, in case of a change in government [to Conservative], we will be unable to guarantee the wages you are now being paid; neither will we be able to guarantee work of any kind to all the employees employed by us at this time.”

Rampant racism was also a systemic part of Canada’s voting system: Indigenous and Chinese people were banned from voting in British Columbia. It took until 1918 that women were allowed to vote in federal elections, and until 1929, after the famous Persons case, for them to be permitted to sit in the Canadian Senate. The last province that granted the right for women to vote was Quebec, in 1940.

In 1982, Pierre Trudeau maneuvered his way to creating one of the most important documents in Canadian history, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the document, Section 3 declares that “every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.”


The Current Voting System and Other Proposed Systems (see this set of videos for a more in-depth discussion)

Around 25 years ago, the idea of electoral reform was pitched to the government. By this point, the issue wasn’t about who could vote, but how Canadians could vote. Below is a breakdown of the current voting system, and other proposed plans:

First Past the Post: used in Canada, USA, France, and Britain.


  1. All representatives (or MP’s) are selected from geographically created ridings.
  2. The MP who receives the most votes from the residents of that riding wins the riding.
  3. Each riding won by an MP gives one ‘point’ to the party they belong to.
  4. All the total riding ‘points’ are added together, and the leading party becomes the governing party of Canada – with exceptions! If the leading party holds less than half the ridings in the country, and therefore less than half the seats in the House of Commons, it may be difficult for them to take power. In this case, a number of options could occur, similar to the 2017 BC Provincial Election and 2008 Federal Election.

This system has been in use for hundreds of years under British and French rule. Since a whole nation is condensed into a few hundred seats (338 for Canada), the whole voting process is much simpler, and the winner-takes-all fashion of the riding system helps more majority governments come into power. The largest issue with this system of government is that a party doesn’t need more than half of the votes overall to form a majority government. For example, in 2015, only 40% of Canadians voted for the Liberal Party, but since they won more individual ridings, Justin Trudeau took power with 54% of the seats. Also, the concept of ‘strategic voting’ is favoured under the FPTP system. If someone’s favourite party has very low support nationwide, they can give their vote to another party that has a higher chance of winning.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation, where a Green Party supporter named Steve was voting in the 2015 election. He knows that Elizabeth May has no chance of becoming Prime Minister, and also hates the Conservative Party. So, he gives his vote to the Liberal Party instead and helps Justin Trudeau win the election, because Trudeau’s ideas are more similar to the Green Party than the Conservative Party. This is the basis of strategic voting, and is commonplace under the FPTP system.

Alternative Voting: used in Australia


  1. Similar to FPTP, voters choose candidates in their riding, and the party with the most ridings won becomes the governing party.
  2. However, the majority of voters are better represented in this situation:
    1. Instead of choosing one candidate, voters rank the candidates.
    2. If one party receives more than 50% of the voters’ first choice, they win the riding.
    3. If not, then the candidate with the LOWEST amount of votes is eliminated. Then, the second choice of the voters who chose the lowest-ranking candidate is calculated, and added to the other competing parties.
    4. If one party now has more than 50% support, they win the riding. If not, the process is repeated again with the candidate with the next-lowest number of votes.

Alternative voting is seen as a major alternative to the FPTP system, because the party with the most support (usually the first or second choice) will win the election. However, a major deficiency about alternative voting is that smaller parties still aren’t well-represented, because the candidate with the lowest amount of votes automatically loses. Also, more neutral parties have a massive advantage, since having more second-place votes from parties that are eliminated can add up. In Canada, the Broadbent Institute calculated in 2015 that the Liberals would have won 217 seats under the alternative voting system compared to the 183 that they actually received.

Party List Proportional Representation: used in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, South Africa, Netherlands, and Switzerland.


  1. Rather than voting for candidates in their region, voters choose a party on a ballot.
  2. The party receives the number of seats completely proportional to their votes.
    1. In closed-vote party list PR, the members are ranked on a pre-determined list by the party, with the highest-ranking members receiving first priority for seats.

