Monday, June 26, 2017

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The latest Heritage Minute is a heartstring-tugger about the Vietnamese migration to Canada in 1979-80.

It  works, but it also renews an old concern about the Heritage Minutes. The Minutes are expensive, and some years ago Historica, which now runs the Minutes project, began seeking public funding for them.  Well, it's the Canadian way. But there began to be conditions: that the minutes met public policy objectives.

So during the Harper years, the Minutes tended to be about war, or hockey, or war and hockey, plus a couple of political ones for the anniversary years. Now the government has changed, and the new minute is about diversity and Canada as a national welcoming immigrants.What began as quirky Canadiana begins to look like PR for the messaging of whatever government is in power.

A million years ago I wrote a little piece about the early Minutes inspired by broadcaster Patrick Watson and produced by the Bronfman Foundation. Those minutes had agendas too, but enough of them were nicely offbeat and even a little bit oppositional -- spunky women confronting patriarchy, like that.
Some Minutes put a lump in your throat, but many are not reverential at all. There's a scene with Queen Victoria that makes a jokey reference to a tea commercial -- pity! Kate Nelligan, playing a very glamorous Emily Murphy, sketches out the Persons Case with sophisticated sarcasm. And the Minute on McLuhan -- imagine them doing him! -- hints at his ideas without closing off the possibility he may have been a bit of a loony too. For Minutes like these, one can forgive the earnestness of the St Louis de Riel Minute or the corporate backpatting of some others.
Not sure we will see that style in the Minutes again.
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