Ottawa, February 23, 2017 – The federal government’s decision not to strike a commemorative medal for Canada’s 150th birthday is a missed opportunity to celebrate the country’s history and to advance reconciliation with its Indigenous peoples.
Last month, Senator Serge Joyal introduced a motion in the Senate to produce a medal commemorating the 150th anniversary of Confederation that would recognize the inestimable contribution made by Indigenous peoples to the emergence of a better Canada.
Canada has a long history of producing commemorative medals to mark special anniversaries or landmark date in the evolution of our country — the examples are numerous:
- In 1690, a medal was struck by French King Louis XIV to celebrate victory over the British in the Phips Battle, reading “KEBECA LIBERATA” or “Free Quebec”.
- A 1763 medal by King George III commemorated the coming of Canada under the British Crown.
- An 1867 medal commemorated Confederation with personifications of the founding provinces.
- In 1927 Canada commemorated 60 years of growth with the entry of Western provinces and the beginning of the motto “a mari usque ad mare” or “from sea to sea”.
- In 1967, Canada celebrated its centennial with a maple leaf engraving as Canada had just adopted its flag.
- In 1992, Canada marked its 125 anniversary with a medal promoting the achievement of the Order of Canada.
“Then we are today at the 150th and what will we do? We heard from the government that it doesn't want to strike a medal. What are the reasons given by the government to break with that long tradition of commemorating the achievements of our nation?” said Senator Joyal.
In addition to proposing a continuation of this tradition, Senator Joyal suggested that the theme of the medal could be inspired from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose Recommendation 68 reads:
“We call upon the federal government […] to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017 by establishing a dedicated national funding program for commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation.”
Senator Joyal said his proposal serves that objective quite well.
“It's a commemoration project to mark the reconciliation with the Aboriginal people on the occasion of our 150th anniversary.”
Marking the country’s 150th with a message of reconciliation would set in stone — or in steel — the very real change which is now taking place, considering the impact Confederation had on Canada’s Indigenous communities and the effect the Indian Act continues to have on them.
“There is going be a lot of hoopla in 2017,” said Senator Joyal.
“But once 2017 is over, what will be left of it? What progress will we have made in the minds of Canadians?”
Senator Joyal is circulating a letter among senators addressed to Canada’s Minister of Heritage, Mélanie Joly, in order to express publicly the Senate’s support for such a medal.
“Whatever the stripe of the government, be it a Liberal or a Tory government, be it an absolute monarchy like under Louis XIV or a tempered monarchy like under King George III, this is part of our history. Why do we turn our backs on our history?”
- Senator Serge Joyal