By Ladysmith mayor Aaron Stone
This year, Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of confederation — the date our nation formally became a country. Canada and our own community are awash in national pride as we gear up for a year-long birthday bash to celebrate this land we all love so much.
Here in Ladysmith, Festival of Lights volunteers have been hard at work (and I thought they took a bit of time off during the spring!) bedecking our trees in red and white lights and installing a big “150” on the roof of City Hall. In April, we saw red and white tulips in the Town’s flower beds, and now we are seeing red and white geraniums, impatiens and petunias. I’m curious to see what blooms next. I have a strong feeling it will continue along the same colour scheme (though, I am assured Town staff will still plant vegetables.)
I was somewhat uncomfortable when the federal government first announced plans to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. I’m as proud of being Canadian as anyone, but in this time of truth and reconciliation, following the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a great big birthday party for a 150-year-old Canada seemed to undermine what we are trying to accomplish: healing hurts and injustices by forging ties of trust, respect and friendship with Canada’s indigenous people.
As such, I am very pleased that the Stz’uminus First Nation and Ladysmith communities are working together on a shared celebration, using the 150th anniversary of confederation as a launching pad to celebrate together the things that make our communities and our land so special. The Stz’uminus Ladysmith Canada 150 Committee has been meeting for several months, and the results of their leadership are already visible in our community. Those red and white lights and the big 150 on the roof of City Hall? The colourful red and white flowers? The amazing new banners along First Avenue? They are all thanks to the leadership of the Committee and its dedicated members.
Through hard work and community spirit, they are ensuring that celebrations, like Ladysmith Days, the Ladysmith Ambassador Program and even the Ladysmith Show and Shine, all include the Canada 150 theme. They also made strong links between National Aboriginal Day on June 21 and Canada Day on July 1.
I would like to extend personal thanks to committee co-chairs Duck Paterson and Roxanne Harris, and members Chris Baker, John Silins, Cecilia Harris, Shirley Louie, Mark Drysdale, Jim Raddatz and, Marina Sacht and Anita McLeod, as well as Communications Committee members Cecelia Harris, Cindy Damphousee and Andrea Rosato-Taylor. Your enthusiasm is infectious, you exemplify the spirit of Naut-sa Mawt (Working Together), and you know how to keep a party going throughout the year!I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of the new First Avenue banners in May, along with Chief John Elliott. For me, the banners represent everything that the Canada 150 celebration should capture — pride, hope and walking together toward a brighter, shared future for this great country of ours.
One of the banners was designed by Ladysmith Secondary School grade nine students, Kendra Forester and Eve Lovett. The maple leaf represents Canada and its provinces and territories while other designs located at the top and bottom of the banner pay tribute to area First Nations.
A second banner depicting a red and white salmon and eagle was created especially for our community by renowned Stz’uminus artist and my friend, John Marston. The salmon represents First Nations culture and the connection to nature and the environment. John spoke recently about the significance of the majestic raptor in Coast Salish culture saying, “The eagle is beautiful and graceful, with the never-ending strength to survive.” Although those words were in the context of the eagle that John designed for the new BC Ferry, the Salish Eagle, I think they are equally applicable to our country.
Canada is relatively young in terms of when it became a confederation in 1867. However, the land that we all call home has nurtured its residents for thousands of years. As we celebrate Canada 150, let’s not forget what we all have in common: a collective duty to protect and preserve our country and a fierce drive to provide opportunities for our children and grandchildren. We all share Canadian values of kindness, generosity and inclusiveness. We walk together in this land, and we try to remember to tread lightly as we do so. Together, we are the true North strong and free.
I look forward to celebrating with you!
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