I started 2017 with a plan—or at the very least, something resembling one.
Months later, most Canadians probably forgot, but we did indeed celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year! The hype was all too real between Ottawa’s grandiose plans and brand aplenty who wanted to make their mark—everyone wanted in on the celebration, myself no exception with #Chronicle150—150 Truly Canadian Stories for its 150th Birthday!
I figured why not—I had experience putting group projects together with two years of Tales from the 2.9 under my belt. At a larger scale, this couldn’t be that bad, right? Yeah… I was in no way ready for what came next.
#Chronicle150, or, Why You Need to Stand Behind What You’re Creating
Logistics aside—it is not easy to find 150 Canadians to write for a little-known Toronto blog; you’d be better off interviewing them instead—I’d never really stopped to think about what Canada turning 150 meant to me.
You may know part of my story already—born in Mississauga, Ontario in 1983, Canada’s all I’ve ever known. Sure, I’ve visited plenty of places, but Toronto always brings me back home—I always feel it in my bones after a few weeks away.
But my family’s Canadian story doesn’t start with me—it goes back to my parents who came here in the ’70s, or even my grandmothers in the ’60s, all looking to build better futures for the generations that followed. Their stories involved culture shock, racism, hard hustles and the search for community—they softened the blow of the darker side of Canadian living for me by guiding my path to make sure I wouldn’t need to experience the same things.
You can’t just erase that, though—the story of people who emigrated from a country with a history mired deep in slavery and colonialism to another entirely foreign one seeking better opportunities.
Another country whose history showed much of the same.
What Did #Canada150 Mean to Me?
When the anti-#Canada150 sentiment starting bubbling up in the months approaching Canada Day, I finally paused to think about things I’d never really given a fair chance. The tens of thousands of years of rich indigenous culture and history trampled underfoot. The vast amount of economic disparity and limited opportunity that’s still rampant in Canada despite our advances. I’ve benefitted greatly from the sacrifices my parents made to get me this far… but I’m lucky. Most people don’t get the same shot that I did—it was time I took off my rose-coloured glasses and drink my nation is for what it was… and that’s exactly what froze me in my tracks.
Was I over-simplifying things? Was my work part of the problem or the solution? Should I do more as a person of colour than just “follow the program” and challenge how we marketed #Canada150 and what it meant to everyone? I started contemplating and stopped creating, and now months later I’m here finally in a place where I’m better aware of what this nation means to me and what I can do to show its stories in a way that says something.
Canada’s Not All Good, But You Have to Accept That. And Then Improve It.
As a Canadian born and bred, I must take the good and the bad of my country and use it to make life better for everyone in its borders. That means a lot of listening to people I’d usually never hear out, trying to understand the multiple viewpoints that make up our nation’s mosaic. It means using the platform I’ve built so far to hold the hard conversations, looking to effect change instead of merely accepting our faults.
It means knowing that some good has come from Canada’s last 150 years, but also doing what I can to make the next 150 even better, hoping I can improve things for more than just the people immediately around me in the process.
Lofty, yes, but what are our lives really if we refuse to challenge ourselves and see what we can actually achieve? It’s time for me to do just that.
#Chronicle200 — By Then, We’ll Hopefully Get it Right!
So now I’ve aired my grievances. Why I lost excitement for a project and left it to fester rather than see it through on schedule.
But that still doesn’t make it all right. It doesn’t make good on the time and effort of those who contributed but didn’t see their work published. Or improve the national narrative with stories from its people that may go untold otherwise. Which is why with their permission, I’ll be publishing the last #Chronicle150 stories as part of my year-end blitz. There’s some great work I’ve selfishly kept to myself, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have!
In the meantime, I’m moving on and moving forward. With 2018 just around the corner, there’s plenty to prepare for with a newly-rebranded Tales from the 2.9 and everything needed to continue challenging what’s possible from this digital medium.
Learning from your mistakes—sometimes that’s the best we can do!
Until the next,