Media

Canada Games have stood the test of time, so happy birthday to that

No Comments 16 August 2017

Next weekend, more than 20,000 Canadians are expected to converge at the centre of Canada as Winnipeg hosts the Games. The prime minister is planning to make an appearance along with many national politicians and provincial premiers.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published on Monday, July 17, 2017 in The Hill Times.

 

OTTAWA—Birthdays have a way of spawning new ideas. Whether it is a resolution to lose weight, a decision to do more good, or a plan to simply stop sweating the small stuff, milestone moments can be catalysts.

That holds true for a country as well as a person.

So many good ideas have been generated during Canada’s 150th that it is hard to know where to start. Whether it is a street party, a community festival or a cross-country relay, people reach out during our celebration in a way that makes all of us reconnect with community.

Some of the events will be ephemeral, fleeting opportunities to meet. Others will stand the test of time.

The Canada Games event is one of those birthday presents that has stood the test of time. The largest, multiple sporting event in the country, it was launched 50 years ago on Canada’s 100th birthday.

Next weekend, more than 20,000 Canadians are expected to converge at the centre of Canada as Winnipeg hosts the Games. The prime minister is planning to make an appearance along with many national politicians and provincial premiers.

The Canada Games are a must-attend event on the summer political barbecue circuit.

The organization is even stronger today than when it started as a centennial project.

Held in a different Canadian community every two years, with alternating winter and summer versions, the sporting theme replicates the Olympic Games model. It even features a Canada Games torch relay, named after an iconic supporter, New Brunswicker Roly McLenahan.

This year’s torch was lit from the Parliament Hill eternal flame on June 6 and has been wending its way through Manitoba for the past several weeks in preparation for the July 28 opening ceremony.

The Winnipeg gathering marks only the second time in history that two First Nations will co-host the event.

Featuring 16 sports, more than 250 events, and a major cultural festival, the 2017 Canada Games will welcome more than 4,000 athletes and coaches.

The Canada Games have also become a major cultural draw, offering the host city a chance to showcase musical talent, while welcoming artists from across Canada. This year’s opening ceremonies include Serena Ryder from Ontario, Quebec’s Coeur de Pirate and Winnipeg’s own Juno award-winning Brothers’ Landreth.

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No Comments 10 August 2017

Media

Birthday hangover still has Ottawa buzzing

No Comments 09 August 2017

All in all, it was a great celebration. We reflected on successes and the many mistakes Canada made in the first 150 years. Learning from both, we are all the better for it.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published on Monday, July 10, 2017 in The Hill Times.

 

OTTAWA—Thank goodness the sesquicentennial only happens every 150 years.

Nobody can pronounce it anyway, and the birthday hangover still has Ottawa buzzing.

A half million people descended on the capital to join in the Canada Day party and it was a blast. Contrary to media reports about the downsized crowd, there were about 100,000 waiting in line at the two entrance points one had to pass to get on to Parliament Hill.

I know, because I was one of them.

Given my advanced age, (64), I briefly contemplated watching the noon-day celebration from the comfort of my own living room. But I could not resist the lure of the real thing.

During my eight years as Heritage minister, July 1 was a heavy workday. With speechmaking, artistic programming and multiple important visitors, the team was always on high alert to make sure nothing went wrong. Inevitably, something always did.

One year, we festooned the VIP seats with paper flags sponsored by a national organization representing Canadian chicken farmers. We did not realize that the ink of Canada’s ruby red flag stamped on cheap paper had not set. So when every diplomat rose sing O Canada, I watched in horror as a ragged red flag outline was permanently imprinted on all bespoke diplomatic garb.

One year, Queen Elizabeth looked curiously bemused as two well-hung male circus performers wrapped in nothing but swaddling cloth, performed gyro technics that required the head of one to perch comfortably on the butt of the other. On the same occasion, Her Majesty was introduced to Inuit throat singing, which requires two singers to literally pass the music from one throat to another, again requiring unusual human contact.

Most Canada Days pass without too many hitches, as did our 150th.

Of course, the naysayers could probably point out that when the prime minister did a shout out to all parts of the country, he forgot, of all places, Alberta.

It certainly was not Freudian, as Justin Trudeau has made a special effort during his time in office to reach out to a province that has not always been so friendly to the Liberals.

Luckily, the program was long enough that Trudeau was able to recant his error and proclaim his undying love for the forgotten province in time for the closing song.

There were a couple of other snafus. In one instance, the king of Canadian broadcasting got a more fulsome intro than the real future King, The Prince of Wales, ever the diplomat, took it in stride, delivering a beautifully bilingual speech which sought to underscore the wonderful benefits of being Canadian.

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Media

The creation of Canada was at core of diversity

No Comments 03 August 2017

And 150 years later, it is time for all of us to celebrate.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published on Monday, July 3, 2017 in The Hill Times.

 

OTTAWA—In Canada, the 150th birthday bash seems to have taken on a double meaning.

Bash connotes a happy time when everyone joins together in an unforgettable party.

Bash can also mean a chance to take a dump on the very birthday celebration that drew hundreds of thousands of Canadians to Parliament Hill.

Some of the worst birthday bashers were the aboriginal naysayers who erected a protest teepee on Parliament Hill to protest ‘our home on native land.’

They achieved their goal, garnering headlines about legitimate aboriginal grievances that have not been rectified during the lifetime of Canada’s existence.

In so doing, they missed a huge opportunity to build a bridge instead of burning it.

How easy would it have been for the original fathers of Confederation to walk away from the agreement to create Canada because of differences of language and different religion? To welcome those differences into one political construct took courage, and a willingness to reach out.

Real leaders know how to step beyond divides and bring people together.

U.S. President Donald Trump has shown how easy it is to build walls. He nurtured a political base founded on racial and religious resentment.

That strategy was politically profitable in the short term. Demagogues and despots have always understood how easy it is to divide people on the basis of race, religion and colour.

It should be our collective responsibility to support bridge building and decry division.

That is why the decision of aboriginal protesters to try to undermine the nation’s celebratory mood on Canada’s birthday was a mistake. That is why the recent ban on police participation in the Toronto Pride parade was also a mistake.

The Black Lives Matter movement, that spearheaded the police ban, has legitimate beefs related to racial profiling, discrimination and biased treatment by police. So does the gay community.

Some of us are old enough to remember the horror of the Toronto bathhouse raids.

But to go from that unhappy period to a situation when gay supporters from the police join in celebration of diversity can only be viewed a huge step forward.

What does blocking police accomplish in the effort to eliminate bias and discrimination?

If anything, the Black Lives Matter movement is simply reinforcing reverse discrimination. Just like police should not be stopping people on the streets and randomly asking for proof of identity just because of their colour, so parade goers should not ban all police on the basis that some have been, and continue to be homophobic and/or racist.

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