This kind of voting is more accurate to what the voters want, because votes will directly result in seats. However, this would make for more minority governments, which will make law-making incredibly difficult. Also, voters aren’t choosing candidates that are from their riding, which means that some regions might receive more attention than others.

Single Transferable Vote: used for Australia’s upper house, and Ireland. [Editor’s note: This is the system that BC had a referendum on in 2004.]


  1. MULTIPLE MP’s are elected in a riding.
    1. Parties can run more than one candidate in a riding.
  2. Voters rank local candidates on ballots, similar to FPTP.
  3. Candidates win seats by reaching a set-number of votes, or a quota
    1. If a candidate meets the quota outright, they win one spot.
    2. The extra votes (i.e. from the quota number and up) are divided among the other parties, through the second-choice ranking mechanism outlined in the Alternative Voting system.
    3. If no other candidate has won, the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated, and the ballots are spread again to the other candidates through second-place votes.
    4. The process is repeated (candidates above the quota passing votes down, and eliminated candidates passing votes up) until all the seats for that riding are filled.

Probably the most complex proposed voting system, the Single Transferable Vote allows for more fair representation, because votes are being distributed from the candidates receiving the most and the least votes. Additionally, parties can run multiple members, meaning that if a riding is dominated by supporters of a single party, they can win more seats. However, that also leads to possible infighting inside a party.

Mixed Member Proportional: used by Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and several other countries.


  1. Each candidate has two votes:
    1. The first is under the exact same system as FPTP.
    2. The second is for a specific party, which then distributes seats to its members based on an algorithm.

The Mixed Member Proportional system is seen as one of the best alternative to Canada’s current FPTP system. Not only are the results similar to the number of citizens that actually voted for a party, but voters can still choose members in their own ridings. Opponents state that the system can be difficult to understand.
Various proposals for electoral reform at the federal level have not come to fruition. In 2015, Justin Trudeau was elected on the promise that the Liberal Party was “committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first past the post.” The notion was supported by all parties. However, the specific kind of new system was hotly contested, as the Liberal Party supported the Alternative Vote, which would have possibly earned them 34 more seats in the 2015 election had the system been implemented. Other parties supported systems that favoured Proportional Representation. Ultimately, the issue was unceremoniously dumped from the Liberal government’s mandate in February 2017.

Canada has had a long and adventurous history with voting rights. A little more than 100 years ago, women and members of most minorities couldn’t vote, meaning that the voices of only a single demographic – rich, influential, white men – could have their voices heard. And although it’s a stretch to compare it to today’s situation, the fundamental and undemocratic issue of our voting system undermining the choices of citizens remains. In order for Canada to be able to tout the fact that we are the most democratic country in the world, we must first be able to ‘walk the walk,’ and overhaul its voting system.

And it probably won’t be very sunny.






All About Canada at the Olympics — March 8, 2018

All About Canada at the Olympics

The Olympics may be over, but what better time to reflect on Canada’s successes? That’s exactly what Vedanshi wants us to do in today’s post. And if you miss the Olympics already, never fear! The Paralympics start tomorrow, March 9 in the early hours of the morning PST. 

Canada has always sent athletes to compete at the Olympic Games (save for the Summer
Games in 1980). Our nation truly maintains an impressive streak in Olympic participation. Not just that – did you know that Canada has won at least one Olympic medal at every Olympic which was participated in? Quite a feat, and is representative of years of hard work, dedication, and determination on the part of athletes and their training teams. To date, Canada has won 472 medals, 125 of which are gold, 158 being silver, and the remaining 189 are bronze. In this article, I will be talking about some of the most memorable wins and notable athletes for Canada.

