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Portrait gallery would be nation's face, by Sen. Serge Joyal, Sen. Jerry S. Grafstein and Sen. Doug Black, Ottawa Citizen

Portrait gallery would be nation's face

Former U.S. embassy is the perfect spot for the much-needed institution, three senators argue

The former American embassy in front of Parliament Hill is, by far, the choicest destination for a Canadian Portrait Gallery. The proposal serves all six of the potential public uses for a gallery outlined by Public Works and Government Services Canada. It will reveal the rich diversity of the more than 50 indigenous nations in Canada by showcasing the human face and peoples who inhabited Canada for millennia.

It will offer access to all of the individuals who have contributed, in their own manner, to the wealth of activities particular to each of the provinces and territories.

It will reveal personalities behind the achievements for which we remain so proud:

whether relating to sports, discoveries and inventions, art, or songs performed or created by Canadian musicians. It will give visitors access to an overview of how the primary wealth of a nation is: whether as parents, workers, farmers, hunters, scientists, teachers, professionals or students, and link them in the rich mosaic of human expression that characterizes the country. It will display the figures the women and men who, throughout our history, have made Canada a thriving democracy. These are among the benefits of a Portrait Gallery that will be a welcome complement to a Parliament Hill visit: the millions of human faces of Canadians who bind us together. It will allow new Canadians to access the evolution of a country that continues to be the No. 1 choice of a majority of people who choose a new homeland.

A Parliamentary Interpretative Centre (which is one of five options under consideration) is redundant. There is already one planned in the renovation of the main Parliament building (2018).

There is a treasure trove of thousands and thousands of portraits stored in the reserves of the National Archives and museums that just wait to be made accessible. The portrait gallery will connect together all institutions, wherever in the country, to share their assets of portrait and relevant materials.

There is certainly something right about Canada: It relates to its people, and how those people have used their freedom to build a unique model of society. Put the emphasis on the people, and you will never be wrong. Among the millions of individuals are the talent, creativity and diversity that make the Canadian human experience unique.

A Portrait Gallery should be the first and foremost choice. It really is the option that celebrates the nation, highlighting the personal history of its people.

The main legacy of the 150th anniversary of Confederation should be a permanent institution that reveals who we are as Canadians and how we can best get to know one another.

Serge Joyal is a senator from Quebec; Jerry S. Grafstein is a former Ontario senator; and Doug Black is an Alberta senator.