. Bringing our heritage home
William McDonald school hosts first fair in the NWT

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 19/00) - Five Yellowknife junior high school students will be off to Hull, Que., July 9-17, to take part in a national symposium for the Canadian Heritage Fair.

Students, mostly from William McDonald school and some from Mildred Hall and Range Lake North schools, took part in the first-ever Canadian Heritage Fair to be held in the Northwest Territories on Friday, May 12 at William McDonald school.

The five top projects determined by a panel of local judges are the lucky winners for the free trip to the national fair.

"It's an offshoot of a national program by the CRB (Charles Robert Bronfman) Foundation," said Sean Daly, a teacher at William McDonald school and NWT co-ordinator for the Canadian Heritage Fair.

"It's the same people who brought us the Heritage Minutes (CBC vignettes portraying persons that contributed significantly to Canadian identity and culture)."

Daly explained that the foundation was created by the philanthropic Bronfman family from Montreal, who were interested in maintaining and promoting Canadian culture in the face of growing influence from south of the border.

"About 12 years ago the CRB Foundation began collecting a group of Canadians, business persons and people interested in culture, saying 'We need to protect and promote Canadian culture,'" Daly said.

Several years ago, a group of social studies teachers based out of Winnipeg came up with the idea for a Canadian heritage fair involving students making projects celebrating famous Canadians and important aspects of Canadian identity.

The CRB Foundation soon developed a national program based on the idea and in 1993, the first national fair was held in Winnipeg and has been going strong ever since. The five students from Yellowknife who are going to Hull, Que. for the national fair are: Louise Tumchewics, Adam Hassan, Roya Yazdanmehr, Colin Matthews and Drew Robertson. All are between grades 6 and 8.

The local students at the fair captured a wide variety of uniquely Canadian themes and people -- from maple syrup to flying aces during World War I.

"I'm posing as Alice McLeod, who was the cousin of Allan McLeod, the youngest Canadian to win the Victoria Cross," said contest winner Louise Tumchewics, garbed in clothing fashionable at the turn of the century.

"Sugar maples produce the sweetest syrup," explained Drew Robertson, about his maple tree project.

The five student projects from Yellowknife will join 150 more from across Canada at the national fair and will be later displayed at the Great Hall in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

The projects will then be reconstructed and shipped to museums across the country, including a stopover at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in the fall.