Clara Hughes is the record holder for being the first and only athlete internationally to have won multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Cindy Klassen is the record holder (along with Clara Hughes) for the most Olympic medals won ever by a Canadian athlete of any gender. The first Canadian male athlete to defend his Olympic Gold medal was Alexandre Bilodeau in his sport, freestyle skiing. Rosie MacLennan became the first Canadian female to defend her Olympic Gold, winning the Gold medal in trampoline gymnastics at both 2012 and 2016 Games.

Canada as host:
Canada has hosted the Olympic Games three times to date, being: the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The 1976 games brought in the most athletes out of all three games, with 6 028 participants. It is notable, however, that the 2010 games comprised of 86 official events – 40 more than the 1988 games.

The Olympics in Vancouver brought with them many new changes to the metropolitan area – in fact, one of the largest to have ever hosted an Olympics. The Vancouver Olympic Committee spent $16.6 Million on upgrading all facilities at Cypress Mountain, a location used frequently during the Olympics for events under the freestyle skiing and snowboarding categories. The Richmond Olympic Oval was one of the most notable facilities built for the Olympics, and remains a top-class sports, recreation, and health centre in Richmond. What piqued the interest of onlookers was the fact that the Oval was built at sea level, which is a rare occurrence for any Olympic facility internationally.

Speaking of few-seen sights, Vancouver became the first city to have hosted the official opening ceremonies indoors! In 2010, Canadian athletes won the first gold medal at an Olympic game hosted by Canada – something which was not accomplished in either 1976 or 1988. The winning streak continued through the games as Canada broke the record set by the Soviet Union in 2002 by winning 14 Olympic Gold medals, being the most won by a host nation. These games also comprised of moments of true pride for other nations as well. Did you know that athletes from Slovakia and Belarus won the first-ever Winter Olympic Gold medals for their nations?

Canadian Olympic performance:
At the moment, Canada is the leading nation with the most victories ever in three Winter
Olympic Sports, and one Summer Olympic Sport. In the Summer Olympics, Canada is the world leader for Lacrosse, with two Gold medals and one Bronze medal. Lacrosse is, in fact, the national sport of Canada! Did you know that Canada has never won an Olympic medal in any of the following sports: Archery, Badminton, Canoeing, Fencing, Field Hockey, or Table Tennis?

Perhaps YOU or an athlete in your community will bring a victory back home at the next
Summer Olympics. At the Winter Olympics, Canada is a world leader in not one, not two, but THREE Olympic sports. These are Ice Hockey (21 total medals), Freestyle Skiing (25 total medals), and Curling (11 total medals).

In doing my research, I discovered so much more about Canadian accomplishments on the international stage that I never even knew about before. Hopefully, you were able to learn lots about Canada’s wonderful performances! As we all continue to monitor the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, let us take a moment to talk about the legendary history our nation has woven at the Olympic Games. I am certain we are feeling proud as a nation collectively for our athletes’ performances, which they are able to do as a result of many years of dedication to their training and sport.


Writing Lives — March 6, 2018

Writing Lives

Today Sasha is here to share with us a bit about an important program taking place at Langara College – and her own family history. What are some other stories that are disappearing? How can you help save the stories from the past in your own life? Know of a similar program? Let us know in the comments!


The beginning of this academic year marked the second installment of Writing Lives:
The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project at Langara College. Headed by Dr. Rachel Mines,
my aunt, this class gives students the invaluable opportunity to hear the stories of Holocaust survivors first hand, an experience that is getting rarer and rarer. Students spend the first term of this course examining the historical context of the Holocaust through literary and historical texts and are then paired up with Holocaust survivors in order to interview them and write out their memoirs in the second term. In the midst of what seems like a rise of anti-Semitism in Canada, with a 24% increase in hate crimes against Canada’s Jewish population from 2015 to 2016 and a bomb threat to the Jewish Community Centre in Vancouver in March of 2017, opportunities like these to truly understand and connect with survivors of one of the most horrific crimes against humanity cannot be underestimated in importance.


