A part of our heritage.
Say those words to any Canadian in their thirties, and they will either mime a frantic telegraph operator or tell you they smell burnt toast.
No, we’re not all insane.
Years ago, when my age cohort was young and impressionable, a series of short films were aired on TV alongside commercials for Skip-Its and Ninja Turtle figurines. These “Heritage Minutes” were sponsored by various corporations over the years and were aired on Canadian TV networks as a way to increase the amount of Canadian content we were exposed to.
Thus we learned about Doctor Wilder Penfield, pioneer in neurosurgery and mapper of the brain, first director of McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute.
We learned about the Halifax Explosion of 1917, where a ship loaded with explosives caught fire in the harbour after a collision. The disaster would have claimed more lives than it did had it not been for the sacrifice of Vince Coleman, a telegraph operator who stayed at his post to warn incoming trains of the danger.
While we absorbed Saturday morning cartoons, we learned of hockey heroes, war heroes, inventors and pioneers, all Canadian, all a part of our shared heritage. Those short films have stayed with me for decades now, snippets of them playing in my head, their words waiting on my tongue.
“I, Emily Murphy, of Alberta, and all Canadian women after me: persons, under the law.“
I looked these videos up today because it occurred to me that I’ve forgotten much of my Canadian history. I will need to study American history if I am to pass the citizenship test next year, but much of the Canadian history I learned as a child is beginning to fade. I remember Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain. At least, I remember their names. I remember the Iroquois and their longhouses. I remember Vimy Ridge, and the bright poppy fields of Flanders. But I can’t remember the story. I can’t explain anymore what Canada is, where it came from, how it changed and grew. I am forgetting my heritage.
If you would like to watch more of these videos, and I recommend that you do, there is a playlist of all of them on Youtube here.