Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the nation on New Year’s Eve, saying, “As we mark Canada 150 over the next year, we will honour the generations of Canadians who have come together to create opportunities for one another. We will celebrate the courage and vision of those who came before us, and the hard work and ambition of Canadians—like you—who have made Canada the success story that it is today.”
Across the country, organizations and communities are gathering together to look back at our rich history and planning how they will celebrate this major national milestone. For those of us involved Christian education, these celebrations provide an opportunity to share the role that faith-based communities have played in education throughout Canadian history.
“For more than 450 years, faith has shaped the human landscape of our country,” shared Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom. Mr. Bennett is also currently the chair of the Cabinet of Canadians for Cardus’s Faith in Canada 150 program. Much of his work in the past year has been to launch initiatives designed to engage Canadians and their institutions in a rich and robust conversation on faith. “Anyone who has even a slight familiarity with Canadian history knows that this country was profoundly shaped by the role and the actions of various faith-filled people,” he shared. “This celebration has given us the opportunity to voice our stories, and to reach out to other faith communities to do the same.”
“Often, Christians accept the myth that religion is not a public matter. Today, we accept that religion is a purely private matter that we exercise within the privacy of our homes and in our places of worship,” Bennett continued. “But that is not historically accurate, and it is not theologically accurate. So if we want to speak about the role of faith in our lives and the role of faith in Canadian history, we have to be open about it—we have to wear our faith on our sleeves.”
Christian education seeks to integrate faith into every facet of the curriculum, with the goal of preparing students to demonstrate their faith as citizens in their community. Christian schools across the province have already been actively engaged in plans for doing just this as part of the national celebration. Students in the grades 3/4 class at Dunnville Christian School (DCS) have been getting their hands dirty while planning for the country’s anniversary celebrations—literally. Beginning last fall, they took on a community project, working together with the Dunnville Horticultural Society to restore the fountain in Centennial park. It had originally been created fifty years ago, in celebration of Canada’s 100th birthday, but had been neglected for the past number of years. As part of their Social Studies unit, the students explored Dunnville’s history, and they were disappointed that the fountain’s side panels, which displayed historical information, were slowly eroding. With the help of their teacher, Margaret Kamping, the students raised funds to have the fountain repaired on time for the 150th birthday celebrations this year. In return, the class was invited to plant tulip bulbs around the fountain, in preparation for the re-dedication ceremony to be held in conjunction with the sesquicentennial celebrations in July.
“This project gave the grades 3 and 4 classes the opportunity to share their faith in action to an authentic audience,” shared DCS principal Nicole VanHuizen. “The students were challenged by the complexity of what was involved, and they have seen that by sharing what they learned and getting involved in the community, they can inspire others as well. They now know what it means to care about their community and to be a part of the change that can make their country better.”
Community Christian School (CCS) in Drayton has also been making plans. They have set aside an evening to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in May as a part of their spring Celebration of Learning event. Until then, the students will be working on a school-wide project-based learning project that seeks to answer the question, “How can CCS create a meaningful celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary in Drayton, as we commemorate our Canadian culture and heritage?” The students will be helping to tell the stories of the Drayton community over the history of Canada in various ways.
“We want to ensure that sharing these stories goes beyond the walls of this school,” shared CCS principal Raymond Verburg. “We want to be able to communicate something of value within our community—to share and celebrate our local culture, heritage, and stories.”
The celebration is planned to be a community event that will include a free barbecue for the public. “It will be an opportunity for Community Christian School to give back to their community and to share our voices of faith within the larger celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday,” added Mr. Verburg.
When considering ways in which to celebrate the country’s anniversary, Mr. Bennett emphasized the importance of reflecting on the question, “What are we celebrating?” He hopes that Christian communities across Canada will find ways to demonstrate that faith has played a profound role in many different aspects of the lives of Canadians. “We need to ensure that our stories of faith are being told and that, within the very public celebrations of Canada 150, our voices of faith are present.”
This milestone in Canadian history provides an opportunity for teachers and students to celebrate the cornerstone of Christian education—our faith—and to demonstrate the profound role it continues to have in shaping our country.
Does your school have a ‘Canada 150’ project or event planned? We’d love to share your story! Simply send your celebration ideas to Carla Alblas at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will write your story for you!
We’re looking forward to partnering with your school community in its celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary this year!