Alex Buckman, a child survivor of the Holocaust speaks to the Writing Lives: The
Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project at Langara. (photo by Pamela Post)

Mines, a child of Holocaust survivors herself, says about this class: “I’ve known… my
whole life… that these are important stories and I’ve also known that they normally don’t get told.” These stories are obviously close to the hearts of descendants of Holocaust survivors, such as myself and my aunt, but the more Holocaust survivors age and there become fewer stories they can share, the more important this transgenerational transfer of information becomes. Projects like The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project that have an objective of telling the untold experiences of survivors are imperative to keeping the legacy of the Holocaust alive and ensuring that these crimes against humanity never repeat themselves. Through this class, the students’ written memoirs are archived at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and the Azrieli Foundation. By integrating this all too often overlooked part of our history into both her profession and the lives of dozens of students across the Lower Mainland, Mines is successfully combating anti-Semitism in the best way she knows how: keeping
the stories of Holocaust survivors relevant.

Buckman, sharing his story with two students from the Writing Lives: The Holocaust
Survivor Memoirs Project. (photo by Pamela Post)

Alex Buckman, the president of the Vancouver Child Survivors of the Holocaust and
one of storytellers participating in the program has shared his story with thousands of
students. Spending his childhood in Belgium, Buckman survived Nazi controlled Europe
hiding with non-Jewish families and in an orphanage from 4 to 6 and a half, when the war ended. Both of his parents were killed at Auschwitz and so he was raised by his aunt,
Rebecca Teitelbaum, who made it out of the concentration camp Ravensbrück. She had
clandestinely written a recipe book while slaving in the camp and recipes that she could
remember, such as an orange cake, populated Buckman’s childhood after liberation. The
family immigrated to Montreal and settled in the best they could, though experiences during the war complicated things when it came to living a “normal” life. Buckman has been an active member in the community of Holocaust survivors, sharing both his story and his aunt’s orange cake recipe, by now a symbol of the power of love over hate.

Langara’s Writing Lives: The Holocaust Survivor Memoir Project gives the opportunity to survivors like Buckman to speak freely of their experiences and play their important and well-earned role in writing history and shaping the way new generations view the Holocaust.
Anti-Semitism on the rise in Canada: Statistics Canada

Money in Canada — February 26, 2018

Money in Canada

Today, Anisha is here to tell us about the history of currency in Canada – from bartering to bitcoin. Where do you think currency is going next? Let us know in the comments!


Canadian currency has gone from being fur to being a unit that exists
partially online. To understand the shift we need to understand the history.

The Indigenous Peoples’ systems
Before European contact, Indigenous peoples in Canada had systems they relied on when trading and bartering goods. The Indigenous peoples traded goods such as copper, furs, and other resources. In particular, some eastern North American Indigenous peoples used belts called Wampum Belts as a medium for exchange. However, the Belt only became a currency after European contact; before then they were an important means of transmitting information and contracts. Shell-bead Wampum Belts were highly valued partly because of the hard-to-make shell beads. On average it took ninety days to make all the beads for one Wampum. Wampum quickly became a vital part of the fur trade as European settlers used them to trade for beaver pelts with people living inland. Wampum did not reign as currency very long after contact because it transitioned from a currency back to a ceremonial object by the early-nineteenth century. Today, some Indigenous peoples still use it in this manner. [Editor’s note: Wampum have a long and significant story of their own. If you’re interested in this topic, a good place to start is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy website.]

The rise of banks
In Canada, during the 1810’s more people started to trust banks because it became troublesome to carry large amounts of gold and silver. This resulted in a rapid rise of banks. Banks started to create their own currency out of gold and silver people had deposited into their vaults. One of the largest banks of that time was the Bank of Montréal (BMO); BMO imported its tokens from England and stamped most of them with their name. This, unfortunately, did not work well, because the lack of intricacy made the tokens easy to forge. To avoid more fraud three banks in Montréal and one in Quebec made a new version on the token. The improved token had an image of an habitant (early French settler) on one side and the Montréal coat of arms and the name of the bank on the other side. These tokens quickly became known as the Papineau. The coin was named after Louis Joseph Papineau because of his leadership role in the reformation of Lower Canada.

