Thursday, 14 May 2015

Instead of Terry Fox Day, why not recognize hundreds of Manitobans?

The Manitoba Government is introducing legislation to change the name of the Civic Holiday to Terry Fox Day. (Interesting side note: it appears that it was Winnipeg's first mayor, Frank Cornish, who introduced the Civic Holiday in Winnipeg in 1874 and other cities adopted it. I still need to fully fact check this - stay tuned !)

This post is in now way meant to slag the memory of Terry Fox, but before the only two holidays we have a lot of latitude to rename get named for people (in perpetuity), let's consider New Brunswick's Heritage Day.

Heritage Day is what New Brunswick named their third Monday in February holiday, what we call Louis Riel Day. That Monday happens to be known as Heritage Day nationally, though it is not a national holiday. That is why, for instance, Heritage Canada, Heritage Winnipeg and other history-related groups and museums already did special events that day.

What Nova Scotia did with their Heritage Day is something unique. Each year, the day honours a different historic figure !

For instance,  2015, their first Heritage Day, was in honour of African Nova Scotian Viola Desmond who was arrested when she refused to leave the whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre in 1946. They then rolled out the names of the next six people to be honoured.

What a great way to honour the memory and explore the achievements of not only icons like Terry Fox, but unsung heroes who built our province and are a forgotten footnote in a history book, if they were mentioned at all.

Every community has them. They are from every walk of life, every occupation, every race, religion and colour. You could even do them in groups, (for instance, the centenary of the Winnipeg Falcons winning the first gold medal in men's Olympic hockey is in 2020.)

Of course the sucky thing about doing this in August versus February is that schools are out and you might find key people at museums and archives on holidays. Still, for a city and province that is already pretty meh about celebrating history, we have a chance to celebrate hundreds of Manitobans over the next century if we do this right.

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