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Archive for the ‘Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation’ Category

In the fall of 2016, I was approached by C.P. Champion, editor of The Dorchester Review, to join a chorus of other writers offering short commentary pieces in response to the question: “How can we strengthen our traditions?”

An innocuous question, and not particularly specific, but then again, that was the point. It’s the context where that question found its legs: throughout 2017, there was a Canadian — and worldwide — conversation around statues, building names, and colonialism that sent tempers soaring, municipalities running, and social media humming.

Campion’s original email set the tone: “Casting a wary eye over the current wave of iconoclasm, statue-toppling, quasi-forced resignations, and all-round history-purging…”. So, the point of view is ‘wary.’ Huh. So I had to really think: Is this the genre of scholarship where I fit, especially since I’m no longer a practicing scholar?

The Dorchester Review receives mixed accolades, and that’s just fine by me. I’ve never been comfortable with the scholar-as-activist model, I do believe that there are points to be made on many sides of a lot of issues, and by the way, they offered to pay me — which is something no ‘scholarly’ journal has ever offered for my work.

Published twice per year by the Foundation for Civic Literacy, The Dorchester Review is a literary and historical journal that deliberately challenges concepts of political correctness. There are a lot of older white men propounding in the pages, and at times I read little more than a more refined version of the same arguments that fill the air at the local John Deere dealership, but even so, gems can be found. If you’re an armchair military historian, there will be much to enjoy. A lot of it is an uncomfortable read for me — but, I’m OK with that. Discomfort is important. If we only read the stuff we already agree with, what exactly are we learning?

The forum is called Safe-Guarding Traditionswhich includes thoughts from twenty-three writers, including me. And — here was the publishing dream — my name is on the top-row, between two authors whose work I enjoy: David Frum and Noah Richler. How about that! I enjoyed Brigitte Pellerin‘s call to “Be the Change,” to strengthen our own ability ‘to converse with others in the political arena’ while listening to points with which we disagree. Noah Richler’s “The Healing Circle” wants Canadians to tear down our existing house of Parliament to construct a new one. That was a bit of a hard pill for me, a past member of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. Yet the central point is exquisite: our leadership (MPs, elders and senators, and the Canadian people and press gallery) should sit in three concentric healing circles in a new space without colonial history. David Frum asks us to rename the August long weekend holiday to commemorate the battle of Amiens, a turning point in World War I. That, too, bears thought.

But I wrote something completely different. I started on the expected route, examining “How can we strengthen our traditions?” and how I might answer it. My preference has always been for buildings, bridges, and other social landmarks to be named for anyone or anything other than politicians (plants, animals, birds, heck, insects would be better in some cases); and I’m in favour of more statues, not less (supports the broader arts community, gives a focal point for public spaces, and a place for birds). But, were these points truly unique? No. So…delete delete delete.

Moments before the deadline, I had a bit of an epiphany. I didn’t have to write about statues, parliament, pieces of paper or names on buildings. What were some of our Saskatchewan traditions…and how could we in Saskatchewan make them stronger? Campion’s invitation arrived in fall, it was CFL season, and the Riders were top of mind. So, I thought, there is my hook. How can we in Saskatchewan make our Rider traditions even better?

I came up with a little piece I call Green is the Colour.

Green Is the Colour

For copyright reasons, I can’t reproduce the whole thing here. But here’s the final call (while crossing my fingers which I’m hoping will not be slapped too hard):

green-is-the-colour-2.jpg

So… Federated Co-operatives Limited, that’s your next project: create for us a potion. And sell it at the co-op. That is how we’ll strengthen a major Saskatchewan tradition.

 

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Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation

The new homepage of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation https://www.saskheritagefoundation.com/ 

Well, it’s happened: I’m mentioned in the Hansard! (See page 32, under Bill 90, and keep reading).

If you’re not a historian, the Hansard is the record of what is said in the Saskatchewan legislature. It contains the debates, transcribed, as well as the record of visitors, bills being put forward, and shows the province’s political leaders going about the business of government. It’s a great resource to know what’s happening, and to track political debate over time.

So, how did I get there? I wrote an op-ed about the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation that was published in the Star Phoenix. This op-ed is all about the disparity in support for heritage projects around the province, as well as criticism of the way the current bureaucracy in the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport (where the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation is connected) has been running roughshod over the Foundation.

It’s a hard-hitting piece. I was on the Board of the SHF for three years, and I had a lot to say about heritage in Saskatchewan, and the way the SHF board has been working hard to protect, and fight for, the groups working on heritage projects across the province. In the end, I called for those currently running for the leadership of the Saskatchewan Party to look into the debacle, and get things straightened out.

I’ve since spoken about the issue to sitting MLAs and Saskatchewan Party leadership contenders, because this is an issue that transcends party politics. The SHF has been in existence, helping the people of Saskatchewan for more than 25 years. Heritage is not about politics. It’s about dedicated people fighting hard to save their heritage buildings and cultural landscapes, from north to south, and from east to west across Saskatchewan. Every political party and MLA has a heritage project in their backyard. And the current Ministry officials in the department of Heritage for the province of Saskatchewan are not doing a good job of supporting the SHF, its board, goals, and by extension the people of Saskatchewan.

I’m glad to see some traction on this issue. I understand that the pressure will continue, and I’m encouraged to know that it’s now in the Hansard as a permanent record — even if they accidentally thought that I’m a male, not a female historian.

To sitting and incoming MLAs: keep this on your radar. The people of Saskatchewan expect it: Do better.

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