In the mid-1850’s Canada increased trade with the USA. At this time Canada chose to replace the sterling system that they had adapted from Britain in 1760 with the US decimal system. The colonies changed the system and issued new coins in 1, 5, 10, and 50 cent denominations. They made the transition in 1853-1857. After the adaptation it is important to acknowledge that US currency was also accepted in most parts of the  colonies.

In 1867 several provinces in Canada formed the Dominion of Canada – an event known as Confederation. For the first time the government took it upon themselves to make a currency of their own. This started with Ottawa creating 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent coins. These were all usable in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia under the Confederation Act. As Canada started to develop more it made the decision in 1868 to take US currency out of circulation, ensuring that only Canadian coins were used.

The First Coin
The first Canadian coin made its debut in 1908 at the opening ceremony of the Royal Mint in Ottawa. The first domestically produced coin in Canada was a silver 50 cent coin bearing an image of King Edward VII.

Since 1908 the look and the value of each coin has been continually changing. Now coins and bills are just one aspect of the way Canadians use money. In past years bills that have great worth have been taken out of circulation, for example the $1000 and $500 bills, because many opt to use their debit or credit cards instead. Today our money features a variety of security features that help prevent counterfeiting, and comes in different colours. Our coins are more creative now than ever and it is likely they will continue to evolve on that path.

Bitcoin was created in 2008 due to the need for a secure place to store money and execute payments. It was one of the first digital currencies but today there are over 900 forms of cryptocurrency. Now governments are banning this currency in their countries. Over the past 10 years Bitcoin has become the largest cryptocurrency and is worth well over 12,500 Canadian dollars as of January 30th, 2018. Many believe that Bitcoin is here to stay and say that governments are only rebelling against these cryptocurrencies
because not everyone deeply understands this concept. Recent advancements in this area suggest a bright future for the coin. Some think that Bitcoin will be successful because of its security. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are an extremely secure method of payment. One of the reasons it is so secure is because it is completely anonymous. It is extremely difficult to identify who is purchasing or selling the Bitcoin, and no personal information is ever released during any transaction. This idea of anonymity makes it almost impossible for hackers to trace back the money to anyone. Also, none of this
information is accessible by the government either. Bitcoin is a currency similar to our Canadian dollar except it is much more secure online. But despite all of this information, some people refuse to believe in Bitcoin.

Since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are so secure and have the ability to be completely anonymous, Bitcoin has been used by criminals to hide money. This can be deemed unethical since its anonymity makes it harder to track down these criminals. Even if Bitcoin does not become as successful as some hope, online currencies are still our future. If it is not Bitcoin, something else similar to it will be created because new
advancements and evolution are inescapable.

If you told someone in the early 20th century that your money is kept on a plastic card it would have been thought impossible. So it only makes sense that our cards are going to evolve into something that exists in the online atmosphere.

For more on bitcoin, check out this video.

Heritage Week in BC — February 19, 2018

Heritage Week in BC

Today is the start of Heritage Week in BC, and Julia is here to tell us a bit about this year’s theme and how we can spend the week reflecting on and learning about our collective past.


Heritage Week in BC – by Julia

For history lovers around the province, February is an especially exciting month. From February 19th to 25th, it is Heritage Week in BC. The purpose of Heritage Week is to encourage everyone to commemorate historical events and celebrate communities. To add to the fun each year brings a new theme, with this year’s theme being “Heritage Stands the Test of Time.”

“Heritage Stands the Test of Time” reflects on the means of documenting history through photographs, maps, stories, and more. However, it is also important to reflect on what this theme means to us as individuals and how it affects us personally. As society constantly changes, it is fascinating to see evidence of what events sparked significant differences in our lives.

This past July, Canada celebrated 150 years since Confederation, and the theme chosen for this year’s Heritage Week may have been selected because of this; there is so much to celebrate. From tracing our roots, studying triumphant moments, and the continuation of stories and traditions, there is much to discuss about Canada and the privilege it is to be citizens of this country.

British Columbia has many defining moments throughout history, and though some hold more value than others in the eyes of some people, many are moments to be proud of.

British Columbia officially became a part of Canada on July 20, 1871, four years after Confederation. This sealed our fate; we would be Canadians. It was initially hard to convince British Columbia to join Canada, as the United States were also trying to bribe BC to join them. However, Canada offered two undeniable things: they would absorb all of BC’s debt (BC had enough debt that this was a real concern), and they would connect BC to the rest of Canada via a railroad (CPR). How would this event have been documented? Certainly through legal papers, but what other ways could you come up with?

Prior to joining Confederation, there was the arrival of Europeans, and the gold rush, which brought a lot of attention and a lot of visitors. The gold rush proof lies even in the buildings that remain in historical cities like Barkerville. After all of these events, we can talk about the CPR – the accomplishments of it, how useful it’s been to us as a country, but that’s a whole other story. Women’s Right to Vote in BC was an amazing accomplishment, and a start to equality. Though we were a bit behind other provinces to act, we managed to come around.

Though there really is much to celebrate, there are also many moments where we went wrong. Our opportunity to reflect is not only about priding ourselves on everything we did right, but acknowledging all the wrongs. There are many shadows in our province’s past and the best thing we can do is to learn from those mistakes, to do our best to fix whatever happened (if there is anything we can do, even if it is as little as a public apology), and to make sure we don’t let those same mistakes happen again. People say history repeats itself, but that may be because we don’t take the time to reflect on how we can improve our situation. We don’t take time to learn from what we have already done wrong.

Two of the most talked about mistakes that spring to mind are the mistreatment of Chinese CPR workers and the Residential Schools. There is no doubt that there are many more situations that are less talked about, less known. Throughout the building of the CPR, the government saw the Chinese as some sort of business opportunity. They paid them terribly, and treated them like slaves. Caucasian men working on the railway were paid more and didn’t have to pay to stay in a proper shelter or for their food. The Chinese were paid a bare minimum, and that salary was decreased by having to buy food. If they wanted to have some sort of roof over their heads, that erased their salary completely, and how were they supposed to help bring over their family by earning no money?

The Residential Schools involved taking indigenous children from their homes in order to force them to the Catholic beliefs. The goal of this was to render them powerless, to give the government the power over people who had lived here far longer. Children were dehumanized – names taken away, just another body in the same uniform. Not to mention the countless stories of abuse at the hands of various staff members, the small amount of food they were given, the improper medical care, the robbing of their culture and language… it was a prison where children could never see their families, and that is horrifying. 

Other events such as the internment of Japanese-Canadians further illustrate government discrimination against non-European individuals and groups. As we think of Heritage Week and how events were documented, we can’t exclude these moments. Their stories are very much alive, and as our society changes, as the world changes, we have to do our best to help everyone, because we are all human. Heritage Week’s meaning goes deeper than just the analysis of a few pictures here and there.

All in all, Heritage Week is an important time to acknowledge how far we have come and how far we have to go. This week is not only for thinking, but also about doing. Many communities have arranged special events to commemorate history of all sorts. Though some moments of Canadian history are not the proud defining moments we wish they were, we can use those experiences to better ourselves and improve the society we live in today.

Take a moment to do something history-related this week – it doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it be a walk around your city looking at heritage buildings, an organized event or seminar at a museum, or even calling your grandmother to ask her about how things worked when she was little… the most important part is that you are reflecting, that you are taking a moment to appreciate life. Heritage Week may inspire you to take action, even in the smallest sense. You can use this opportunity to make a difference in your community through volunteering and in the process, educating yourself. Happy Heritage Week!
Sources: https://heritagebc.ca/events-activities/heritage-week/




The Softwood Lumber Dispute — January 20, 2018

The Softwood Lumber Dispute

Submitted by Veronica

Canada and the US have had a turbulent history of lumber trade, dating back as far as the 1800s. For example, in the 1820s, lumber interests was one of the motivators for the Maine-New Brunswick border dispute. Likewise, today, the dispute around the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada and the US centres around softwood lumber trade.

Essentially, this disagreement stems from the fact that Canada and the USA have different structures in our respective forestry sectors. In the USA, the majority of forested land belongs to private owners. Meanwhile, in Canada, most of the land is crown land, that is, belonging to the government. The land is then leased out to companies, who are charged a “stumping fee”. This is decided by each individual province based on a variety of factors. However, the US softwood lumber industry has argued repeatedly that these stumping fees are artificially low in Canada. As a result, they claim Canada is conferring an unfair “subsidy,” which injures the American industry. This issue of conflicting lumber interests has continued to today, featuring four distinct disputes.

Lumber I (1982-1983)

In late 1982, American sawmillers asked the US Department of Commerce (hereafter to be known as Commerce) to investigate the stumpage system in British Columbia and three other provinces. However, the following year, Commerce came to the conclusion that the stumpage fees couldn’t be offset with a new tax (a countervailing duty).

Lumber II (1986-1991)

A second claim from the American industry group led the Commerce to alter its calculations. It found that Canada’s stumpage system had a subsidy of 15%. That is, the government was unfairly granting the lumber industry 15% of the money used. Subsequently, the US and Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which forced Canada to collect a 15% countervailing duty on all lumber exported from the country. Though this duty remained, Canada eventually terminated the MOU.

Lumber III (1992-2001)

After the MOU was terminated, Commerce initiated a new investigation into the countervailing duty, and concluded that it was against the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (since replaced by the World Trade Organization), which regulated trade between countries. They claimed that BC and three other provinces had unfair subsidies which were not balanced by countervailing duties, and thus the US International Trade Centre imposed a new countervailing duty.

Canada appealed this decision to two panels of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and both decided in favour of Canada. They also decided the Commerce’s calculations were actually in direct contrast to the law because they used the American price of lumber to decide the value of foreign lumber. Following this decision, the USA requested an Extraordinary Challenge Committee, but the panel again decided in favour of Canada.

With the USA delaying the refund of past duties and another round of countervailing duties investigations approaching, Canada and the USA signed a new MOU. Through this Softwood Lumber Agreement (STA), the United States refunded the duties collected in Lumber III. Meanwhile, Canada agreed to impose a fixed tax on softwood production above a certain amount. This deal was difficult for many Canadians working in the softwood industry, especially BC, and resulted in numerous layoffs and closure. The STA expired in 2001.

Lumber IV (2001 to the present)

Which brings us to the present. The current softwood lumber dispute began when the 2006 North American Free Trade Agreement expired. Also known as NAFTA, this makes trade easier by removing restrictions and tariffs between Canada, Mexico, and the United States in order to promote economic growth. In addition to softwood lumber, this deal also includes regulations on telecommunications, intellectual property, mobility of workers, and the environment.

In addition to being the longest-standing dispute, Lumber IV has been complicated by elaborate petitions filed by the USA’s Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. In it, they identified numerous provincial and federal government programs, which they claimed to be subsidizing the lumber industry. They also petitioned for an investigation of certain Canadian companies for unfairly charging international consumers, including the USA, more for softwood lumber than what would be charged domestically (Canada). This is known as dumping.

Today, there have been rumblings of the USA withdrawing from NAFTA, which would greatly affect Canada economically. It is common knowledge that lumber is an important export for Canada, especially for those in the Canadian Shield and us on the West Coast. Any change to NAFTA, such as tariffs or restrictions, or the forestry sector of either of the two nations will impact how trade, specifically of softwood lumber, happens, in turn affecting all Canadians. This is especially important for the approximately 250 lumber mills in BC, most in rural locations.








The History of New Year’s Celebrations — December 31, 2017

The History of New Year’s Celebrations

By Jolie

When many think of New Year’s celebrations, the Times Square ball drop comes to mind. Over one
million dollars are spent every year to plan and execute the world-famous event. 50,000 watts of energy is
used just on the ball, which weighs 11,875 pounds. The statistics are met with staggering audiences; well
over one billion people are expected to watch this year, either in person or on television. But why do the
festivities exist? Why do we even celebrate the New Year?

The exact date itself comes from Julius Caesar, who established the Julian calendar (named after himself,
naturally) as he took over Rome. The first month was called January after the Roman god Janus, who had
one face looking ahead and one behind. This is believed to be the origin of the concept of change and
rebirth in the New Year, most notably in the form of New Year’s resolutions. He marked the date with
copious amounts of alcohol and lavish parties.

Despite Caesar’s best efforts, though, the celebration fell out of favour some centuries later in 567 A.D. as
New Year’s was deemed sacrilegious. Dates were marked by celebrations of Christian importance, such
as Christmas Day and the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. January 1 was later given the
significance of Jesus’ circumcision, which was what Christians of the time considered the death of

The New Year was overhauled once again by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, who imposed the Gregorian
calendar upon Europe. Although New Year’s Day was still January 1, the calendar was pushed ten days
forward in comparison to Caesar’s measurement. Unfortunately, history took a dark turn as the new
Gregorian date turned into an occasion for Christians to torment Jewish people throughout the Medieval
period and beyond. Many synagogues and Jewish texts were destroyed in the grim process.

Fast forward to 1752, when the Gregorian calendar was accepted in Britain and her colonies of what is now
Canada and the United States. About one and a half centuries later, in the early 1900’s, fireworks boomed
over Manhattan courtesy of one Adolph S. Ochs, who would launch them from the top of his newspaper’s
building. By then, the genocidal undertone to New Year’s had dissolved; Ochs was a Jew who actively
campaigned against anti-Semitism. As the molten byproducts rained down on passersby, though, the
government prohibited the annual show and left Ochs looking for a new way to impress his high-society
friends. The ball drop was born from his efforts, and the tradition remains today.

An often-overlooked fact is that not everybody celebrates New Year’s according to the sparkling sphere.
Chinese New Year, which lands on varying days because it follows the Lunar Calendar, is a more well-
known celebration. Its less prominent but equally splendid counterparts include Enkutatash, the Ethiopian
New Year, celebrated on September 11 with much dancing and singing. Thai people observe
Songkran, celebrated from April 13-15.

No matter the origin and religion, though, all New Year’s events bring families together to eat, celebrate, and wish each other a prosperous New Year.



Welcome New Alumni Council! — December 4, 2017

Welcome New Alumni Council!

Please welcome your BC Heritage Fairs Alumni Council for the 2017-2018 year! We are excited to have so many familiar faces back on the council, as well as some new faces. This year we have some great things planned, so watch this space to see what we’re up to.

Your Alumni Council are: Abrielle (Vancouver), Anisha (Delta-Surrey), Gita (Richmond), Jaia (Richmond), Jolie (Richmond), Julia (Kamloops-Thompson Rivers), Lucas (Rivers to Sea), Rehma (Delta-Surrey), Sasha (Vancouver), Vedanshi (Richmond), and Veronica (Richmond). Check out their full bios on our Meet your Alumni Council page!

We are also really excited to announce that BC Heritage Fairs Society now has registered charity status, so if you’re stumped for gifts for the holidays or want to get in some last-minute donations for 2017, we would be grateful for the support. You can make a one-time or monthly donation, or become a member of the Society here.

2017-2018 Alumni Applications are out! — September 20, 2017